For the last couple years, I’ve been getting ads and seeing videos on Masterclass.com.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is a premium online course website with some of the most recognized, accomplished instructors in the world. Teachers include Usher, Neil deGrasse Tyson, R. L. Stine, Malcolm Gladwell, Christina Aguilera, Hans Zimmer, Deadmau5, Samuel Jackson, Sara Blakely, Annie Leibovitz, Bob Iger, Chris Hadfield, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Serena Williams, Dan Brown, and Aaron Sorkin.
You can buy an annual “All-Access Pass” to all courses for $180, making it like the Netflix of personal development. You can also buy lifetime access to a single course for $90. That makes the All-Access price a huge bargain.
I have an All-Access membership, and I’ve completed a few courses already.
The Pros of MasterClass
- the high production of the courses. They seem to have a whole team of videographers, editors, and more. You can tell by the editing, lighting, camerawork, and music.
- the access to these elite, hard-to-reach instructors. It’s so hard to get five minutes of time with any of these people since they’re so busy and successful. Yet they’ve built enough momentum to get so many of them. And they keep adding more instructors over time. You’re getting invaluable advice from people who have been out in the field.
- I’ve learned so much that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. When you’re hearing real stories and tips from masters, you get inside information. For example, I got to see how top writers use humor, story tell, research, and plan a story. Timbaland taught me that you can build the framework of a music track with just your voice. I peeked into Bob Iger’s head as he recalled the decision-making process and factors he weighed when acquiring Marvel, Pixar, and other companies.
- the price. I may have paid $100 or more for one course, but I’m getting access to dozens of them for a little more a month than the cost of Netflix.
- the user interface is smooth, seamless, and professional.
- the app version is a good way to listen on the go.
The Cons of MasterClass
I won’t hold back here. Let’s talk about the ugly or less-than-ideal parts of MasterClass.
- the courses can vary depending on the instructor. Sara Blakely put a lot of effort to build a comprehenive course on validating a business idea and building your business. While I enjoyed Bob Iger’s course and thought it was one of my favorites, I finished the whole thing in about an hour. He’s the CEO of Disney, so it makes sense that he has less time to devote. I found R.L. Stine’s course informative, comprehensive, and spooky, but other than the music and intro B-roll, all of it was “talking head” which means he’s just talking to the camera.
- some courses aren’t geared towards the principles that you want to learn about. Although I enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s course, I saw people say that they preferred if Malcolm would’ve talked more about the technical and grammatical side of writing rather than the theoretical, mindset, and investigating portion.
- too many courses can mean you don’t start any of them. I’m familiar with the online course industry, and many people who purchase them never start or finish them. This possibility is accentuated when you have so many to choose from. You should plan when you’ll consume them so you do or buy just one course. I’m in the unique minority where I love this stuff so much that I have finished a few courses.
- the possibility that many people will be tempted by the flashy courses and won’t know how to apply these things to their own life. I’ve become good at crystallizing principles from most topics and finding ways of applying them to my life. But the average person may be tempted by a physics, sports, or space course since they love Neil Tyson or Serena Williams and not know how to apply it since they don’t work in science or play tennis. That said, it’s still valuable as entertainment. Plus, there are various courses that are applicable to real world issues, like the writing, music production, or entrepreneurship courses.
Who is MasterClass for?
At first, it seems like MasterClass has experts on every topic imaginable. But after going through various courses, I realize there are a few categories that make up the bulk of their courses.
- film and TV
- music and entertainment
- design and photography
If you’re looking for help outside of these areas, there may not be much for you in MasterClass. It’s not the best place for niche topics, like B2B copywriting or knitting. If you want a niche topic, you’re better off going to a platform that can easily generate thousands of courses, like Udemy, Skillshare, Creative Live, or Coursera. Or you can find an influencer or blogger who sells that niche course. It’s also not for people who thrive and desire personalized coaching and feedback since it’s all video courses.
As far as mainstream topics on success, you’ll probably never find a better place. If you’re open-minded and creative in how you learn, like I am, you can find ways of growing from a course that may not seem useful at face value. I have no interest in being a world-class Poker pro like Daniel Negreanu, but I took part of his course because I wanted to learn about social skills, reading people, and analyzing behavior for my career and life.
What is a MasterClass class like on the inside?
The inside of the website has a dark theme and functions like you’d expect for an online course platform. You’re suggested courses on the homepage in a Netflix way. Once you choose a course, you’re shown videos in an organized course format. The course format may differ slightly depending on the instructor. Some instructors have one-off videos on various topics, and others have videos under themes. The Masterclass team offers a downloadable PDF for each video that serve as a text-based summary of each video. These PDFs are clearly made by the team afterwards rather than part of the instructor’s protocol.
