SchirmerOnDemand Allows Score Perusal Online

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Perusing a score using the secure Lizard Safeguard PDF viewer.

G. Schirmer, Inc./Associated Music Publishers, Inc. has launched SchirmerOnDemand, an online service that allows registered users to view, and in some case print, select perusal scores from the catalogs of nearly 50 composers. The focus of the service so far is mostly on operas and works for orchestra and wind ensemble by 20th- and 21st-century composers on the Schirmer roster, but the company says its entire catalog of 5,000 works by 300 composers is projected to be online within the next few years.

The system is not an online store; if viewers see something they would like to purchase, they will still have to order it through traditional channels. However, Schirmer says it hopes the service will aid customers in making programming decisions by allowing immediate access to scores of interest.

According to Kristin Lancino, vice president, G.Schirmer/AMP Inc. and an American Music Center board member, “The vision for SchirmerOnDemand crystallized when we at G. Schirmer asked ourselves, ‘How can we truly swing open the doors of our music library?’ We concluded that by utilizing technology wisely we could catapult access to the scores of our composers to a whole new realm. What resulted is SchirmerOnDemand, and I believe that as it evolves, the breath of fresh air through those open doors will stimulate music publishing and, most importantly, the world of recent and new music.”

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken the new service out for a test drive. Use of SchirmerOnDemand requires one-time free registration via email. The process may take up to one business day, according to the site, but I had received a response with further instructions ten minutes later. Download and installation of a Lizard Safeguard PDF viewer is required, as the score files have been encrypted in a .pdc format to control unauthorized viewing, copying, and distribution.

From there the authorization to access files is exchanged automatically with no need for additional credential entry on the user end (though you must have an active internet connection open to review any score, even after the initial file download). I had some trouble with the software using my MacBook and running OS X (10.5.6)—an occasional error message kept cropping up that prevented me from opening documents—but a second or third try always resulted in success. From there, the process was as simple as viewing any other .pdf file. From Mark Adamo’s Alcott Music to Yehudi Wyner’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning Piano Concerto “Chiavi in Mano”, use of the materials was fast and painless. After ten views, the documents are designed to expire, which they do, and re-downloading the file from the Schirmer site does not get around this. If users need additional access to the score at that point, they are directed to contact the publisher directly via email.

Occasionally, materials listed on the site were not currently accessible. Of the six John Adams works listed on SchirmerOnDemand, only one was actually viewable. For the others, I was told that a perusal score was not available and directed to purchase a score on a page like this.

For files that may be printed, they can only be printed once. In my tests of this option, I could not get my Canon i960 printer to cooperate with the viewer, and there was often minor to major clipping, despite multiple attempts to get the pages scaled down through the “page setup” and “print” dialog boxes. Large-scale works, such as Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles suffered especially in the transfer to 8.5 x 11 inch paper, with entire lines of the manuscript lost, so some experimentation on the user end and/or use of a larger format printer may be essential in some cases. Since a file may be printed only once, first-time users may want to test things out using a score they don’t really need before proceeding. One of my colleagues, using a PC and a more sophisticated Minolta multifunction office printer, had no problem resizing and printing the scores he viewed, so this is a user-end issue. Printouts made on a PC should also display a watermark showing the user’s name and e-mail address on every page, according to Schirmer. Though the Mac viewer does not support this function at present, this watermark did not appear during our test prints from a PC either, so again results may vary depending on the user’s equipment.

When I had questions, Schirmer was quick to respond to my email requests for help. Customers who experience difficulties while using the service can contact OnDemand@schirmer.com for assistance.

SchirmerOnDemand is also ostensibly a more environmentally responsible approach to score perusal—saving the shipping fuel and packaging, and even the paper and ink if you choose not to print files—and presumably it will save staff time on both ends. Schirmer is to be commended for appreciating a need and being willing to experiment at their comfort level with evolutionary change toward broader access to concert music. The next test, of course, is how well this change is embraced by its consumers.