Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet
A panel held during the Women’s Philharmonic‘s “Composing A Career” Symposium The New School for Social Research, NYC Saturday, November 6, 1999—2:30-3:30 p.m. Fran Richard : Vice President of Concert Music, ASCAP Ralph Jackson : Assistant Vice President, Classical Music Administration, BMI Linda Golding : President, Boosey & Hawkes Jennifer Higdon : Self-Published Composer Frank… Read more »
A panel held during the Women’s Philharmonic‘s “Composing A Career” Symposium
The New School for Social Research, NYC
Saturday, November 6, 1999—2:30-3:30 p.m.
Fran Richard : Vice President of Concert Music, ASCAP
Ralph Jackson : Assistant Vice President, Classical Music Administration, BMI
Linda Golding : President, Boosey & Hawkes
Jennifer Higdon : Self-Published Composer
Frank J. Oteri : Editor, NewMusicBox
Panel at the “Composing A Career” Summit
photo courtesy of the Women’s Philharmonic
On Saturday, November 6, 1999, NewMusicBox editor Frank J. Oteri moderated a panel entitled “Publishing, Self-Publishing, and the Internet” as part of a Weekend Long Composing A Career symposium organized by the Women’s Philharmonic held at The New School for Social Research in New York City. The panelists were: Frances Richard, Vice President of Concert Music at ASCAP; Ralph Jackson, Assistant Vice President, Classical Music Administration at BMI; and Linda Golding, President of Boosey & Hawkes. Self-published composer Jennifer Higdon was called up from the audience to join the panel midway through the session.
FRANK J. OTERI: How many of you out there are published composers? Let’s see a show of hands. All right, let’s divide the categories still some more. How many of you are published by a company – are not self-published, are commercially-published composers? Show of hands. OK. How many of you are self-published composers? How many of you are unpublished composers?
RALPH JACKSON: I don’t think there are unpublished composers. [audience laughs]
FRANK J. OTERI: Why’s that?
RALPH JACKSON: Because I think that if you promote your music, if you send your music out in any way…In other words, if you haven’t told anyone that you write music and you’ve never shown them your scores and you’ve never shown them your tapes, I guess you’re unpublished. But if you’ve gotten out into the world somewhat, you’re published on some level.
LINDA GOLDING: That goes to the definition of what publishing is, I guess, and maybe we should even ask what people think.
FRANK J. OTERI: To follow Ralph’s thread I should ask how many of you have never shown your scores to anybody [audience laughs], and have never told anybody that you write music? Nobody? Well, this is good. [audience laughs] We’ve passed step one here, this is very good. OK. That is a good question, who out here would like to begin to address that – what do you think the role of a publisher is? Somebody? Or should I call on somebody? I used to be a high school teacher, this is so much fun. [audience laughs]
RALPH JACKSON: Why doesn’t someone tell us the dream that they have about a publisher?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Someone who would help with promotion and help generate performances, and help negotiate commissions…
LINDA GOLDING: That’s an extremely enlightened view [audience laughs], I think. Thank you.
RALPH JACKSON: …The fact that you said, “someone who would help”…What I expected to hear was, “Someone to discover me and change my life, and take over everything that I do except for writing music,” which does not exist, I think.
FRANK J. OTERI: There are four concepts that people are responding to that I thought we could all further explore: 1) promotion; 2) distribution (those are very different things); 3) income (from works that are already created); and 4) generating commissions for new works. So we’re really looking at four categories. I think it was interesting for me to hear that income was the third in that list and not the first. [audience laughs] And that promotion was first, above distribution. I thought that was kind of interesting too, because I think to the general public, when people think of a book being published, the first word that comes to their mind is distribution, but in many ways, promotion is even more important than distribution. So, who wants to address the issue of promotion of music? I’ll give this one to Fran for a second. And then we’ll all jump in.
FRAN RICHARD: Promotion? A composer writes a piece, has the confidence in the quality of that piece, and now begins the task of informing the rest of the world. Or it’s the opportunity to interest a performer or ensemble, to let somebody know about the piece. And if you hit for a performance, let people know that it’s going to be performed. This is a joint venture. Promotion is very important – about your self, about your career, to have the materials ready – we’re not even going to talk about the music itself (I’ll let Linda do that), about what condition the score and parts should be in, and you’ve heard some of that already this morning from the conductors. You need to have a bio, a list of your pieces, with the timing and the instrumentation. You have a performance and somebody wants to know about your work and the body of work you’ve created – your job is to write music, but it’s also to assist the rest of us to find out about it. And the more active you are in assisting with that chore, the more you enhance the prospects of your career.
LINDA GOLDING: That’s a really good way to start. And I think, so far, we’ve heard several pieces of information that I think categorize what music publishing is about today. Music publishing today is a collaborative effort. So, it’s terrific to hear from one of you already, sitting here, understanding that, and for Fran to emphasize that. This is a partnership between a composer and – whether it’s a publisher, or a publicist, or some kind of promotion representative, or an attorney, or anyone of the number of people whose life work it is to assist composer in developing their profiles, which usually happen through performance activity, and through creating new works. Promotion is about the work itself, the music itself, but it requires lots and lots of people in order to make one performance happen, in order to make one person interested enough to invest their time and resource and energy in now producing the performance. And I guess I’m trying to paint a slightly grim picture only so that you understand that the world is full of luck. Very often I’m sure you have colleagues who say, “I got a performance the first time out when I sent something to a conductor.” It doesn’t happen like that all the time. It’s very rare. It takes lots and lots of folks, and lots and lots of time and energy from everybody that you know.
