During a morning Facebook perusal, a young man contacted me seeking sheet music to a well-known, and readily available bassoon concerto. I directed him to Trevco-Varner Music Publishers. I see these requests regularly on social media –and they disturb me. We are in a field increasingly misunderstood by the whole of society: it is important we take the time to understand it ourselves.
COPYRIGHT: Composers pay to copyright their work. This protects them as the original “authors” of the work, and provides them certain rights. This includes the right to have their works purchased legally and ethically by performers, even after their death.
COPYING MUSIC: If you distribute copied music, perform from copied music, or encourage these acts without authorization from the copyright owner (the composer or publisher), you are breaking the law.
I recognize the “broke musician” adage; however, composers are your peers. They are entitled and have worked diligently to earn the royalties on the compositions you are performing.
I read and answer many questions regarding the composer/publisher relationship. There are many large and small publishing houses.
PUBLISHERS: Composers choose to work with publishers often due to the distribution network. When a bassoonist is searching for a “Bassoon/Oboe duet” they are much more likely to locate a composer’s work through searching Prairie Dawg Press than the multitude of Google results.
This does increase the cost of a composition. Now, in addition to printing, editing, copyright and actual composition, cost is added for the ease of locating that work. Marketing, including navigable websites, vendor availability at conferences and Double Reed Days, and housing/packing/shipping costs money.
The largest publishing houses (not instrument specific) also serve administrative needs for composers including bookkeeping, licensing, copyrights, etc. Again, these costs are reflected in music costs.
DOWNLOADING MUSIC: Recordings are expensive endeavors. Unlike in mainstream music (popular culture), classical solo artists and chamber musicians are rarely fully funded by labels or outside sources. A digitally released track of the Hindemith Bassoon Sonata required at minimum: rental of a venue, sound engineer, piano tuning, producer, distribution, promotion, and mechanical licensing. Again, these prices are distributed across a customer base: 99cents through $1.19 per track.
If you illegally download music, copy illegally downloaded music, distribute copied music, or encourage these acts without authorization from the copyright owner (the label or artist), you are breaking the law.
A little knowledge goes a long way! I hope we all can legally and ethically support our colleagues and peers in the publishing and composition side of Music!
Happy practicing … and listening.