Masterclass Review 2021: Is Masterclass Worth the Money?

Masterclass Review 2021: Is Masterclass Worth the Money?

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These days, it seems as if most people have found themselves in the position of having to reprioritize their time and schedules.

Maybe your job has been converted to a work from home position? Maybe your hours were cut or your business has slowed? Perhaps you have been furloughed?

Conversely, maybe you always worked from home and now have to share your space with another family member? Or maybe you’re a college student or recent graduate who has found yourself living with your parents again?

And if you have kids, you are likely also juggling your new schedule around them… homeschooling or just keeping them busy.  Let’s face it, kids need to be entertained!

Whatever your case may be… now, more than ever, we need to master the concept of using our time wisely. Doing so will not only keep you sane, but allow you to plan and prepare for a new normal.

That is why this is the perfect time to consider learning a new skill. One that can help improve your financial situation…. or finally make that dream you’ve always had a reality.

Carving out a few minutes for yourself each day is vital to one's happiness and overall well-being.  Whether it’s physical or mental stimulation you seek… much of it can be found online at MasterClass.

Unlike other online learning sites, such as Skillshare or Grokker, every single MasterClass course is taught by famous people.

As in,”can I have your autograph?” famous.

If the concept intrigues you, continue on to my MasterClass review.  In it, I will discuss:

What is MasterClass?

MasterClass in an online, subscription-based service designed to give users access to many of the top professionals in their fields.  The mantra of “Subscribe to greatness,” which basically means you can learn skills from people who are world-class experts in their chosen field.

The areas of expertise in Masterclass include:

  1. Business, Politics & Society
  2. Music & Entertainment
  3. Writing
  4. Design, Photography & Fashion
  5. Culinary Arts
  6. Film & TV
  7. Sports & Games

Honestly, after watching many of the course trailers and browsing many class descriptions… I found a ton that interested me. Some more than others, obviously; but, every single trailer drew me in.

The honesty of the instructors, the direction, the music, the cinematography, the candor. 

Seriously, these were Hollywood-grade trailers inline with promoting a short film I couldn’t wait to watch!

Within two minutes or less, I had no doubt I was sitting in the presence of greatness. I found myself, on more than one occasion, thinking “I could do that!”. In fact, I honestly felt like the instructors wanted me to give it a real go.

Write my novel.

Make my photography more captivating.

Learn how to make the perfect martini or a decadent dessert.

Improve my tennis game.

There are over 80 masters in their field teaching on MasterClass. People like Steve Martin, Ron Howard, James Patterson, Serena Williams, Wolfgang Puck, Aaron Sorkin, Christina Aguilera, Dr. Jane Goodall.

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You may have heard of a few of them.

Each course is broken down into about 20 classes, with an average length of 10 minutes per class… so you are not inundated with information and can watch at your own pace.

MasterClass says its total course time typically runs between 2-5 hours.

Each class also includes a downloadable workbook, suggested assignments, members only newsletter, community forums and offline access.

There is no limit to how many classes you may enroll in at one time; however, the suggested starting point appears to be a maximum of 6.

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Who is Perfect for MasterClass?

MasterClass is designed for anybody interested in learning a new skill or improving on their current situation.

It’s designed for the curious… those who may want to take on a new hobby?

After all, maybe you have some extra time on our hands now.

It’s meant to replace Netflix for a night or two of binge watching.

It can, and likely will, entertain you.

What MasterClass is not is this… actual accredited courses. Courses meant to replace college level work, or provide any actual certification.

It is not for those seeking a classroom setting or the structure that comes with it.

MasterClass is merely meant to inspire. To enlighten. To spark a conversation.

The courses are designed to open your mind and stimulate some creativity in your process.

What is the Course Structure of Masterclass?

Some courses appear more “traditional” in nature than others. They begin with a solid and formal introduction.

They set you up with a structure, discuss the process…even provide an outline and have a very specific end game.

Other courses feel like you are sitting down and having a coffee (or scotch) together…  while they spew their stream of consciousness, allowing you a brief glimpse into their genius.  Those are fun!

That is not to say the more structured courses aren’t fun. It honestly just depends on what you are looking to get out of it.

Are you a creative person who is looking for inspiration? Something to light that spark that went out in you some time ago?

Or are you more technical-minded and hoping to walk away with specific tools you can implement to improve your craft?

These instructors know their stuff. That isn’t even a question.

