The State of Music Publishing

ARNOLD BROIDO: As publishers, I don’t think that we have to justify the fact that we’re interested in serious contemporary American music. This is what we do; this is what we’re about. There will be composers just as there will be poets, whether or not there’s an audience, and it is one of our functions to capture the material that we think is significant, so that it’s available for the future.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, that said, I’ll ask a double-pronged question. I’m very happy to hear you say that, and I share your beliefs. That’s why I do what I do at the American Music Center. One, how do you stay alive financially? And two, how do you find the stuff that’s worthwhile and how do you determine what is worthwhile?

ARNOLD BROIDO: The first question is that we do everything we can think of to stay alive. We represent a lot of publishers. We represent a lot of publishers from Europe, a lot here in the States, so that we’re a distribution center as well as a publisher. And that helps. We have stores, which are profitable. They help. We publish educational music, along with our serious music. That helps. I suppose the performance income is what we really survive on.

FRANK J. OTERI: Rental fees from orchestral scores.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Uh, no, because that’s an expensive process, the actual performance fees, the income from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

FRANK J. OTERI: From scores where you hold the copyright.

ARNOLD BROIDO: For the things where we are the copyright owner, the rights owner, actually, for this territory. That’s how we stay alive. Other firms have different patterns, different ways of doing it. We’re probably the only one of our size that does what we do. I can remember back, I guess in the ’60′s or ’70′s, on the podium in front of a lot of publishers, saying to them “Unless we do something about xerography, about illegal copying in schools and churches, we’re not going to be here.” And most of those publishers are now gone. There are just a few left.

FRANK J. OTERI: Let’s talk about that issue, because that’s something that, I think, the average person doesn’t completely comprehend. We have these technologies that essentially make an illegal act so easy. It’s so easy that people don’t realize the harm that it does, and they don’t realize the larger scale implications. It would be as though we had some machine that could replicate scrambled eggs or carrots and it would put farmers out of business. We have machines that can take anything printed on a piece of paper and duplicate it forever. And now we have machines that can take anything put on a cassette, or on a CD, or on a videotape, and duplicate them forever, so that a product is no longer a singularity.

ARNOLD BROIDO: You left out the Internet.

FRANK J. OTERI: We’re getting there. I left it out for a reason…

TOM BROIDO: Well, blaming the technology is the wrong thing to do because it’s like blaming automobiles when people drive drunk and kill someone. And that doesn’t happen. We don’t blame the automobile. We blame the person.

FRANK J. OTERI: Although some people out there blame the alcohol…which is probably wrong to do as well.

TOM BROIDO: But it’s the use of the alcohol. I mean, alcohol used responsibly is not a problem. Cars driven by alert people are not a problem, usually, if driven responsibly. So I think it’s important that responsibility be placed squarely on the people who are not respecting copyright as opposed to the technology, because the technology is a double-edged sword. It has hurt publishers but it’s also helped publishers considerably. Certain things that we now make available, we couldn’t have made available profitably. We would have lost too much money. We would not have been able to make it available if xerography was not a technology that had been developed. We make 10 of an item now, and sell those, which could be a year’s, two years’, five years’ supply of certain things.

ARNOLD BROIDO: When I first started in the business, back in 1945, with a population of 145 million in the country, we would sell on a good selling octavo, a quarter million copies a year. Today, 15 thousand isn’t bad. Our population is considerably more than a 145 million. Tom is absolutely right. The teachers stole because of budget, or because of convenience. The churches stole for budget convenience, but also because it was for God.

FRANK J. OTERI: I also think people basically don’t comprehend that they’re stealing.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Oh, I don’t think that’s true. I mean, call it denial, but it’s been told to everybody through the education press, through the church press. They know.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, this is something we’ve come upon time and time again. People basically don’t comprehend intellectual property as property. What can we do as a society, and in our role as people who are out there advocating this stuff, to get that message across?

ARNOLD BROIDO: Educate, educate, educate. When, after the Jan. 1st, 1978 copyright law came into force, the MPA and the NMPA hired people to go out and lecture on this. And the teachers didn’t want to hear it. They heard it but they rejected it, because it was inconvenient, and because their administrators said, look, we can’t give you more budget but there’s all the paper you want and there’s a xerox machine in my office. And what actually destroyed most of those publishers that I spoke to back in the ’70′s, was xerography. There’s no question about it. They couldn’t believe, in fact, that their customers were doing this to them.

FRANK J. OTERI: Of course, there’s a weird double-edged sword here. You have two sets of evils operating against each other. The school doesn’t have the money to buy the music so the teacher makes the copies of the music illegally, thus destroying the revenue of the publisher, thus not enabling the publisher to continue. The other scenario: the teacher doesn’t use the music because there’s no budget, the students don’t learn the music at all, which is also an evil. So what can we do to make this stuff more available to people, to lobby to get this material, to lobby to get budgets into the school system? This becomes a much larger issue.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, okay, I didn’t talk about it before, but one of the things that we have done is we have established a National School Boards Association Music Education Task Force. They have task forces in two other fields. The national organization is representative of the 50 state school board organizations. They’re very much involved with this, and it is my hope, at least, that this will filter down. The administrators organization, secondary principals organization, VH1, ASCAP, are all very much involved in this organization, and the school boards have embraced it eagerly, to my astonishment, because it just took off very quickly. The next meeting is on February 14th. So that yeah, the school boards are the ones who will reinstate it. How do you get budgets in the school? Very simple, there are budgets for everything else. There are very few other things that you can successfully xerox.

FRANK J. OTERI: You can’t make xerox copies of basketballs.

ARNOLD BROIDO: No. You can’t have workbooks.

FRANK J. OTERI: It’s not just a problem with music; it also happens with textbooks.

ARNOLD BROIDO: And we have also the fact that the universities are not terribly interested in the protection of intellectual property, which is rather strange.

FRANK J. OTERI: …You can make copies ad nauseum of materials from the libraries for academic purposes.

TOM BROIDO: And the intellectual property community is at odds with librarians. There is an attitude among librarians that all intellectual property should be as free and as accessible as possible. The problem is, that copyright laws are laws of equity, balancing the need to foster creation against the rights of the public to access. And somewhere in there, there has to be a room for a profit motive. If you remove the profit motive, then there would be a disaster; music would cease to exist.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Naw, music will never cease to exist.

TOM BROIDO: Well, music won’t cease to exist, but music as a commercial enterprise would be hurt. And what you’ve got now is you’ve got the stream of control shrinking down. Do you want only Walt Disney to decide what music comes out? Not that Walt Disney isn’t a wonderful corporation, and has done magnificent things in music education and produces wonderful films. But do you want only Walt Disney to be the arbiter of what music is made available, because they’re the only ones rendered able to make a profit?

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, this is happening on other levels, too. You know, you see the rise of the major record companies and what they put out versus what the independent labels put out, you see this from Hollywood with the major studios versus independent film makers, and on Broadway where only a handful of producers basically control everything that gets there. So this is the era we’re living in. The majority of publishers are now owned by large conglomerates.

TOM BROIDO: Not music publishers.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Not music.

FRANK J. OTERI: No, but we’re also talking about books.

ARNOLD BROIDO: Oh, books. That’s true.