The usefulness of a PDF can vary because the person who summarizes these points sometimes missed the big points of the video. Some of them are spot-on and others seemed a bit rushed. There was one PDF in one of Bob Iger’s videos that I was particularly unhappy about since it had cliche success tips like “surround yourself with creative people” and “persevere”which missed the nuanced, more important points of his video. The PDFs are well-designed and fit in with the theme of the course, so the Bob Iger ones are Disney themed, and the Poker course ones have a Poker theme.
What other MasterClass benefits haven’t been mentioned?
The only other notable things worth mentioning is some details about the community forum and the app. The forum lets people talk about courses, show their progress, and network. Unfortunately, it’s not as lively as I would’ve hoped. People seem to prefer watching courses than talking. Most comments are short and appreciative.
They also offer a “Student of the Month” contest where you demonstrate what you’ve achieved from the course. The winner gets recognition, and their results sent to the instructor. Other reviews mentioned that instructors would sometimes do Q&A’s with the audience, but I haven’t found that on the site, so I assume it’s been discontinued or only offered for less busy instructors.
Their app functions smoothly just like the website. You can play the videos at different speeds up to 2 times. You can leave comments under each video. The one thing you should be cautious of is just listening to the audio. While the app does let you listen to just audio, some courses require you to stay engaged with the video. You’ll miss something if you do. It depends on the course. The writing and business courses are more audio-friendly.
Finally, each instructor has mini-playlists you can listen to. These are videos that aren’t part of the course. They’re usually two or three videos long, and they cover a specific theme. Currently, they’re organized in a weird way so that you have to click each to watch them at the start of the course. They’re easy to miss, but the videos are just as useful as the videos in the course, so keep an eye out for them.
MasterClass makes it easy to submit feedback by letting you tell them what can be better with a button at the bottom of each playlist.
My Quick Review of MasterClass: Is It Worth It?
The beauty of this website is that there’s so much gold that everyone will find a different course to be their favorite. There are so much excellent teachers and inside knowledge.
I’m very familiar with the online course world, and I’m thankful that MasterClass came along. That world still contains courses selling from $250 to $2000. Rather than getting one course from some guru you’ve never heard of who has to teach you why he or she is worth it, you’re getting access to a library of reputable, recognized leaders in their field.
I don’t think the guru world will go away completely since it works. People buy those courses. And there’s still a market for those niches. But MasterClass has significantly raised the game on the quality of that market.
Frankly, I think they’re under-charging. For a bit more than Netflix monthly prices, I’m getting something that wasn’t possible in any other time in history: access to knowledge from the dozens of the world’s best.
There are a couple minor things that I can easily overlook. If you finish a video and choose to click onto the next one with 8 seconds left, it’ll still mark that video as incomplete. That said, this issue is common for many course platforms, like Teachable.
As hinted earlier, the courses can vary a lot by the instructor’s discretion. Timbaland has videos that are 30 minutes long. R.L. Stine’s videos are all five minutes or less. I wish some courses were longer, like Bob Iger’s, but that’s just because I devour information. Most courses are enough for the average person. I’ve had no real problems. If I struggle with enjoying a course, I move onto a new course.
I’ve learned a lot that I can apply to my career and life. For example, Howard Schultz’s course helped me understand the culture and values that I should hold to create a great business. He told the story of how one young professional he knew climbed the ladder much faster than his peers by boldly asking questions to become knowledgeable about areas outside of his expertise. I can trust his thoughts because he grew Starbucks from an idea to a world-recognized business. I got to see the human side of him since he mentioned his failures.
While I’ve mentioned that Bob Iger’s course was on the short side (13 videos), that was still one of my favorite videos. I learned a lot about how to act as a person on the job and in life. He told a story that can help any young professional. While he was a young professional climbing the ranks, he owned up to a mistake he made in an executive meeting, which spoke to the honesty and culture you want in a good organization.
It was so exciting to find instructors that I didn’t even know were part of MasterClass on there and learn about how they think, attack a problem, and their personality. I discovered Jimmy Chin, a world-famous photographer and director of Free Solo, was a teacher. It was cool to hear him talk, do his work, and show his personality.
I’m concerned some people will assume some advice is “common sense” as they do with all personal development advice, free or paid. I encourage people to cast that attitude aside since there’s plenty of stuff here that you’ve never heard before if you’ll give it a chance.
MasterClass isn’t for everyone. It’s best suited for people who have an interest in improving in one of the main categories it teaches about.
I love MasterClass, and I believe it is well worth the money. The pros outweigh the cons.
I always put my readers best interests in hand, so I pass on recommending plenty of products because I don’t think they’re good. Masterclass is one of those rare exceptions where I actually enjoy the product a lot. I stumbled upon it and bought it on my own.
Checkout MasterClass here. If you purchase through my link, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.
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