Are Composers slaves to the publishing industry?

James McFadyen

New Member
I spark up this friendly debate in the hope to bring composers to realise there is a big world out there in the music industry and publishers are not doing the sufficent, or are they? - you decide!

I was first published when I was 18, I was thrilled, after trying for many years, my work was finally at a point where I would be able to call myself a Composer, in the true sense of the word. After several years of seeing no financial returns, nor any great development in my career as a composer, I decided to chuck in the towel and start my own publishing company. Luckily I was armed with a decent amount of business know-how to get me started! Since running my own publishing label, I have made more sales, more money, more respect and my name has grown.

If you are with a publisher, are they giving you the best deal. Composers get 10% sheet music royalties which, considering the job we do, is absolutely crap. IMHO, I don't think publishers are doing enough for their composers, and I'm absoultely gobsmacked that composers still send their scores to be published by big publishing houses.

Now, of course, not every composer has the means to publish his/her own work, but most do. Doing ur books, paying ur tax, NI, etc, etc can be learned very fast and there is plenty of help out there, up in Scotland, we have the Small Business Gateway - they may have that all over the uk, though. They are a great help for any small business.

I think It's high-time that Composers start earning what's rightfully there's - with digital technologies and the Internet and the tight community of banding, it can be real easy to do the job. Plus, in your company website, it's deedicated to you, you don't have to fight against any other names in ur own company.

If you want to start a small publishing company and publish other composers works as well as your own, a very grey area starts to appear, one which most small publishers don't even think about, simply because publishers regard there composers a FREELANCERS!!!!! Not the sort of situation you want to be getting into. Losing your copyright is the biggest blow to any composer!

My advice, through my experience is, if ur serious about writing music, self-publish (if you have the means an know-how - if not - LEARN, you WILL need these skills!)

In these modern times, It is insanity to let other people control your music!

Some publishers and individuals will disagree with me, I'm sure, but I think it's high-time Composers earn the living they deserve.

Do the sums and i'll bet you, your publisher is draging you down! The only person you can count on is yourself.

Although I present this debate and have started off with my opinion, I would love to hear others! :wink:
I think that it is a great idea to start up your own publishing company - except for one thing. Time. I don't have enough time in my life to do everything I want to as it is (Although I've applied to the old boy upstairs for the 36 hour day. Result pending), and if you were to add to that the amount of time it takes to make up scores/parts/piano reductions/etc etc, then it becomes a big burden.

Also the 10% that composers get is a kind of maximum. If you are published by one of the big publishers (Booseys Schott etc) and you sell lots, then you will get less!!! It is the same for PRS money. Having a piece publidhed means that in fact you only get 50% of performance royalties.

I once talked to a very highly respected composer, who shall remain un-named, who got substantially less than the 50% as he made such a vast ammount of money!!!

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
While i think you may be hitting a good point, I think there is a point where you can venture out on your own, and not beforehand.

Every artist needs to be discovered. every artist needs someone to say "He's the best I've worked with." We need that recommendation, that "plug". Now when you go out on your own, who's doing your "plugging"?

You are.

I don't want to tread on toes, but the way I see it is if you start plugging yourself without that extra plug from someone else, you aren't going to be taken seriously. If you have that plug from elsewhere and you decide to go make it for yourself, then go for it! You must have what it takes!

The best Novelists get the best publishers. they move to other firms if they need to.
The best TV newsman gets the best station. He'd be worth the investment.

Wouldn't it help to say that your stuff was under some you-beaut banner? Otherwise, all I can hope is that your small business had a large advertising campaign and a lot of good salesmen.

I had a musical published in a teacher's textbook. a mini one, I mean, not a 2 hour "Les Mis Down Under". Unfortunately the publisher was a regional university with little credential. I missed out. Not that I was aiming to be big. That particular musical I wrote 1 hour before it was due in as an assignment.

Don't take this as a bag, James. I think anyone who can get out and at it at so young an age deserves all they can get and then some. I'm just hinking of the negatives associated with going out "solo" so early in the game. I would've aimed for "featured artist" from Gramercy Music or something before going out alone. But I'm not you, so I'll shut up now.

James McFadyen

New Member
Time is a very important factor, but so is ur career. A little time and effort is well worth the benefits it brings 10 times over.

The biggest misconstrustion (or a word that kinda resembles that!) is that Big Publishers bring you clout, and while yes, this is true, It's kinda wearing very thin in this modern age. Can a Publishing company offer you the attention you deserve?

In the Pop industry, when u get a Publishing Deal, you get a (re-payable) advance, a contract, all recording work is piad and carried out by the publisher, and while this is done very often in the Classical Industry, it's not done enough and certainly not being taken seriously by the Brass Band world - we rely on Doyen for things like that.

I'm not against Publishers, perse, but I think there is much to be gained by 'doing it yourself'. Least we not forget that some big names in Brass Banding are starting to realise this fact, I won't mention names, but I bet they'd wish they had the Copyright to all their music! And that's what it's all about, really - don't lose your copyrights - Self-publish and reap all the benefits you could possibly desire


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