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Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

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Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby mysteriousmonkey29 » Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:25 pm

Hey guys, I'm not sure if this is the correct subtopic for this question, but here goes:

I am an amateur piano composer. A few years ago I composed a series of solo piano pieces, one in each key. I wrote out all the sheet music, pretty meticulously, and made less meticulous recordings. I previously emailed a bunch of solo music publishers with a sample of my music, and one of them agreed to publish it, but they eventually stopped responding to me (I got the impression that they were pretty busy).



Anyways, I have some free time right now, so I'm looking into trying to publish my music again. My current plan is to put the recordings on youtube and soundcloud, then link a place to purchase my sheet music. I just discovered a few sites that will publish your sheet music and give you some of the sales. I'm just wondering 1) if anyone has used any of these sites, and if so, which one(s) they reccomend, 2) if I've missed any good websites in this category, 3) if anyone has any advice regarding my general plan?



Here are the best websites I've found so far:

(can't post urls, so here are the names):
sheetmusicplus
musicnaeo
acromis
scoreexchange


For context, I have a day job, and am not at all worried about supporting myself from music sales. However, I thought it would be cool to get my music out there, and see if I could make any money in the process. I know a little about website development, but am shying away from this option due to the time commitment.



Thanks in advance!
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby MikeHalloran » Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:41 am

Many of the sheet music sites are owned by Hal Leonard, the largest sheet music publisher and sub-publisher in the world. Figure out how to make them work and your customers can certainly buy from you through them. I won’t go into details but the system certainly works. That’s the easy part.

The trick is to generate enough interest in your works to drive the business so that anyone buys.

If you’re looking for a few paragraphs that outline a sure-fire path towards this goal... good luck with that.

If anyone has some good recommendations on resources, books etc. I am curious, too. I’m trying to motivate a daughter who gets commissions but has a difficult time monetizing the enthusiasm once the piece has premiered and the commission has been spent. I know quite a bit about publishing but little about how the sheet music side works see days.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby mysteriousmonkey29 » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:30 pm

I guess I am just looking for validation of my general strategy, and also site recommendations, if anyone has ever used any of the sites I mentioned (or similar ones).

Thanks for the advice!
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby gogreen » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:06 pm

mysteriousmonkey29: Have you considered more traditional piano music publishers? I suggest you review their sites online with a Google search and find those in which you think your music best fits. Narrow your choices to two or three publishers for now. Then query each publisher about what you'd like to submit. If you get a go-ahead, submit the score (a polished PDF of your Finale score), a playback mp3 or a live performance (greatly preferred), and any program and performance notes in PDF form. And submit to one publisher at a time.

If anyone has some good recommendations on resources, books etc. I am curious, too. I’m trying to motivate a daughter who gets commissions but has a difficult time monetizing the enthusiasm once the piece has premiered and the commission has been spent. I know quite a bit about publishing but little about how the sheet music side works see days.

Mike: For starters, I suggest your daughter do the following, if she hasn't already:
1. Create a Facebook composer page.
2. Create a LinkedIn page.
3. Garner as many FB friends and LinkenIn connections as you can--let this process take several months.
4. Promote her works directly to friends and connections SPARINGLY.
5. Write absolutely sterling, terse ad copy, and try a few inexpensive test ads on FB. I have not done this, but if I were to do so, that's what I'd do. I don't know anything about advertising on LinkedIn.

My suggestions presume that she has a mechanism in place, ready to go, for printing, selling, and accounting for sales.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby MikeHalloran » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:58 am

My suggestions presume that she has a mechanism in place, ready to go, for printing, selling, and accounting for sales.

Uh... yea... sure she does... Actually, that's what I'm trying to jump start here—thanks for that.

She gets commissions, people ask to do her works and often she just emails the score. My day job aside, I am morally opposed to money not changing hands, ya know? We gotta fix that without my constant involvement.

Is anyone using J.W. Pepper's My Score? This may be exactly what she — ok, I — am looking for right now.

https://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/press-release.jsp?post=5542

https://www.jwpepper.com/myscore/

In the long run, her best bet is to find the right publisher. She has too many other things going on (teaching, recording, performing etc.) to devote the time that self-publishing really requires. Perhaps, someday... but, for now, My Score may be just the ticket.

When I was a choir director, I spent a lot of money at J.W. Pepper over the years after Byron Hoyt closed down.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby gogreen » Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:28 pm

In the long run, her best bet is to find the right publisher.

Yup. I agree--that's the gist of it.

She has too many other things going on (teaching, recording, performing etc.) to devote the time that self-publishing really requires.

Yup again. I made this decision some years ago. It was the best choice for me.

I know nothing about J.W. Pepper's My Score. Years ago, when I was a band director, I used to buy music exclusively from J.W. Pepper.

The internet has changed everything for composers. Shawnee Press published a bunch of my concert band and choral music when I first began publishing music. Back then, 40 years ago, my new band pieces routinely sold 200-300+ on first appearance--average sales then. Same with choral music. These days, sales aren't anywhere near that, even though royalties now are a bit more generous. I suspect the drawback with My Score is getting lost in the crowd.

