You’ve probably heard of MasterClass.
It’s a platform where masters in their fields teach you the inner secrets of their craft. For an annual fee, you get to learn from the greatest minds on the planet.
When MasterClass started becoming really popular a few years ago, I dived right in.
But what’s it really like? Was it worth it for me? Will it be worth it for you?
In my epic MasterClass, I’ll reveal what I like, what I wish could be better, and if MasterClass is worth it.
I’ll also take you inside 3 very different classes — Steve Martin teaches comedy, Shonda Rhimes teaches screenwriting, and Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques — so you know what a class is really like.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- What is MasterClass?
- How is this MasterClass review different?
- Watch my video review of MasterClass
- What can I learn on MasterClass?
- How does it work?
- How much does MasterClass cost?
- Who is MasterClass for?
- Who is MasterClass not for?
- Is it worth it for you?
- My review of 3 classes
- The pros and cons of MasterClass
- How can I watch the classes?
- Are there any good alternatives to MasterClass?
- Verdict: Is MasterClass worth it?
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online learning platform where some of the biggest celebrities in the world teach you their craft. These are A-list celebrities, politicians, and well-known changemakers: Usher, Tony Hawk, Natalie Portman, Judd Apatow – even both Clintons and George W. Bush.
And they’re adding more teachers every month.
That’s the selling point: you get to learn from big names in a way that no other platform allows.
But, that is also its drawback. These classes are based around how exciting it is to be taught by a celebrity. They’re not as focused on being taught most effectively.
Don’t get me wrong – the classes are great. But they are also a form of entertainment.
MasterClass is basically a combination of Netflix and online college seminars. Intriguing content, good lessons, big names.
How is this MasterClass review different?
I get it.
Every time you try to look for an objective review, you end up seeing a whole bunch of filler articles that all just pretend to review MasterClass, but just go over the features and then tell you to buy it.
I’m not going to do that.
Here’s what I am going to do.
- I’m going to tell you where MasterClass falls short (spoiler: MasterClass isn’t perfect).
- I’m going to explain who won’t like this platform (if you’re looking to go back to college, this is not the platform for you).
- And I’ll review three classes I took, so you can get a comprehensive view of what a class is really like.
I’m taking you behind the curtain. And I’m going to tell the truth.
That’s what makes this review different.
Watch my video review of MasterClass
If you would prefer to watch a video about my experience with MasterClass, rather than read about it, check out my video review:
What can I learn on MasterClass?
MasterClass has broken down their classes into eleven categories:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Design & Style
- Sports & Gaming
- Science & Tech
- Home & Lifestyle
- Community & Government
Heads up: some classes are listed under multiple categories. Wellness overlaps with Home & Lifestyle. Writing overlaps with Arts & Entertainment – as does Music.
MasterClass is in the process of really branching out. Back when they first started out, it seemed that nearly every class was a writing or a cooking class.
To this day, I still think that those classes are the best because they give you hands on, practical lessons.
There are new, more philosophical or abstract classes (Terence Tao teaches Mathematical Thinking, Bill Clinton teaches Inclusive Leadership), and the platform is certainly in the process of becoming more well-rounded and holistic.
I’ll take a look at both practical and philosophical classes in my review. That way, you get a balanced view of what MasterClass offers.
How does it work?
MasterClass is easy to use. After you create an account and purchase a subscription, you can quickly start learning.
There are three tabs at the top: Discover, My Progress, and Library.
- Discover is MasterClass’s curated, personalized homepage. Lessons from many different classes are grouped together thematically (like Spotify playlists), letting you get a taste for a bunch of different classes, before you dive into one you want.
- My Progress shows you the classes you’re currently taking, what lessons you’re working on, and how much of each MasterClass you have left to complete. It’s a great way to keep track of your progress.
- Library is the search tab. Here, you can find every single MasterClass on the site, broken down by the eleven categories I mentioned earlier. Library is great if you’re looking to find a specific course or a course for a certain topic, like writing.
Once you’ve found a course you like, click on the course and start watching. It’s that simple.
