The landscape of music publishing has changed greatly in the last ten years. There are more options than ever for composers to publish and market their music, either on their own or with the help of an established company.
So today, I am sharing a quick “Music Publishing 101” that will give you some insight into what your options are if you (or your students) are looking to publish sheet music of your own original compositions.
Curious about how the process works? Read on for more!
For many years, submitting your work to a publishing house was the only option for composers who hoped to one day see their work in print. There are both pros and cons to working with a publishing house.
- Publishing with an established company gives credibility to your work and looks great on your resume.
- You will have access to professional editors, engravers, and graphic designers who will ensure the quality of the finished product.
- Publishing companies will handle the production and sales of your music and aid in marketing your work.
- With fewer publishing companies accepting works from new composers, it can be tough to get your foot in the door with a large publishing company.
- You typically don’t retain the copyright to your work when you publish with a publishing company.
- You will be paid only a percentage of the sales of your work.
- You probably won’t see your composition in print right away. It typically takes several months to a year (or more) for a new publication to be edited, printed, and distributed to stores.
How to get started: most publishing companies have a section on their website addressing “unsolicited manuscript submissions” which lets composers know if they are accepting new works and, if so, the best way to submit them for consideration. Just keep in mind that "publishing etiquette" dictates that you only submit a manuscript to one publisher at a time. So, in other words, don't send the same piece of music to multiple publishing companies at once!
Today there are many options for composers to self-publish their own works. Is self-publishing right for you? Here are the pros and cons:
- You will retain the copyright and creative control of your work.
- You will get to keep most, if not all, of the money from the sales of your work.
- There are several platforms that make self-publishing fast and easy.
- You will need to put in the work required to create a professional-looking final product. This means spending extra time editing and proof-reading your music, as well as investing in and learning how to use professional notation and graphic design software to create high quality scores and cover art for your music. (You can see my "quick guide to notation software" HERE.)
- You will need to market your music effectively to make customers aware of your products and to make your music stand out in a sea of other self-published works.
- You will need a platform to handle sales and distribution of your music—either a website of your own, or one of the self-publishing platforms mentioned below.
How to get started: the easiest way to get started with self-publishing is to use a platform that will handle the sales and distribution of your sheet music in exchange for a portion of each sale. A few that you might explore:
- SMP Press (the self-publishing division of Sheet Music Plus)
- Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon’s self-publishing arm)
- J.W. Pepper My Score (the self-publishing division of music retailer J.W. Pepper)
- Sheet Music Marketplace (a newer platform where independent composers can market their works)
Do you have any questions about music publishing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!