RALPH JACKSON: This morning, I think the two most important things that were said were said by Chen Yi and by Joan Tower, and they were basically saying the same things, which was that you need to be in your music. And this is something that male composers don’t talk about a lot, so this is really good news today, and I hope everybody gets that. You can carry that idea into every element of the promotion of your music. When the music is promoted, that essence that’s in the music – hopefully, if it’s there – needs to be in the promotion too. One of the things that Boosey &
Hawkes does beautifully is that they have a small group of composers relative to all the composers in the world, and they are very careful. They’ve chosen very well. The way they promote those composers is based, in my estimation, on the music. In other words, Boosey & Hawkes may not promote Steve Mackey the way they promote Elliot Carter, so if you’re in your music, and you’re promoting it, you need to be sure that you’re still there in the promotion. You know, we went through a period with performers a few years ago, where they wanted to take publicity pictures that were cool, interesting, and attractive. And you could go through Musical America and see a violinist on the wing of an airplane. [audience laughs] And you know, you came to the concert, and there was no airplane. [audience laughs] So, whatever it is that’s special about you needs to make it into your music, and then it needs to make it into all those other things, into the promotion, into the distribution, into whatever else it was. What else was it?
FRANK J. OTERI: Income and generating commissions.
RALPH JACKSON: Well, yeah, you definitely want to get yourself into your income. [audience laughs]
LINDA GOLDING: And one of the things that I think is also useful to point out is that any promotion strategy devised by anybody must be tailored to who you are, and to your music. There really is no pat answer. There are a bunch of guidelines and structures that most people consider, but there absolutely is no one way to successfully promote music. It is entirely individual.
FRAN RICHARD: I do agree somewhat with Ralph that if you are out there on your own, having to promote your own music, that you are functioning as your publisher. What we are trying to discuss now is making the conscious decision to self-publish your music in a legal and technical sense, in order to professionalize your output and your outreach to the general public, to the professionals in the field, and even to your own colleagues. By “professionalize,” I mean to come to that place, and many of you have already, with a business sense, with an understanding of your rights, of the needs of your work, and what it requires, and also with the self-confidence that you exude when you conduct yourself as a professional. It is this sense that makes a composer a professional. You may not have yet all of these experiences, but you do know that you are a composer. You have declared yourself, and declared that you want to establish contact on the highest professional level that you are capable of creating.
LINDA GOLDING: I came to publishing relatively recently, and had only talked to one or two live composers before I did that, so it was a little bit of a shock to me – I had to learn very quickly. One of the mysteries of publishing is that a lot of people think that because they have the name of a publisher attached to their names, it makes them a composer. It doesn’t. What makes you a composer is what you’re working on, what you’re writing. How your music is getting out there is, I think, an extension of you, as Ralph was saying – what it looks like, how it happens, and, what Fran is saying is, what your business attitude is towards it. There are many advantages to being published by a recognized firm, and there are many advantages to being self-published. There are disadvantages on either side, and we can certainly talk about those. I don’t think any of us is here to say one way is better than the other, but to say, as Fran said, that you need to be making choices, and you need to have the knowledge and the people to talk to in order to make those informed choices, so that you don’t lose income, so that you protect your copyright, so that you have an opportunity to do what it is that you want to do, which is to write music.
FRANK J. OTERI: Let’s get back to this issue, to these four key words, which I think are sort of a mantra for our whole session this afternoon. For the composers out there who are self-published, how many of you feel that you are sufficiently capable, as self-published composers, to promote your own music? Let’s see a show of hands. Wonderful. Bravo. How many of you feel that you are sufficiently capable to distribute your music? A couple more hands… And I want to talk about what those means of distribution are, but I want to go through the rest of the list. How many of you have made income on your self-published music in the past year? Even more hands go up. This is interesting, because that was number three on the list, but we seem to be getting larger. So, maybe everyone will raise their hand now: How many of you have been able to generate commissions as self-published composers? This is very interesting – so you have a reverse pyramid effect happening, and the key is, how do you make that connection? You’re able to get the commissions, you’re able to generate income, you’re less able to distribute the work, but what’s really, really difficult is promoting the work. We’re dealing with a society at this point that has information overload beyond belief. It’s impossible to promote anything to a large segment of the population, given all of the options that are out there. So, I would like to have the person who raised her hand for “successful promotion of your music” – you’re on the line. [audience laughs] Tell us your secrets! Come on down. [She joins panel]
Jennifer Higdon Joins the Panel
photo courtesy of the Women’s Philharmonic
FRAN RICHARD: Jennifer Higdon.
