Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet

LINDA GOLDING: That’s a really good way to start. And I think, so far, we’ve heard several pieces of information that I think categorize what music publishing is about today. Music publishing today is a collaborative effort. So, it’s terrific to hear from one of you already, sitting here, understanding that, and for Fran to emphasize that. This is a partnership between a composer and – whether it’s a publisher, or a publicist, or some kind of promotion representative, or an attorney, or anyone of the number of people whose life work it is to assist composer in developing their profiles, which usually happen through performance activity, and through creating new works. Promotion is about the work itself, the music itself, but it requires lots and lots of people in order to make one performance happen, in order to make one person interested enough to invest their time and resource and energy in now producing the performance. And I guess I’m trying to paint a slightly grim picture only so that you understand that the world is full of luck. Very often I’m sure you have colleagues who say, “I got a performance the first time out when I sent something to a conductor.” It doesn’t happen like that all the time. It’s very rare. It takes lots and lots of folks, and lots and lots of time and energy from everybody that you know.

RALPH JACKSON: This morning, I think the two most important things that were said were said by Chen Yi and by Joan Tower, and they were basically saying the same things, which was that you need to be in your music. And this is something that male composers don’t talk about a lot, so this is really good news today, and I hope everybody gets that. You can carry that idea into every element of the promotion of your music. When the music is promoted, that essence that’s in the music – hopefully, if it’s there – needs to be in the promotion too. One of the things that Boosey & Hawkes does beautifully is that they have a small group of composers relative to all the composers in the world, and they are very careful. They’ve chosen very well. The way they promote those composers is based, in my estimation, on the music. In other words, Boosey & Hawkes may not promote Steve Mackey the way they promote Elliot Carter, so if you’re in your music, and you’re promoting it, you need to be sure that you’re still there in the promotion. You know, we went through a period with performers a few years ago, where they wanted to take publicity pictures that were cool, interesting, and attractive. And you could go through Musical America and see a violinist on the wing of an airplane. [audience laughs] And you know, you came to the concert, and there was no airplane. [audience laughs] So, whatever it is that’s special about you needs to make it into your music, and then it needs to make it into all those other things, into the promotion, into the distribution, into whatever else it was. What else was it?

FRANK J. OTERI: Income and generating commissions.

RALPH JACKSON: Well, yeah, you definitely want to get yourself into your income. [audience laughs]

LINDA GOLDING: And one of the things that I think is also useful to point out is that any promotion strategy devised by anybody must be tailored to who you are, and to your music. There really is no pat answer. There are a bunch of guidelines and structures that most people consider, but there absolutely is no one way to successfully promote music. It is entirely individual.

FRAN RICHARD: I do agree somewhat with Ralph that if you are out there on your own, having to promote your own music, that you are functioning as your publisher. What we are trying to discuss now is making the conscious decision to self-publish your music in a legal and technical sense, in order to professionalize your output and your outreach to the general public, to the professionals in the field, and even to your own colleagues. By “professionalize,” I mean to come to that place, and many of you have already, with a business sense, with an understanding of your rights, of the needs of your work, and what it requires, and also with the self-confidence that you exude when you conduct yourself as a professional. It is this sense that makes a composer a professional. You may not have yet all of these experiences, but you do know that you are a composer. You have declared yourself, and declared that you want to establish contact on the highest professional level that you are capable of creating.

LINDA GOLDING: I came to publishing relatively recently, and had only talked to one or two live composers before I did that, so it was a little bit of a shock to me – I had to learn very quickly. One of the mysteries of publishing is that a lot of people think that because they have the name of a publisher attached to their names, it makes them a composer. It doesn’t. What makes you a composer is what you’re working on, what you’re writing. How your music is getting out there is, I think, an extension of you, as Ralph was saying – what it looks like, how it happens, and, what Fran is saying is, what your business attitude is towards it. There are many advantages to being published by a recognized firm, and there are many advantages to being self-published. There are disadvantages on either side, and we can certainly talk about those. I don’t think any of us is here to say one way is better than the other, but to say, as Fran said, that you need to be making choices, and you need to have the knowledge and the people to talk to in order to make those informed choices, so that you don’t lose income, so that you protect your copyright, so that you have an opportunity to do what it is that you want to do, which is to write music.

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