Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 328, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Steve from organbench.com. And he wrote:
Good morning Vidas,
Hope all is well with you.
Most of my compositions are listed now for sale with Sheet Music Plus Press and Noteflight Marketplace. Under the terms of this arrangement I retain ownership of my compositions and copyrights and can exercise control over listed retail prices and product descriptions. Royalties are at or near half of the retail price, for every copy sold, payable every month or quarterly, by PayPal or written cheque, my choice. Their online catalogs reach 110 countries world wide.
A certain publishing house has also expressed an interest in publishing one of my compositions separately, namely, the E Major Op. 17 Communion song. The standard contract from this firm arrived today in duplicate, and, if I sign it, I will be assigning ownership of this piece to this firm. In return I'm to be paid through PayPal just once a year, the standard 10 per cent of the retail cost, which is set by them, for each copy sold. I'm informed that this music will be listed in a future catalog, but due to the large number of contracts they already have, it may be several catalogs before it is published. As you probably already know, they are a much smaller music publisher with a much narrower, focused market, their catalog does not provide the composer with the control to set the retail price for his work himself, and it has no playback feature to allow customers to hear the music they're thinking of buying. Revenues are about 60 per cent higher when online catalogs have this feature. This firm also provides no means to affiliate with my web site either, to provide it with links or search boxes to allow it to help generate sales for them and thereby generate commissions for me.
This contract, as worded, is one page, a mere three sentences long, between me and the firm, with no stipulation about what happens to my music or any accrued royalties in the event of my death or the closing of the firm. I may yet change my mind, but as of this moment I don't feel that signing this contract is in the best interests of my music, myself, or my legal heirs. It seems that it leaves too much unanswered, and there are other better alternatives available. Just my feeling.
I'd enjoy hearing back from you. Wishing you and Ausra the
V: You know, this is a message that Steve wrote, and I deliberately excluded the name of this company, because Steve didn’t feel that people should really know. Because his feelings are not necessarily objective feelings. Maybe other people would want to be part of this company, catalogue. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, nowadays, when I have a question or a doubt about something or somebody, I usually try to Google it, and to see what other people have told about the same problem or the same company or the same person. It’s really useful because nowadays it’s really hard to make something bad, or something really hurtful to somebody and don’t be punished.
A: Maybe you will not get legal punishment from police or whatever, but people will punish you because opinion will spread out through the internet and if you will make something really bad, people will find out about it.
A: And your company or something will be just doomed.
V: Look how we’re buying things. For example, myself. When I buy books, I most often buy books from recommendations from other people I trust.
V: So the same is with trusting companies, and being in relationship with them, in contract, right, like composers. To me, releasing the ownership of the work has to be done with certain consideration, right? You don’t know how successful you will be as a composer, right now if you are just starting, in the future, right? And if you are releasing your rights to them, and they owe you just ten percent per year? Ten percent!
A: That seems like nothing.
V: Paid just once per year. Imagine if you’re starting to make a living from your music, right? And you only get your salary once a year, that’s a joke.
A: Yes, it is.
V: You need to get it once a month, or even faster—twice a month, or even as soon as the sale is done.
A: Also, what I trust when I think about making an important decision, I think about certain impression, what I got from reading a letter.
V: Gut feedback.
A: Yes, because...
V: Gut feeling.
A: Gut feeling, yes. Because that first impression is most often the rightest one—you need to trust it. And if you feel that something is fishy there, then don’t do it.
V: Mmm-hmm. And Steve mentions Sheet Music Plus, at the beginning, and Noteflight Marketplace. Those are two places that he is publishing his compositions now. And it seems to me that the owners of Sheet Music Plus and Noteflight, have understood the importance of playing the fair game—being fair with your customers, with your members. Because Sheet Music Plus, gives you the opportunity to be affiliated with them. You could sell your own music on your own website, while, by having links on your website which would go to Sheet Music Plus, and banner ads and everything else that he needs, special codes, snippets of codes that they count impressions and clicks. And you would get statistics about that, and you would be paid through PayPal once a month. It’s really nice. And Noteflight probably also behaves similar way. Noteflight is a platform which allows you to produce your own sheet music scores. It’s like Sibelius, but it’s online in the cloud. You don’t need the software at all. You create your score in the browser, and if you have a premium account, for certain membership fee, yearly or monthly, you have many more benefits with them. I’m not advertising them or endorsing them, I’m just saying what they have, and Steve produces his entire organ works this way, by working on the browser. And it seems that he enjoys it.
A: Yes, I think it might be…
V: Suitable solution.
A: Suitable, yes.
V: Because Sibelius is expensive and you have to install it and if you lose your computer or break your computer, you have to reinstall it. It’s a big mess and a big hassle.
A: Yes, and takes a lot of space too.
A: It might slow down your computer if it’s not the newest one.
V: It has certain features that Noteflight lacks and special benefits, but for people who are just creating simple scores, in the browser, is just painless process I think.
A: Because last year, for example, at my work, I asked for computer specially to install Sibelius, and then I had to uninstall it because my computer just slowed down so much that I could not work on it.
V: Mmm-hmm. Right. Here is we’re looking at the Noteflight platform, and they Marketplace, where you could sell your own scores through them. So it seems that they found a nice business model and Sheet Music Plus, and also NoteFight completely different business model, but still working business model I think. But, Ausra, do you know what the biggest problem or challenge for Steve still is?
A: I don’t know.
V: You could feel it already in my question.
A: Well, yes, a little bit.
V: With all these tools, and all these opportunities, right, and once a month PayPal payments to your account, and everything is fair and wonderful, he even has opportunity to insert MP3 files for listening the scores before buying. Customers could listen to the score as a sample. It’s really nice. But you know, the biggest problem, Ausra, still is, what? Finding your customers! Neither of those platforms will not guarantee you, your customers.
A: Well that’s true. Competition is very big nowadays, because there are so many compositions and new compositions are appearing each day.
A: So, it’s really hard to break through.
V: It would be interesting to know maybe one year afterwards, if Steve could write us his results, how many scores he sold through Sheet Music Plus or Noteflight Marketplace also. I also have Sheet Music Plus account. I also sell through them a number of my organ music scores, but not all of them. Most of them go directly through our online store on Shopify. And on Shopify you don’t owe them nothing. They just take a certain, very small percentage of the sale, and everything is controlled by you. You are in control and they are just facilitating the sale. Neither Shopify or other platforms guarantee you success in finding customers. That’s the biggest challenge nowadays...
V: ...when selling is so easy.
A: So, I guess the best is to compose music that you can perform yourself.
V: Right! Your music has to spread. And who else will start spreading your music besides you. Of course yourself.
A: Because if you don’t want to play your music, then maybe others won’t play too.
V: Right. That’s how I started. Either with improvisations on Youtube or recordings of my scores on Youtube too, so other people could listen to that and then play it if they want. So having a big social profile is really important nowadays and constantly updating, constantly, basically, developing new scores. Maybe having a procedure to produce one score a month, or maybe one score a week. And then a year later you will have large catalog of your works already. And bigger chance of success too, the more you have.
V: Okay guys. These are our thoughts about that. If you have any other feedback, please let us know. And please keep sending us your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
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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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