[2021] MasterClass Review: Worth the cost? Pros, Cons & FAQs

Pros:

  • Taught by real celebrities and titans of their trade
  • Less expensive than a premium Netflix subscription
  • Video lessons have very high production quality
  • Most courses come with helpful supplemental material
  • A subscription unlocks every course and any new courses that are later uploaded
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Some courses are more inspirational than educational or technical
  • You don’t get personalized training like from typical college or trade instructors
  • Cannot download classes
  • No free trial

Bottom Line: MasterClass is perfect for intermediate-level learners from many fields of interest, especially writing. Learning from genuine A-list instructors is invaluable and inspiring. However, most MasterClass courses are not very technical, nor are they for absolute beginners.

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A while back, I saw an ad saying some of my writing heroes, like Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Brown, were teaching their art through an online course system called MasterClass. Then I found out it wasn't just famous writers, but a bunch of famous people teaching on this online education platform.

All for a pretty affordable price.

For most of us, one-on-one cooking classes with Thomas Keller, acting lessons from Natalie Portman, or photography classes with Annie Leibovitz aren’t within our grasp. MasterClass allows anyone to learn from the best.

I created this MasterClass review to help everyone see the great things about MasterClass as well as the downsides to keep in mind.

In this MasterClass review, you’ll learn:

  1. What is MasterClass?
  2. MasterClass price and discounts
  3. My favorite MasterClass courses
  4. MasterClass vs. other online course platforms
  5. Frequently asked questions
  6. Is MasterClass worth it? My final verdict

Links in this article may be affiliate links. If you purchase MasterClass or other products through these links, it may earn me a small commission. There is no extra cost to you. Nor did this affect my opinions in this MasterClass review. This way, I can keep writing these articles that anyone can read for free.

Full Video MasterClass Review

Prefer to watch and listen rather than read? I take you behind the scenes to see MasterClass in action in my video MasterClass Review.

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What is MasterClass?

MasterClass is an online learning platform created by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen in 2015. It boasts the best in the industry as your teachers — whether in writing, cooking, or sports.

Unlike most course creation platforms, you must be a genuine A-list legend within your respective field to make online courses on MasterClass.

masterclass-malcolm-gladwell-teaches-writing

The quality of wisdom and experience shared is matched by beautiful video and well-presented workbooks.

You can access Masterclass online, on your phone, on an Amazon Fire TV, on a Roku streaming media player, or on an Apple TV by downloading the app.

Is MasterClass for me? If you prefer a more hands-on learning environment, MasterClass is not for you. MasterClass uses an online classroom format where the instructors contribute little after the initial course videos go up. But if you want to virtually learn and be inspired by experts in your chosen industry and don’t mind a lack of hands-on learning, MasterClass is for you.

To learn more about MasterClass as a whole and their online classes, read their incredibly easy-to-read FAQ section — or just keep reading this MasterClass review.

MasterClass also has Twitter and Facebook pages, so you can keep up to date with all their latest class releases and Ask Me Anything sessions with the A-list celebrity instructors.

What MasterClass courses are offered?

Here’s a quick list of 19 star-studded teachers (out of 90+) and their MasterClass courses:

  • Writing taught by multiple NYT bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell
  • Basketball taught by NBA Championship winner and MVP Stephen Curry
  • Comedy taught by multi-award-winning actor and comedian Judd Apatow
  • Writing for social change taught by bestselling author Roxane Gay
  • Filmmaking taught by Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese
  • Acting taught by Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren
  • Cooking taught by 16 Michelin Star recipient chef Gordon Ramsay
  • Writing For Young Audiences taught by bestselling children’s author R. L. Stine
  • Writing taught by the world’s all-time bestselling author James Patterson
  • Screenwriting taught by Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin
  • Writing taught by bestselling and award-winning author Judy Blume
  • Singing taught by Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Christina Aguilera
  • Electronic Music Production taught by award-winning DJ and producer deadmau5
  • Comedy taught by Oscar-winning comedian Steve Martin
  • Chess taught by Grandmaster Garry Kasparov
  • Poker taught by six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu
  • Film Making taught by internationally renowned screenwriter and director Werner Herzog
  • Writing taught by award-winning, bestselling author Neil Gaiman
  • Acting taught by BAFTA award-winning director and producer Samuel L. Jackson
  • Filmmaking taught by Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee
  • Music curation and DJ’ing taught by iconic drummer and DJ Questlove

MasterClass is constantly releasing new courses. At the time of writing, they boast new instructors monthly. James Cameron is set to release a course on Directing soon.

