The Current State of Music Publishing in America

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

The media has hyped the recent revolutions that computers have wrought as the most significant event in the history of publishing since Gutenberg invented the printing press half a millennium ago. But what impact will all of this have on the publishing of musical scores by American composers?

I traveled to Bryn Mawr, PA, to meet with Arnold and Tom Broido who run the Theodore Presser Company, America’s oldest continuously-operated music publishing firm to talk about the past, present and future of music publishing and how it affects American composers. We asked John Robinson to provide us with a hyperhistory of the other principal publishers of American music which hopefully will unravel some of the complexities of the publishing field. More and more American composers, from extremely prominent figures to emerging success stories, have taken the road of self-publishing which technology has played a key role in making a viable alternative to the traditional publisher-composer relationship. As counterpoint to our focus on publishers, we’ve asked Terry Riley, Donald Martino, Jennifer Higdon, Amy Rubin, Randall Davidson, Andrew Rudin, and Theodore Wiprud to share their experiences as self-published composers, and we also offer a transcript of the panel “Publishing, Self-Publishing, and The Internet” which was held during the Women’s Philharmonic’s “Composing A Career” Symposium. And we ask you to tell us to make predictions about the impact that the Internet will have on music publishing in the future.

Of course, the printed page is only part of the musical process. SoundTracks offers information on 25 new CDs, each featuring a RealAudio sample. Hear&Now has been completely redesigned to give you better information on live concerts of American music around the country and will be updated throughout the month.

Our news section has also greatly expanded offering information on important awards, residencies, obituaries, and more. To help make greater connections about these important events, we’ve incorporated RealAudio samples into many of the news items as well demonstrated yet another advantage that an Internet publication has over print media.

NewMusicBox would certainly not have been a possibility in the 15th century, and we’re hoping that the technologies of the 21st century will make things possible that weren’t when we launched this Web magazine 10 months ago.