JENNIFER HIGDON: How do I get myself into these positions? I think actually some of the rules I go by have to do everything with that Joan said earlier today. Being a performer, because I’m a flutist, has helped me a lot because I can play my flute works – I can’t play the piano works, but I can play the flute works. I try to always be articulate, but the thing that I think helps me the most is thinking about the performers, and thinking about whether a piece is succeeding. If a performer doesn’t come up to me and say they want to do the piece again, I know I haven’t done my job. I don’t ever start a commission without thinking about the performers first – always, always. And I do five or six commissions a year. So, what I do for promotion – and I know you all aren’t going to believe this – it’s totally word of mouth. I don’t advertise or anything. I figure if my music isn’t getting out there, than I’m not doing something right in the writing of the notes, so I let word of mouth do the entire thing. And people find me. I don’t have a Web page, if you can believe this. I’m going to have one soon, but people find out how to contact me a lot of times I think through ASCAP. I think they call the office at ASCAP and say how do we find this person? So, the promotion is totally word of mouth. I mean, at some point I’m sure I’ll probably change that, but I want to be able to get the music out quickly, and, as a performer, I’ve had not such good experiences with the established publishers. I played with Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center three years ago, and we did a piece by a very major composer with a very major publisher, and we couldn’t get the music. And that to me was the ultimate lesson. I said, I don’t want my music to be that inaccessible to people. So, when people call up, and they want something, I get it out immediately. And if they’re students, I send it to them for free. If they can’t afford to buy the music, I send the music out to them. Some school in South Africa wrote me and said, we
don’t have money, we have a library, we really would like some music. So I made a huge package and sent all of my music to that little school in South Africa. And they’ve played about four or five of the pieces. So it’s little things like that. But just being out there, you know, attending things like this, meeting performers, and talking to people. But I always think about the performer when I’m writing, and that really has done a lot.
FRAN RICHARD: Five years ago, I commissioned you through the ASCAP Foundation to write an orchestral piece. You were not the only one – there were three composers. Tell them what you did to promote it.
JENNIFER HIGDON: I just sent the scores out to people. Well, I have to say, even when I was writing the piece I was thinking, all right, what’s going to speak to the audience and what’s going to speak to the orchestra. I thought about that a tremendous amount, and I thought about what I’m bored by in music and what I’m excited by. I really compared notes with what my emotional reaction is, and then I sent out the scores. I sent the scores to orchestra conductors, which actually led to one or two other performances, and I did one thing that – actually, this one little thing had a domino effect. There was a listing…I think it was actually an AMC opportunity update that had come to me a little late. The Louisville Orchestra had a competition connected with Indiana State University, and Indiana had sent their submission to AMC late, so when I got the newsletter, the deadline was that day. So I called up the university and said, I know the deadline is today, but can I FedEx a score to you tomorrow? I was going to have to drop everything I was doing and FedEx that score out, and they said sure. And they ended up selecting the work. Well, unbeknownst to me, they had a music critic there at the festival, David Patrick Stearns, who writes for USA Today. And he really liked the piece a lot, so when the end of the year came, and he was writing his classical picks for 1997, he chose that work. So suddenly this piece got a mention in USA Today. Well, all sorts of orchestras starting calling at that point and asking to see the score, and they didn’t all perform the work, but a couple did. And so that one little orchestra piece has been played so much, it’s scheduled for a concert in Wichita, which I found out about accidentally by just kind of surfing the Web. I saw this piece was scheduled. [audience laughs]
FRAN RICHARD: Tell them about the CD, also.
JENNIFER HIGDON: I got the tape from the Oregon Symphony, and I bugged them about getting a good quality tape, I was able to use that to apply for a bunch of different grants, and it led to a Guggenheim, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is a $50,000 grant, actually. It led to several other orchestra commissions, including the Philadelphia Orchestra. I got a commission from that orchestra just because someone in the orchestra had played some of my music somewhere, and they heard a tape of this piece. They went to the music director and said: “We’re considering all of these composers for commissions for the centennial of the orchestra, why don’t we consider her work?” So they just called me on the phone, randomly one day. I didn’t even send the score to them cold – they called and asked for a score, and I sent it in. I forgot about it, and about one month later I was walking down the street – I had just come out of Curtis, and the first flute player, Jeffrey Khaner was running down the street, jumping up and down motioning to me. And I thought, what’s wrong with Jeff? He goes tearing across three lanes of traffic, almost getting hit, and he said, the Philadelphia Orchestra is going to commission you. At which point I promptly fainted. No, just kidding. [audience laughs] But, you know, I know the Philadelphia Orchestra went around to a bunch of publishers and asked for scores. They went to a lot of publishers, it turns out, but, for some reason, they made the effort to reach out to people who were self-publishing and ask for scores, and as a result, I got this huge commission for a concerto for orchestra.
And the thing about CDs – I answered another opportunity update in the AMC newsletter, I guess it was four or five years ago. Some guy was saying he wanted to make CDs of composers who are also performers. And I thought, this sounds a little too good to be true. So I actually sent in a resume, that’s all he asked for. And he called me back and he said, I’d like to make a CD of your music and I’ll pay for it. And I said, no kidding! [audience laughs] OK! I’ll do it. I’ll do the legwork. I’ll get the musicians. I’ll practice all the pieces. And then I had to practice my music, but you know what, it was OK. It was great because getting someone to pay for your discs is next to impossible. But the other works that I’ve had recorded have come about from little groups that have heard of a piece of mine, they heard it somewhere or someone told them about it – word of mouth again. They asked for the music, and I sent it to them. Usually in those instances I send the music for free, if I think it’s really going to lead to something. And they decided to record it. I think I’ve had four or five pieces, just single pieces, recorded on other discs. And of course, that gets radio airplay, and then someone else hears about it, and it’s a little bit like a domino effect. But it actually has been a conscious decision not to go with a publisher. I have been approached by several publishers, but Philip Glass once told me if you want to make a living as a composer, keep the rights to your music. So, despite the fact that I was tempted a couple of times, I stayed on my own. So, it’s a little bit of work because, you know, you’re doing the printing, the Xeroxing, the binding, the mailing, the bills, and everything else. But for me, it has worked, and I think some of that has to do with just thinking about the musicians. I think that is just so important. They’re your link. Without the musicians, the composer can’t speak to the world. So…does that kind of answer a question? [audience laughs]
FRANK J. OTERI: [to audience] You had a question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, I had a question about the distribution part. Do you make certain numbers of copies right away?
