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Meeting With Tim Sharp, Hope For the Big Marketplace

Definition of Terms:
            Composition Showcase= Pretty much what we have now.
              Big Marketplace= What the Composers’ Marketplace Planning Group has envisioned altered by this and future discussions.
Dear Colleagues,
            I had a very encouraging brainstorming session with Tim Sharp at the North Central ACDA convention in Madison, WI today.   He was very supportive of the things we are doing in our community and especially the Composition Showcase.  I had expected a ten minute casual encounter and got a 45 minute thoughtful exchange.  One thing that became very clear to me is that Dr. Sharp is a man of vision.   I have spoken to some of you in personal emails about the big picture of creating the marketplace on ChoralNet.  There are many forces at play.  Our job is to find the right paradigm, the right interface and to involve the stakeholders in making this happen.    It is a real possibility and could happen fairly quickly (cross your feather pens).
I need your help and guidance in discovering the right combination of the three.  Any member is welcome to bring up their own feelings about this in the forum by starting their own thread.  Reasoned dissent is as valuable as reasoned enthusiasm. Please copy and paste the portion of what I have written that you are discussing in your post or if it is a new idea, just write it in plain English.  This thread will serve as a starting point.
I would like to lay out my vision for how the Big Marketplace and the Composition Showcase would function. This is only a starting point.
The Composition Showcase is a key element to the big marketplace.  I started calling it the Little Marketplace in a John the Baptist “There cometh one greater than I…”  sort of way.   I see it as a controlled and vetted advertising space to lead conductors to the best and most marketable works by our members, whether published or self-published and a foot in the door in building reciprocal relationships.  
The Big Marketplace, would be a place for members to place their own compositions, arrangements and editions for a small annual fee, I’m thinking $2 per work.  The purchase price of a single typical octavo.   A percentage of sales would also be charged.  Composers and or publishers would need to upload two PDF’s.  A perusal copy with watermarks discouraging illegal copying and the actual PDF which would be unavailable to the user until purchased.  
I think it would be advantageous to have this be composer driven rather than publisher driven for a couple of reasons.   Most publishers struggle to stay in business.  Declining market share caused by the ease of self-publishing and piracy have a significant impact on their bottom line.   I think that composers can be selling agents for their own works published by traditional publishers.   If you think your $2 investment will garner you more revenue in the sale of your works by your publisher, then by all means sell your work in the big marketplace.  Just have your profits sent to your publisher for them to redistribute your portion back to you.   Someone published by multiple publishers or both published and self-published could set up different protocols for the sale of each piece.  Setting this up would require a dialogue with your publisher. 
Publishers and perhaps other copyright holders would be welcome to make the investment should they decide to do so.
This is where I may make some of you uncomfortable:  Eventually pieces put into the Composition Showcase would only go there for free if that same composer has licensed at least 6 works in that year ($12 or more) in the big marketplace and continues to include the big marketplace as the point of purchase.  All others would pay a $20/composer fee to place up to their maximum/composer works in the showcase using their own point of purchase.
All works in the big marketplace would be purchased through ChoralNet or its designee, while works displayed in the Composition Showcase would be purchased just as they are now.
So if Hungry Horse Publishing wants to promote two of my works on ChoralNet they could put both of them directly to the showcase for $20/year with their own link to purchase them outside of ChoralNet.  If they joined our community, they could put the 2 pieces in the big marketplace for an additional $4 a year or they could promote 6 of my works for $12, then put up to 6 of them into the showcase for free if they use the big marketplace as the purchasing site.  (I think this would be uncommon).  Although I may disagree with Citizens United on principle, businesses that own intellectual property would be welcome to the same benefits of individual members (see Community Home).  There may need to be a maximum placed on digital storage in the library and on ChoralNet.
What is the difference?  Purchasing music from the showcase would continue to be independent of ChoralNet.  A “Link to purchase page” would exist as it does now avoiding the percentage that ChoralNet or its designee would get for running the big marketplace. 