People who have access to MasterClass.com will always get the new courses when they come out.

masterclass-quick-list-working-well

MasterClass Format

How does Masterclass work? Here's the format of taking MasterClass courses:

  1. High-quality video lessons from each course’s “Master” (an average of 24 lessons per MasterClass course)
  2. Downloadable PDF lesson plans so you can go over the material on your own, offline
  3. Course notes containing the main points from the video, extra reading resources, and space to write down your own notes
  4. The Hub: This is a MasterClass community where you can discuss the content of the course with fellow students and share work and exercises with one another

Most instructors actually read what their MasterClass community has to say. In many cases, the instructors actually reply to student comments and inquiries.

masterclass-review-format

MasterClass Cost

How expensive is a MasterClass? MasterClass costs $180/year. This annual membership grants you unlimited access to all MasterClass classes and new classes when they launch. This is not exorbitant, considering a Netflix subscription costs more.

You can purchase single classes on MasterClass for $90 apiece, but if you’re planning on taking more than 1 course, you might as well buy the all-access pass.

Previously, MasterClass offered a free trial option, but that is no longer available. Now, MasterClass offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

They used to offer discounts, as well, but have since changed their business model. If they offer discounts, it won’t be via a third-party website; MasterClass will likely provide it on their website to everyone who signs up.

You can also gift someone a MasterClass course. It makes a unique, exciting Christmas or birthday present.

I can write more like Malcolm Gladwell, cook more like Wolfgang Puck, and dance like Usher. Watch out, world. Thanks @masterclassClick To Tweet
masterclass_pricing

MasterClass Discount Code

Many websites talk about a MasterClass discount code or coupon. The truth is, MasterClass doesn’t offer any discount codes or coupon codes.

When it first came out, MasterClass offered discounts like this, but they’ve since shifted their marketing strategy.

Instead, MasterClass will sometimes offer specials or discounts, but they are open to everyone who visits the site. For example, they've run a sale for $20 off MasterClass as a gift in the past.

The Best MasterClass Courses For Writers

There are many great courses on MasterClass that aren't about writing (like Serena Williams teaching tennis, FBI negotiator Chris Voss’s Negotiation, or Steve Martin teaching comedy). But most of my readers are writers and aspiring authors.

Below, I talk about 4 MasterClass course reviews perfect for self-publishing authors. You can explore them in more detail below.

For each course, I’ll talk about:

  • The course instructor
  • A few of the lessons from the course syllabus
  • Why I think they are valuable to you

This isn't a MasterClass review of all the writer courses out there, but it does represent the best I've found.

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James Patterson — Writing

James Patterson is one of the best-known names in American writing. He has written countless bestsellers, including the Alex Cross and Maximum Ride series.

masterclass-review-james-patterson

In his MasterClass, James Patterson shares his insight into the sacred process of writing, including exciting anecdotes from his life and career.

James Patterson’s MasterClass course consists of 22 lessons over 3+ hours of videos. It includes a workbook with extra material and assignments. You can submit drafts for critique by the class community.