JENNIFER HIGDON: It depends on the piece. If it’s something that I know is probably going to sell, like a flute piece, because now people know that I write flute music, I go ahead and make lots of copies.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What’s “lots”?
JENNIFER HIGDON: It can be anywhere from 10 to 100. And something else that happened, once the distributors of flute music discovered that I had this music, people were coming in and asking for it, they started calling me, asking how they could get it. So, Flute World in Detroit, which is probably one of the biggest clearinghouses for flute music, calls up with orders all the time, big orders, really big orders.
LINDA GOLDING: Let me just ask a question. I think what you’ve outlined is really fantastic, and it’s the sort of thing that every composer and every publisher dreams of. And what I wanted to ask you is, how much time do you find you’re spending on the administrative part of what you need to do? Because again, this goes back to the idea of making a choice and understanding the kind of risk you might be taking, either financial or time-wise.
JENNIFER HIGDON: That’s a good question. This thing goes in waves, because if I get an order for an orchestra score and parts, obviously that’s going to take a lot longer, but I think I probably spend a couple hours a day doing it. I now have been able to hire an assistant. It got to the point where I needed to, and I talked to Libby L
arsen, who has an assistant, and I said, how did you handle all of this? I’m fortunate in that I opted not to take a university job. I’ve had a couple of offers, but I decided not to do it because I wanted to spend my time writing. So I thought, OK, I won’t have a car. [laughs] I’ll live frugally, I’ll eat peanut butter and jelly, but I want to compose. And because I teach at Curtis, I’m allowed to decide the number of hours that I’m going to teach. I only teach seven hours a week. So I spend most of my time writing, and I spend a couple hours a day working on the administrative stuff. And there is paperwork. You have to turn in the programs – you know, someone has to do that – do the Xeroxing, the binding, the letters, the proposals, grant stuff. But I find that I probably represent myself better than I would imagine anyone else could. And it also gives me the freedom – in places like South Africa, where maybe some school can’t afford music, I have the option to actually send it to them. And I think, sharing music – obviously it’s an excellent thing…
FRAN RICHARD: Did you hire a young woman composer to be your assistant, so you can teach her how to do it at the same time?
JENNIFER HIGDON: Yeah, actually, you know I have had composers come in and work. I guess it depends. Sometimes we go through periods where the students at Curtis are so busy, I can’t hire any of them. I can’t convince them to step away, and I think it’s a good thing, because they’re usually writing orchestra pieces – they have readings at Curtis for the orchestra students there, which is obviously just an incredible benefit. So when I can, I try to involve students in it so they can see how the whole thing operates and how it works.
LINDA GOLDING: And what do you do about contracts? What do you do about copyright protection? What do you do about negotiating something that you’ve never done before?
JENNIFER HIGDON: That’s always a spooky one. [laughs] A lot of times, the organization provides the contract. Philadelphia Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Da Vinci String Quartet, Lark String Quartet, Philadephia Chamber Music Society – they all provided the contracts. When I needed to make up a contract, I just sat down and put one out on the computer, in a letter form. And I have all of these other contracts, to kind of draw on, and we tailor it according to the group, what their needs are.
RALPH JACKSON: Do you have an attorney?
JENNIFER HIGDON: No, but I do have someone in Philadelphia I can consult. There is an attorney there that also does taxes for artists, just artists. It’s not Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts; it’s just a group of people who like working with artists. So, if I have a question, I call them on the phone, and they answer the question without charging because they like the arts. But negotiations are a little trickier.
FRANK J. OTERI: Jennifer, you said something that I thought was wonderful but scary at the same time. You talked about the performance in Wichita, and you were surfing the Web and found out about it. So had you not surfed the Web and found out about it – this gets into the whole issue of copyright protection – would you have gotten fees? How do you police the performances of your music?
JENNIFER HIGDON: Well, you know eventually they had to contact me about the parts. They couldn’t do an orchestra piece without the parts. But I did something that I thought was more beneficial for me: I sold them the parts, at about what a major publisher rents them for, and they snapped them up immediately.
RALPH JACKSON: Let me say something about that. You sold a set of parts. Let’s say that that was a good deal for you, and for the next ten years, you sell parts to fifteen orchestras. At some point in your life, hopefully your career…
JENNIFER HIGDON: It’s already happened, you’re about to ask that xeroxing question, right? [laughs]
RALPH JACKSON: Well, actually I’m not. Xerox has nothing to do with this. At some point in your life, like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, who are two composers who self-published in a very professional way for a long time, you’re going to need, if your career goes far enough, to go to Linda or to G. Schirmer or one of those major publishers.
JENNIFER HIGDON: Right.