Another radical idea (in need of work):  All of the above procedures for the Big Marketplace would be for PDF downloads only.   For hard copies, ChoralNet would make an arrangement with a printer or publisher(s) to use their skills to distribute hard copies in octavo form.  They would set the hard copy purchase and delivery price, incur all of the expenses and make all of the profit for the amount charged above and beyond the PDF download price.  This is a very nested process for published works which we will need to work out.   If your publisher or you puts your published work in the Big Marketplace, all of the non-ChoralNet profits would go to them for them to redistribute.  Some of you have worked for publishers.  How could we make this work?
Some of these ideas now in this post are not my own but have been synthesized from my meeting with Dr. Sharp.  Sorry Tim if I am not creditting you. Feel free to comment or clarify.
Advantages over pre-CCMC status quo and in general.
  1. Copyrights would remain with whomever owns them prior to uploading. 
  2. Traditional publishers, who are the backbone of support for ACDA, would continue to profit from the sale of music.
  3. Publishers may discover new composers and choose to offer them a contract to publish them.
  4. Sales in the big marketplace would be handled through ChoralNet or its agent. Composers and users would benefit from a secure system without having to set one up themselves.
  5. Conductors are already accustomed to using the ChoralNet interface.  They would be a click away from your music.
  6. The hassle of printing and shipping hard copies would disappear from the composer, leaving more time to see your family or to watch SMASH on NBC Monday nights.
  7. The ease of use of this system would draw more conductors to new music, causing more performances of new music, causing more revenue for publishers and composers. 
  8. The increased traffic to ChoralNet would increase profits for ChoralNet’s advertisers. 
Have at it.  I'm off to try not to miss more of the convention.  I would like to see some comments when I get back online!
Replies (27): Threaded | Chronological
on February 9, 2012 1:58pm
Thanks again, Jack, for all your hard work on this.  And sincere thanks, too, to Tim for listening and being willing to seriously consider the idea. 
Just one quick comment re: "Publishers and perhaps other copyright holders would be welcome to make the investment should they decide to do so."  If I correctly understand what you have written above, it is proposed that traditional publishers be allowed to participate in the Marketplace.
It was my understanding when the possibility of a "Composers' Marketplace" was first considered and some initial work was done on its design that it would be a place where self-published composers could more easily, quickly, and less expensively market their works, an endeavor that would to some degree help to level the playing field and give composers a chance to compete with traditional publishing companies whose marketing strategies are solidly in place and whose connections and resources far exceed those of the typical solitary composer who has chosen, for whatever reason, to go the self-publishing route.
While I understand that the ACDA/ChoralNet does not wish to lose the good will of and advertising revenue from traditional publishers, who may well see the development of such a Marketplace for self-published composers as becoming a direct competitor and a potentially unethical endeavor (from the traditional publishers' point of view), I see a real danger in designing a Marketplace in which traditional music publishers can participate in the same manner as individual, self-published composers.  I can very easily envision the Marketplace becoming completely co-opted by traditional publishers in an effort to gain/retain market share.
Perhaps one way to satisfy the needs of both (traditional publishers and self publishers) would be to have a Marketplace that is clearly divided into two separate and distinct areas, or "rooms."  One "room" could be for traditional publishers, the other "room" could be for self publishers--and the distinction could be made completely clear to potential buyers by having each "room" in separate sites within ChoralNet.  Specific guidelines and financial parameters could be developed for both groups, separately, to provide as fair and equitable a deal as possible to everyone. 
So, in short, perhaps it would be best to have both a "Composers' Marketplace" and a "Traditional Publishers' Marketplace" on ChoralNet.  If I have misunderstood, perhaps others have, as well, and maybe you could clarify this a bit.
on February 9, 2012 5:10pm
This is a balancing act.  Choral Directors still need traditional publishers as much as they need us.  You taken a frightening look through the "What could be?" lens and seen something ugly.  Imagine publishers looking through that lens the other way.  If we were to create a marketplace where anyone can be published and are so successful at it that no one bothers to try and get published traditionally, that would mean the end of their industry.  If we work together we can find ways to benefit both the self-published and the published.  This may lead to other reforms such as agreements where a composer's work is sold or given back to them if the company chooses to take it out of print.   I believe that having a positive relationship with publishers is essential for composers and conductors to have continued access to quality works of all kinds.  
