Monday, November 17, 2014

Music PublishingTrends, Part Six

Today I am really pleased to continue our series with a guest post by Deborah Simpkin-King writing about Project: Encore. If you haven't heard about this great initiative I hope you will read this post, visit the website and, please, share this with your friends in the choral world. If you are tired of just seeing the hundreds of vanilla offerings in the 3-4 minute octavo genre browser bin, here is a resource filled with awesome repertory delight: great texts and great music!

Here is today's guest blog:

Out of the Marvelous Musical Mayhem:  PROJECT : ENCORE™
~ universal portal for high-quality, post-premiere choral compositions ~

Through the series entitled “Music Publishing Trends,” Paul is providing a clear window on the marvelously vibrant (and sometimes overwhelming!) world of new music dissemination.  As a performer with deep-seated belief in the necessity for the prophetic voices of our composers, I resonate strongly with many of Paul’s perspectives, and identify these two very exciting streams of creativity that have emerged increasingly over the past 25 years:

  • Mushrooming popularity of ‘doing new music,’ often even taking the forms of premieres, commissions, and composer competitions.  
  • Emergence of a plethora of means of disseminating new music - including self-publishing through individual composer web sites, co-op publishing (see Part Four in this series), and innovative approaches to incorporated publishing (see Part Three re See-A-Dot) - all made possible by the advent of music software (see Parts One and Two).

At this point, most choral ensembles serious about their art make some serious nod in the direction of ‘new music.’  (This, of course, does not apply to those particularly brand-identifying with ‘early music,’ etc.)  Bringing new music into existence is becoming increasingly ‘the thing to do!’  -and this is very good!!

Deborah Simpkin-King

~ Our Next Challenge ~

With so many options, so many resources, so many places to turn for repertoire, how is a conductor who is motivated to find fresh material (even perhaps a new composer to commission) to sort through it all?  And how, for that matter, is a composer to make h/herself heard amongst the din?  Even thirty years ago, most conductors would have turned almost exclusively to traditional publishers, for material to perform; most composers, to a publisher to contract and promote.*

Some avowed repertoire geeks will actually take delight in plowing through mountains of scores!   (Convicted!)  -but even for those of us so predisposed, there is never enough time.  And perhaps some have more sanely balanced lives . . .  ; /  Information overload simply IS a modern-day reality.  So, in the midst of all of this . . .

How do we identify/evaluate today’s emerging Choral Canon?
When the next major Masterwork is written, how will we know?

The founding mission underlying PROJECT : ENCORE™ (P:E) is that of addressing these very issues, with the specific focus of spinning high-quality, post-premiere choral compositions into performances even after the ‘premiere cachet’ has been spent.  The historical genesis of P:E has recently been told in the See-A-Dot October Newsletter, so I’ll not repeat it here.  

Allow me to clarify what PROJECT : ENCORE is not:  It is not a publisher, though it includes some published works.  It is not a promoter of a specific style, voicing, length or difficulty level, and includes compositions across all such parameters.  It is not a competitor with publishers, co-ops, or self-publishing composers.**

P:E does not seek to become another co-op, or composer collective.
Rather, P:E works with ALL (co-ops, individuals, collectives, publishers)  
in the evaluation and dissemination of strong choral voices!

What makes P:E different from a collective?  Objective review.  There is no commitment to all the work of any composer or group of composers.  In fact, it has happened a number of times that a composer has some submissions accepted and some not!  All identifying names and indicia are redacted before the scores go to review.

Review process:  P:E compositions have been objectively (blindly) reviewed by our high-level team of reviewers, each of whom has a significant programming commitment to new music, each of whom is a highly noted conductor internationally.  The perspective from which P:E Reviewers are asked to evaluate each composition is one of expansiveness beyond their own performance needs and style preferences.  Each composition reviewed must be evaluated as ‘high quality’ and ‘worthy of repeat performances’ by at least two of three P:E reviewers for acceptance into the database.  