RALPH JACKSON: They’re going to look at that piece and they’re going to say, you already have this piece out in the world…
JENNIFER HIGDON: I know what you’re asking, but it’s more important to have the music out there, because too many composers are having this problem to begin with. I’d rather get the music out there and deal with that problem later on, than have to wait for down the road…
LINDA GOLDING: It’s an interesting point, because it comes back again to the financial realities, the economic realities of what needs to be done. And you know, selling a set of parts, absolutely, you’re going to make some money up front and you’re going to hopefully continue to collect performing rights income, because hopefully that orchestra will be submitting the programs. If you rented each time, you know you’re going to get that income. So you know, you’re balancing it out there a little bit… I think a point that Ralph was heading towards was the amount of activity. You know, at a certain point, sometimes the reason that a composer goes to a commercial publisher or opens up their own actual business, is just because the amount of time required in managing all of these details and making these day to day business choices becomes overwhelming, or just more than they want to handle. Or sometimes, and if you’re really lucky, there’s lots of new things to work out as well, that may be beyond your immediate experience, of how to negotiate. I get very nervous when I hear composers say what you just said, even though I know it really works for you. I get nervous when I hear composers say, “I take the contract that was sent to me, and I look at it, and it seems to make sense to me.” Because of course it makes sense; it’s a reasonable document. That makes me nervous. The other thing that would make me nervous is that you didn’t cut and paste to make another one for somebody else. Ralph’s question about having an attorney goes directly to that sort of thing, of protecting your rights and your copyrights. So, we’re using you as the poster child example [audience laughs] of an incredibly successful way of going about doing this. And I meant what I said before, when I said this is every composer and every publisher’s dream, how this story is turning out. But it’s important to interject little bits of things that you need to think about, regardless of who you are and what kind of an organization you’re running or are attached to.
FRAN RICHARD: And what level of career you’re at, that you start to prepare early. I want to ask how many of you are as far – or wish you were as far as Jenny is… [audience laughs] I mean, you have here a hustler, somebody who does not sit still and wait for an accident to happen, but who goes out there and really beats the bushes, but also was able to connect from one opportunity to the next, to the next, to the next, and the thing starts to go. And it could be an avalanche that Linda’s warned you about…
JENNIFER HIGDON: But I have to admit, it has crossed my mind a couple of times – last year I really hit a point where I thought, uh-oh, I could be in trouble here real fast. I do leave myself open to the option. It’s always in my head that I’m going to consider all possibilities, so I have no doubt that down the road I may have to adjust
what I’m doing, because every year I have to adjust. It’s growing to such an extent now that I do have to have an assistant come in quite a bit, so if it keeps going at this rate, I will have to do something.
FRAN RICHARD: Well, we’re now not only talking about an assistant to help you with the administrative time of mailings and answering phones and letters. Because, remember, it’s very important for somebody at the other end that’s trying to contact a composer to have a responsible person at the other end respond promptly. That’s one thing people are afraid of about living composers: They’re always afraid they’re flaky, or they don’t have a business head, or they’re never going to respond. But what we want to say now with applause and caution, is that you also need to know at a certain point, when you need professional guidance…
JENNIFER HIGDON: Or help. When you need professional help. [audience laughs]
FRAN RICHARD: When you should not sign a contract without a competent attorney looking at it, models or no models. You may need to adjust the contract. You may need to change the terms…
JENNIFER HIGDON: Actually, I probably should have said, I do adjust the contracts. But you’re right, in terms of…especially getting an attorney to look at something…
FRAN RICHARD: What happens, Linda, if ASCAP tells you in your distribution statement that an orchestral performance occurred in Wichita of a piece by a composer you publish, for which you did not rent the scores and parts. What do you do?
LINDA GOLDING: We send out a legal letter, actually. We send out a letter asking them exactly how they did that. Where did they get those materials? And sometimes, there’s a very quick answer to it; often it’s because the composer or conductor gave them the materials…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Recent developments in technology have made it possible to download entire books off the Internet. Soon, the same could be done with entire musical scores. Obviously, this produces financial risk for publishers but it also can make a lot of materials much more available than they have ever been. Is the music world considering the implications of this?
LINDA GOLDING: This is a fabulous question, extremely complex. The Author’s Guild has done a huge project on this for books. I am not an expert in this, so you’re going to hear a very sort of blunt response to this without a lot of frills. There is this thing called “print on demand.” It’s a little like the Xerox machine – it’s difficult to control, it’s difficult to license, a lot of people are doing it, and you can buy all sorts of printed music on the Internet right now. Most of that music, however, is only a couple or three sheets, and there’s no binding. At the moment, as far as I know, the serious publishers are staying away from it because technology can’t actually satisfy their requirements, and the composers’ requirements, for the look of the piece, but more importantly, for the copyright protection of it. Undoubtedly, it’s going to happen, and probably in all of our lifetimes. But it’s not yet there. The biggest issue I think we have is something maybe Frank and I know Ralph and Fran have a lot of experience with – downloading sound, MP3 files. You know, we can talk about that later. That’s a nightmare. And we have to learn to work with it and to make it useful for composers, but at the moment it’s a licensing problem.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When you’re looking at submissions, are you looking at genre? Because obviously certain genres usually sell better.
LINDA GOLDING: You mean like chamber as opposed to orchestra or vocal?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: As opposed to choral, for example, or band.
LINDA GOLDING: Every publisher has a range of categories of works for which they’re best suited to market and promote, for which they have the best reputation and the best catalog, or a leading or competitive catalog. So, the broadest answer is that every publisher is looking for, as I think Ralph said, an individual voice. Everybody wants a voice that stands out. In terms of certain types of categories, we all have things that we’re particularly interested in. Sometimes it’s because it’s that particular day of the week that somebody is thinking about it, and they see this stack of music, and they say, oh, you know I think I really would like to look for choral music today. But mainly, it has to do with how a particular catalog is built, and how the people who are running that company want to take that catalog forward.