Each MasterClass course is around 4 hours in length, with about 20ish lessons per course. The courses are completely go-at-your-own pace. You can stop, start, rewind, speed up, slow down each video to get that information at the exact speed you need.
One of my favorite parts about each MasterClass course is that each one comes with a downloadable PDF workbook. This way, you can follow along with each class on your own time, or quickly refer back to lessons later on.
I have stacks of those PDFs clogging up my computer – particularly the cooking ones!
So, to recap.
For each class, you’ll get:
- 20-odd video lessons by a celebrity instructor. These take around 4-5 hours
- Comprehensive PDF guide
- Ability to watch lessons at your own pace
- Space to write notes during each lesson
This is the meat-and-potatoes of MasterClass. Easy-to-watch lessons by big names – learning at your own pace.
How much does MasterClass cost?
MasterClass has three different tiers of pricing now. This is new.
Their standard tier costs $180 a year. This gets you unlimited access to every class on the MasterClass platform. There is no limit to how many classes you take at the same time.
What are the other two subscription levels?
There are two new tiers called plus and premium.
Plus costs $240 and Premium costs $276.
With plus, 2 devices can access MasterClass at the same time. With Premium, 6 devices can.
That’s the only difference – how many devices can access MasterClass at the same time.
Which one should you get?
In my experience, going beyond the standard tier isn’t necessary. Unless everyone in your family wants to learn different things all at the same time, the standard tier is completely respectable.
But still, the standard tier is $180 dollars. That’s a little expensive, isn’t it?
I think it can be – if you’re not the right person for MasterClass. It all depends upon if you’re going to use the platform.
Who is MasterClass for?
Which brings me to probably the most important part of the review: Who is MasterClass for?
MasterClass is primarily for creative people who are looking for inspiration. Many of the MasterClasses are taught by creative celebrities – writers, comedians, filmmakers, actors, singers – and the classes are focused on passing their craft onto you.
These classes are exciting, engaging, and informative. Most of the classes are not fluff courses.
But they’re not a replacement for college courses. They’re not accredited. There is no checked homework. There is no attendance. It’s completely go-at-your-own-pace, get-out-what-you-put-in learning.
Which brings me to my next point: you have to be somewhat self-motivated.
If you’re taking a MasterClass on writing a novel, you have to motivate yourself to finish that novel. Your teacher isn’t checking in on your progress. You have to push yourself.
But, on the other hand, there’s no downside to not finishing the class or not finishing that novel. These classes are informational. They’re like intimate Ted Talks.
I think of them as springboards for your creative projects. If you’re interested in trying your hand at comedy, then watching Steve Martin’s MasterClass will provide you that spark.
To recap, MasterClass is great for:
- Creative people who need a push
- Self-motivated learners
- People who want to be taught by celebrities and big names.
Who is MasterClass not for?
MasterClass is not for everybody.
MasterClass is not for people looking for a traditional or accredited college education. MasterClass is not accredited. The classes more closely resemble intimate Ted Talks. These are 1:1, pre-recorded video lessons by a celebrity teacher.
If you’re looking for a class that helps you get a degree or advance in your business, MasterClass is the wrong platform for you.
MasterClass isn’t great for people trying to learn business skills or technical skills. You won’t learn how to Code on MasterClass, you won’t learn Marketing or the latest email campaign technology.
Instead, it’s best to think of MasterClasses as creative + philosophy classes taught by famous professionals.
To recap, MasterClass is not for:
- People looking to learn hard skills
- Learners who want live classes
- Learners who want accredited classes
Is it worth it for you?
Is MasterClass worth your money? It depends on if you’re a creative learner who wants to learn from some of the biggest names in the world.
If you’re interested in learning from someone like Helen Mirren or Bill Clinton, then MasterClass is a really attractive learning platform.
Now, in 2022, MasterClass has added more classes than ever. Where there used to be 1 or 2 cooking classes, there are now classes on cuisines around the world. Tan France from Queer Eye has a MasterClass on style for everyone!
