Thoughts on Self Publishing


A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about trying to have a piece of mine published. Why? I thought maybe other horn players would like to play the piece because it's fun and kinda sounds cool (or at least I think so). AND horn players love playing new music. (I think all composers should write for horn. It's a versatile instrument, has a great round tone that can blend well or be brassy when it needs to be. For orchestration tips on writing for the horn, check out Extended Techniques for the Horn by Douglas Hill. I will stop digressing now.) I thought that having a publisher would get my piece into the hands of more horn players. My only exposure to horn players has been at school, including my horn-playing roommate in college (hence my bias). I don't get out much (I am a composer) and so I don't go to horn conferences. I was looking online for potential publishers (I found the local Southern Ohio Music Company, who not only sells brass music but also publishes, and IU has a website listing different publishers). Around the same time, I received my first royalty check from BMI. Oh happy day. Did I mention that because I only teach during the school year, I only receive checks during the school year? But then I also realized something else: this check was a culmination of my royalties as a composer AND a publisher. Yes, I currently self-publish my music. It's the thing to do. With notation programs available (I still weep tears of joy when using Sibelius 6's Magnetic Layout), and lovely inventions such as laser printers and Kinko's, who doesn't self-publish? Furthermore, with websites and useful tools such as Adobe Acrobat Pro and PayPal, a composer can easily have a visitor peruse the score (without printing it out), sell it online via PayPal, then send the customer a PDF file of the score and parts. Anyway, after realizing that I was receiving royalties as a publisher, I also came to the conclusion that if I had a publisher, my royalty check would be cut in half. This was confirmed when I read this recent post by John Mackey who basically outlines the advantages of self-publishing (you get to keep a lot of your hard-earned money, plus you keep your copyright) and an interview with Jennifer Higdon (I heart her) who mentions Philip Glass stating something like, "If you want to make a living as a composer, keep the rights to your pieces." So, I think I'll self-publish for now. I may start crashing horn conventions. But I do have a lingering question: when I look for cushy university posts in a couple of years, does it look good on your CV to be published?

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