Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet

LINDA GOLDING: Every publisher has a range of categories of works for which they’re best suited to market and promote, for which they have the best reputation and the best catalog, or a leading or competitive catalog. So, the broadest answer is that every publisher is looking for, as I think Ralph said, an individual voice. Everybody wants a voice that stands out. In terms of certain types of categories, we all have things that we’re particularly interested in. Sometimes it’s because it’s that particular day of the week that somebody is thinking about it, and they see this stack of music, and they say, oh, you know I think I really would like to look for choral music today. But mainly, it has to do with how a particular catalog is built, and how the people who are running that company want to take that catalog forward.

RALPH JACKSON: Can I just add a little thing to that? Just from my perspective, I think that the major publishers – we’re talking about maybe five major publishers in the world in classical music – make most of their money from orchestral music. And so, if a composer…I mean certainly there are composers, like George Crumb for instance, who hasn’t really written much orchestral music, and he is extremely successful. But I think you’ll find the names of composers with the major music publishers, where they take the entire catalog, have had very successful orchestral works. And that’s one reason why I worried about the sale of the parts, because a lot of the money is from the rental of the music. So, a lot of times composers have chamber music printed, and sometimes the publisher loses a lot of money when they do that, simply because the composer is making them money through their orchestral music.

LINDA GOLDING: It’s a good point to raise it that way. It’s a really difficult balancing act. There isn’t a direct answer to your question, and it’s absolutely true that large serious music publishers earn the bulk of their income off of orchestral or rental activity, in part because of the fees and in part because of the performing rights organizations, who are our partners in securing payment both for the publisher and for the composer. And so if you’re looking at it from a financial point of view, you as composer, if you had a choice, what would you be writing? Well, first I hope you’re writing what you want to write, what means the most to you, and what you can write the best. But you also ought to be looking at what’s going to give you some commercial success.

FRAN RICHARD: Income. We want to talk about income. That’s a great segue. Were you going that way, Frank?

FRANK J. OTERI: Yeah. I know that several people have questions, but I thought what Jennifer was saying about recordings was very interesting. We’ve been talking a lot about scores and we’ve been talking about self-publishing, and we’re dealing with a world now with new media, where the printed word or the printed musical manuscript does not reach as many people as many other media have the potential of doing. So I thought for the purposes of our query once again to find out from everybody out there: How many of you out there have CD recordings of your music?

RALPH JACKSON: Wow.

FRANK J. OTERI: That’s really terrific. And then we’re going to divide up the categories once again. Of the people out there who have CD recordings of your music, how many of those are on a label that is not self-distributed but that’s on a recording label, either a major label or an independent label, that has some kind of distribution?

FRAN RICHARD: That’s very good.

FRANK J. OTERI: That’s still pretty impressive. How many of you are issuing CDs of your music on your own and are distributing them yourself? Show of hands. Of the people who have CD recordings of your music – I know Jennifer said that the CD of her music has been played on the radio. Well, Fran and I know from going to the radio conference every year, and knowing how they deal with new music at the radio conference, that it seems a little bit like a beautiful dream. [audience laughs] Because these radio folks are afraid of any contemporary music, by and large.

RALPH JACKSON: Clarify who is at this conference.

FRANK J. OTERI: OK. Yes, sorry Ralph. [audience laughs] I’m speaking about the annual AMPPR conference – American Music Personnel in Public Radio. There’s an annual public radio conference, and there’s an also annual commercial classical radio conference but they talk even less about contemporary music. Year in, year out, we always hear, oh, contemporary music, people turn the dial with that. And we’re fighting that battle every year. It gets better in some pockets, it gets worse in others.

LINDA GOLDING: Right, and Messaien is, I think, included in that.

FRANK J. OTERI: Oh, Messaien’s contemporary music. Oh, yeah. Schoenberg’s contemporary music, Ives is contemporary music, Harry Patrch…

FRAN RICHARD: Did they take the Philadelphia Orchestra’s definition?

LINDA GOLDING: Yeah, really.

FRANK J. OTERI: But before we get into attack mode here – because I love getting into attack mode – I want to know how many people out here get their music performed on radio stations. Let’s see a show of hands. That’s pretty good. This is good. Now, I want to touch into new media. Now we have this wonderful new tool, the Internet. And we’re constantly finding new applications for this thing. As a self-published, self-distributed composer, as someone who distributes recordings of your own music, you have this wonderful new tool: the Internet. You have a Web site, or you have e-mail, and you know, all of a sudden when you have a concert of your music in three weeks, instead of sending out a mailing, you can send out e-mails to 500 people. Now, whether or not that’s as effective as a nice brochure, you have to weigh the odds with that. But with a Web site – how many of you have Web sites? On those Web sites, how many of you have audio samples of your music of some kind? How many of you use a streaming audio format versus a downloadable format? Do I need to explain those terms? [audience response] OK. On the Internet now there are two ways of encoding audio files. You can either have files that are downloadable. The most popular format of a downloadable file is MP3. I’m sure everybody here has heard that name MP3, but there are lots of other encryption systems besides MP3. That means that somebody grabs the file, downloads it onto their computer, and then can play it forever and ever. It’s like buying a CD. They have it, and you can either sell it, or it’s free, or they can copy it, and that’s it. Streaming audio on the other hand is more like radio. It functions in real time, but after you finish playing it, it’s no longer on your computer, which means that it’s gone, like a radio broadcast. Now, theoretically, you could have somebody with a record button recording it, but it requires a little more effort to pirate a streaming audio signal. In terms of copyright infringement, this is something that both ASCAP and BMI have been dealing with in the past year and a half, and all of the details have still not been worked out. In fact, I’d like both Ralph and Fran both to address that issue, and then we’ll take it to the floor again.

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