Masterclass Review: Is It Worth the Money?

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Masterclass 2018 reviewIs Masterclass worth it? And who is Masterclass for? In this Masterclass review I explain what I learnt. I also offer tips to determine if you should sign up in this Masterclass review.

You can also watch a Masterclass course preview.

I spent the past few months taking Masterclass courses from writers like David Mamet, Steve Martin and Aaron Sorkin.

Want an ebook by James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Martin or David Mamet? If you join Masterclass, I'll send a book via Amazon.com straight to your inbox, for FREE! Read to the bottom of the post to find more information.

What is Masterclass?

Entrepreneur Aaron Rasmussen and film editor and director David Rogier started Masterclass in 2015. Based in San Francisco, it’s an online education platform for creative professionals.

Of course, you don’t need to travel to San Francisco to take a Masterclass.

You can watch Masterclass courses using your computer or phone and consume the materials at your own pace.

As a student, you can learn the art of comedy from Steve Martin, writing thrillers from James Patterson, dramatic writing from David Mamet, screenwriting from Aaron Sorkin and lots more.

It is a great way of learning online from top creators you would not normally have access to.

Who is Masterclass For?

Masterclass is for writers, photographers, artists, musicians, painters and creative professionals. It’s ideal for students who are happy to learn at their own pace using a computer.

Unlike Lynda or Treehouse, Masterclass is suitable for writers, musicians, artists and creative professionals.

This is an interesting niche.

Many of the other online courses I’ve taken help students learn business skills like marketing or more practical skills like coding or web development basics.

Masterclass isn’t ideal for people who thrive in classroom environments and prefer a more hands-on approach from teachers.

(More on that later in this Masterclass review)

What is a Masterclass Like?

I took several Masterclasses.

Each video averaged between five and 10 minutes, which was digestible enough for me to watch at lunch.

Masterclass lesson plan
An overview of Steve Martin's Masterclass – Masterclass review

I’ve admired Martin’s comedy and films over the years and took his class first. He condenses everything he has learnt about the craft of comedy and draws on many anecdotes from his colourful career.

That’s a lot of insights, as he’s 72! In the real world, it’s difficult to get access to quality materials like this.

Steve Martin’s Masterclass course contains 25 lessons. It took me several weeks to get through these for this Masterclass review, but that’s only because I took a break when I got the flu.

Masterclass workbook
Sample lesson notes

 

The recommended background reading was helpful, particularly Martin’s autobiography. However, I got less value from the community. (More on that later in this Masterclass review)

What Masterclass Should You Take?

If you’re interested in studying online, you probably already know which Masterclass courses to take.

A writer, for example, should take the following on Masterclass:

Meanwhile, a musician is more likely to take “Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production”, “Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz” or “Christina Aguilera Teaches Singing”.

If you’re still unsure about what Masterclass to buy, ask yourself, “Do I like this teacher and his or her materials?”

What I Took on Masterclass

First, I took “Steve Martin Teaches Comedy” first because I wanted to learn how to inject more colour and comedy into my writing. I’ve no desire to become a stand-up comedian but I've always admired Martin!

Next, I took David Mamet's Masterclass because I was interested in learning from a dramatic writer and Mamet is writer's writer.

He is a more direct teacher than Steve but just as knowledgeable. In the first video, Mamet revealed this gem for screenwriting:

  1. Who wants what?
  2. What happens if they don’t get it?
  3. Why not?

In between these Masterclasses, I watched some of the lessons on Aaron Sorkin and James Patterson's courses.

I’ve watched most of Aaron Sorkin’s shows and films over the years and was more than happy to watch him reveal how he writes.

Finally, I completed all of Malcolm Gladwell's Masterclass.

As you can see, I took most of the Masterclass writing classes as this is where my area of interest lies.

 

Masterclass courses
Some of the Masterclass's I'm taking

 

Steve Martin Masterclass Review

I took this Masterclass at the end of 2017.