I do not believe that the Choralnet marketplace will become dominated by large publishers.  They are already strapped for cash.  That is why I think it should be composer driven.  At a local electronics store that sells computers there is a Hewlitt Packard sales rep that comes in and helps sell HP products to customers.    He doesn't get paid by the store and he doesn't make a commision.  But by being available to customers and helping sell the products he helps his company make a profit.  Published composers would act that way to help sell their works for their publisher.  Does that make sense?  That is how I see it working. 
on February 9, 2012 9:24pm
     Hello, Jack: I can't thank you enough for the hard work and the enormous amount of time you have put into this project, and for the vision you have.
     I am glad to participate, though I have to admit to feeling somewhat daunted by the complexity of the two marketplaces and their various rules and procedures. I also think that as it is, there is nothing to stop any visitor to the site from copying our PDFs and running with them, so to speak, thus obviating the whole idea of a "marketplace" (if it is just a giveaway). Perhaps I am unduly cynical here. I understand that there are ways of watermarking PDFs, but not on the program that I have (Adobe Reader; I think I have to buy Adobe Acrobat for an additional $99). I note that many of the posted scores in the Composers' Marketplace do not have watermarks (I have not looked at every single one). Thus they are vulnerable to theft, as are my own scores.
     The field of music publication is in tremendous flux at this point. I can't guess whether publishers, or how many of them, might participate in a project to print/ship hard copies and figure out the money distribution issues. I think most publishers are struggling to survive, a position from which companies do not always struggle to accept new processes that impact their own profit margin.
      These are, as the old Chinese curse goes, "interesting times."
      Meanwhile, best wishes to you and to this community in finding the best way forward.
      Melinda Bargreen
on February 10, 2012 6:19am
Piracy is a serious problem.  Composers that are concerned and can not watermark their works can put up partial scores.  I would leave out a single middle page.  I appreciate and agree with all of your critiques.  After you pioneers have blazed the I anticipate getting a simple interface for upload.  The Showcase/Market will remain an issue until we get the real Market going.  Having a Showcase as a culling of a large pool of works that doesn't exist may seem backward.  It is. When there are a thousand works in the Big Market, several hundred pieces in the Showcase will make more sence.  Thanks for commenting. knowing that someone is reading is keeping me going. We need a like/approve/I agree/Yah baby button in communities so people could let me and other volunteers know we are not "invisible").
on February 10, 2012 8:21am
I also want to remind you, Jack, and the rest of you that we are having an ePublishing Reading Session at the NWACDA Conference in Seattle next month, and one of the things that will be highlighted is the Showcase. I am very glad it is up and running in time for that reading session, thanks to you, Jack. Whether we get 5 or 100 people at the session, it is a start, and the pieces and links will be all posted on the NWACDA web site. I know we have quite a few composers from the Northwest who will be around, so I hope you will all come. It will be on Friday, March 16 at 1 PM, probably at Plymouth Congregational. The information will be on the NWACDA web site when that is settled. I will also be writing more about the details of the session the week before, and post a link on this forum to that info.
on February 10, 2012 10:47am
Hi Jack!
Money has very little to do with my compositions.  The whole reason why I write music is that I have no choice; it's either compose or decompose!  My hope is to make what I write educational and/or uplifting to others.  Every composer has a terrific opportunity to make the world better than it was before s/he was born.  That is why history has kept track of so many of them.
The GREAT majority of people on ChoralNet is educated and fully understands personal integrity, whether they are religious or not.  If a "pirate" steals intellectual property, it is s/he who will see a thief evey time s/he sees himself/herself in a mirror.  What greater punishment is there than to know that you are dishonest; therefore, good for nothing? 
I am unafraid of pirates on ChoralNet.  My music is for sale and I'm hoping to be somewhat compensated for the eons of time I have spent in creating it, but I'll still live even if I'm not compensated.  Let's say that a school burns down and that its choral music library is lost.  Perhaps this news will be announced on ChoralNet.  If the choral director has no funds but needs music, I'll be glad to send him/her multiple copies of one or more pieces, as long as s/he will inform me of any performances of my gift(s).  A performance will be my payment.  If anyone reading this epistle knows of a famous composer(s) in music history who did not serve children with his/her music, in one way or another, please let me know. 