So, in addition to writing worthy music, how does one stand out from the crowd?
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby mysteriousmonkey29 » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:14 pm

Thanks gogreen, I have considered traditional publishers. I initially found about 100 online and emailed samples of my sheet music and recordings, as I mentioned. It's not what you recommended about proceeding serially, but in the end, they all turned me down anyway, so this is why I am considering alternatives now.

JWPepper my score is an idea; I found it before but thought it was 100$ yearly as opposed to once. Once is much more reasonable. One idea I just had is to publish my sheet music on several of these websites for the same price (most of them let the composer keep the copyright, so I think it would be legal/within user agreements, but am unsure), to benefit from each of their advertisement networks. But maybe this is too much of a pain.What do you guys think about this?
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby MikeHalloran » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:01 am

I’ve only used SheetMusicPlus et all to find 20th C. popular songs (normally for my wife or her friends). As Hal Leonard owns many of those sites, I find the selection to be the same. One of the reasons I keep my old G4 around is that I sometimes find an old tune that requires that gawdawful Scorch plugin — yeah not everything is up to date. So, if those sites have another use, I’ve never explored it.

I don’t think that My Score can do anything other than give you something to link in your social media and other campaigns. IMO, there is significant value in this if handled well. I’m going to explore it this evening.

Although I have a very good tabloid printer, the last thing I want to do is print, trim, fold and ship octavo — even for my daughter. I would also think this if I had two working arms.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby gogreen » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:00 pm

IMO, there is significant value in this if handled well.

Ah, my burning question! How does one handle this well?
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby motet » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:12 pm

To be blunt, this seems analogous to book publishing. Alfred Knopf is very unlikely to publish a novel they get over the transom. Putting your music on a self-publishing site is maybe worth a try, but it seems like the chances of a stranger happening upon it and buying it are pretty slim. Maybe if you have a choral setting of a popular poem no one else has done, something like that, someone may find it, but a string quartet or a piano sonata or even a piece for concert band, probably not. Your energies are probably better spent making a website and promoting the music yourself. Offer it in PDF format you can produce from Finale. That way, you don't need a publisher.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby MikeHalloran » Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:42 pm

motet wrote:... it seems like the chances of a stranger happening upon it and buying it are pretty slim.

You’re optimistic. I think non-existent is closer to the mark.
...Your energies are probably better spent making a website and promoting the music yourself. Offer it in PDF format you can produce from Finale. That way, you don't need a publisher.

Absolutely. Self publishing without self promotion is a dead end.

The only thing that My Score can do is provide a link from your web site and social media pages so that people can buy print or digital copies while their enthusiasm runs high. That’s why I want my daughter to use it for now. It also needs to be on the business card she passes out at choral festivals and the like.

Later if she hooks up with the right publisher, she can link those works through their Pepper catalog ID#. Perhaps she will be able to go the Eric Whitaker route and do it all in-house (except engraving—Eric sends that out) but I doubt that will happen.

I’ve learned a lot about modern choral from her. I didn’t even know how big Mr. Whitaker was when I introduced her to him six years ago (major dad points for me).
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby David Ward » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:00 pm

MikeHalloran wrote:… … … I didn’t even know how big Mr. Whitaker was when I introduced her to him six years ago (major dad points for me).

Yes, even here in Scotland the local amateur choirs perform his pieces a lot. I admit that I'd not consciously heard of him until we had reason to work with one of these choirs. However, I should have heard of him, even if his musical aesthetic appears to differ from my own. I think that all styles/genres of music are to some degree interdependent and that the broader one's experience as a listener the more one benefits as a composer.
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby motet » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:28 pm

He is huge in the amateur chorus world (as is Morton Lauridsen).
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby HaraldS » Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:47 pm

MikeHalloran wrote:Perhaps she will be able to go the Eric Whitaker route


I didn't know him, looked up the name on Youtube and found Eric Whitacre - that's him, right?
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby Al Fine » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:32 pm

Well, I just spent a lot time giving you a reply, but I stuck in an URL, and the whole message disappeared. I don't have time to rewrite it at the moment, but I'll just say that I was in a similar position as you, and I had had some modest success with "mom and pop" publishers, finally decided to go with JW Pepper's MyScore option. My page with them just went live, and I'd say that so far, I've been happy with the process of getting my works (like yours, piano music) made available. They are friendly, and fairly prompt in replying. I'd recommending checking it out as an option. There is a FAQ page dedicated to the MyScore option. Good luck!
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby MikeHalloran » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:24 pm

Here's the FAQ for My Score. I thought I'd posted that. No, I had sent it to my kid (doing something with some choir in Finland at the moment).

https://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/my_score/ms-faq.jsp

My page with them just went live...


Got a link so we can all see?
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby Al Fine » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:22 pm

My page is just getting off the ground, so it's not really a good example, but here's the link for the composers' index:

https://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/my ... posers.jsp
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Re: Self Publishing Advice for Amateur Composer

Postby Djard » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:22 pm

I have always depended on my publisher to promote my work and would not dare do any marketing without his approval. My first publisher fired me for being too eager; since then, I tread with humility and caution. But maybe I am being overly cautious. If you can get a celebrated performer to add your composition to his or her repertoire, surely that would give you some clout.
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