The State of Music Publishing

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, first of all, I wanted to thank you both for having me as your guest for the day…

ARNOLD BROIDO: Thank you for coming all the way down here.

FRANK J. OTERI: Arnold, you’ve been in the publishing business for a very long period of time, and Tom, you’ve been in the business awhile yourself as well, though not as long.

TOM BROIDO: I couldn’t have been; I didn’t get here. He was already working in the publishing business when I came to this planet, but, yeah, it’s been a long time. It’s been virtually my whole professional life.

FRANK J. OTERI: And, I guess I wanted to ask the large question first, and then we can get into the minutiae later on. How has the publishing landscape changed in this country in your career?

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, it’s almost totally changed. We could take the next three hours discussing the changes in publishing… When I first was aware that there was publishing, which was after World War II, I went to work for Boosey and Hawkes as head of the stockroom in 1945, music publishing was essentially educational publishing. There was some serious publishing but it was basically representing European composers because there weren’t that many American composers who were above the threshold yet. People like Aaron Copland and the rest had really just come out of a situation where they had their own publishing company, like Arrow Press, so that Boosey, when I first went to work, was essentially publishing music for teaching and for concert use, but not American music… it was English music, European music, in the library.

FRANK J. OTERI: Back in November, we did a whole issue on the founding of the American Music Center. It was founded in 1939, six years previous to that. And one of the reasons why the Center was founded, the American Composers Alliance was founded around the same time, both by Copland and a consortium of people, was to get works by American composers published, because they felt at that time that the major publishing houses were just not interested…

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, they weren’t. World War II saw the influx of the Europeans to this country in advance of the war, and most of the music that was being performed was European. The European conductors came here, pretty much as a group, and took over the orchestras. At that time, the schools began to increase tremendously. Education in this country boomed after the war, so that you had a huge demand for music. It was just assumed that there would be music in the schools, and in the years after the war, most states mandated teaching music, which meant that there was a continuing demand for new band and orchestra material, and it was provided in large measure by the publishers. I can remember at that time making a count of independent educational publishers and there were something like 75 or 76 of them…

FRANK J. OTERI: Wow.

ARNOLD BROIDO: …each with its own editorial department and production department, and warehouses, and salesmen on the road. It was a different world and time. At that time, back to the years before World War II, European societies put an emphasis on European music, American music was always on the light music scale. So it didn’t matter who it was, if it was American, it was music du jour. Totally different period. The American societies did nothing for American music. It was BMI who first recognized the need to do something about American music because they had hired William Schuman. And he came up with the idea of supporting American music. ASCAP followed not long after that, and that’s how that came about. So that this is a relatively new point of time, a relatively recent phenomenon that you have catalogs which are really, in some ways, devoted to serious American composers, and there aren’t many of those.

FRANK J. OTERI: And of course, the double-edged sword with that, from a publishing point of view or even from a recording point of view or a performance point of view, is you can put out edition after edition of a composer like Beethoven or Mozart or Chopin, and you don’t have to worry about royalties. It actually reduces the overhead whereas a living composer needs remuneration, there are copyright issues, and I wonder, back when all of these things were starting, if the living composer needing financial remuneration was part of that, or if there was, if that played some role, or if it was prejudice towards new music, what were the factors that, which were the American composers that led to an emphasis on older music then?

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, I don’t think it was ever money. In reality, I think it was the fact that there was no presence. And that in order to publish music, you have to have to have some way of getting something back, because you didn’t get it back from the societies for performance, and you didn’t get it back from sales. Most publishers felt that staying alive was more important.

FRANK J. OTERI: You said that most of music sold, let’s say circa ’46 to ’52, the years after the war, was to educational institutions and there was this great boom. Now was there a parallel boom in interest at that point in contemporary music, or were most of the sales still at that point for older repertoire?

ARNOLD BROIDO: I don’t think there’s ever been a boom in contemporary music.

FRANK J. OTERI: I keep hoping there will be one of these days.

ARNOLD BROIDO: It’s something that hasn’t happened.

TOM BROIDO: Well, there was a mini-boom in the 1980’s. I give a lot of credit to the Meet The Composer program, because it gave a lot of composers the opportunity to bond with an orchestra, and the orchestra’s community.

FRANK J. OTERI: You’re speaking of the Orchestra Residencies Program…

TOM BROIDO: The Orchestral Residencies Program through Meet The Composer, yeah. And also, not just orchestral residencies, they also did other kinds of promotion of living composers.

FRANK J. OTERI: Like the Composer Choreographer Project…

TOM BROIDO: Right, exactly. And I think that there was this sort of mini-boom. I’ve been involved, I became involved in 1987 with performance promotion, and it was still alive then, and then there’s been a cycle. I think that looking over the history since World War II, I think that things tend to go cyclically in the serious performance end of the music business, because, I think what happens is, orchestras sort of venture out as a community and try to be somewhat adventuresome, then the marketing department starts getting these letters that say, “How dare you play this stuff? We want to hear Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart.” And so they retrench, and then after retrenching for a while they start coming under fire for having too conservative programs and they venture out again.

FRANK J. OTERI: I think that what needs to happen is that whenever lots of contemporary music is being done, in addition to people who don’t like it, the people who do like it should be writing the letters in as well and should be saying “Thank you for not playing Beethoven!”

TOM BROIDO: But they’re always in the minority.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, there has always been a market for intellectual and serious contemporary music, and it’s always been very small. But it has always existed.

FRANK J. OTERI: But, of course, you know, you can look back at the 19th century and talk about when was there a boom for contemporary music. Certainly in Vienna when Brahms was alive, he was earning his living off of published scores…

ARNOLD BROIDO: Yeah, if we talk about an individual, you can spotlight individuals at almost any time in history who actually did very well, and were contemporaries because they were alive. . . One of the things that we skipped over there was the Ford Foundation grants to composers in schools… There have been a lot of influential programs.

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