Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet
FRANK J. OTERI: Question back there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can you ever regain copyright control once it has been relinquished?
LINDA GOLDING: If there’s an individual situation, where a composer wants to recapture copyrights, that composer should look at their contracts and talk to the publisher and see what way there is. I mean, sometimes it turns out there’s a loophole in a contract, and sometimes there’s not. But, I think – again, there is a range of choices that people make, and I would hate for you to leave this room thinking that anybody who has not retained their copyright has made a bad choice. Everybody makes the choice that they need to make based on what they’re interested in. Some composers are extremely interested in business and promotion, as well as composing, and some of them are really good at it. And they want to spend that time and effort, and therefore be compensated for it. Others want to hear about it, they want to check in about ideas, but really they want to be in their studio writing music and traveling to hear their performances, and they don’t want to deal with the business aspect, and it’s fine with them. They’re comfortable that their business arrangement gives compensation to that work on their behalf. You know, when Jennifer says she has an assistant, she is still paying somebody to do work; it just looks a little different.
RALPH JACKSON: And I’ll just say, the only way that major publishers are going to exist into the next millennium is to own the copyright. They don’t make money quickly from a piece of music. I mean, I remember Susan Feder telling me about the John Corigliano’s AIDS Symphony. There were three versions of the piece, and they spent thousands and thousands just doing the parts. It was years before they saw any profit from it. So, if you’re dealing with an absolute top of the line publisher like Boosey & Hawkes, I don’t know. I’m sure you could talk to them about it, but chances are they’re going to want the ownership of the copyright. What that means is if you’re dealing with a smaller company, not a blue chip company, a company that’s only owned by one person, perhaps, be careful.
FRAN RICHARD: Can I just say that it may be every composers’ dream to be published by Boosey & Hawkes or one of the great publishers that has survived and become strong in the 20th century, but those of you who are sitting here have to be realistic about the fact that you probably won’t be. What we are talking about is not to challenge how they operate for the best interest of their composer roster, and to survive, but rather how you will survive if these publishers remain in this business. And one of the ways they remain strong is to choose carefully, because they know that there are many talented people out there, and they can’t take all of you. It is not that they don’t recognize a talent when they see one, but they know that it is an investment in time, effort, and money, and they can’t possibly take you. And what we want, here, is to sustain your confidence in yourself to enforce your ability to move in your career in an upward spiral to success, and to do everything we can, even if you cannot be taken by these publishers. So, it’s really a moot question whether if Boosey & Hawkes called me at midnight, would I give up my copyright…
RALPH JACKSON: Do it. [audience laughs]
FRAN RICHARD: It is a question of: I have got it, what the hell am I going to do with it, and how am I going to survive. And I just want to say another thing. When you ask these questions about rental fees, don’t believe that you’re getting evasive answers. But publishers, for example, are not allowed to discuss this publicly, especially amongst themselves. There is constraint on monopoly and setting prices and that sort of thing. So with commission fees and other financial concerns you have to begin to feel your way, and to talk with colleagues, and to figure out what the traffic will bear, to temper justice with mercy. So that you know that if this is a small fledgling group, they should pay something even if it isn’t a lot of money, because there’s an example and a principle here, and then little by little as your career builds and your fame escalates, then you can command a higher fee.
LINDA GOLDING: One of the things we should also say about publishing is that being affiliated with a major publisher is not right for everybody. It’s just not, for any number of reasons, and you shouldn’t look at that as a problem, but it should be yet another one of your choices. Being affiliated with a commercial outfit has got a lot of problems for a composer, as well as obviously upsides. But you need to always think of it in terms of what it is going to do for your work.
FRANK J. OTERI: I’m afraid that I’ve been given the time axe, but…yes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What about publishing the works of women? That’s why you’re getting all of these self-publishers. I think either we have to start a publishing company for women. You have one woman in your catalog, right?
LINDA GOLDING: No, we have three. Out of 26, I guess it is. When I say 26, that’s 26 composers who are writing today, as opposed to the back catalog.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, but they’re not American.
LINDA GOLDING: I’m happy to talk about that off the podium. [audience laughs]
FRANK J. OTERI: OK, thank you all so much for coming, and I want to thank Fran and Linda and Ralph.