Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call



Karissa Krenz
photo by Melissa Richard

Music abounds more than ever these days. On any given night you can hear any type of music in the concert hall, on the web, on the radio (and of course, on your stereo). One might think that in these technologically-advanced days, it is easy for a composer to get his or her music out there. But the music world is such a confusing place–who’s out there to help composers? There are so many composers, so many legalities they need to know, and so little money to go around. How are artists supposed to learn what they need to know, promote their music, and continue composing?

Luckily, there are a number of service organizations out there set up to help composers wade through the muck of the music industry.

On top of the list are the performing rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. Both protect composers’ rights and ensure that composers receive payment for performances. In addition, the organizations assist in the commissioning process, work with other organizations to encourage commissioning, help composers network, advise artists on how to support themselves through their music, and serve as advocates for new music and composers.

ASCAP and BMI have realized how important supporting new music is. According to Frances Richard, Vice President of ASCAP’s Symphonic and Concert department, unlike the pop field, the concert music field is in a place “where standard repertory predominates. The kinds of principal influences on people who will become music professionals involves their teaching a repertory that they had been taught themselves, and perpetuating it — which we heartily believe in because we never feel any composer is dead as long as we keep playing their music. But to continue a living and lasting art form, every generation has to add its own contribution.”

That’s where all of these service organizations step in.

Alongside the performance rights organizations are groups dedicated fully to the creation and promotion of new music. The main organizations for the promotion of new American music are the American Music Center (AMC), American Composers Forum (ACF), and Meet The Composer (MTC). AMC exists as the official U.S. Information Center for New Music and is also a service organization which administers a variety of grants programs, conducts national workshops, and publishes NewMusicBox, the Web magazine you are currently reading. ACF works more directly with composers, having branch chapters throughout the U.S. that encourages the commissioning of new music and support of the composers themselves. Meet The Composer (MTC) offers a number of grant programs to bring artists to the general public through residencies, educational programs, and other commissioning programs.

Other service organizations, such as the National Association of Composers, USA (NACUSA) and the International Association of Jazz Educators also maintain branch chapters throughout the country which exist as local support vehicles, while there are also regional organizations serving composers in specific areas of the country as well as the recently-launched Center for the Promotion of Contemporary Composers, which exists exclusively on the Internet. Older organizations, such as American Composers Alliance (ACA), College Music Society (CMS), and the Society of Composers, Inc., have maintained specific national initiatives for many decades.

Some organizations help promote specific types of music, such as the Society for Electro-Acoustical Music in the United States. There are also organizations which promote music by specific segments of the population, e.g. the Latin American Music Center (LAMC), the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), and the International Association for Women in Music (IAWM).

In addition to all of the new music oriented service organizations, many other arts service organizations, representing various aspects of the greater music field at large (e.g. American Symphony Orchestra League, Chamber Music America, Opera America, etc.), support a variety of specifically-targeted new music initiatives.

An exploration of these organizations reveals an elaborate network working behind the scenes to make new music happen in this country. While critical kudos and audience approval goes out to the composers and performers in concerts and recordings, these service organizations also play a crucial role in the nurturing and developing of new American music.

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