Submission process:  A composer may submit up to four scores per year, one per quarter.  Each score is sent to three of our reviewers.  At least two ‘thumbs up’ are necessary for acceptance.  The vetting is a significant one:  approximately 60% acceptance rate.  The entire process is quarter-annum, including public announcements of new acceptances.  Each composer has h/her own P:E page, where partial score (composer’s choice of how much) and full sound file, along with composer biography and contact information are presented.  Our job is to facilitate the connection, upon which, composer and conductor undertake purchase and acquisition independently.  We have no further role, and receive no fees from any parties.  (-though donations to help defray expenses are not turned away)

Who are these reviewers?  Our highly-valued, necessarily ‘unsung’ heroes remain anonymous for the same reason that I, the Director and Founder of P:E am not a reviewer, myself:  complete avoidance of both conflict of interest, and appearance of conflict of interest.  Enthusiastic composers often share their excitement in making a submission with me (which is such fun!!) - and it is never a problem, since I am not a reviewer.  Perhaps, someday, when we have 20 or 25 reviewers, we’ll think about making the list public.  Should that take place, you will recognize every one!  They truly are our heroes, contributing their time quarterly for no reason beyond their contribution to the the Choral Art.  Many more than I are in your debt, Dear Reviewers.  

~ Here to stay ~

PROJECT : ENCORE™ was given birth through the 501c3 organization of Schola Cantorum on Hudson, which continues to support its cost.  It is, however, in every other way, an independent entity.  Currently ongoing is the creation of a fully-functional URL (currently in existence, but not with full function of the URL as housed within the Schola site).  ETA:  March of 2015.

From the start, P:E was established with longevity and credibility in mind.  Reviewers agree to Confidentiality.  Intellectual trademark was sought and granted.  Logo was created and copywritten.  We are here to stay, and believe the function of PROJECT : ENCORE is uniquely necessary in our wonderful world of expanding options, providing an artistic ‘good housekeeping seal of quality,’ as it were.  

~ And Beyond That . . . ~

It is exceedingly satisfying each time we see yet another P:E composition receive another performance!  We are five years old, and knowledge of the resource is spreading within the professional community increasingly.  Time to shout ‘Mission accomplished?’  

Well, . . .  There is always more, as the world is always changing and growing and deepening.  -and this is good!  It’s not just ‘encore’ performances, though it is that.  It’s about a mission that embraces the broad array of issues inherent in ever-expanding musical creativity and performance - issues such as performance rights (formerly handled through traditional publishers), promotion and legal sound file presentation (about which many well-intended performers are unaware; just look at YouTube!), etc.  A task force is assembling currently to brainstorm some of these issues.  We are here to stay, and seek to make a positive, and an expanding difference!

-and this is good!

Next submission deadline:  January 15

*My own view is that traditional publishers continue to play a valuable role.  To the extent that the business model may incur new levels of negotation, as suggested by Paul, who among us does not make style and quality associations with various catalogues such as ECS, Santa Barbara, Oxford, Earthsong, etc.  I continue to believe “it takes a village!”

** It is not ‘Deborah’s personal collection of favorite music’ - though I turn to P:E always when programming, and seldom do a concert without at least one P:E work!

Proudly Presenting These Excellent

Adrienne Albert
Ivo Antognini
George Atwell
Eleanor Aversa
David Avshalomov
Greg Bartholomew
David Basden
David W. Batchelor
Ross C. Bernhardt
Abbie Betinis
Éna Brennan
Micaëla Larsen Brown
Jerry Casey
Patrick Castillo
Andrea Clearfield
Steve Cohen
Gilad Cohen
Catherine Dalton
Joy DeCoursey-Porter
Robert Denham
Giuseppe Di Bianco
John S. Dixon
Michael Djupstrom
Melissa Dunphy
Wayne Eastwood
Edward Eicker
Joseph Eidson
Matthew H. Fields
Joshua Fishbein
Alejandro Flórez
Rachel DeVore Fogarty
Howard Frazin
Alec Galambos
Aaron Gervais
Burton Goldstein
Jocelyn Hagen
David Hahn
Jason Heald
William Healy
Bill Heigen
Brian W. Holmes
Pertti Juho Jalava
Kyle T. Jones
Linda Kachelmeier
Michael Kaulkin
Ben Jisoo Kim
Jamie Klenetsky
Peter Knell
Anita Kupriss
Janet Lanier
Thomas Oboe Lee
Christopher M. Lee
Leonard Mark Lewis
Li Kai Han Jeremiah
David Lipten
James Ludwig
Eduardo Andrés Malachevsky
Jerome W. Malek
Norman Mathews
Andrew Robert McBirnie
Robinson McClellan
Donald McCullough
Daniel Mehdizadeh
Graham Meyer
Andrew Miller
Liam Moore
Bob Moore
Anthony Mosakowski
Polina Sergeevna Nazaykinskaya
Loretta K. Notareschi
Nicholas S. Omiccioli
Akmal Parwez
Donald Patriquin
Samuel Pellman
Allan Robert Petker
Malina Rauschenfels
Paul Reale
Richard Rice
Denice M. Rippentrop
Patrick Rooney
Joseph N. Rubinstein
Jake Runestad
Joshua Saulle
Steven Serpa
Judith Shatin
Karen Siegel
Glenn Simonelli
Sarinda Soponpong
Keane Southard
Adam Steele
Brandon Michael Stewart
Ingrid Stölzel
Hilary Tann
David Evan Thomas
Karen P. Thomas
Reginald Unterseher
Joelle Wallach
Barbara K. Wesby
Roger H. Wesby
Michał Ziółkowski
Mark Zuckerman