The most relevant and interesting lessons from James Patterson’s MasterClass include:

  • Outlining. James Patterson is known for being a master outliner, perhaps accounting for his prolific resume. Here, James breaks down his personal outlining process and illustrates it with an actual never-before-seen outline from a bestselling novel.
  • Writing Suspense. James Patterson’s novels are page-turners that keep readers hooked from the first page. Here, James reveals his secret recipe for suspenseful writing.
  • Book Titles and Covers. Here, James Patterson reveals his tips and tricks to keep in mind when choosing your book title and book cover.
  • Working with a Co-Author. Two of Patterson’s collaborators help teach this lesson explaining the secrets behind successful co-authoring.
  • Marketing the Patterson Way. Before James Patterson became a bestselling novelist, he worked as a top advertising executive. This perspective gives him unique book marketing insight you won’t find anywhere else.
Check Out This MasterClass!

Margaret Atwood — Creative Writing

Margaret Atwood is a living legend in the world of fiction, especially speculative fiction and feminist fiction. She’s more famous than ever due to the runaway success of the TV adaptation of her fantastic novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

She is known for writing gripping dystopian fiction that packs a powerful message.

masterclass-review-margaret-atwood

Atwood’s MasterClass is taught in over 20 video lessons. Students receive a workbook with additional material and can upload videos to the class community to receive critiques. Margaret Atwood herself will also critique some lucky students!

The most enticing lessons from Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass syllabus include:

  • Structuring Your Novel. In this lesson, Atwood uses real anecdotes, both her own and others’, to explain how a novel can be structured. Choosing the proper structure is a real struggle for many writers, so this lesson alone makes her course worth taking.
  • Creating Compelling Characters. A valuable lesson for every fiction writer out there. It explores how to make characters memorable and vivid and explains how gender impacts character creation.
  • Speculative Fiction Case Study. Margaret Atwood uses her most famous novel, A Handmaid’s Tale, to illustrate her own process of researching and getting inspiration for a speculative fiction project.
  • Research and Historical Accuracy. Research can make or break a book, regardless of the genre. This is a unique chance to learn the exact research process used by one of the most successful writers of our time.
  • The Business of Being a Writer. Atwood explains the business aspects of writing, such as finding an agent, dealing with criticism, and negative reviews.

Margaret Atwood is one of the most respected names in literature today. The fact that she is teaching a MasterClass course is a testament to the quality and prestige of the MasterClass brand.

In particular, I’m confident fiction writers will find a lot to love and a lot to learn in Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass.

Check Out This MasterClass!

Malcolm Gladwell — Writing

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the bestselling and most respected nonfiction writers of recent years.

Gladwell is known for distilling complex concepts into more understandable forms. Concepts like “10,000 hours of practice achieves mastery” have sunk into the popular imagination.

masterclass-malcolm-gladwell-teaches-writing

Malcolm Gladwell teaches his MasterClass with 24 video lessons, a workbook including recaps and assignments, and office hours during which Gladwell will answer select questions posted by MasterClass students.

Some of the lessons that stood out to me from Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass syllabus include:

  • Developing the Story. This lesson teaches how Gladwell takes the initial seed of a story idea and develops it into something greater, drawing upon the feedback of his family and friends in the process.
  • Structuring Language. A technical look at punctuation and sentence length. Gladwell explains how these seemingly technical aspects of writing can be used to help readers understand complex ideas.
  • Tone and Voice. Gladwell explains how he matches his tone and voice to audience expectations, referencing examples from his own career to illustrate the techniques he shares.
  • Titles. Here, Gladwell explains how a book title’s primary purpose is to grab a reader’s attention. The best way to do this is to play on their emotions.
  • How to Read. One of the keys to being a great writer is being a great reader. Gladwell makes a point of sharing his personal strategies for reading intelligently in this MasterClass lesson.

Malcolm Gladwell’s status as a bestselling nonfiction writer and respected journalist means this MasterClass will hold a unique appeal for nonfiction writers. Of course, any writer could learn a lot from his lessons, like reading intelligently and how to title your book effectively.

Check Out This MasterClass!

Neil Gaiman — The Art of Storytelling

Neil Gaiman's MasterClass is a must-watch! He has won multiple awards for horror and science-fiction, including Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and Bram Stoker Award, not to mention his Newbery and Carnegie medals.

His most famous work by far is American Gods, a tale that throws caution and religion to the wind in a modern/ancient entanglement of rule. Both American Gods and The Sandman series were adapted into TV series.