They got to where they are through hard work and talent… and in some cases, luck, if you ask Steve Martin.

But can they teach?

That answer is “yes”, based on the classes I’ve watched so far.

They may not all be my particular style of teaching, but they work. And you will walk away learning something you didn’t know before… if you see the course through.

It may simply be a thought that clicks with you days later… an “ah ha” moment, if you will. Something to point you in a slightly different direction to get you where you want to go.

Other points will resonate with you immediately. 

Whatever the case, there appears to be real value in MasterClass.

Who are the MasterClass Instructors?

So, I did my research and was able to land upon a few of the “trending” courses currently being offered on MasterClass.

I had the chance to peruse:

  • Steve Martin Teaches Comedy
  • Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker
  • Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting
  • Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling
  • James Patterson Teaches Writing

For purposes of this MasterClass Review, I’ll just give you a brief synopsis of these popular MasterClass courses, and my general feel of flow.

Steve Martin's Masterclass on Comedy

I can’t imagine that many of you have never heard of Steve Martin.

Comedian. Actor. Banjo player.

Yes, banjo player.

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I personally fell in love with Steve Martin as a teenager… after watching a little known film called, The Jerk. He showed off his talent, legit talent, on the banjo while making us laugh in this comedy classic about a unique family from Mississippi.

Like with the film that drove him to box office success, Martin kicks off his MasterClass course with a little strum of the ol’ banjo.

I was hooked.

He was funny.

Comfortable.

Silly.

Easy going.

He was also extremely motivational, spouting words of encouragement like, “Know that there’s room for you!”.

Martin does not put on airs or expect you to believe it was easy getting into comedy. In fact, he attributes a great deal of his success to luck, and being in the right place at the right time.

My favorite part was his roundtable with aspiring comedians. He spoke with them so candidly that it never once did it feel like he was this untouchable superstar… but rather an intimate acquaintance trying to provide an honest critique and feedback.

For much of his course, Martin played the storyteller. By giving the audience a glimpse into his experiences and thought process… I was able to learn something about editing my material and never trying to force a laugh.

If you want to check out the trailer for this course, click here.

Daniel Negreanu's Masterclass on Poker

At first, I didn’t recognize Daniel Negreanu by name.

Sure, I enjoy poker with friends; but, I don’t watch too many tournaments on tv.

The minute he walked onto the screen however, I recognized him. I actually realized I had watched him before… and he was awesome.

Probably the best poker player in the world.

And the first lesson in his MasterClass (a 2 minute and 52 second introduction) drove that point home.

It started out with Negreanu, “Kid Poker”, sitting down at the felt to shuffle cards and maneuver chips through his fingers… glaring into your eyes, ready to do exactly what he does best.

Only instead of getting ready to take your money, he invites you to join him across the table to learn his tricks. His most valuable tricks, in fact. Specifically in reading and hiding tells, tournament strategy, pot dynamics and odds, bettering tactics.

He outlines four stages to the learning process, assuming one will resonate with the viewer. His ultimate goal being to get his students to a point where they develop their own “no brainer” poker style.

As the course continues, Negreanu is seated in front of multiple computer screens, allowing you to see just how super technical and strategic poker can be. His mind thinks like a computer. He studies multiple scenarios and runs them through his mind constantly when up against a table of opponents.

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He explains the basics first, out of position (defense) vs in position (offense).  Then he goes on to talk about how a seemingly good hand in one position may be not good enough in another.

For instance, a J/10 on the button (latest position) is better than getting it in first position. The button is where you’ll make your most money.

The “Spotting Tells” lessons 1 and 2 were probably my favorite… as I honestly think that being able to read people is a valuable skill in life, regardless of your situation.

Negreanu is straightforward and speaks in a tone that keeps you attentive. Interested. Hooked.

However, most surprisingly to me was how humble he appears to be.

“When you feel you’ve got nothing left to learn, that is the exact point when everybody else starts to surpass you.”.

Clearly, comments like these aren’t just platitudes for Negreanu. He believes in them… and his course is proof positive that he is always trying to improve his game. There is always room to grow.

The MasterClass is one of the more content rich ones I came across, with over 35 individual lessons.

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Interested in learning more? View the trailer.

Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass on Screenwriting

Sorkin professess, “Dialogue is music to me.”… and that is clear.

Clear from the first lesson in his MasterClass.

The course starts with flashes of dialogue and voice overs from some of his most famous movies and television programs.

