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Written by:
Martin Barrett
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How Much Does MasterClass Pay Instructors?

How Much Does MasterClass Pay Instructors?

MasterClass was founded back in 2015 and continues to grow having found success catering to students with online classes around the world.

That means a growth in users, and with it, a growth in revenues, profits, and the company’s valuation.

The online learning platform produces presentations and video lectures from a range of individuals who are successful in their known fields featuring names that many have heard of.

That includes cooking experts like Gordon Ramsey, the actors Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman, the film director Martin Scorsese, and the tennis player Serena Williams.

As with any business, there are expenses to be paid and that includes paying those well-known instructors.

These legends do not come and give their time up for free but are so well-known that their involvement alone draws in users and subscriptions.

In this guide, we will look at how much does MasterClass pay instructors to produce these popular classes.

The Payments For Instructors 

Perhaps the main reason for the success of MasterClass is not so much the online learning platform itself, but rather who they select to perform their classes.

The instructors are typically celebrities and prospective users can seemingly learn so much from the very best in their respective fields.

While other platforms like Udemy can gather a roster of thousands of instructors, MasterClass only has a select few yet still enjoys vast profits.

Less is more when you can call upon the very best instructors for their expertise.

These instructors do come with a price and instructors are known to receive around $100,000 as an upfront payment.

Alongside this upfront payment, the instructors also earn up to 30% of royalty fees which can soon add up.

That may seem like a lot of money but when thousands of users are paying for subscriptions and one-off classes it does make sense.

Not many people can say that they have been taught by the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Martin Scorsese, and Serena Williams. 

The Pay Scales At MasterClass

That $100,000 upfront payment can be considered as entry-level pay and has been known to be commanded by some Hollywood stars.

While the likes of Steve Martin, Shonda Rhimes, and Aaron Sorkin may not be considered truly A-list, their expertise is still valued by many.

That was back in the early days and as MasterClass has developed, so has its range of instructors.

For films, you can now enjoy an acting class from Samuel L. Jackson or Natalie Portman. Knowing that the actors have featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can guarantee that the $100,000 upfront payment has gone up a few notches.

With more celebrities on board, the MasterClass brand has become more well-known and more renowned. That means more celebrities that are willing to offer their expertise and be paid handsomely for it. 

Another Reason Why So Many Celebrities Appear On MasterClass

Performing an online class for users to learn from should pay well. Celebrities, movie stars, chefs, and sports stars do not give up their time for free.

Despite the financial reward, there is another reason why these celebrities are so willing to appear on the online learning platform.

That’s down to legacy and, much like writing a book, the chance to impart their knowledge to future generations.

Recording an online class may be seen as easier than trying to create a memorable speech at an awards ceremony, only to be cut off halfway through.

While celebrities may be given ample time in the written and televised press, their words may be edited out simply because of the pressing need to promote their next venture.

With an online class, celebrities are given ample time in front of the camera to delve into their own experiences and talk about what they see as valuable advice, at length. 

Even the CEO of MasterClass, David Rogier, signaled that the intent was coming from the celebrities to appear.

Writing a book may only make sense to those that read it whereas a video is far more accessible.

Creating a lasting impression for future generations requires the celebrity to talk directly to the camera and create their own legacy.

Perhaps the main appeal for the instructors is the chance to have more control rather than knowing that an editing process is likely to limit the intent and underlying message of their words.

How MasterClass Has Become So Successful

How MasterClass Has Become So Successful

In order to promote and sell enough of its $180 annual subscriptions to keep going, celebrities are enticed to share their expertise.

Gradually, MasterClass has grown its library of content as the subscription model and one-off payments are largely the sole sources of revenue.

Though the payments for celebrities have likely increased, so has their pedigree which has seen MasterClass lead the way in the edutainment genre. 

One of the reasons for this success and increasingly high valuation is how MasterClass keeps its users.

Instead of many students taking a single class and then moving on, many take out a subscription and then find more classes they’d like to take.

This continual enticement for repeat custom keeps those subscriptions ticking over and word of mouth means that more students come on board.

Alongside those videos, students also receive interactive assignments, a class workbook, and community activities. 

The marketing side of MasterClass should also be considered with its instruction.

By showcasing those that have reached the top of their field, MasterClass can rarely be beaten on expertise.

Knowledge is power and when you can call upon A-list celebrities then you can rightly claim to have reached the top.

That’s not just one video either as most of the classes have between 20 and 25 videos that amount to around two to five hours of top-class video content. 

Mainly down to this business model, MasterClass is rightly called a unicorn. Few businesses manage to be valued at close to $1bn in less than ten years of operation yet MasterClass has managed it.

The online learning platform is also versatile enough to be accessed on most web browsers, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Android with iOS mobile applications. 

As the story goes, the inspiration for MasterClass came from the Jewish grandmother of the CEO, David Rogier.

As a child, Rogier was repeatedly told by her that the one thing that people cannot take away is your education.

Considering that she had escaped Nazi Germany to become a pediatrician despite being rejected by over thirty medical schools, that’s some great inspirational advice.

David Rogier went away and for two years developed the website, filmed his own videos, and performed sales pitches before the financial backing arrived.

MasterClass only went live in 2015 and after four months had sold over 30,000 courses to students globally.

As well as popular classes being added to its library, more course content was added to supplement the videos.

There was a mass appeal to the classes as the ages of the students ranged from 8 to 104 demonstrating that age was no barrier to learning. 

The company looks to be going from strength to strength and was valued at over $800m in May 2020.

That’s no small feat and after six rounds of venture capital funding, a total of $236.4m has been raised. That goes to show how good a prospect the business is for investors and how attractive it continues to be.

Final Thoughts

The success of MasterClass is largely down to legacy and expertise.

From the nous of CEO, David Rogier, to create a business that would attract so much investment to the stellar talents that impart their knowledge in their videos.

Though it was known that a $100,000 upfront payment was given to instructors, the prestige of those instructors has gone up.

While the likes of Aaron Sorkin and Steve Martin are well-known in the film world, the talent has increased since those early days.

Currently, students can enjoy an acting class from Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman with Martin Scorsese showing how films are directed.

These celebrities are known for blockbuster movies so it should be expected that they are paid handsomely for their time.

Thankfully, the revenue for MasterClass continues to roll in so you can expect the business to keep on growing.