He's perfected the art of storytelling, and that's what his MasterClass is all about.

neil-gaiman-masterclass-review

Gaiman's MasterClass is conducted over 19 video lessons and comes with its own classwork, full of insightful supplemental information.

Here are the most valuable lessons from Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass:

  • Short Fiction. When it comes to short fiction, you need to learn how to properly focus your scenes to achieve their maximum impact. Gaiman walks you through some handy techniques to help you do just that.
  • Dialogue and Character. Ever had to slog through unrealistic dialogue in a story? Did the lines feel unnatural and forced? Gaiman addresses these points to help get you on track to writing fluid dialogue to help move your story along.
  • World-Building. If you've ever read any of his stuff, then you know Neil Gaiman is one of the kings of world-building. In this lesson, he shares his philosophy on settings, common pitfalls when creating them, and avoiding those pitfalls.
  • Humor. How do you feel about “Sherbert Lemons” and “Figgins”? These are two of Gaiman’s personal humor introduction techniques. These techniques, among others, will be introduced in this lesson.
  • Dealing with Writer's Block. While most of his lessons are involved with full story creation, Gaiman also tackles one of the most significant issues facing fiction authors today: writer's block. Learn some of the ways that he gets through these difficult times.

I recommend Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass to all fiction writers out there. Gaiman is a pillar of the modern fiction community, and it would behoove any aspiring legends to listen to what he has to say.

Check Out This MasterClass!

MasterClass vs. Skillshare

MasterClass is an excellent online earning platform, but so is Skillshare.

Which is better?

Skillshare is better for individuals taking a bunch of different courses, looking to brush up on their practical, technical skills in various fields. Biggest plus: Skillshare offers a bunch of their classes for free.

MasterClass is better for inspirational writing classes, as well as courses on cooking, sports, politics, self-care, and so much more. Video production quality is considerably higher.

Only with MasterClass can you count Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ron Finley, and Serena Williams among your instructors. I prefer MasterClass overall, but both have their advantages.

MasterClass vs. The Great Courses

I've seen MasterClass compared to The Great Courses, and I can see why.

The Great Courses is another online course platform that provides high-level education, often college-level, on many subjects of interest.

Each platform has its own strengths. For example, one advantage of The Great Courses is that you can access these trainings through your Audible subscription. The Great Courses also provides more practical theory when taking the courses.

MasterClass still comes out on top.

MasterClass is more engaging and concise. Individual lessons can be as short as 5-25 minutes long. You might think this is way too short, but it's simply condensed into what you really need to know. MasterClass can maintain my interest throughout the entire lesson.

Moreover, MasterClass boasts instructors who are famous successful people in their respective fields. While The Great Courses has excellent instructors — usually legit professors and other academics — MasterClass provides a unique opportunity to learn from living legends.

A comparison can be made between MasterClass and The Great Courses, but MasterClass still reigns supreme in my eyes.

MasterClass vs. Udemy

Udemy offers a wonderful course platform, with 100,000+ online courses available on just about any subject. This is great if your topic of interest is niche or technical.

While some courses are pricey, plenty of other classes cost about $10. Plus, Udemy runs discounts all the time.

You can even create your own course on Udemy. It’s kinda like the Wikipedia of e-learning.

MasterClass has a smaller selection of classes at a little-or-no discount, and you can't build your own course.

MasterClass beats Udemy by a mile in most circumstances.

With Udemy, you never know exactly who built your course, what actual knowledge they have, or how good the info really is. Sure, you can find some really great classes. But the best courses on Udemy tend to be just as expensive as a MasterClass subscription.

On the other hand, you know exactly what you're getting with MasterClass. Deadmau5 teaches electronic dance DJing MasterClass. Carlos Santana teaches the art and soul of guitar. Every MasterClass is conducted by a giant of their industry.

While MasterClass may cost more than a cheap Udemy course, I'm willing to spend the extra bucks for insights I won't find anywhere else.

