What to do with potentially publishable music

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Gwyn
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What to do with potentially publishable music

Post by Gwyn » Tue Apr 13, 2004 4:48 pm

Hi all,

I have a setting of Exodus 15 (canticle after the third Old Testament reading of the Easter Vigil) which I composed a few years ago for our own parish SATB choir's use. Yearly I'm asked by visitors to the parish for a copy or wanting to know where it's published.

If I were to offer it for publication, what's the process? I'm totally ignorant about this, so any offers of guidance will be gratefully received.

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Re: What to do with potentially publishable music

Post by mcb » Wed Apr 14, 2004 10:04 pm

Gwyn wrote:Hi all,

I have a setting of Exodus 15... If I were to offer it for publication, what's the process? I'm totally ignorant about this, so any offers of guidance will be gratefully received.


Hi Gwyn,

Nothing to it - send a copy with a short covering letter (saying you'd like to submit the enclosed item(s) for their consideration for publication) to the editorial department of the publisher(s) of your choosing. The response, in my limited experience, is unfortunately usually a stunned silence, but if the piece you're offering meets a need you may get the response you're hoping for. Of publishers I've been turned down by (OK, there have been the occasional positive responses too) I've found GIA to be quite efficient and courteous - they acknowledge receipt of your manuscripts and send them back if they decide not to use them. They also have a web site giving instructions for submitting manuscripts: http://www.giamusic.com/sacred_music/Su ... uide2.html

In any case the most important instruction has to be to bring your piece to a meeting of the SSG Composers Group if you haven't already! A sympathetic and positive audience is guaranteed, and (in this neck of the woods) a pub lunch too. How can you resist?

Martin.

barca
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Publishing

Post by barca » Thu Apr 15, 2004 11:29 am

PG Wodehouse's advice as to what to do next (to the beginning writer) was "if they accept it, send another one to that publisher. If they reject it, send that one to another publisher".

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Post by Gwyn » Thu Apr 15, 2004 3:10 pm

Thanks Martin, I'll give that a whirl. As I'm no stranger to disappointment what's there to lose other than a bit of self esteem? (Church musicians function nicely without any of that to hinder them :lol: )

Thanks too, barca, sound advice if ever I heard it.

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Re: What to do with potentially publishable music

Post by musicus » Thu Apr 15, 2004 5:19 pm

mcb wrote:Nothing to it - send a copy with a short covering letter (saying you'd like to submit the enclosed item(s) for their consideration for publication) to the editorial department of the publisher(s) of your choosing.

That's basically it. Also, you'll have a better chance if you send your music to publishers that sell your kind of music: don't send 4-part Latin motets to OCP, for example.

And, yes, do bring your work to an SSG Composers' Group meeting (see the website for details) - we really do try to help and encourage each other.

Musicus

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Yes, but...

Post by sidvicius » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:03 pm

What about the text though? Exodus 15, or any psalm; we may have written the music, but the text belongs to someone else, right? We need to ask for permission to use that first. If we publish and make a pot, won't the text copyright owner expect his cut?

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Re: Yes, but...

Post by mcb » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:34 pm

sidvicius wrote:What about the text though? Exodus 15, or any psalm; we may have written the music, but the text belongs to someone else, right? We need to ask for permission to use that first. If we publish and make a pot, won't the text copyright owner expect his cut?

Yes, that's right in principle, though it depends how small a vessel can be and still be called a pot - I've received a royalties cheque this year for two pounds ninety-seven! Ownership of the text would depend on whether your setting used your own reworking of the text of, e.g. Exodus 15, or a published version, or an unpublished version, e.g. by someone working together with you.

If you've reworked a biblical text in your own words then as far as I'm aware (someone correct me if you know better) you simply claim authorship of the new text. (I imagine there has to be some test of resemblance to exiting copyrighted texts, but I don't know how that works.)

For a setting of an already published text, in my experience it's the publisher (of your new setting) who looks after these things. A psalm setting of mine using the Grail text was published a few years ago, and the publisher sorted out the relevant permission, fees, etc.

In a case where you've set an unpublished text, I imagine the normal expectation would be for you to submit the piece in the joint names of the authors. This is certainly how it's worked for me, and when a piece like this is published the publisher issues a contract in the joint names of the authors specifying how the royalties are to be divided. (Answer: into two very very tiny amounts... Rutherford splitting the atom had an easier job! :( )

M.

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Re: Yes, but...

Post by musicus » Fri Aug 20, 2004 5:13 pm

sidvicius wrote:If we publish and make a pot, won't the text copyright owner expect his cut?

Possibly. But s/he could sue you first.

If you plan to publish or merely copy someone else's property, it is always best to seek permission first. That applies whether you plan to sell the product or just give it away for nothing.

It's a complex subject and there are many erroneous myths surrounding it.

Musicus

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Post by Martin Foster » Fri Aug 20, 2004 5:45 pm

Picking up some of the issues raised here I would welcome some reactions/ reflections on changing texts - particularly Psalms and Mass texts.

Why change the text in first place?
What do people see as legitimate adaptation - when does it become paraphrase?

My reason for asking is that it would be helpful in shaping future drafts of Roman Missal- a guide for composers.

Martin
Martin Foster

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sidvicius
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Publish and be Damned!

Post by sidvicius » Mon Aug 23, 2004 11:25 am

Yes, that's what I was worried about Musicus! If you know that 'someone else' will deal with any copyright issues - in this case, the psalm Text (which I think is owned by AP Watt Ltd for the Missal/Grail version), all well and dandy. If not, I guess it's up to us to make sure. I note the slight variation between what you say
it is always best to seek permission first.
and what mcb said at para3:
the publisher sorted out the relevant permission, fees, etc.

Does seem an awful lot of fuss for a pint pot, but theft is theft.

Gosh - my 50th post!

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Re: Publish and be Damned!

Post by musicus » Mon Aug 23, 2004 7:15 pm

sidvicius wrote:I note the slight variation between what you say
it is always best to seek permission first.
and what mcb said at para3:
the publisher sorted out the relevant permission, fees, etc.

mcb is quite correct, of course, with regard to publishing. However, I think I would check first with a living author before embarking on a large-scale setting of their words. How awful if, having just signed-off page 350 with "this is the best of me" or somesuch, the author were to refuse permission. :?

M

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Post by Merseysider » Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:29 pm

Happened to me when I was still at music college (20+ years ago) – still consider it one of my best – but the author said I couldn't even make copies to hand around the local choir. *beep*! (Interesting that wasn't bleeped!)

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- Eh?

Post by sidvicius » Tue Aug 24, 2004 11:50 am

I'm baffled - surely that writer is cutting off their nose to spite their face?! Your music would provide them with:

1) a new outlet for their written work
2)a writer's royalty when it ever got used!

Did he give you a valid reason for his refusal??

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Post by Merseysider » Tue Aug 24, 2004 3:32 pm

Could be that he just didn't like it.

And writer's royalties are not a foregone conclusion – on BBC Songs of Praise, for example, composers are paid but text writers aren't.

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Post by contrabordun » Tue Aug 24, 2004 4:01 pm

on BBC Songs of Praise, for example, composers are paid but text writers aren't

How does that work then? I remember you saying you worked on the programme so I'm sure you're right that this is what they do, but the author still has the legal right to permit (or not) their work to be broadcast, and this permission is what a royalty is paid for... how can the Beeb choose to ignore this?

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