artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
So there is Hiveworks, which is a creator-owned comic collective; it looks like there revenue comes from advertising, and they have various mentoring services and so on.

Could something similar work with sheet music publishing?

When I've spoken to traditional publishers, they've generally not been willing to talk about the Creative Commons thing. From their perspective, publishing something that people are allowed to photocopy, and could even reproduce themselves by downloading the work from online, is no way to make a living.

I think this is a misunderstanding of the market for deadtree format sheet music:

1) When I am performing regularly, I frequently buy scores that are in the public domain, because printing things at home is annoying or inconvenient or, in the end, not much cheaper.

2) There are still a number of people who only really buy sheet music by post or in actual shops; while this is a shrinking market, the problems of e-scores (readers are expensive and run out of battery; you can't write on electronic scores anywhere near as easily as you can paper ones with a pencil, or draw pictures of the conductor with a dragon's head for that matter; nobody has really got page turns right; DRM of any kind at all is really annoying if you're buying a piece of music thinking your choir might sing it again in 5 or 10 years) are not really going away quickly yet, and in the meantime, fewer people who own computers have access to a printer at home.

3) In terms of choral music, at least, you can charge a bit more for a "photocopiable resource": I've seen some publishers experimenting with this with the Christian Copyright Licensing Initiative. (The difference between that and CC by-SA? CC by-SA requires no admin on the part of the consumer, and rather less on the part of the composer, too. CCLI is an awkward workaround, and it shows.)

Further, when people go to download music from e.g. the Choral Public Domain Library or IMSLP, they're usually looking for something they already know to be in the public domain. When they go to a bricks-and-mortar or even an online sheet music shop, they're looking for new stuff. My work is new -- but it's on CPDL. Oh, and Lulu, which also isn't somewhere people go to look for sheet music.

Just as e-books have not, in fact, meant that people stop buying deadtree format books, I don't think electronic scores are going to kill the deadtree format music library just yet.

I think it's also a misunderstanding of the nature of copyright and copyright infringement. In general, if someone is going to photocopy my music, they're going to do it anyway, and sortof hope they don't get caught.

Anyway, I am wondering whether some kind of collectively-owned publishing house which explicitly allows composers to choose Creative Commons licenses -- or not, if the composer in question would rather not -- would be a good idea.

I suppose this is just more fleshing out of this idea about a print-on-demand music publisher. The difference between that and this? Collective ownership, and a presence (in due course) in bricks-and-mortar sheet music shops where they exist. (I don't think most of the existing small sheet music publishers do print-on-demand -- I think they do a bulk order from a music reprographics company, and then warehouse it and distribute. I know of one print-on-demand music reprographics company that also does distribution, which isn't cheap, but a co-op might be a good way to manage the cost.)

The thing about print-on-demand is that without the warehousing costs, and with distribution being outsourced, you don't necessarily have to play the crappy gatekeeping game of only having a certain "standard" of composer, either (and very often this is more about an old boys' network and the perceived necessity of going for a certain style, than anything else). You can still have the equivalent of whoever it is that decides to send a catalogue showcasing certain repertoire to the brick-and-mortar shops, print that when they order it, and also have ten thousand "long tail" pieces of music that only get printed when someone requests them -- only now, they can request them from brick-and-mortar shops, too. Further, if you have a decent online shop with decent search engine optimisation etc, you can use the sales figures from that to predict what to send to the brick-and-mortar shops; and since it's a composer-owned co-op you can also ask composers to give you some of their social media stats etc (strictly on an opt-in basis, of course) and add some of the more popular ones there to the deadtree catalogue, so that people like me who are mostly focused on free downloads and Patreon can still have offline representation.

I do think hybrid models like this are a way that the publishing industry can stop eating itself, and that artist ownership is likely to be beneficial. However, I do not know how to get there from here, I don't even know many other composers who use CC by-SA, and I'm supposed to be doing a PhD, not starting companies.
artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)
I currently put some of my sheet music on Lulu so that people who prefer a professionally-printed copy to download can order it.

It's also handy for sending Patreon rewards to those supporters who have subscribed to printed copies. It's a bit of a pain because there's significant delay to printing compared to me doing it at home, but I can get saddle-stitched booklets from Lulu and I am rubbish at hand-binding booklets myself: my printer only goes up to A4, so I either have to make everything tiny, or deal with tape and so on. It isn't good. The quality at Lulu is much better.


Lulu is a rather spammy. They charge what they do and then offer discounts via codes they send to your e-mail inbox so often that gmail has started filing them as spam for me.

They charge an absolute fortune for shipping, and it increases per copy, rather than per shipment. My guess is they're trying to factor some kind of per-item quality control into their shipping costs? I dunno. I just know that if you send 10 4-page booklets in real life, it doesn't cost 10x as much as sending 1 of them. With larger items I'd understand doing the shipping this way, but most of my items are small, and I'm generally ordering relatively small quantities too.

They don't include VAT in displayed prices, which means that between that and the shipping it's easy to end up spending twice as much as you intended to.

Lulu isn't really meant to be a sheet music seller and so there's no way for people to search my work there by number of voices, or whether it's accompanied, or whatever. And it's not somewhere people are going to go looking for sheet music. Some of this I could maybe fix by putting more links on my website, as realistically that's where most people are going to be when they decide to buy my music, but still -- it would be better, I think, to be publishing in a place that people look when they are looking for sheet music.

There are music print-on-demand services like Black Ribbon Select, but they tend to charge monthly; and in the months I'm putting a hymn online, ie a single page I can print myself, I wouldn't be ordering. It doesn't look as if the music ends up in a searchable site that consumers can browse.

There are other allegedly print-on-demand sites but they tend to be selling, er, downloads you print yourself. Completely unnecessary as my music is online for free. I am absolutely committed to the principle behind this, so that's no good.

There are publishing houses that focus on works that are already in the public domain; in theory, they could print and sell any of my CC-by-SA works and I wouldn't see a penny. I don't have a problem with this: they still can't (legally) prevent copying, and it's not like they'd have much of a sales plan given the stuff is available online.

I think what I'd like is something like Lulu that is less "oh, you mean I'm actually paying THAT much?!" and more sheet-music oriented; something that explicitly promotes the work of people who also make their music available for download for free; something that both has its own community feel (so people can search the site for choral music on whatever subject, and so on) and also offers some kind of widget/button so that people can add things to their basket there from my site.

I am realistically never going to get around to doing this; but I do think there could be a market for it. Yes, I know sheet music apps are becoming a thing, but a) large screens are breakable and small ones have too many page turns b) paper doesn't tend to run out of battery, so I think paper sheet music is probably still going to be a thing for a while, the way printed books are going to be a thing for a while even though we also ahve e-books.


artsyhonker: a girl with glasses and purple shoulder-length hair (Default)

September 2017



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