MasterClass vs. CreativeLive

MasterClass vs. CreativeLive: which is better?

Comparing these two is kind of like comparing red apples and green apples. Sure, they're both apples. Both MasterClass and CreativeLive are online courses that sell professional knowledge to their users.

But red apples and green apples have different uses. Where MasterClass is great for just about everybody to enjoy, CreativeLive courses are best suited for bloggers, photographers, and other multimedia specialists. If you're not into those, stick with MasterClasses.

However, I'm not discrediting CreativeLive. It’s an excellent platform for anyone looking to up their professional game.

What I Disliked about MasterClass

It wouldn't be a proper MasterClass review without discussing what I disliked about MasterClass:

  • While the people selected to lead the classes were all some of the best in the trade, many weren't exactly great teachers. Hats off to the video editors for trying to make some of these as stellar as possible, but the level of actual teaching in certain classes was scarce.
  • Don't expect these to be very technical but more strategic in nature. Think of them more like intensive Ted talks with very famous speakers.
  • There is no free trial. I get that, considering that someone could sign up for the free trial and binge-watch. However, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee. I like to see companies believe you'll love their courses so much that you would never ask for your money back.
  • You can't download the classes. I was hoping to watch one on a plane recently, but because of this, I couldn't. UPDATE: You can now download classes for offline viewing using the MasterClass iOS app. I'm not currently aware of a similar opportunity for Android users.

All these negatives do not outweigh the positives. My wife and I enjoy MasterClass to this day.

MasterClass Review: Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a MasterClass?

An entire MasterClass is typically between 2-5 hours long, but every MasterClass is slightly different.

How long are MasterClass lessons?

The individual MasterClass lessons are pretty short: 25 minutes at the longest. MasterClass lessons are convenient and easy to digest.

The length of lessons allows you to catch one or two on a lunch break. A lesson that is only 25 minutes at the longest proves simple to schedule in your busy day.

How fast do I have to complete MasterClass courses?

You complete MasterClass courses at your own pace. You possess unlimited time to complete a course that you've purchased. There's no rush at all.

There's also no limit to re-watching or reviewing a course, which is incredible. I know I can get a little lost sometimes, so I'm happy this isn't one of those watch-one-time-and-hope-for-the-best deals.

Can I watch MasterClass on my TV?

Yes, you can watch MasterClass on your TV.

For Apple TV users, all you need to do is download the app. The MasterClass app works on 4th generation (and later) Apple TVs.

You can also watch MasterClass on Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku devices.

Most modern TVs and laptops come equipped with HDMI cable ports. Simply connect the two with an HDMI cable, and your TV becomes an extension monitor (complete with sound) for your laptop.

P.S.: This is a great tip for traveling between hotels.

How can I download MasterClass videos?

You cannot download MasterClass videos. This helps to prevent piracy.

You can, however, download MasterClass videos onto your iPhone or iPad for offline viewing using their iOS app. (Sorry, Android users.)

How can I get MasterClass for free?

You cannot get MasterClass for free. Unless you have it gifted to you, in which case someone else paid, you have to pay for MasterClass.

Is MasterClass a ripoff?

No, MasterClass is not a ripoff. It is actually taught by genuine A-list celebrities at a reasonable price point.

Some may be disappointed by the not-so-technical lessons that aim more for inspiration than strict information. Others may balk at the suggestion of buying sea urchins and truffles to elevate their plebeian omelets. It’s not for everyone, but MasterClass is not a ripoff.

How can I send MasterClass as a gift?

You can send MasterClass as a gift to someone by clicking the option on every MasterClass sign-up page marked “Gift.”

Is MasterClass a good gift? Yes, MasterClass makes a great and unique gift for any occasion.

MasterClass subscription

How can I get a refund from MasterClass?

You can get a refund from MasterClass by emailing support@masterclass.com within 30 days of your purchase. If you aren’t satisfied, they’ll offer you a full refund.

Nothing's perfect. I'm sure some of you just won't like MasterClass for whatever reason. Here are a few other ways to request a refund from MasterClass.

