I was part of the Tom Hess community for 4 years to include the so-called Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle for the last year and a half. I exited a few months before the Levi Clay videos came out. It is as much a cult as everyone suspects, but he’s just as much a poor and toxic leader as he is an emotional abuser of his clients with highly effective manipulation tactics meant to make them feel worthless yet hopeful and thus squarely dependent on him. You were nothing before you met him and all that you have achieved since is because of him…remember that!
You are not allowed to be friends with or 'like"/follow perceived competitors with Tom Hess…that means anyone who teachers online or sells online products (CTC, Steve Vai, JTC, Joey YouTuber). Many of the devote will call you out on the forum if they see that you are doing so (to score ass kissing points with the cult leader). You aren’t allowed to read any books that he hasn’t recommended. Most of, if not all of his recommended books are Ayn Rand, which is an attempt to embed and shape your philosophy (to his) and make you more susciptible to manipulation. There are required book studies of Ayn Rand on the forum to further embed and shape these philosophies. For young kids and unsuspecting guitar players this is pretty dubious. You aren’t allowed to have any other teachers or mentors…its pretty isolating for a reason.
For the guitar teachers, he teaches mostly marketing strategies (many are outdated) via 8 year old phone call recordings that you get in your account to listen to…trickled out one or two per month. That’s it. Learning to actually teach is on your own. CTC video and content blow Tom’s away. Actually, most free YouTube teachers content and video’s blow Toms away. His audio recordings for improv were done in his garage 2 decades ago…and that’s still part of what you get for your $56 correspondence lessons. He’s an extremely lazy entrepreneur. Forum discussions between members is where much of the learning takes place, but Tom is largely absent, if only to pop in to redirect philosophy. Much of what he passes on as his own original thought has been straight up stolen from Tony Robbins and guru’s of marketing, while he then charges you $3000 to hear it at his event or in his monthly recordings. He is deathly afraid of competition and has deep trust issues. For someone who is so worried about his competition stealing from him, he does an awful lot of it himself.
His Geometric Learning model is a term he stole and has made his own but is basically bull$hit. He doesn’t have a plan for you, other than to string you along for as long as he can. Geometric Learning is a way for him to spread out teaching you a broad array of topics over an eternity, disguised as a plan that only he can see. He inundates his clients and students with so many topics that they quickly get overwhelmed to which he then sells you solutions for. What Tom is good at is coming up with flashy names for his programs that sound good…actually they sound like click bait. His HessFest is one big sales pitch into his other programs disguised as MasterClasses. Hard sales tactics ensue on the last day of the event to get you to commit to next years event, pay in full and no refunds. But this doesn’t just include the event, but also locks you in for a year of some sort of member program because you have to be a member to attend the event.
He opened up his own Guitar Teaching School and it has failed already, if that tells you anything about learning from this guy about how to teach guitar? He himself is quite absent from the forum, unless it’s to humiliate a client or discuss Ayn Rand philosophy. The Off-Topic discussion is more active than any other part of his forum. There is a lot of bullying and negativity in the forum and if any of you saw the Levi Clay videos (which he had Levi take down) you’d have seen the disgusting language he used towards one of his female clients and the mob of hostility towards her that ensued. If you want to quit, Tom posts your email saying you want to quit on the forum (or shames you into posting it yourself)…then social pressure takes over from their like wolves. He has guilted more than a few people into staying another two years with that tactic. The bullying that he uses in the phone calls (for all his clients to hear) is down right awful. A recording of him yelling on the phone at a 17 year old kid…and the kid saying “Thank you Tom Hess”. It’s disgusting. Or him yelling at a guy, saying “if you don’t buy my $3000 ticket for next years event by Friday…I will never allow you to come to ANY event EVER.” Brutal.
He offers racketeering-like protection to his teachers from their competitors (many whom are ‘dying to get into his program’). He vows not to allow a competitor to join his teaching program if they are within a certain radius of where your business is. The highest tiered guitar teaching program offered a 10 mile radius of “protection” which cost $300/mo. The only other program that was lower than that was 5-mile radius for $200/mo. Many of the folks there are young, foreign, barely making ends meet, aspiring musicians that want more for their life…and he seems geared to prey on that desperation. Many are barely making enough to pay him, and many are scared to leave because they really believe that their competition is going to join Toms program if they decide to leave and destroy what little business they have built for themself. Such a lie. Despite some being there for nearly a decade with ZERO students, they still follow him. Many have paid far more into the program than they’ve made and yet they still follow him. It’s a case study for a sociologist or psychologist for sure, but not a far stretch for the FBI.
It’s a mess over there in Tom Hess land. I feel sorry for those that are still there. I feel sorry for his kids and wife whom could be likely as manipulated by him as his clients are. I am glad to be out. I would highly recommend avoiding anything to do with Tom Hess.
Tom still uses many of our pictures, videos and reviews that he solicited from us early on in order to promote himself, despite the fact that we would no longer recommend him and have asked that he remove them. He refuses.
A friend and former early member of his program has posted a review of Tom Hess on his webpage. Feel free to pass the word. http://www.guitarlessonsgreenville.com/blog/tom-hess-music-corporation-review/?fbclid=IwAR3ne_uY3Ia__X19InmDDFBelftv8AQXGBZkwPdHEuKh3pbArFErGg_XipI