Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet

FRANK J. OTERI: How many of you out there are published composers? Let’s see a show of hands. All right, let’s divide the categories still some more. How many of you are published by a company – are not self-published, are commercially-published composers? Show of hands. OK. How many of you are self-published composers? How many of you are unpublished composers?

RALPH JACKSON: I don’t think there are unpublished composers. [audience laughs]

FRANK J. OTERI: Why’s that?

RALPH JACKSON: Because I think that if you promote your music, if you send your music out in any way…In other words, if you haven’t told anyone that you write music and you’ve never shown them your scores and you’ve never shown them your tapes, I guess you’re unpublished. But if you’ve gotten out into the world somewhat, you’re published on some level.

LINDA GOLDING: That goes to the definition of what publishing is, I guess, and maybe we should even ask what people think.

FRANK J. OTERI: To follow Ralph’s thread I should ask how many of you have never shown your scores to anybody [audience laughs], and have never told anybody that you write music? Nobody? Well, this is good. [audience laughs] We’ve passed step one here, this is very good. OK. That is a good question, who out here would like to begin to address that – what do you think the role of a publisher is? Somebody? Or should I call on somebody? I used to be a high school teacher, this is so much fun. [audience laughs]

RALPH JACKSON: Why doesn’t someone tell us the dream that they have about a publisher?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Someone who would help with promotion and help generate performances, and help negotiate commissions…

LINDA GOLDING: That’s an extremely enlightened view [audience laughs], I think. Thank you.

RALPH JACKSON: …The fact that you said, “someone who would help”…What I expected to hear was, “Someone to discover me and change my life, and take over everything that I do except for writing music,” which does not exist, I think.

FRANK J. OTERI: There are four concepts that people are responding to that I thought we could all further explore: 1) promotion; 2) distribution (those are very different things); 3) income (from works that are already created); and 4) generating commissions for new works. So we’re really looking at four categories. I think it was interesting for me to hear that income was the third in that list and not the first. [audience laughs] And that promotion was first, above distribution. I thought that was kind of interesting too, because I think to the general public, when people think of a book being published, the first word that comes to their mind is distribution, but in many ways, promotion is even more important than distribution. So, who wants to address the issue of promotion of music? I’ll give this one to Fran for a second. And then we’ll all jump in.

FRAN RICHARD: Promotion? A composer writes a piece, has the confidence in the quality of that piece, and now begins the task of informing the rest of the world. Or it’s the opportunity to interest a performer or ensemble, to let somebody know about the piece. And if you hit for a performance, let people know that it’s going to be performed. This is a joint venture. Promotion is very important – about your self, about your career, to have the materials ready – we’re not even going to talk about the music itself (I’ll let Linda do that), about what condition the score and parts should be in, and you’ve heard some of that already this morning from the conductors. You need to have a bio, a list of your pieces, with the timing and the instrumentation. You have a performance and somebody wants to know about your work and the body of work you’ve created – your job is to write music, but it’s also to assist the rest of us to find out about it. And the more active you are in assisting with that chore, the more you enhance the prospects of your career.

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