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Music Publishing Trends, Part Five

Today in our series is a guest blog from MusicSpoke, a very new company started by talented composer/accompanist Kurt Knecht and his wife, the entrepreneur Jennifer Rosenblatt. This company launched in July of this year and has already attracted composers such as Andrea Ramsey, Dale Trumbore, Connor Koppin, and Timothy Tharaldson. MusicSpoke has turned the traditional model on end- they have taken a totally new course in publishing and their utilization of start-up funding, and other help from a business accelerator, NMotion, based out of Lincoln Nebraska, is brilliant. The rate of royalties for MusicSpoke composers is incredibly high! Here is the guestblog from Kurt:

What if getting your music into the hands of a conductor meant you didn’t have to settle? What if the working relationship between composers and performers  simply…worked?

Paul has done a wonderful job explaining some of the frustrations facing composers today. About a year ago, I was dealing with some of the same frustrations. I felt like I should get a bigger cut from my publishers. I was tired of forfeiting my copyright and seeing pieces “die.” I also wanted a closer connection with the people buying and performing my music.

My wife is a successful entrepreneur. One day she said, “We need to fix this problem.  If we can fix it for you, we should fix it for everyone.” That’s how MusicSpoke was born. Above all, MusicSpoke is about creating community between composers, conductors, and performers.

We began by talking to lots of composers. They all had the same frustrations that Paul so eloquently outlined: giving up copyright and control of original works, not receiving a fair share of the revenue, and no way to find out who is purchasing the music. After speaking with composers, we started talking to conductors. The conductors we talked to had two main complaints. They wanted to be able to hear and see the entire score before purchasing it. Too many had been burned by buying a piece that suddenly split into eight parts on the page you couldn’t see. They also wanted a convenient way to interact with composers. So we built MusicSpoke.

MusicSpoke is a marketplace, not a publisher. We are a tool to build community and help composers get their music into the hands of conductors. We put composers’ scores on a website where conductors can search, hear, see, and purchase the music. Best of all, the conductors can rate the pieces, send messages to the composers, ask questions about the music, or even set up a Skype rehearsal.

We let the composers control their own music. Since we are a marketplace and not a publisher, the composers retain their copyrights. If we use Paul’s $1 analogy, [click here for that discussion in an earlier blogpost] we give the composers 70 cents of every dollar instead of 10 cents. We are using the 30 cents that we keep to maintain the marketplace and promote the composers through advertising and conferences.

This summer, we were accepted into the NMotion Accelerator program in Lincoln, Nebraska that came with seed funding and a 100 day intensive start-up program. In addition to the initial $20,000 funding from the NMotion Accelerator, MusicSpoke was recently awarded a $50,000 prototyping grant from the State of Nebraska. Since launching in July of 2014, MusicSpoke has had over 14,000 page views and has increased sales 245% month over month. We have already expanded into art song and will continue to expand into additional genres.

We are the ideal team to create a new model for composers and conductors. I am a composer, conductor, and performer, so I am personally invested in finding a better solution for all of us. If I were just another composer trying to figure out a solution alone, I wouldn’t have much of a chance. I’m fortunate to be married to a very brilliant lady. My wife and co-founder, Jennifer, has already built a successful, award winning business. Her company, Argyle Octopus Press, is in its fourth year of business and was recently awarded the SBA 2014 Nebraska Small Business of the Year for CD1. She has the business and marketing background to make this idea into a sustainable and thriving alternative to traditional publishing. MusicSpoke is what happens when a musician and an entrepreneur get together. We have already collaborated on other successful projects including Zach (age 22) and Avi (age 19). We are excited to build something that creates a stronger community and a more equitable solution for all of us.

