Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet
RALPH JACKSON: BMI has aggressively licensed the Internet from the beginning. We had the first bot, which searches the Internet 24 hours a day, looking for music files. It doesn’t identify those files – it simply goes into the site anonymously, it sees if there are any music files available, and if there are, than BMI investigates that site to see if it’s something that should be licensed. In terms of collecting money from the Internet, right now there’s virtually no Internet company that’s making money, so BMI’s viewpoint of this is that we should collect a percentage of revenues from Internet companies, which I think is very important because these are the companies that are going to be making literally billions of dollars in the next few years, and if you’re in at the very beginning with a percentage, then you’re going to get a percentage of that billion. So, that’s where we are right now. We’re in negotiations with a bunch of different sites – we have an agreement with broadcast.com and several others. But this is a whole new unknown world, and I would caution you against putting your music out in an MP3 format right now simply because…just for the same reason I’m so cautious about your orchestral scores getting out. Let’s say you put all your music out, and then CRI comes by and says we love your music. And then they say, you know, everybody in the world downloaded your music and has a copy of it already, and can send it to all of their friends in the future. It’s just a little bit dangerous right now, so maybe – excerpts, I’d say.
FRANK J. OTERI: And Fran, do you want to add anything to that?
FRAN RICHARD: ASCAP has licensed MP3. We have a comprehensive ASCAP music license. There were so-called “big pirates,” but we’ve now licensed them, and the next generation of MP3 technology will not allow use without protection. It’s like safe sex, only now it’s safe audio. [audience laughs] We have the technology that seeks out the music sites on the net, and which identifies what’s being played, and our licenses are up on our website. Frank and I were at the radio conference last year, and I thought it was wonderful how many of these radio stations themselves have streams of music, which are not their mainstream fare. If a station plays classical-period music entirely, they may have some DJ who is adventurous, and he’s doing a stream, and they were saying how helpful it is to have that Internet license up on our Web site, so they can calculate what fees are owing and pay them, so that these performances will be protected. We have made distribution for the first time on the Internet, a year or more ago, and will continue to do so. The monies are not gigantic yet, but as Ralph said, it’s important when there’s a new technology to enforce protection and to convince the users as well as the abusers that that’s not a good idea. In general, I have to say, we are presuming that all of you who are so advanced as to self-publish are affiliated with performing rights organizations. Whichever one you choose – you have the good fortune in this country to be able to make an informed choice of which society you want to represent you – make it. If you’re not represented, make a stand. Stand up with your other colleagues to protect your rights and to enforce them, and we will try to guide you. We don’t want you to give your music away for nothing. We’re trying to help you to earn a living. The compensation you might get from rental of orchestral music, if it’s a popular piece, could be a continued source of income for you. That is why we caution you to think through what you would give away for nothing. When somebody wants to play your music in public, and is giving you exposure, you know, that’s what we used to call “Meet the Exposer.” [audience laughs]. They’re claiming to be doing you a favor, but you know you are giving it for nothing. Everybody has a very good argument why you should give it for nothing, at any stage of your career. We’re trying to get you to stop and think whether that’s a good idea for you, and for your colleagues as well. We talked before, in the last panel, about behaving and treating yourself as a professional, and also honoring your own colleagues and making sure that you stand together. So we are licensing the Internet as well. We have about 2500 sites licensed by now, and are working very hard. We are also trying to teach people who are about to do without proper education themselves. Those of you who are composers trained in university know damn well that you can have two PhDs in your hand and not have ever been told when you write a piece how long it will be protected. These are things that you need some of us to help you learn, because they are not things that were necessarily taught to you, nor was it taught how to negotiate a rental fee, or a commission fee. And we want to help you in every way so that you receive not only accolades for your good music, but remuneration as well.
FRANK J. OTERI: OK, we have about 10 minutes left. I want to try to get to everybody’s questions. There were questions here, and there are some new questions. I want to try to take them in the order I saw the hands originally, so that I can get everybody’s questions in. We’re going to try our best.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: OK. I’m at the beginning of the process, and my question is, do I just randomly send you a score?
LINDA GOLDING: You know, that’s a great question, and it actually goes to making inquiries at publishers as well as making up a promotion program for a particular work. And I think this is something Jennifer said as well. If you’re going to approach someone, about anything, you ought to know why, and you ought to tell them why: I want you to perform this work because – I’m going to make the match for you, I’m going to show you why this is right for you. I might disagree with that, but at least I know that you thought about me, and why I’m supposed to take the time to consider your inquiry. On the publishing side as well, why is it that you would approach a particular publisher, what is it about that publishing house, about the composers they represent or what their stationery looks like, or what you heard about them, that you would make a contribution to? And that they would make a contribution to you as well – I think this goes back to that collaborative effort. But, please, absolutely, in any of these situations: know why you’re making the approach.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Will you turn away a “nobody,” or will you look at them?
LINDA GOLDING: I think every publisher considers every piece of music that comes in. How it’s done is different at every organization. You need to make it as easy as possible. Again, you’re just talking about a publisher, but it’s the same thing for promotion. People will listen to and look at music if it’s made easy for them, attractive to them, if they want to, if when they open the package they say, yes, I want to spend time with this.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is a publisher less interested in works that are already circulating out there than in new works?
LINDA GOLDING: No, no, I don’t think so. I think Ralph’s point is to look at any decision that you make in the broadest possible context. Boosey publishes many composers who have directed us to sell materials over the years, and it hasn’t stopped us from working with them.
FRANK J. OTERI: I saw hands back there…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How do you know what to charge?
JENNIFER HIGDON: I actually had an advantage in that because I conducted an orchestra. And this is one of the reasons why I sell. Because I conducted an orchestra at a university, and we couldn’t afford the rental, and I wanted to do new music, and they wanted to do Beethoven, so… Some of it depends on I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, the reputation of the composer, the size. Also, I know sometimes they consider who they’re renting to, like a professional orchestra would be different than University of Pennsylvania orchestra. You’re asking about specific rates?
LINDA GOLDING: What the market will bear, probably, is a way to think about it. [audience laughs] You know what you might want to do is talk to some of your colleagues. Maybe talk to Jennifer, not putting her on the spot here, but actually talk with your colleagues about how they’re making those kinds of decisions, based on what and where did they start. A lot of people say, well I conducted an orchestra, so I got a whole lot of rental information and I’m just using that, but you know, whatever. Ask around.
FRANK J. OTERI: There’s a question over here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ve written for films and television, and I’m self-published through BMI, and one of my works is distributed by a small publishing company, but the rest of them are under my own label. If I wanted to or was accepted by a larger company, can I do that? Can I just give up?
RALPH JACKSON: Very easily. Just like anyone can sell anything. [audience laughs] Right? You can do it so simply. You know, if Linda wanted to buy the coat that you have [audience laughs], it’s between you two. If she pays you enough, you can give it to her. [audience laughs] So, you own your publishing company, you can sell it. You can change it immediately.