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Amount of Payment for Original Choral Composition

I've gotten some great answers for a recent question - Thank you!  Getting more specific... For a first time choral arranger ("unknown"), sharing my unpublished, original song/choral piece with church choir directors after copyrighting, I have no idea what to charge.  I understand there's a wide range... Would that range be, say, between $100 and $300--or more :) -- or more like between $20 and $80?  The choirs are from congregations numbering from 30 to 2,000. The song is a 4 minute, simple but lovely SATB arrangement with piano and optional cello.  Thank you for helping me navigate through this new area!
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on October 4, 2013 4:31am
In my experience, there are various composers who offer their works directly, therefore bypassing a publisher.  Two that come to mind are Harold Stover and Stephen Paulus (although the Paulus website is not operating quite the same at this time). They generally offer their works at the same price that you would pay a publisher, say a price per copy, or simply a flat rate and then you make the photocopies.  
on October 4, 2013 5:15am
I would say between $20 and $80. Most church choirs are on a shoestring budget, made worse by the facts of declining church attendance in general, and less financial suppprt for the choir with the addition of praise team-based 2nd services for many churches. Add to this that many of us receive up to 30% discount on the purchase of published music through the use of a distributor, and you'll find that although we never want to undervalue your work at all, we are trying to survive - and succeeding - on tiny budgets without breaking the copyright laws only by spending carefully. Another approach might be to base the fee on the size of the congregation. I've never heard of this being done, but perhaps it's a way of receiving a larger return for your work at least from churches with larger budgets. (As long as permission to make all the copies necessary is included so that the proportionally larger choir is able to have as many copies as it needs.) I have seen many church choir conductors here writing in with questions, and saying their choir numbers eight people, or even fewer. Mine, at 21, seems to be on the larger end. Many of the very large churches (mega-churches) these days seem to be those which have gone with an all praise-team format, although not all.

All the best to you! Thank you for composing for the Church. I hope you do find it possible to earn your bread and butter, or some of it, through composing for church choirs! And that your work will be highly valued, and you'll find the best way to both value it and to get it disseminated widely, at the same time.

on October 4, 2013 6:13am
One composer we deal with that sells his own music usually charges a flat fee of, I think $150 for a permanent license for his compositions. Others I have dealt with may charge a smaller fee, but then another fixed rate per copy that the buyer will produce (typically a buck or two). This compares with the way licensing out of print pieces usually works. Typically, the price is less than purchasing published scores, but then you must make your own copies.
on October 4, 2013 6:22am
Congratulations on your new work! I recommend perusing a sheet music store like JW Pepper or Sheet Music Plus and comparing prices on works that are of similar instrumentation and duration to yours. Typically works like this are sold per copy for the number of scores needed for performance (ex: $2.00 per score for a choir of 20 plus pianist, conductor, and cello would be 23 scores needed).
Good luck!
Jake Runestad
composer & conductor
on October 4, 2013 7:11am
Hello "R"!
A good question.
These are a few random ideas from someone who has been publishing for over half a century. 
There has been considerable discussion on ChoralNet about exactly what ‘publishing’ means. It would be worth your while, I suggest, to look this discussion up. In a nutshell, the consensus seems to be that as soon as a piece of music has been put into print it is essentially ‘published’- that is, self-published.  If you should be fortunate in having it published by a commercial publisher it would then be traditionally published. “Sharing an unpublished…choral piece” is, then, a bit of an oxymoron, because it would then definitely be considered published!
You would then be ‘sharing’ it presumably for a fee, so you in effect are selling it. I can only guess that your particular piece of music, being 4 minutes long, would run from 8 to 12 pages.  Have a look around to see what octavos of this length sell for. Generally speaking, the sale price of choral octavos is related to their length, although other factors such as (more complex) instrumentation might raise the price somewhat.  A ballpark figure would be somewhere between $2 and $4 per printed copy.  PDFs are often sold anywhere from a third to half the price of printed copies.  This means that a choir of 20 should be expected to purchase your octavo from between $40 to $80, so your second figure (unfortunately!) is right on the mark.  If the work is also to be sung by a congregation you might consider giving the church a blanket license to print copies of a one-page vocal score. This is often based on $1 per congregation member, but you should look further into this as I have done this on only very few occasions.
Hope this helps. Whatever you do get for your piece, it will pale by comparison with the absolute thrill of hearing a piece of music you have written, sung for the first time.
Oh yes, do put you full name on your music!
Good luck,
on October 4, 2013 7:59am
You might check Abbie Betinis' website.  She self-publishes and, for many of her pieces, gives the purchaser the option of buying hard-copies or a license to make copies from a pdf. 
Good luck,
Kate Thickstun
Pacific Women's Choir
San Diego, CA
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