My point is: MasterClass is expanding rapidly. Once you’ve found a class you like, you’ll very likely find a new one, and another one, and another…
I don’t think you’ll ever run out of content on MasterClass.
But, are the classes good? Do you learn anything? Read my review of three MasterClasses below to find out!
My review of 3 classes
I decided to take three MasterClasses. I want to show you what the class was like, what the pros and cons are, who would like the class, and if it’s worth it.
This way, you can get a decent idea of the different types of classes available on the platform.
Plus, it may spark your curiosity!
Steve Martin teaches comedy
“Don’t be intimidated, starting with nothing.”
That’s the first lesson Steve Martin gives you.
Don’t be intimidated? Easy for Steve Martin to say! He’s a legend!
I had always wanted to learn how to do comedy, but I never knew where to start. Punchlines? How do I even get to a punchline?
So I took Steve Martin’s MasterClass, hoping that he’d make me funnier.
I don’t think that I became funnier, but I learned a lot about comedy, and got to laugh a lot along the way!
How is the class structured?
Steve Martin’s MasterClass is 4 hours and 41 minutes long. It’s broken up into 25 different lessons. It also comes with a 74 page PDF notebook that has lots of room to take notes.
The class is structured around you creating your own comedy routine.
Steve teaches you how to find your comedic voice, how to gather material, how to create an onstage persona – even how to break apart comedy bits and jokes. It’s a great and intelligent deep dive into the psychology of comedy.
Along the way, he brings in two students who are creating their own comedy routines. He uses these as case studies and shows how you can implement his lessons into your comedy routine.
Later in the class, Steve goes over practical advice for the evolving comedian: morality, political correctness, hecklers, and (of course) what to do when you bomb.
Towards the end, there is a lesson devoted to Steve Martin’s comedy journey, and then some of his final thoughts. It’s a very engaging, quite funny, and useful comedy course.
Plus, it has a bunch of vintage Steve Martin stand up. Now I want to go watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!
Who is this Steve Martin’s class for?
Steve Martin’s MasterClass is for anyone interested in comedy – people who want to try their hand at standup, people who want to know how comedians get their start, or people who are just looking to laugh.
It’s refreshing to see how Steve Martin examines how his comedy came up – particularly in contrast to his predecessors. He explains how he changed up the set-up punchline routine, preferring to create tension that he never released. He gets into his philosophy of what he wanted to do as a comedian: he wanted to make people laugh like he did as a teenager – when he didn’t even know why he was laughing, but he couldn’t stop.
So, if you’re excited by the idea of looking at comedy from a unique angle, if you are jazzed by getting into the philosophy of comedy – and how you can create your own unique comedic voice, then this MasterClass is definitely for you.
Who is this class not for?
This MasterClass isn’t a great fit for people who aren’t interested in comedy. Or the philosophy of comedy. Steve Martin is a very introspective speaker, who takes time to delve into the mechanics and theory of comedy. If that’s not something that you’re interested in, then I’d pass on this class.
Steve Martin’s MasterClass on Comedy is a real treat! You get to hear from one of the most legendary comedians about how to develop your comedic voice and build out your material.
His thinking on deconstructing comedy, kind vs. mean comedy, and starting with nothing are inspiring lessons that will get you energized and motivated to finally write that comedy set you’ve been waffling on for the last three years.
Shonda Rhimes teaches writing for television
Shonda Rhimes is one of the best TV writers and showrunners out there. She’s engineered huge hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Bridgerton. Her works are so pervasive that, in the TV world, they’re called “Shondaland.”
So I was really excited to take a TV class from the Master herself. This seemed like a perfect way for MasterClass to really present a … “masterclass” in TV writing.
How is the class structured?
Shonda’s class is 30 lessons long, comprising 6 hours and 25 minutes of video.
That’s one long MasterClass!
It’s a huge course that breaks down writing a script from beginning to end. You learn how to develop an idea, research a concept, write a script, pitch a script, and become a showrunner.
