So you have written a nice collection of organ music and have submitted to a few music publishers and nobody wants to publish your music? Does it mean your music is bad? Does it mean you should stop composing?
Music publishers might reject your music for one of two reasons:
1. Your music isn't the right fit for them.
2. They are not the right fit for you.
Although you might think that your organ compositions are wonderful and worthy of receiving the light of day, you must remember that music publishing houses receive thousands of submissions and look at your pieces strictly from their commercial point of view:
Will it sell? Here's the question. Will they be able to publish it and make a profit from it?
So if they think that the answer is yes, you might receive a positive answer and if they don't believe that your music will be the right fit for them - you might even not hear from them about their rejection (sadly).
So in order to receive a positive answer, you should first think about why they think your organ music will sell or not.
Scores of organ music, just like anything else can be sold based on these 3 things:
The right kind of people know them, like them, and trust they can solve their problems.
People must know your music, they must know you exist. If they don't, you're invisible to them. It doesn't mean your music is good or bad, it just means they are not aware of it.
Once the right kind of people know about your music, they must also like it. Think about yourself - do you ever buy music scores of composers whose music you don't like? Not likely, unless you buy for the future reference, unless you know the composer is too important to ignore. But in general, if you buy some music scores, you like the music.
Once the right kind of people know about your music and like it, they must also trust you enough that your compositions will solve their problems. What do I mean? Well, every organist who is on the lookout for new music, has some problems, such as "I don't know what to play for my church service next month", or "I don't have suitable music to play for Christmas service", or "I do have some collections of Christmas music but they are too difficult for me", or "Organ music collections suitable for Christmas I have sound musically dull. Therefore I need something more interesting". That's an example about Christmas organ music but it can be about anything. So if they believe your music will help solve their problem, they might consider buying it.
Of course, you can always publish your compositions yourself. Amazon Self Publishing platforms make this process very simple. Unless you've done much of the preliminary work I write about later in this post, this doesn't mean your music score will sell, though and you will receive royalties.
But if you still think you need a conventional publisher to get your musical ideas to spread, here are some things to consider you can do to get on the radar of the right kind of people, help them like your music, and help you earn their trust:
Create a website with a blog. If you are not online, the right kind of people will have a hard time finding you. Sure, you can have an active profile on social media sites, but they are not places you can control. Your website with your domain name is what nobody can take away from you, if any of these social media sites change or go out of business, or you get locked from your account or whatever. Today this process of creating a website is too simple even for non-tech people, like organists, to be an excuse of ignoring it. Basically you can be online in 25 minutes or less. Just google "how to create a website and a blog" and you'll see.
Think about who you are trying to reach. Sure, they are representatives of specific music publishing houses. But what are their hopes, wants, needs, fears, frustrations, and problems? Be as specific as possible.
Think about where the people you are trying to reach are gathering online. What blogs do they read, what social media sites do they interact at, what forums do they have their discussions at, what podcasts do they listen to, what journals do they read. What conferences do they go to? Try to be helpful and inspirational on some of these places always linking back to your main site.
You can convert your music files into PDF's and sell them directly from your website or external platform, such as Score Exchange.
You can also convert your scores into videos and publish them on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. You can perform your own music and record videos of them. You can talk about and analyze your compositions, reveal your compositional process in these videos as well.
In the description of each video, make sure you include a link back to your site where they can get more information about you. You can also offer some collection of your scores for free in exchange for people's email address. For this you need a newsletter service, such as Mailchimp.
Once you have newsletter subscription form set up on your website, you can begin to produce more videos of your music compositions and publish them online. A few videos won't make any difference but the more videos you have, the better chances people have at finding your work online.
Of course, don't stop here. Embed these videos on your website and in your blog posts talk about the behind-the-scene work you do while you compose. What's inspiring to you? What problems and frustrations related to your work do you have? Don't try to appear superhero. Be human, someone people can relate to.
Regularly distribute your work on social media sites in the format and form that is native to that particular platform. What works for Facebook will not necessarily work for Twitter. What works for Twitter, will not necessarily work for LinkedIn. You can share in formats of text, pictures, video, or audio or any combination of them. Form can include a link, a question, a poll, an idea etc.
The great thing about newsletters is that people can subscribe to them and you can automatically convert your blog posts to email messages that will be delivered to your subscribers (like this blog, for example).
What else? Always be generous and helpful to people. These two things alone over time will help you build a reputation that will precede you wherever you go.
When you have a terrific reputation of always exceeding expectations and over-delivering, the time will come when the right kind of publishers will start to approach you. So basically you have to be so good that they can't ignore you.
And because the myth of overnight success is something we always want to believe, remember that it takes at least 3-7 years (sometimes even more) of relentless hard work to build your profile online so don't expect quick results.
You see, you might think about publishing your new organ compositions as the publishing problem, the reality is that more likely you have idea-spreading problem.
Above all, if organ music composition is something you love, keep up composing and keep perfecting your craft. In a world of too many options and too little time, nothing will help spreading your idea, if your work isn't remarkable enough.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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