RALPH JACKSON: Can I just add a little thing to that? Just from my perspective, I think that the major publishers – we’re talking about maybe five major publishers in the world in classical music – make most of their money from orchestral music. And so, if a composer…I mean certainly there are composers, like George Crumb for instance, who hasn’t really written much orchestral music, and he is extremely successful. But I think you’ll find the names of composers with the major music publishers, where they take the entire catalog, have had very successful orchestral works. And that’s one reason why I worried about the sale of the parts, because a lot of the money is from the rental of the music. So, a lot of times composers have chamber music printed, and sometimes the publisher loses a lot of money when they do that, simply because the composer is making them money through their orchestral music.
LINDA GOLDING: It’s a good point to raise it that way. It’s a really difficult balancing act. There isn’t a direct answer to your question, and it’s absolutely true that large serious music publishers earn the bulk of their income off of orchestral or rental activity, in part because of the fees and in part because of the performing rights organizations, who are our partners in securing payment both for the publisher and for the composer. And so if you’re looking at it from a financial point of view, you as composer, if you had a choice, what would you be writing? Well, first I hope you’re writing what you want to write, what means the most to you, and what you can write the best. But you also ought to be looking at what’s going to give you some commercial success.
FRAN RICHARD: Income. We want to talk about income. That’s a great segue. Were you going that way, Frank?
FRANK J. OTERI: Yeah. I know that several people have questions, but I thought what Jennifer was saying about recordings was very interesting. We’ve been talking a lot about scores and we’ve been talking about self-publishing, and we’re dealing with a world now with new media, where the printed word or the printed musical manuscript does not reach as many people as many other media have the potential of doing. So I thought for the purposes of our query once again to find out from everybody out there: How many of you out there have CD recordings of your music?
RALPH JACKSON: Wow.
FRANK J. OTERI: That’s really terrific. And then we’re going to divide up the categories once again. Of the people out there who have CD recordings of your music, how many of those are on a label that is not self-distributed but that’s on a recording label, either a major label or an independent label, that has some kind of distribution?
FRAN RICHARD: That’s very good.
FRANK J. OTERI: That’s still pretty impressive. How many of you are issuing CDs of your music on your own and are distributing them yourself? Show of hands. Of the people who have CD recordings of your
music – I know Jennifer said that the CD of her music has been played on the radio. Well, Fran and I know from going to the radio conference every year, and knowing how they deal with new music at the radio conference, that it seems a little bit like a beautiful dream. [audience laughs] Because these radio folks are afraid of any contemporary music, by and large.
RALPH JACKSON: Clarify who is at this conference.
FRANK J. OTERI: OK. Yes, sorry Ralph. [audience laughs] I’m speaking about the annual AMPPR conference – American Music Personnel in Public Radio. There’s an annual public radio conference, and there’s an also annual commercial classical radio conference but they talk even less about contemporary music. Year in, year out, we always hear, oh, contemporary music, people turn the dial with that. And we’re fighting that battle every year. It gets better in some pockets, it gets worse in others.
LINDA GOLDING: Right, and Messaien is, I think, included in that.
FRANK J. OTERI: Oh, Messaien’s contemporary music. Oh, yeah. Schoenberg’s contemporary music, Ives is contemporary music, Harry Patrch…
FRAN RICHARD: Did they take the Philadelphia Orchestra’s definition?
LINDA GOLDING: Yeah, really.
FRANK J. OTERI: But before we get into attack mode here – because I love getting into attack mode – I want to know how many people out here get their music performed on radio stations. Let’s see a show of hands. That’s pretty good. This is good. Now, I want to touch into new media. Now we have this wonderful new tool, the Internet. And we’re constantly finding new applications for this thing. As a self-published, self-distributed composer, as someone who distributes recordings of your own music, you have this wonderful new tool: the Internet. You have a Web site, or you have e-mail, and you know, all of a sudden when you have a concert of your music in three weeks, instead of sending out a mailing, you can send out e-mails to 500 people. Now, whether or not that’s as effective as a nice brochure, you have to weigh the odds with that. But with a Web site – how many of you have Web sites? On those Web sites, how many of you have audio samples of your music of some kind? How many of you use a streaming audio format versus a downloadable format? Do I need to explain those terms? [audience response] OK. On the Internet now there are two ways of encoding audio files. You can either have files that are downloadable. The most popular format of a downloadable file is MP3. I’m sure everybody here has heard that name MP3, but there are lots of other encryption systems besides MP3. That means that somebody grabs the file, downloads it onto their computer, and then can play it forever and ever. It’s like buying a CD. They have it, and you can either sell it, or it’s free, or they can copy it, and that’s it. Streaming audio on the other hand is more like radio. It functions in real time, but after you finish playing it, it’s no longer on your computer, which means that it’s gone, like a radio broadcast. Now, theoretically, you could have somebody with a record button recording it, but it requires a little more effort to pirate a streaming audio signal. In terms of copyright infringement, this is something that both ASCAP and BMI have been dealing with in the past year and a half, and all of the details have still not been worked out. In fact, I’d like both Ralph and Fran both to address that issue, and then we’ll take it to the floor again.