Jack, YOU are a one man GANG!  Although you may be unaware that you're establishing a legacy, my ChoralNet colleagues are not!  My only suggestion is that you work hard to keep things simple and allow your visions to grow a bit at a flowers.  My point is that TRUST is necessary when any building process of anything worthwhile is involved.  Whenever money gets involved, complexity arises.  Whenever money is essential, I believe that your colleagues will contribute to a good idea or cause.
on February 10, 2012 11:19am
Thanks, Wallace! I loved this post. Compose or decompose...  I spent years very gradually decomposing in that area and in effect as a person. Picking it back up has been like finding that elusive puzzle piece, covered in a decade's worth of dust bunnies, under a very heavy couch. I'm still dusting it off, but it does well towards the copmpletion of my picture.
I'm am not worried about piracy either. In fact, though compensation is ideal, I'd love to log into YouTube 10 years from now and see a beautiful well-sung result of an unscrupulous director using my piece. I'm just not into the business end of this field. I write because it brings me joy to use the girfts that God has bestowed on me to encourage or provoke thought in others, towards a greater love and understanding of His message.
That said-- for those who are concerned and do not have watermark capabilites, leaving out a page or 2 as Jack suggested, or even including "Perusal COPY" in the title subtext would probably help.. Just my 2 cents :-)
on February 10, 2012 3:39pm
For Windows users, adding a watermark is only a moderate pain with PDFCreator.  (I repeat myself from earlier posts.)  To see the effect, check any of my posted files in the showcase.
Since there's a little setup pain involved, I'll try to figure out a list of instructions for the tech-savvy Windows user (no comments about oxymorons from the Apple/Linux crowd).  For the rest, if you can send me an attached PDF, I should be able to add my watermark and send back the result in short order.
- I'm told that unless we lock the resulting document, the watermark can be stripped by someone who wants to bother.
- I don't promise to lose sleep or give up my day job to take care of the flood of requests.
- No claims to perfection.  If it doesn't look right, we can always try again.
- If you have an alternative watermark file, I should be able to incorporate it, but it may take me a bit to figure out the details.  The watermark file should be a PDF of the appropriate page size.
on February 10, 2012 4:12pm
I've added a "sample file with watermark" PDF to the library at  It's Jay Vosk's "I Am Come Into My Garden..." PDF with a "do not copy" mark.  (Hope that's OK, Jay - it was the first unmarked PDF I saw.  Your original is untouched.)
on February 10, 2012 2:37pm
Wallace, thanks, love your insight. Of course I want to be paid - after all I have my study loans and mortgage to pay and would like to be able to feed my family, but yes I trust my fellow musicians. As long as by far the most people know they are trusted, they become trustworthy. It all has to do with feelings of self-worth and being proud to be trusted. I definitely feel that way myself.
And yes, Jack, you are doing such a terrific job, I've already pointed our library out to most of the conducters I know! Keep up with the good work!
on February 10, 2012 12:39pm
Thanks for creating the showcase/marketplace. I've already made some important connections that will lead to purchases and perhaps some commissions. 
I find perusal copies the most helpful, even partials. I'm text-driven, so English translations of non-English texts make a composer's postings more attractive. Because of the volume of pieces I'm perusing, buying single copies at a buck each from numerous composers seems like a real hassle, so I'm tending to bypass those composers in favor of those who post perusal copies.
Please keep the showcase composer-driven. While sites like JW Pepper and Sheet Music Plus are valuable, the showcase has already provided me with easy access to music that is both "out of the box" and germane to my particular situation.
on February 11, 2012 7:35am
Speaking from the "traditional publishing" side...
Andrew is right; few composers can make a living solely from publication (If you are one of them, congratulations! :-D).  Almost all of the composers/arrangers I have met have another it editor, professor, music teacher, clinician, choir director, etc. 
With the larger publishers, each new “crop” of pieces tends to be actively promoted for a year or so through reading sessions, etc.  Then when the next new crop appears, the older pieces (while still available through on-line catalogs) tend to fall out of the public eye...and sales tend to drop, as well (unless the piece enjoys major success).  Sometimes, royalty statements may even show a negative amount for a piece (Eeks!)...if a dealer returns unsold copies to the publisher.  So I am pleased with the acceptability of placing published as well as self-published pieces in the Showcase, to bring them “back into the light”, if you will.