I was familiar with Martin’s comedy. I’ve read his autobiography Born Standing Up and watched a lot of his stand-up shows.

Martin was a teacher I could learn from.

In his Masterclass, Martin talks about how to find your comedic voice and how he writes and delivers jokes.

It was fascinating to hear Martin talk about his early days in comedy and how he got started. The comedian also provides several practical takeaways. For example,

“Don’t be intimidated starting with nothing. In fact, if you start with nothing, the workaround can lead you to originality.”

Martin’s workshop includes materials from aspiring comedians and turns some 5/10 jokes into 9/10 laugh-out-loud jokes.

This masterclasss was a fun insight into how the comedian Steve Martin approaches comedy writing. He also reflects on his career on stage and screen.

Each lesson was relatively short, included supporting PDFs and reading materials, and next steps. Martin is an engaging instructor too. If you take this class, I’d recommend reading his book Born Standing Up so you have some context to what he teaches.

My biggest takeaway from this Steve Martin Masterclass was how he learnt to make peace with his failures and successes. He says:

“It was only until the late 80s, I kept thinking I was going to go away. But I never went away. So why am I wasting all that grief? I survived somehow by the skin of my teeth. Some of that is luck.”

I recommend taking this masterclass if you want to improve your comedy writing skills or are  fan of Steve Martin's work.

Malcolm Gladwell Masterclass Review

I took the Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing Masterclass almost as soon as they released it earlier in 2018. I write a lot of non-fiction and am a big fan of Gladwell’s work including his books Blink and Outliers.

The Malcolm Gladwell Masterclass is structured similarly to Steve Martin’s. I learnt a lot about how Gladwell approaches his research and how he markets his writing and books. (Tip: don't over-rely on Google!)

My biggest takeaway is what writers put out into the world doesn’t belong to them once they press publish:

Gladwell said he found himself in a curious position whereby the book’s ideas and arguments were often misconstrued by others.

He added,

“Once you’ve written something, it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your readers. When your readers buy your book, they really buy your ideas and your ideas become theirs.”

I recommend taking this masterclass if you want to improve your research and non-fiction writing skills.

What Are Some Great Classes Available On Masterclass?

Depending on your interests, there are loads.

Over the past 12 to 24 months Masterclass has broken out into other areas. For example, Serena Williams teaches tennis as part of her Masterclass.

Gary Kasparov teaches chess. Herbie Hancock teaches jazz—and herein lies one of the other issues with Masterclass.

It’s hard to imagine a student will have an interest in all of these Masterclasses, no matter how great the topics are.

So while I found the writing classes useful, I’m unlikely to learn country music from Reba McEntire anytime soon, no matter how talented she is.

If you’re a writer, consider how well you know James Patterson’s works and if you want to write thrillers before you sign up to his class.

While you could take the “James Patterson Teaches Writing” Masterclass without knowing much about his books, you will learn far more if you’ve read some of his thrillers.

Masterclass Price

A Masterclass costs €70 or $90 and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee for unhappy students.

If you’re taking more than one Masterclass, I recommend buying the All-Access Pass for €150 or $180 per year.

You’ll save several hundred dollars in the long run.

However, remember not all Masterclasses will be relevant.

If you're wondering does Masterclass offer free trial? They offered a free trial up until August 20th 2018. This is no longer available so your best option is the All-Access Pass.

How Masterclass Works

A Masterclass course typically contains 25 video lessons, each of which is five-to-ten minutes long.

In some cases, the teacher speaks straight to camera. In others the instructor works with their students’ efforts in front of the camera. Some video lessons also include extracts from the teachers’ works.

You can take a Masterclass online at your own pace, watch them on your computer or phone using the Masterclass app.

Each Masterclass comes with background material, downloadable worksheets and reading lists to peruse.

The class workbook summarises the key points in each video, provides additional reading materials and provides space to write notes.

The Community

Masterclass emphasises the community aspect of its online learning. They’ve created a Hub where you can engage in discussions and ask questions about the classes. You can also post some of your work.

