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The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Publishers that understand

Allen's post yesterday about the "print on demand" problem with a publisher reminded me of a two great experiences I have had lately with online publishers.  They have different business models but both offer superb service:
 
First, Saint James Music Publishing.  For a yearly fee of $139, I have access to every piece of music on the SJMP site.  I can look at it, hear it on an MP3, and download it.  If I want, I can download their entire catalog.  I am free to produce as many copies as I want of every anthem for one price.  An incredible deal.  If you are a church musician, I recommend it.
 
Next, Selah Publishing.  There is much to like about this company as well.  They have a liturgical calendar that makes it easy for me to find titles of possible pieces.  When I click on a work, I often have a chance to download a "review" copy of the anthem as well as listen to it.  A few days ago, there was not a "review" copy.  I emailed the company on their and got a PDF version of the work the next day - from the company president.  Talk about service!
 
As far as I am concerned, these two companies are pointing the way to the future.  Choral directors want:
 
1.  Access to PDF versions of your entire catalog (either full works or partial).  And for Pete's sake, don't just show me the first page!  
2.  Immediate delivery.  I'm not trying to steal anything, guys.  I just want it fast.  Emailed.  Immediately.
3.  Recordings help.  But not necessary in my opinion.
4.  Reasonable price.  Don't charge me 2.50 per copy if I am printing it myself.  Let me pay you $25 for as many copies as I want to print.
5.  Fair compensation to the composer.  This 10% model is horrible and an unfair remnant of past business models.  They are the creator of the work and deserve more than what they've been getting.
 
 
on September 16, 2011 3:39am
From another on-line publisher's point of view, I'm delighted that you appreciate what our "new business models" are trying to achieve. Paying 50% of takings to composers (as we do) doesn't leave much for advertising and marketing, so we rely to some extent on satisfied customers spreading the news about our efforts. If you are inclined to encourage us, simply spending a little time browsing our catalogues would be a good way to begin. We can tell from web server statistics that plenty of people do visit and download pages, but, of course, we'd like many more to come.
 
John Wexler
Canasg Music
Edinburgh, Scotland and Princeton, NJ
on September 16, 2011 3:58am
Hear, hear!  Two other liturgical music publishers, GIA and OCP, are moving in this direction - but could certainly take a page from the models you have offered us at St. James and Selah.  They are still stuck in the "per copy" price, even when their works are available in pdf. format.  I'm not sure whether their entire catalog is pdf. uploaded, nor am I sure that they have more than the title page on their website available for review (and yes, I agree wholly that we need to be able to see more than that).  What's involved here is an act of faith on their parts.  They have to believe that, for a single per annum fee, they will get enough hits to make the business model work.  However, without having any idea how many packets of music they send out three times a year, I've got to believe that they would recoup at least a sizable portion of their outlay for these packets if, instead of the packets, they merely sent out the two CDs they've been sending along with it.  If hearing a piece sparks enough interest, people will go on-line and look at what they're hearing.  As an example:  a couple of days ago I got GIA's winter package of about 40 pieces of music, with two CDs.  Of the forty, there may be three or four I'm really interested in.  I really don't need to have an entire library of GIA's music in my house.  Of those four pieces, if I really want to know what it looks like, I can just as easily go on-line and look at the durn thing there as well as having it in my hands.  The publishers have GOT to get into the 21st century, and St. James' and Selah's model is the way forward for liturgical music.  I have to disagree with the recording part of the model - some, like me, are not as able to "hear" what a piece of music is doing by looking at it - y'see, I'm a guy who got into this music thing through the back door, and because for a very long time I was doing a lot of other things - being a soldier, French and government stuff, etc. - I don't have the formal training.  For me, the recordings are extremely useful - and for the publishers, they are probably the way a lot of choir directors get their interest piqued.  Beside which, it gives you at least an idea what the piece is supposed to sound like at the end of the day!
 
Now, the Postal Service isn't going to be happy about this sort of model as things move away from a mailed model, but oh well, that's the cost of progress - and I think that within 5-6 years we may see the USPS move from an individual letter mover to a bulk shipment mover, more in the model of FedEx and UPS - and they won't be able to compete unless they're broken loose from any government connection, and even then...  If you all out there in the ChoralNet community think this is a good model, and your favorite music publishers may be open to such change, you owe it to yourself as well as the rest of us to push this idea at them - I know I will.
 
Ron
on September 16, 2011 4:06am
Sorry, one other thing I forgot to mention in my "little" rant above:  we've got to keep in mind that at least for the near future, a lot of our colleagues are not necessarily computer-savvy or comfortable, and the printed model may have to continue for a certain period of time until we filter through all that - and it doesn't do to say, "well, tough, it's the 21st century" to these folks without some sort of way for them to continue accessing the music they want for their choirs.  I don't know what the solution is for the publisher, but perhaps they can offer an option - do you want to continue receiving hard copies & the discs, or just the discs?  Then two different fees; and if you want to go to the model that Philip talks to, you pay an overall annual fee (and get to romp through their catalog and print off as you like - and I think most of us would be pretty reasonable about it) or a per-composition fee (say, either $.25/copy or a flat fee for up to a certain number of copies to print off).  What we have to remember is that the music publishing houses have costs involved in doing this:  hiring the choir & the engineering for their sample CDs and duplicating them (yeah, I know, the last one is pennies, but still...), setting up and maintaining the website, etc., etc.  This cannot be a model to drive music publishers out of business for our supposed benefit - they have to make a buck, too.
 
Ron
on September 16, 2011 6:29am
With #4 you have given composers something to think about as we develop a pricing strategy for our self-published works that will appear on the upcoming "Composers' Marketplace."  Thanks.
on September 16, 2011 8:55am
All good, but I have have two nits to pick.
2.  Immediate delivery.  I'm not trying to steal anything, guys.  I just want it fast.  Emailed.  Immediately.
Why emailed? Wouldn't downloaded be better?
4.  Reasonable price.  Don't charge me 2.50 per copy if I am printing it myself.  Let me pay you $25 for as many copies as I want to print.
Sounds like you have a large group. If I'm buying music for my 5-person jazz ensemble, a $25 flat fee is a rip. Self-printed music should cost less than conventional octavos, though.
 
And I've got another one to add:
 
6. No DRM on the purchased document. It's infuriating to buy something which then limits how you can use it, such as limiting the number of copies you can print. The don't work reliably on all systems, and if your printer gets jammed or something, you're out of luck. Forget Scorch and other programs with built-in features to make it hard to use for the consumer; just send a PDF.
 
on September 16, 2011 8:59am
I agree with both your nits.  Was thinking only of my large groups.
 
And I really like #6.