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Introducing the MusicSpoke marketplace

After many years of frustration with different aspects of the traditional publishing industry, my wife (who is an entrepreneur) said, "Let's not just fix this for you. Let's fix it for everyone." So, we got an initial round of investor funding and created the MusicSpoke marketplace. http://musicspoke.com/
 
We offer composers 70% of the revenue, you retain the copyright, and you get connected to the people who buy your music for ASCAP/BMI reporting and general interaction. In addition, you get paid monthly and can log in and see everyone that bought your music.
 
We are in a period of great change in the publishing world. I do not intend MusicSpoke to be a competitor to this forum. We are all trying lots of different things right now, and MusicSpoke can serve as a compliment to this forum. I'd love to hear your thoughts and reactions. I'm especially interested in ways you think we might improve the site. 
 
Kurt Knecht
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on August 21, 2014 2:15pm
Four words: God Bless your wife! : )
 
One question, just to be clear: given that composers retain the copyright, does that mean that MusicSpoke does NOT expect exclusivity? (We can sell music both through MusicSpoke AND through websites such as SheetMusicPlus?)
 
Any new marketplace for composers is a Godsend. And the website looks quite user-friendly.
 
I'll contact you off-list (perhaps through MusicSpoke) to introduce myself. I would be interested in submitting music for consideration.
 
Best,
--Donald Sanborn III
on August 21, 2014 3:29pm
Kurt,
 
This looks like a fantastic idea! I've yet to publish with a publishing company, and I'm very concerned about the prospect of giving up my copyright! That's been a big sticking point for me...so it seems like independent publishing might be the way to go. And this looks like a great tool for that!

My comments (and maybe I'll have more as I get more familiar with it):
- It looks pretty snazzy! Very professional. However, I can recognize it as the design from a specific website creator (one that I tried to use myself, though I can't remember which one). Unless I'm just barking up the wrong tree and it's just similarity, then that is something that sticks out when I view a website.
- Where do all the pictures come from? I like them a lot, but they confused me at first, because they are very stylistically unique and that style is consistent across composers. I initially assumed they would vary by composer, so when the second and third composers I viewed had the same type of pictures as the first, I got confused!
- I'd love to see more easily accessible links to composers' own webpages. Some were were hard to find, some were non-existent!

Again, fantastic concept. Thank you. This list has been only my constructive criticism!
I'll let you know if I have any more thoughts.
Cheers!
:) evan
on August 23, 2014 8:29am
Evan,
 
Thanks for the thoughts. Let me see if I can answer a few of your questions.
 
The initial roll out is a wordpress site, but we are going after investor funding in order to develop something more sophisticated.
 
The pictures are certainly one of the most controversial choices. They may or may not stay. Quite frankly, they are there because we believe that all of the other websites for purchasing music are super ugly. I think the navigation and confusion will settle down as we are able to add more features and more searchability.
 
We are working on the composer pages. That's definitely on the list.
 
Again, thanks for all the thoughts,
 
Kurt 
on August 22, 2014 8:05am
Hello Kurt,
 
I like very much the general idea of the MusicSpoke website. It is clean and easy to manipulate. I like it so much I feel it is worthwhile giving you the feedback you asked for.
 
1. Images. I agree totally with Evan about the multi-use cookie-cutter images. For example, that which accompanies a rather nice setting of that noble hymn Be Thou My Vision should probably not be accompanied by a rack-full of vegetables. I’ll put it somewhat bluntly- a traditional hard-copy publisher would take considerable time to find an appropriate image, so why not a digital publisher? Perhaps you could have a protected bank of images from which composers themselves could choose an image, or perhaps composers themselves could submit a non-copyright (or copyright purchased) image. Some of the soundcloud images work quite well, perhaps because they are not being used to the same extent as the cover to sell something.  There’s a lot of truth in the old adage “You can tell a book by its cover”!
 
2. Searching by Mood , or Temi  (?). Where are ‘moods’? and what does TEMI mean?
 
3. Virtually all Western choral music can be placed into two significant categories Accompanied, and a cappella. Very often conductors are looking specifically for one or the other. Perhaps an initial button/filter could define these two genres. A conductor looking for specifically a cappella music would be wasting a lot of time having to search through an entire repertoire to find such music.
 
4. I like the ‘review’. This begins to address the ‘filter’ which I commented on at another time– the need to have some way of separating the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, which is what traditional publishers we in essence forced to do in order to compete in the marketplace.  Maybe a carrot is needed… (“Please help us to improve this site by giving us your thoughts on this piece”)
 
5. The term Popular appears at the top of selected voicings. My first though was that it was a specific category (Pop). Probably it really translates to Best Selling so why not call it that? ‘Popular’ implies that the next category would be ‘Not Popular’, which may not be the best notion.
 
6. I know a lot of conductors dislike SAMPLED sound clips. I think they lower the quality of anyone’s website, as they proclaim, “no one has sung my music yet!”. Better all round that composers get out there and find someone – even pay someone – to perform and record their piece before (self) publishing it. I have made it a rule always to hear performances – live or recorded – before publishing; I need that in order to put that final two or three percent into the piece to make it ‘really good’!
 
7. Can you make tags voicing specific? When I select Women’s (music), but also click on, for example, the “accompanied” or “brass quintet” tag, I do not necessarily get accompanied women’s music, or women’s music accompanied by brass quintet, and for the latter I get SATB music, which is a bit of a waste of time.
 