RALPH JACKSON: BMI has aggressively licensed the Internet from the beginning. We had the first bot, which searches the Internet 24 hours a day, looking for music files. It doesn’t identify those files – it simply goes into the site anonymously, it sees if there are any music files available, and if there are, than BMI investigates that site to see if it’s something that should be licensed. In terms of collecting money from the Internet, right now there’s virtually no Internet company that’s making money, so BMI’s viewpoint of this is that we should collect a percentage of revenues from Internet companies, which I think is very important because these are the companies that are going to be making literally billions of dollars in the next few years, and if you’re in at the very beginning with a percentage, then you’re going to get a percentage of that billion. So, that’s where we are right now. We’re in negotiations with a bunch of different sites – we have an agreement with broadcast.com and several others. But this is a whole new unknown world, and I would caution you against putting your music out in an MP3 format right now simply because…just for the same reason I’m so cautious about your orchestral scores getting out. Let’s say you put all your music out, and then CRI comes by and says we love your music. And then they say, you know, everybody in the world downloaded your music and has a copy of it already, and can send it to all of their friends in the future. It’s just a little bit dangerous right now, so maybe – excerpts, I’d say.
FRANK J. OTERI: And Fran, do you want to add anything to that?
FRAN RICHARD: ASCAP has licensed MP3. We have a comprehensive ASCAP music license. There were so-called “big pirates,” but we’ve now licensed them, and the next generation of MP3 technology will not allow use without protection. It’s like safe sex, only now it’s safe audio. [audience laughs] We have the technology that seeks out the music sites on the net, and which identifies what’s being played, and our licenses are up on our website. Frank and I were at the radio conference last year, and I thought it was wonderful how many of these radio stations themselves have streams of music, which are not their mainstream fare. If a station plays classical-period music entirely, they may have some DJ who is adventurous, and he’s doing a stream, and they were saying how helpful it is to have that Internet license up on our Web site, so they can calculate what fees are owing and pay them, so that these performances will be protected. We have made distribution for the first time on the Internet, a year or more ago, and will continue to do so. The monies are not gigantic yet, but as Ralph said, it’s important when there’s a new technology to enforce protection and to convince the users as well as the abusers that that’s not a good idea. In general, I have to say, we are presuming that all of you who are so advanced as to self-publish are affiliated with performing rights organizations. Whichever one you choose – you have the good fortune in this country to be able to make an informed choice of which society you want to represent you – make it. If you’re not represented, make a stand. Stand up with your other colleagues to protect your rights and to enforce them, and we will try to guide you. We don’t want you to give your music away for nothing. We’re trying to help you to earn a living. The compensation you might get from rental of orchestral music, if it’s a popular piece, could be a continued source of income for you. That is why we caution you to think through what you would give away for nothing. When somebody wants to play your music in public, and is giving you exposure, you know, that’s what we used to call “Meet the Exposer.” [audience laughs]. They’re claiming to be doing you a favor, but you know you are giving it for nothing. Everybody has a very good argument why you should give it for nothing, at any stage of your career. We’re trying to get you to stop and think whether that’s a good idea for you, and for your colleagues as well. We talked before, in the last panel, about behaving and treating yourself as a professional, and also honoring your own colleagues and making sure that you stand together. So we are licensing the Internet as well. We have about 2500 si
tes licensed by now, and are working very hard. We are also trying to teach people who are about to do without proper education themselves. Those of you who are composers trained in university know damn well that you can have two PhDs in your hand and not have ever been told when you write a piece how long it will be protected. These are things that you need some of us to help you learn, because they are not things that were necessarily taught to you, nor was it taught how to negotiate a rental fee, or a commission fee. And we want to help you in every way so that you receive not only accolades for your good music, but remuneration as well.
FRANK J. OTERI: OK, we have about 10 minutes left. I want to try to get to everybody’s questions. There were questions here, and there are some new questions. I want to try to take them in the order I saw the hands originally, so that I can get everybody’s questions in. We’re going to try our best.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: OK. I’m at the beginning of the process, and my question is, do I just randomly send you a score?
LINDA GOLDING: You know, that’s a great question, and it actually goes to making inquiries at publishers as well as making up a promotion program for a particular work. And I think this is something Jennifer said as well. If you’re going to approach someone, about anything, you ought to know why, and you ought to tell them why: I want you to perform this work because – I’m going to make the match for you, I’m going to show you why this is right for you. I might disagree with that, but at least I know that you thought about me, and why I’m supposed to take the time to consider your inquiry. On the publishing side as well, why is it that you would approach a particular publisher, what is it about that publishing house, about the composers they represent or what their stationery looks like, or what you heard about them, that you would make a contribution to? And that they would make a contribution to you as well – I think this goes back to that collaborative effort. But, please, absolutely, in any of these situations: know why you’re making the approach.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Will you turn away a “nobody,” or will you look at them?
LINDA GOLDING: I think every publisher considers every piece of music that comes in. How it’s done is different at every organization. You need to make it as easy as possible. Again, you’re just talking about a publisher, but it’s the same thing for promotion. People will listen to and look at music if it’s made easy for them, attractive to them, if they want to, if when they open the package they say, yes, I want to spend time with this.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is a publisher less interested in works that are already circulating out there than in new works?
LINDA GOLDING: No, no, I don’t think so. I think Ralph’s point is to look at any decision that you make in the broadest possible context. Boosey publishes many composers who have directed us to sell materials over the years, and it hasn’t stopped us from working with them.
FRANK J. OTERI: I saw hands back there…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How do you know what to charge?