A Few Good Men. The Social Network. Steve Jobs. Moneyball. The West Wing.

I’m sure you’ve seen one or two of these.

Sorkin has become synonymous with a plethora of one liners that people remember and quote to this day. Dialogue that makes trivia games in the “which character said this?” category.

From the start, Sorkin outlines very specifically what he is going to cover throughout the course. The most important lesson, in his mind, being that of devising intention and obstacle when drafting dialogue for the screen.

Sorkin is self-admittedly a bit awkward when speaking. He looks down a lot… rather than directly at you like someone more comfortable on-screen would. Like Negreanu.

In fact, Sorkin states at the start of class, “When I am speaking out loud instead of writing, I tend to swerve all over the road… my apologies in advance for that.”.

Aesthetically, with regards to the cinematography of the course, I liked how each lesson started with an old-fashioned typewriter banging out the title… and that Sorkin dressed the part of “professor”. 

[Read our in-depth review of Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass]

He spends quite a bit of time on character development, stating “he never has a specific character in his head, but rather the character is born from intention and obstacle.”.

He also talks about the importance of research, knowing your audience and the rules of the story and arc. He talks about writing habits and writer's block. 

From the moment he says he’s starting up a project, until delivery of the final product, is 18-24 months for a screenplay. Candidly, he mentions spending much of that time being depressed.

He comes across as honest, somewhat unsure and seamingly grounded.

As far as the quantity of course content goes, it was rather evident that Sorkin isn’t as comfortable spewing technique as he is with brainstorming ideas in a room full of writers. Lessons 12 – 35 featured a large number of filmed group workshops, case studies and writers room.

If I’m being honest, I think the man is a genius… with a lot of good information to share.  I think his teaching style, however, is a bit dry for me and the lessons a tad lengthy.

In fact, he even offers a downloadable screenplay of The Social Network for a read along.

He does, however, pay some wonderful compliments to his writers' roundtable members. He tells them they aren’t fooling themselves… that they are writers. And unlike athletes, they will get better with age. 

Want to hear more of what Sorkin has to say? Click here for the trailer.

Neil Gaiman's Masterclass on The Art of Storytelling

One of the most visually stunning introduction segments on MasterClass.

Gaiman has been Professor of the Arts at Bard College for the last 5 years, educating about 25 students each year.

He is a self-proclaimed, not-so-secret admirer of the teaching process. “Teaching is an absolute delight to me, but you don’t get to reach a lot of people,” he says. “That is the beauty of MasterClass.”.

Gaiman is very comfortable talking. He also appears to be a very deliberate talker, in that he wants everything he says to have great meaning and deep impact.

At least, that is how I perceived him.

He does mix quite a few metaphors. The first one about a tool shed for writing… how to build and make stories that matter. 

Then, there’s one comparing writing a novel to “driving through the fog with one headlight out… you can’t see very far ahead of yourself, but every now and then the mist will clear.”.

Gaiman is dry, but still soothing and engaging enough in his tone to keep you listening.

He doesn’t come alive off the page like James Patterson does, he’s much more subdued… but I was interested in what he had to say.

Even his platitudes.

He has some useful tips and exercises to share… and did give me that little push forward that he intended to, especially when he talked about doing too much research. And, apparently, there is such a thing.  Too much time spent trying to make your story perfect detracts from your time writing. 

Storytelling is a part of our nature. Use it.

His most famous book, Coraline, was based on a lesson he wanted to teach his own children. The lesson that dragons could be defeated.

A lesson he said took him 30 years to figure out.

He started the book before moving to America… then got busy and had no free time. He was also told his book was unpublishable.

And then he got stung by wasps one day and it changed the way he viewed Coraline. It changed what he wanted the book to say.

He wanted the reader to know that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared… it means being scared and deciding to do what scares you anyway.

Once he stopped being scared, the book wrote itself. It was his story to tell through someone else’s eyes.

For a glimpse into the mind of Gaiman’s MasterClass, watch the course trailer here.

James Patterson's Masterclass on Writing

“Hi, I’m Steven King.”.

This is the opening line of Patterson’s MasterClass.

The purpose? To get your attention.

He continues his introduction… saying how his course will be irreverent, fun and a little jokey at times.

He also promises to take time wasting out of the process if you give him the time to explain how.

I have to say, I was hooked from the intro… more than the other writing courses I’d watched so far. There was just something so charming about Patterson, and he was easy to listen to.

Entertaining.