8. Sign in – okay, but how do I get an account in the first place. Button needed? Otherwise I can not sign in– which I can't presently.
 
9. I do not see any way on the website that a composer can upload music. I KNOW it is possible, and so wonder – after all the talk of serving composers – why there is not ready access to it from the site.
 
That’s it for now. As soon as I can find out how to upload a composition or two I’ll do just that and give you some more feedback!
 
Bravo for the site– I KNOW how much work goes into something like this, and I’m convinced MusicSpoke is a potentially great site.
 
Thanks,
 
Donald
 
on August 23, 2014 8:52am
Donald,
 
Thanks so much for all this feedback! It's so helpful for us being less than a month old.
 
1. Agreed. We are still working out the thoughts on the pictures and adjusting. We've already changed a few. The main thing with the pictures was just to make a beautiful looking website. I think the other websites for searching for music are ugly. I think the basic principle we are trying to maintain is that searching for music can also be a visual beautiful experience. The execution definitely needs work and adjustment, and I really like your idea of letting the composer pick.
 
2. Thanks for this. I'll get that fixed.
 
3. I think this is a great idea. Already passed that along.
 
4. Yes. Review and ratings will be essential as the site grows.
 
5. You are correct on the "popular". It is best selling. 
 
6. I have tried to fiercely avoid using midi files for any of the samples. The few exceptions made were for people who had scheduled premieres so that I knew I could replace the midi file as soon as possible.
 
7. I will ask the dev guy about that.
 
8 & 9. This is a tough one that we wrestle with constantly. I don't know where we will finally land. It may be that one day in the future, we will just let anyone sign in and upload music. Then the review and rating system would be the filter for quality. Other people are already doing that. This community has that option, and I fully support it. JW Pepper and Sheet Music Plus also have it, but I think it is less successful in some ways. That is, ultimately, they get fed by the publishers, so they don't promote those sites. At least, I've never seen them. This is one of the reasons we are going after investor funding. We want to be at the conferences letting people try it out and promoting composers. I will say also, that I don't think of this as a publishing house. It is a marketing tool for composers. As we began, I felt it was important to start with composers who were already established and published. I didn't want - at least at the start - to have a free for all. So, I went after composers that I knew through Jo-Michael Scheibe or through Walton. Someone of your reputation would certainly be welcome, and I would love to hear your thoughts and advice on how to expand. 
 
You can send me an email at notes@musicspoke.com if you want to talk about getting works on the site.
 
Kurt
on August 23, 2014 8:03pm
Hi Kurt,
 
Your website seems very promising, and potentially quite useful to those of us who are conductors (as well as composers).
 
1. I think the search system can be largely improved. The tags are potentially beneficial, but I think it would be nice to have a clean categorized search system (which doesn't have to exclude tags). For example, you could start with just a few options such as: search by - voicing, category, sacred/secular, accompanied/a cappella, all, etc.... Under the selected category one could then select another limiting search such as folk song, or spiritual, etc.... My examples are just off the top of my head and could no doubt be improved on with careful planning. With such a system, a person could narrow down the search in a more organized way than is presented now. I realize that it is possible to navigate the maze of pieces in the current system, but it comes across as disorganized when you select a voicing and then see 80 tags (just guessing, I didn't count them), when they could be organized into a few categories and thus made more easily accessible. This would especially be useful when your pieces number in the 100s and 1000s.
 
2. The pictures didn't bother me, but I think the thumbnails for the pieces could be much smaller and thus more efficient to the searcher. I personally would much rather have more pieces per page than is currently presented and less pages to have to select.
 
3. I would definitely be interested in being included in your website, but am a relatively unknown composer, depsite having received many performances (by university, high school, middle school, elementary, and church choirs) of various works. I sent an email to you from the site like you posted, but I would like to know: What does it take for someone who isn't "established" to get in? [I understand the need for the vetting process and am in support of quality control (subjective to an extent though it may be).]
 
By the way, your piece "Esa Einai El Heharim" is very nice.
 
God Bless,
Michael Sandvik
on August 25, 2014 12:16pm
Thanks so much, Michael. I never received the email from the website. We are actually already working on all the things you suggested. Let me head to your website and send you a private email from there.
 
Kurt
on August 25, 2014 12:43pm
Kurt, I also submitted a query email on the website last week.  If you did not get it, please let me know.  Thanks.   -Greg Bartholomew
on August 25, 2014 1:21pm
Greg, I didn't get that. Can you please resend it to notes@musicspoke.com? Thanks!
on August 25, 2014 2:04pm
Kurt,
  This community is here for the benefit of composers.  Feel free to discus your new business with us and share the details of your product.  Tell us about new products just be sure it is a discussion and not just spam.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 26, 2014 7:39am
Thanks, Jack. Also, many thanks for all the work you do to promote new choral music!
on August 26, 2014 8:19am
Hi Kurt - and greetings from the UK!
 
I'm very interested in your new enterprise, and have just sent you a note via your website.  
 
Best of luck with this initiative, which seems to ascribe more value to the work of composers, and aims to promote interaction with conductors and performers.
 
Gordon
(I'm just back from our British Choral Conductors' Convention, and am weighing up the possibility of coming out to an ACDA event next year!)
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