Submit a Request to the MasterClass ZenDesk

You can send a request directly to MasterClass via this link. Be sure to include the following:

  • Your registered email address
  • Transaction ID number (that will be found on your receipt of purchase)
  • The title of the MasterClass you want to be refunded
  • PayPal Email Address if purchased via PayPal

Call MasterClass Directly

You can actually call them on the phone and speak with one of their customer service representatives to get this done.

(855) 981-8208

You're still going to need the following information:

  • Your registered email address
  • Transaction ID number (that will be found on your receipt of purchase)
  • The title of the MasterClass you want to be refunded
  • PayPal Email Address if purchased via PayPal

In-App Purchase Refunds

If you've purchased MasterClass through an app such as the Apple Store or Google Play, you can still request your refund. But you're going to have to go through the app store. Here's how:

  • Apple: Reach out to the Apple Care Team by calling toll-free: 1-(800)-275-2273 or 1-(800)-APL-CARE
  • Google Play: Google Play is simpler. Simply request a refund via your Google Store Account. Here's the link you'll need.

Is MasterClass worth it?

Personally, I think MasterClass is worth the investment and time I put in for the benefits I got.

Let me know in the comments below if you think MasterClass is worth it. I still check comments long after these posts go up.

In preparing for this MasterClass review, I took several courses in writing and in other subjects. I found each course was different in its organization and feel.

Some were very tactical in their approach, giving step-by-step actions (Wolfgang Puck's comes to mind), while others were more theoretical and strategic in nature (Malcolm Gladwell).

I respect their different styles; it reflected the artist and how they wanted to approach their art and deliver their message. deadMau5 didn't provide steps to creating music but more of the general processes, thoughts, and struggles he faces with his music.

There were times I wished these legends would go deeper to show some “how-to” aspects to their art. At one point, R. L. Stine talked about how he researches and plans for a new book. I would have loved to see him apply this process to one of his famous books, but he preferred to breeze on through.

Each class was absolutely worth watching, making the $180/year all-access pass more than worth it. It was incredible to have such a candid approach from true masters of their art.

Most of these courses will not give you the tools to jump right in and implement the lessons if you're a true beginner. Instead, most MasterClass courses are high-level discussions aimed at intermediate learners.

Is MasterClass worth the money? Yes, MasterClass is worth the money for intermediate-level learners of many different fields of study, especially writing.

I've still got my all-access MasterClass subscription, and my wife and I are planning to watch a couple more courses on our next date night. Next up are Gordon Ramsay's Cooking and Chris Hadfield’s Space Exploration, accompanied by a nice bottle of wine.



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12 thoughts on “[2021] MasterClass Review: Worth the cost? Pros, Cons & FAQs

Comments
  1. Pal Nemeth

    Good product but a scam business…
    Wonderful product but a scam business model.
    I purchased the 1 year subscription. More than half year I haven’t recieved anything and than after they started to spam me daily with emails about new instructors. Of course I don’t read all of them. And in one of the email was: “If you don’t take further action, your yearly subscription will be renewed” in small letters, in the end.
    After they charged the account they haven’t even sent a receipt and now as I am out of the 30 day refund policy they don’t want to do a refund.
    I need to understand their policy but they can take my money without asking me.
    Shame on you Masterclass.

    1. Dave Chesson

      Oh, sorry you ran into that.

  2. ESS

    Was gifted a subscription, enrolled, but when I went to sign in on a different device, I ended up be charged $179! Very frustrating and now my apple iTunes account is shut down bc I didn’t get a satisfactory outcome immediately from MasterClass. So fricken annoyed.

    And why didn’t MasterClass recognize my email when I was logging in on a different device??!

    So despite being annoyed, I decided to try out a course. What a disappointment. The instruction was so elementary. No more than the first lecture, at best, of a course you would take expecting to actually learn something.

    The subscription was gifted to me, but doubtful I will even use again based on my experience!

    1. Dave Chesson

      Bummer and sorry you ran into that.

Comments are closed.

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