Patterson is clearly a story teller. In fact, the entire course was a story… his story… which I enjoyed immensely.  Starting with the mornings he’d spend as a child going to work with his grandfather.

His grandfather taught him passion. Told him whatever he decided to do with his life, even if it were driving a truck like he did, to make sure he drove that truck over the mountain to work singing a song.

Passion. Passion. Passion.

That is a lesson Patterson never forgot. Even when he started a job at an ad agency after college, he made sure to get up at 5am before work and write until 7am. He didn’t want to get up that early, but forced himself to write every day… because that is what made him “sing”. 

Patterson implores you to set up a routine.

At least one hour every day.

Do it!

Love what you do!

Sing on your way to work. Every day.

Patterson comes off like the quintessential grandfather figure. Wise. Gentle. Humble.

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He admits to having felt defeated at times in his life, but never let it stop him from pursuing his dream.

Every short story he sent out, from The New Yorker to Redbook, was rejected. “My first novel was turned down by 31 publishers.”

He kept going.

And one day, he arrived.

It’s rare that anybody comes up with a totally fresh idea out of nowhere. You already know how to do it. “Write the story, don’t write sentences.”

Think about the people you’re met in life. Are they religious? Do they have any physical attributes that are important?  Write down their ticks. Their staying characteristics. These things will make your main character relevant to your story.

The one thing about Patterson is he talks quite fast. He is clearly very bright and reads a lot himself. And he packs a whole lot of lessons into only 22 course sections. 

One of the fewer of MasterClass.

He ends by saying he’s shared a lot of things…  and to pick what is going to be relevant for you. The ones that may seem dead wrong for you, may work the best in the end.

There are no rules to literature. Don’t follow them blindly. Things change.

For more of Patterson’s story, check out the trailer.

Where Can I View MasterClass Content?

MasterClass can be viewed on your computer directly from their website.

There is also a  MasterClass App that allows you to continue viewing classes on your tablet, smartphone, FireTV, AppleTV and Roku player… without interruption, simply by logging on.

How Much Does MasterClass Cost?

$15 per month, billed annually as $180, for access to 80+ of the world’s best mind in their craft, with new content being added each month.

MasterClass wants to make sure that you have the best learning experience possible, so if you decide it just isn’t for you, simply send an email within 30 days of the date you purchased your subscription to receive a full refund

You cannot cancel mid-session after the initial 30 days, but can choose to not renew the membership and continue enjoying videos until the term expires.

There is also a $90 option to purchase one class for life. It basically gets downloaded and will never expire.

Currently, programs do expire once the enrollment numbers start dwindling, in order to make room for new content.

Honestly, I’d find it hard to believe that anybody would only want to watch one course.

MasterClass will also occasionally offer live webcasts… free to subscribers, which is a pretty cool bonus feature.

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Is Masterclass Worth the Money?

I have to say that I’m really glad my editor asked me to review MasterClass.

I mean, at first glance, it seems like such a cool idea. Learning from famous people may be the closest any of us ever get to them… well, unless their class really works!

Kidding.

But as an at-home mother of four, and part-time writer, I often don’t know where the time goes. So, naturally, I was a bit worried about being able to fit MasterClass into my schedule.

And then I realized with the ability to stream courses from my phone or cast them on my Smart TV, all I had to do was stop binge watching Netflix for a few days and cue up MasterClass instead.

If you do that, it’s well worth the $15 per month! You simply have to want to make the time.

In addition to the rich content Masterclass offers, there are also instructor Q&A’s and Lesson Comments, which both offer great points and insight you may not have considered.

While the layout of the courses vary, you are able to click on each segment description and skip the ones you may not find helpful or interesting… or may just be too long for the time you’ve got.   

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The workbooks are a nice touch, if you work better with something tangible. Personally, I just preferred watching what these characters had to say. 

And that is just what they are.  They are characters in their success stories.

Make no mistake, these courses are professionally filmed, directed and edited. Many involve music, lighting and cinematography.

And it definitely adds a level of class to the material, literally.

While there is no guarantee Masterclass will turn you into the next food network sensation, or result in a phone call from Ron Howard asking you to turn one of your short stories into a movie, it will make you better at your craft or hobby… if you let it.  

Don’t believe me?

Give MasterClass 30 days, no risk, to decide for yourself.

I’m fairly confident you’ll be glad you did.

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.

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Masterclass Review 2021: Is Masterclass Worth the Money?