Along the way, you get some great case studies from certain Shonda Rhimes shows, like Scandal. At the end, Shonda gives you an overview of her journey as a writer.
It’s a very comprehensive class that looks at the writing and producing sides of TV, which gives you a comprehensive view on the topic. It’s packed with lessons and takeaways!
Who is Shonda Rhimes’s class for?
Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass is for people interested in TV: how to write TV scripts, how TV episodes are made, how good dialogue is structured. It’s excellent for creative and analytic folks who want to break down the nebulousness of writing into comprehensible concepts.
This class is also great for people who enjoy Shonda Rhimes’s shows. She dives into certain episodes, using them as case studies for different writing concepts she teaches.
That’s not to say the episode exists as a commercial for Shonda Rhimes – far from it. This is a very well put together course that will teach you real creative skills.
You’ll be a better writer for having taken this class.
Who is this class not for?
If you’re not interested in TV, you won’t like this class. You definitely do not have to be a writer to enjoy Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass, but it definitely helps to have an interest in both TV and writing.
This is a creative class focused on building up your skills as a TV writer. If you find TV boring or uninteresting, then you’ll probably find this class boring as well.
It’s designed for creative types. If you’re creative and have an interest in TV, you’ll really like this class. If not, then you probably ought to keep looking.
Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass is a comprehensive course that helps you become a better TV writer.
Thanks to case studies and examining writing from conception to production, Shonda’s MasterClass provides a tremendous amount of content that any writer or creative type will definitely want to sink their teeth into.
Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques
I’m a big foodie. I love going to the latest restaurants to try the most exciting new dish.
So I was excited to take a MasterClass by Thomas Keller, the chef behind one of the world’s greatest restaurants: The French Laundry.
Thomas Keller now has three MasterClass courses. The first is on Vegetables, Pasta, and Eggs. The second focuses on Meats, Stocks, and Sauces. The third is on Seafood, Sous Vide, and Dessert.
I decided to start at the beginning. Course 1.
How is the course structured?
As mentioned earlier, the course is actually three courses. I’m covering part 1 here.
Part one is 36 courses at over 6 hours and 50 minutes. It’s even longer than Shonda’s course!
Thomas Keller teaches his course like a classically trained chef teaching new cooks. It’s very traditional. He begins with mise en place – a concept referring to preparing your workspace – before moving on to sourcing your ingredients.
Next, he focuses on learning key techniques, such as puree, confit, and baking. He showcases these techniques with vegetables.
Now, I’ve always been a cook who wants to get to the meat first, so this “walk-before-you-run” approach frustrated me a little, but I have to trust the master. Vegetables it was!
After veggies, we moved on to egg dishes like omelets and egg-based sauces, such as mayonnaise and hollandaise.
Up last are pasta dishes – my favorite! You finish up with gnocchi, which is making me hungry even thinking about it.
Who is Thomas Keller’s class for?
Thomas Keller’s MasterClass is for people who are serious about learning how to cook. You need to be able to put in the time, effort, and money to create these recipes. That means buying ingredients, possibly buying kitchen equipment, and actively making the recipes along with Thomas Keller.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll really love this class. It offers a lot of hands-on learning that leaves you with a delicious dish to enjoy after each lesson.
Who is this class not for?
This class isn’t for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on materials. Even though part one is vegetables, eggs, and pasta; the cost of extra purchases and kitchen equipment will add up.
Additionally, this class isn’t for people who are put off by the “walk, don’t run” style of Keller’s teaching. He is methodical. His lessons slowly build upon each other. If you want to jump right in to some advanced dishes, consider taking his 2nd or 3rd MasterClass instead.
Thomas Keller’s MasterClass is a great, if methodical, course that teaches you how to be a better chef. You will have to spend a bit of money on course materials, but it’s a good course that helps you master the basics of fine cooking.
The pros and cons of MasterClass
Now that we’ve taken a look at 3 different MasterClass courses, let’s see what the pros and cons of MasterClass are as a platform.