Please visit the site at and feel free to drop us a note at to share your thoughts. Most of all, check out our wonderful composers. We are adding new ones all the time. They are super people writing amazing music. When you use MusicSpoke, you can be confident that the majority of your money is actually going to the people who create the music that you love.

Dr. Kurt Knecht

Kurt is the cofounder of MusicSpoke, a marketplace dedicated to musicians. He is also the music director at St. Mark’s on the Campus Episcopal and on the composition faculty at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Learn more at

Jennifer Rosenblatt

Jennifer is the cofounder and CEO of MusicSpoke. She is an entrepreneur with a diverse background in business, marketing, and sales. Her award winning company, Argyle Octopus Press, helps with the design and marketing for MusicSpoke. Learn more and connect with Jennifer at

Monday, November 3, 2014

Music Publishing Trends, Part Four

Today in Part Four of my blog about current choral music publishing trends, we hear from Northwest Choral Publishers, a four person venture based in Washington state. This is a great group of very talented composers/conductors. Here's their story:

The idea for Northwest Choral Publishers was hatched in conversations between Karen Thomas, John Muehleisen, and Reginald Unterseher at conferences and concerts around the Northwest. Reg had written an article in 2010 for the NW ACDA newsletter called “Enhanced Music Scores: More Than Notes On Paper Could Ever Be” just before the first iPad was announced. (Here is the article—you have to scroll down a bit.)The article imagined a future where the buying and selling of music was a transaction directly between composers and performers, among other things. Over a few years of discussions, it seemed to us that group efforts could be more efficient for composers and for the conductors and performers we wanted to reach. Other groups of composers were forming, and we decided that being physically located close to each other and having a regional identity was useful, as was the idea of keeping it small to start with and expanding from there if it worked for us.

John Muehleisen
In our conversations, we all felt that we independent composer-publishers are nearly invisible to conductors, especially outside our own regions. Even traditional publishers rarely market and advertise composers and their compositions unless they have already established name recognition. Most tend to be in the same large, murky catalog pool, with little done by the publishers to distinguish one composer from another. The bottom line is that for composers who mostly publish through traditional publishers, and for all of the composers who have pieces with traditional publishers, their works are no more visible in the marketplace than those of composers who self-publish.

We looked at the variety of ways others were addressing these challenges, spoke with our composer colleagues around the country, gratefully incorporated ideas that seemed like they would work for us, and looked for our own way in other areas. The essence of our collaboration was finding the areas where we could be better together and still maintain our financial and artistic independence. We realized that together we could afford channels of visibility, marketing, and advertising that would be too expensive for each of us individually. We decided to have a joint web site with a joint catalog and links to our individual web sites, all tied together with a unified visual style. Purchases are done on our individual web sites, which makes our financial arrangements easier to handle than having a joint business model.

Together, we are purchasing ads in major choral publications and on websites, sponsoring a conference reception, and splitting the cost for web hosting and site design/development. We have already reaped considerable savings, and we foresee additional savings in the future. More importantly, distributing the cost burden enables us to pursue more extensive marketing and advertising strategies than we could do on our own.

An aspect that is harder to quantify is the effect this new publishing model has on our writing. In important ways, we feel that giving our artistic vision precedence over traditional publishers’ sales models makes for better music.
We have had some encouraging results already. Karen's "Lux Lucis" for women's choir has not been picked up by traditional publishers, due to the challenging nature of the music. The launch of has tremendously boosted sales of this piece in the past year - there are dozens of 2014 performances in the US and Canada, including touring performances.

Karen P. Thomas

So far, Reg’s best selling work  is “The Steady Light,” which has versions for accompanied and unaccompanied choruses. It has been featured in reading sessions around the country, and performed at ACDA and NAFME conferences in a variety of forms. With a piece that has many voicing and accompaniment options, a traditional publisher would not realistically be able to make them all available. From a web site, though, we fill the orders to the specification of the conductors.

Reg Unterseher
Last year, we had conversations with composer Brian Galante, who we knew was a natural fit with the group. His new web site just went live a few weeks ago, and he is now part of the catalog. We have an ad in an upcoming Choral Journal, we have joined ACDA as business members, and we plan some activities at the upcoming ACDA National conference as well as state and regional conferences. We look forward to what the future brings, and feel that our arrangement puts us in a great position to change as the music publishing and distribution model changes.

Brian Galante