Masterclass Hub
The Masterclass Hub

For example, one student posted his lesson notes and take away from David Mamet’s rules for screenwriting.

Although I spent little time in the Hub, it’s a good resource for students who value learning from other students too. I joined Masterclass in October 2017. Since then, the team has rolled out a number of improvements to the Hub.

Masterclass also features office hours.

Here, students can ask their teachers questions. For example, one student, John Zucker, asked Martin how to find your voice and received a reply.

Masterclass Office Hours
Masterclass Office Hours – Masterclass Review

Unfortunately, most of the Masterclasses have only a few replies. However, nothing is stopping you from recording a question, uploading a video or even writing in.

What I Liked About Masterclass

While writing this Masterclass review, I felt inspired to watch many of these great professionals talk about the creative process, their art, books and more. In some cases, they were condensing a lifetime’s experiences.

Masterclass emails
It was nice to Steve to get in touch!

The production quality of Masterclass videos is also first-rate. They are shot in high definition and tightly edited. If you’ve taken online courses, you know the quality of lesson materials varies. That’s not something you need to worry about here.

Masterclass regularly adds new materials from people at the top of their game, such as “Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing”, which I immediately added to my watch list.

I also liked the Masterclass App for iPhone. It was easy to use and I was able to save lessons as favourites, adjust the playback speed and watch them over a cup of coffee at lunch.

Masterclass resources
Masterclass resources

Compared with other creative courses, Masterclass is also affordable.

For example, you can spend thousands of dollars on an MFA. Or you can spend several hundred dollars taking online writing classes. With Masterclass, you can start learning for as little as €70 or $90.

What I Disliked About Masterclass

The creators of Masterclass are going after a wide audience.

In some cases, I felt like the teachers were speaking to many people with different interests. Some of the classes felt like the teacher was riffing on the topic.

I’ve taken several in-person writing classes and, although I’m a believer in the power of online learning, it’s difficult to replace the one-to-one feedback you can get from a teacher in a classroom environment.

Unlike some online courses, you also can’t download the video lessons.

Still, for just €150, I can’t complain.

Takeaway: Masterclass is a complement to, rather than a replacement for, other kinds of learning.

Are Masterclass Classes Worth It?

Over the past 10 years I’ve taken writing classes in a traditional classroom environment,  participated in weekly writing groups and taken several online courses on topics like blogging. I even studied journalism in college.

In other words, I’ve tried lots of different kinds of online and offline learning classes. Each style has pros and cons. What you get out of them depends on how much time and money you can invest and what kind of learner you are.

I recommend Masterclass to writers and creative professionals who are on a budget.

Pick one Masterclass and see if it’s for you. The All-Access Pass is useful if you plan to take more than one class.

For a modest amount, you can invest in your craft and learn from current experts without investing thousands of dollars in a fancy MFA.

Masterclass also is useful for creative professionals who are further along in their careers but want to keep up by learning from masters of their professions.

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Masterclass Review: Summary
  • Production quality
  • Affordability
  • Relevance of course materials
  • Ease of use
4.63

Summary

Masterclass is worth it if you want to learn from creative professionals at the top of their game, at a pace that suits you. The materials are first-class and you'll learn a lot.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Offers access to top-level creators, writers and artists
  • Includes succinct materials
  • Produces high-quality video
  • Posts new courses regularly
  • High-calibre instructors
  • Excellent Masterclass mobile app

Cons

  • Not all classes are relevant to everyone
  • Technical students should stay away
  • Community forums are hit and miss
  • Students need an affinity with their teacher
  • No free trial as of August 2018

24 thoughts on “Masterclass Review: Is It Worth the Money?”

  1. Thanks for this information! I am strongly considering taking Samuel L. Jackson’s Master Class on acting to supplement my current education(Part-Time).

    This article gave me some great insights!

