The State of Music Publishing

FRANK J. OTERI: I wanted to talk to you about what you do here at Presser and learn more about the company’s history and discuss how you see yourselves as different from the other music publishers that are active today and then we’ll get into talking about the internet a little bit.

ARNOLD BROIDO: The Presser Company was founded by Theodore Presser in 1883. (Although in the 1931, Presser purchased Oliver Ditson Company which goes back to 1783, making the Presser Company the oldest continuing independent music publisher in the United States.) Theodore Presser started the Etude magazine in 1883, and in the middle of the Etude magazine, volume 1 number 1, he had exercises, he had music. The demand for the magazine grew very quickly, because he got it out to all the far-reaching parts of the country, and there were music teachers all over the place. There was a tremendous demand for what he put in the middle of the center spread. And he found himself reprinting the center spread, and went from there to supplying music teachers all over the country. For a while, Etude had the largest subscription list of any magazine in this country.

FRANK J. OTERI: Wow.

ARNOLD BROIDO: And he was the major supplier of music by direct mail to all these thousands of teachers.

FRANK J. OTERI: And what was the music that was inside the magazine?

ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, it started out being etudes.

FRANK J. OTERI: Who wrote them?

TOM BROIDO: They were technical exercises, by everybody. Writers he knew, people who wrote in. At first it was people that he knew. Local teachers or distant teachers he corresponded with.

FRANK J. OTERI: So no big name composers.

TOM BROIDO: No.

ARNOLD BROIDO: But the company grew and grew and grew. And it was basically an educational company. He died in 1925. He had Sousa‘s publishing. “Stars and Stripes Forever,” in fact, was the big one. He absorbed a lot of small companies, as they got smaller and smaller. He died in 1925. In 1916 he set up the Presser Foundation, and the Presser Foundation eventually owned all the shares in the company. And the Foundation was dedicated, you saw the plaque outside the building, to supporting music teachers. Private music teachers, mainly. He built a retirement home and the people who lived there thought it was heaven. They lived forever, they ate like kings, they had Steinway pianos. There was even an Amati violin around the premises which turned out not to be an Amati, it was Ruggiero instead. But the company went on under a series of presidents, and back in the 1960′s, I came here. I was president in 1969, and at that time we added Mercury Music. A little bit later, the Elkan-Vogel Company, which gave us all kinds of entrée into European agencies, because they had a lot of the French publishers, and we’ve never looked back. Since then we’ve added many, many catalogs. I’ve added a lot, Tom has added a lot. George Rochberg, the American composer, came here as editor in the late 50s. And it was his thought that Presser should be a home for American composers. William Schuman came here, and on and on. A lot of composers ended up at Presser because of George Rochberg. He changed the character from a supplier of music to piano teachers to a serious contemporary publisher.