- Big name teachers. MasterClass has the biggest names in the world on their platform. And, for the most part, these teachers deliver engaging and very informative classes. I learned a lot of practical and creative lessons from major celebrities. I call that a win.
- Creative classes are a stand-out. MasterClass has a bunch of creative classes (writing, cooking, music), and I found that these classes delivered the best content. Each one encouraged me to create and complete a creative project.
- Video quality is amazing. This is high-definition streaming. Each class I viewed was like watching Netflix. There was no blurry video, no grainy footage. Everything was crystal clear.
- Classes are intimate. It really feels like you’re taking a one-on-one lecture with a celebrity. The courses are well-directed and very engaging. Each class made me feel like I was being talked to directly.
- Classes are beginner-friendly. You don’t have to be a Master to take a MasterClass. All the classes are designed so that a beginner can jump right into the class and start learning on day one. Nothing is intimidating.
- Not all classes are created equally. Each MasterClass balances three concepts: practical teaching, philosophical teaching, and teacher anecdotes. The best classes strike an excellent balance, offering much more practical content, and then sprinkling in teacher stories at opportune moments. Some classes, unfortunately, seem to exist as advertisements for the teachers themselves. The vast majority of classes were excellent, but a sizeable group left me feeling frustrated.
- All the classes are pre-taped. No classes are live. While it’s great to go at your own pace, it can be difficult to keep that motivation for some people. It’s easy to put down a class and never pick it back up.
- Classes are not accredited. These aren’t going to get you college credit. You can’t put Steve Martin’s MasterClass on your resume. That said, you can’t measure learning solely on college credit.
How can I watch the classes?
You can watch MasterClass one of three ways:
- Personal computer (laptop, desktop)
- Mobile or tablet
- Smart TV.
I watched all of my lessons through the computer. It was easiest to follow along with the lessons while using the intuitive notes feature while on laptop. But, I think it would be very useful to take the cooking classes while watching through the smart TV – which you totally can do.
No matter which platform you use, the video streaming quality is top-notch. High-definition, Netflix-like streaming. The audio is crystal clear. Subtitles are available for each video, and you can manipulate the speed for a more customized learning experience.
Are there any good alternatives to MasterClass?
MasterClass is a MOOC platform: massive open online course platform. That means that you can take any course without prerequisites, and it is open to as many learners as possible.
But they’re not the only ones in the online learning game. There are a bunch of other platforms like:
- Great Courses
Each of these platforms has a unique niche. Duolingo is all about foreign languages. Mindvalley is all about self-improvement and spirituality. Great Courses focuses on college-level material.
MasterClass is unique from all of them thanks to its teachers. On MasterClass, the teachers are the biggest names in their respective fields. Billy Collins for poetry, Shonda Rhimes for Television, Steve Martin for Comedy.
That’s what makes MasterClass different.
Now, to be fair, different doesn’t mean better. Some platforms, like Great Courses and EdX, provide college-level learning. With EdX, you can even get a certificate of completion and put it on LinkedIn. These classes focus on deeper, higher-level learning than MasterClass.
MasterClass is more like a springboard for creative learning, taught by big names. If you want to learn a thing or two about comedy from Steve Martin, you won’t get it anywhere else.
If, however, your job needs you to learn French in the next six months, don’t use MasterClass. Use Duolingo.
Verdict: Is MasterClass worth it?
Here’s my verdict: MasterClass is worth it if you are a creative learner who is looking to jumpstart your creative processes.
The celebrity teachers on MasterClass are legends. The content they provide is engaging and informative. I actually learned quite a bit from Steve Martin, Shonda Rhimes, and Thomas Keller.
Some classes, unfortunately, aren’t quite as impressive. I didn’t find Jeff Koons’s art class or Alicia Keys’s music class to be very helpful. The latter felt like an advertisement for her music.
But, MasterClass is adding more classes frequently, and there are far more great classes than there are so-so classes.
If you’re a creative person who’s looking to enrich yourself, I’d definitely check out MasterClass. It’s a fun and unique platform with some of the biggest and brightest minds out there.
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