    Regards,

    Michael J.Yong

    1. Hi Bryan,

      I agree with Michael J. Yong, you definitely shared some really great insight on this review. I’m feeling a bit more confident about joining Master Class now that I’ve read your review. However, I do have a few questions, is there any hidden costs? Also, were there any creative or professional blocks you’ve experienced before taking these classes that you felt were resolved afterwards? Lastly, I didn’t quite understand what you meant in the cons for “technical students should stay away,” what did you mean by that?

      Thanks,
      Isaiah J. White

      1. There are no hidden costs. You can buy a single class or just buy the annual package. For technical students, I meant that Masterclass isn’t the place to learn skills like coding or Photoshop. It’s more suitable for creatives e.g. writers.

        The Steve Martin Masterclass gave me some useful pointers for injecting colour into some articles I’m writing. I also liked hearing about David Mamet’s struggles as a writer and how he overcame them. Malcolm Gladwell’s non-fiction course helped me resolve an issue I have with using popular research in non-fiction articles.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    This is really an honest review of the Masterclass program, and I really love how sincere you are here.

    Funny enough, I don’t think I’ve heard about Masterclass before now, and from all you said here, it seems to be a very useful and informative stuff to check out.

    One of the most interesting things about the whole program that I love is it’s price. I think it’s very much affordable judging by what one stands to get from the class. When I started reading the review at first, I was expecting that the price will be anything from $599 upwards, but seeing $70 is entirely mind blowing.

    However, i do understand that most people are often not willing to invest in education, and that is unfortunate. This is a program for anyone looking to become good at writing.

    If I’m going to take any of the classes here, I’ll first go for James Patterson Teaches Writing, I’ve known that name for a long time now, and I’m sure his class will be super epic.

    Overall, the Masterclass is worth investing in, and I’ll encourage every aspiring writer to check out the program as he will definitely get a lot of things out of it.

    I’m also going to share this post right away with my audience. Thanks for sharing Bryan.

  3. Bryan, It is evident that your website uses affiliate links. You should disclose that. It is only right that people know that you have a financial interest in them purchasing a subscription. The FTC has very clear guidelines about this. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the laws.

      1. Hi Bryan, i’m curious to know if adding clarification to the post has helped you to get more or less uses through your referral link?

        I can only speak for myself but knowing that you have provided a quality review for us and me being half way there already to signing up for Masterclass means the chances the me kindly helping you out are very high. Just waiting for them to release an Android version of their app!

        In any case cheers for giving your thoughts.

  4. Absolutely valuable. Really glad I paid for the full set of videos. Learning from a range of different writers, and other skilled professionals. kev

  5. I saw an ad for Masterclass on YouTube. A Google search led me to your review. It was very helpful. The All-Access pass seems to be the best deal. Three lessons in a year make it a deal.
    I appreciated you listing cons. I wanted to know the possible downside. My Mother wrote a children’s book and has been struggling with finding focus, inspiration and direction for her next book. I think I may get her an All-Access pass as a gift. I might get myself one too. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the review, I am still on the fence rather this would be a good fit for me. I have been in the Information Technical field for nearly 20 years and still struggle conveying some of my ideas and thoughts to those less technical in a way that is more palatable. I have no aspirations to becoming a professional writer.

  7. Hi Bryan!!

    It’s a great review you have done there. Can I get 100$ Bonus by subscribing the free trial for directing instead of writing??

  8. I feel like just because you are a technical doesn’t mean you should stay away. Certainly there’s no right or wrong but if you’re a camera operator or video editor there is still A LOT you can learn from these courses

  9. Thank you so much for this detailed review. I’ve been considering the Masterclass for a while now, and have not seen any review quite as apt as yours. I’m Nigerian and this would be a really heavy investment on my part since the value of our money keeps dropping. So please I ask again, is it truly worth it?

    1. It’s a great way of accessing materials from creators at the top of their game. How else can you learn from Steve Martin for example? However, if money really is an issue you could buy their books on Amazon which are cheaper than video courses.

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