JENNIFER HIGDON: I actually had an advantage in that because I conducted an orchestra. And this is one of the reasons why I sell. Because I conducted an orchestra at a university, and we couldn’t afford the rental, and I wanted to do new music, and they wanted to do Beethoven, so… Some of it depends on I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, the reputation of the composer, the size. Also, I know sometimes they consider who they’re renting to, like a professional orchestra would be different than University of Pennsylvania orchestra. You’re asking about specific rates?
LINDA GOLDING: What the market will bear, probably, is a way to think about it. [audience laughs] You know what you might want to do is talk to some of your colleagues. Maybe talk to Jennifer, not putting her on the spot here, but actually talk with your colleagues about how they’re making those kinds of decisions, based on what and where did they start. A lot of people say, well I conducted an orchestra, so I got a whole lot of rental information and I’m just using that, but you know, whatever. Ask around.
FRANK J. OTERI: There’s a question over here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ve written for films and television, and I’m self-published through BMI, and one of my works is distributed by a small publishing company, but the rest of them are under my own label. If I wanted to or was accepted by a larger company, can I do that? Can I just give up?
RALPH JACKSON: Very easily. Just like anyone can sell anything. [audience laughs] Right? You can do it so simply. You know, if Linda wanted to buy the coat that you have [audience laughs], it’s between you two. If she pays you enough, you can give it to her. [audience laughs] So, you own your publishing company, you can sell it. You can change it immediately.
FRANK J. OTERI: Question back there.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can you ever regain copyright control once it has been relinquished?
LINDA GOLDING: If there’s an individual situation, where a composer wants to recapture copyrights, that composer should look at their contracts and talk to the publisher and see what way there is. I mean, sometimes it turns out there’s a loophole in a contract, and sometimes there’s not. But, I think – again, there is a range of choices that people make, and I would hate for you to leave this room thinking that anybody who has not retained their copyright has made a bad choice. Everybody makes the choice that they need to make based on what they’re interested in. Some composers are extremely interested in business and promotion, as well as composing, and some of them are really good at it. And they want to spend that time and effort, and therefore be compensated for it. Others want to hear about it, they want to check in about ideas, but really they want to be in their studio writing music and traveling to hear their performances, and they don’t want to deal with the business aspect, and it’s fine with them. They’re comfortable that their business arrangement gives compensation to that work on their behalf. You know, when Jennifer says she has an assistant, she is still paying somebody to do work; it just looks a little different.
RALPH JACKSON: And I’ll just say, the only way that major publishers are going to exist into the next millennium is to own the copyright. They don’t make money quickly from a piece of music. I mean, I remember Susan Feder telling me about the John Corigliano’s AIDS Symphony. There were three versions of the piece, and they spent thousands and thousands just doing the parts. It was years before they saw any profit from it. So, if you’re dealing with an absolute top of the line publisher like Boosey & Hawkes, I don’t know. I’m sure you could talk to them about it, but chances are they’re going to want the ownership of the copyright. What that means is if you’re dealing with a smaller company, not a blue chip company, a company that’s only owned by one person, perhaps, be careful.
FRAN RICHARD: Can I just say that it may be every composers’ dream to be published by Boosey & Hawkes or one of the great publishers that has survived and become strong in the 20th century, but those of you who are sitting here have to be realistic about the fact that you probably won’t be. What we are talking about is not to challenge how they operate for the best interest of their composer roster
, and to survive, but rather how you will survive if these publishers remain in this business. And one of the ways they remain strong is to choose carefully, because they know that there are many talented people out there, and they can’t take all of you. It is not that they don’t recognize a talent when they see one, but they know that it is an investment in time, effort, and money, and they can’t possibly take you. And what we want, here, is to sustain your confidence in yourself to enforce your ability to move in your career in an upward spiral to success, and to do everything we can, even if you cannot be taken by these publishers. So, it’s really a moot question whether if Boosey & Hawkes called me at midnight, would I give up my copyright…
RALPH JACKSON: Do it. [audience laughs]
FRAN RICHARD: It is a question of: I have got it, what the hell am I going to do with it, and how am I going to survive. And I just want to say another thing. When you ask these questions about rental fees, don’t believe that you’re getting evasive answers. But publishers, for example, are not allowed to discuss this publicly, especially amongst themselves. There is constraint on monopoly and setting prices and that sort of thing. So with commission fees and other financial concerns you have to begin to feel your way, and to talk with colleagues, and to figure out what the traffic will bear, to temper justice with mercy. So that you know that if this is a small fledgling group, they should pay something even if it isn’t a lot of money, because there’s an example and a principle here, and then little by little as your career builds and your fame escalates, then you can command a higher fee.
LINDA GOLDING: One of the things we should also say about publishing is that being affiliated with a major publisher is not right for everybody. It’s just not, for any number of reasons, and you shouldn’t look at that as a problem, but it should be yet another one of your choices. Being affiliated with a commercial outfit has got a lot of problems for a composer, as well as obviously upsides. But you need to always think of it in terms of what it is going to do for your work.
FRANK J. OTERI: I’m afraid that I’ve been given the time axe, but…yes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What about publishing the works of women? That’s why you’re getting all of these self-publishers. I think either we have to start a publishing company for women. You have one woman in your catalog, right?
LINDA GOLDING: No, we have three. Out of 26, I guess it is. When I say 26, that’s 26 composers who are writing today, as opposed to the back catalog.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, but they’re not American.
LINDA GOLDING: I’m happy to talk about that off the podium. [audience laughs]
FRANK J. OTERI: OK, thank you all so much for coming, and I want to thank Fran and Linda and Ralph.