With the “Big Marketplace”, however, I doubt that I would post any traditionally published pieces there.  Music dealers are hit by the economy, too (See “Eeks!” above), and some of those same dealers are sponsoring the reading sessions and other promotions for new traditionally published music.  A music dealer in my area stopped sponsoring reading sessions and stopped carrying print music because it was not profitable enough.  A couple of other dealers stepped up to continue some of the reading sessions, and personally, I would prefer to support those dealers by directing sales toward them, such as with the "Link to Purchase" pages.  So I look at the "Big Marketplace" as an opportunity to post self-published pieces, which might be "outside the box" of traditional publishing.

Thanks again to Jack for his hard work.

P.S.  Hildigunnnur is now my favorite Icelandic composer, too.  Beautiful recordings! :-)
on February 11, 2012 8:04am
When distributers return copies to the publisher you get a negative royalty balance? Do you have to pay?  
on February 11, 2012 8:40am
I think it varies from publisher to publisher.  In order to encourage dealers to buy the pieces, some publishers allow them to return unsold copies.  So initially, you may receive royalties on the amount of copies the dealers buy...but there is the understanding that if they return any copies, the royalty amount for those pieces is then subtracted.  I don't think a publisher would make a composer write out a check to pay it back, but it would come off future royalties if the composer does not have other pieces selling to counteract it.  So even a purchase from a conductor of a little choir of 6-12 makes a difference! :-)
on February 11, 2012 9:08am
Generally publishers pay royalties on a delayed basis so that most or all of any returns have already been received and calculated before the initial check to the composer is written. Accordingly, having a negative balance of actual royalties is something I have never seen in nearly forty years in the business. As an example, one publisher pays my royalties at the end of the first calendar quarter for the preceding calendar year. By that time they will have received and debited to my account the amounts of any returns they are likely to get.
It makes sense, at least if you're still involved in the traditional publication business model.
Dan Gawthrop
on February 11, 2012 9:57am
Hi, Dan!

Glad to hear you’ve never been “in the red” with any of your pieces.

I just make sure I never buy TOO large a box of ice cream sandwiches with my royalties, so that I don’t have to return any to the store. :-D
on February 11, 2012 10:58am
I generally buy my ice cream sandwiches one at a time. A whole box full would be out of reach of most of my royalty checks! ;-)
on February 12, 2012 10:14am
lol!  I'm with you, brother! :-)
But if the Showcase/Marketplace takes off, maybe someday we can all congregate and splurge for an ice cream party somewhere...(I nominate Michael McGlynn to host us in Ireland! :-D).
on February 12, 2012 10:25am
...and I nominate Hildigunnur to bring the ice... (Anybody have a hand-crank ice cream maker?...We might still be on a bit of a budget...)
on February 12, 2012 1:32pm
whee - I'll bring some ice cream! :D
on February 12, 2012 2:29pm
... I have an ice cream maker ... and I can find a European adapter plug!
on February 12, 2012 3:07pm
Great!  And if Jaakko M. is listening or lurking, I'd like to request some of those wonderful Finnish berries for toppings.  I was in Finland a looooooong time ago.  The only thing I learned how to say in Finnish was: "Seisinko yaatalaan, kiitos." or something like that ("May I have ice cream, please." :-D!).  Sorry if it's misspelled, Jaakko...I learned it "by rote".
on February 12, 2012 11:13pm
Phonetically accurate enough to be understandable; the actual spelling is "Saisinko jäätelön, kiitos".
I may be going out on a limb here, but discussing how to conduct transactions in frozen comestibles in Finnish seems to be a wee bit off topic.
Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Helsinki, Finland
on February 13, 2012 3:50am
Hi, Jaakko!
Thanks for the language clarification.  You're right, it's a bit off topic; I was just thinking of something positive which could result from the success of the Marketplace. 
Have a great week! :-)
on February 11, 2012 8:26am
thank you - happy to hear :) (I have loads more ;)
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