Sunday, August 02, 2009

Measuring Music with Money

Because of changes in the way music can now be distributed, and because of my non-existent business skills and total lack of interest in business when it comes to my creative work, I decided last year to make everything new that I write available to anyone who wants to play it, rather than continue to enter my music into the quagmire of rights connected with publication.

Publishers used to be the gatekeepers of culture, musical and otherwise. The only way for music to reach the people who might want to play it used to be through publishers (publishers who can keep music that has their copyright out of circulation just as easily as they can put music into circulation), but now things have changed, and I am thrilled to be able to make the music I write available to people for free by way of the internet. I promise that the music I offer for free is of the same general quality as the music I have written (around 70 pieces) that you can buy from a publisher.

Since I make a portion of my living by playing music--rehearsing and performing--I have no problem being paid for the time I spend preparing for a concert or playing a concert. I have no problem with people buying tickets for concerts, or with people buying recordings. I have no problem with students paying me for lessons, for obvious reasons, but I prefer to make my creative work available to musicians for free.

The most important thing for me as a composer is to keep writing. Worrying about sales or the monetary value of a piece I write simply blocks the process for me--sort of like a clog in a drain. Does this change of perspective transfer my status as a professional composer to that of an amateur composer? I don't think so.


Lisa Hirsch said...

I don't think this affects your status, but I think it's good to charge for your music, even if it means delegating the business end to someone else. The reason is the effect on the whole community of composers when someone underprices their work.

Daniel Wolf had a discussion of pricing sheet music at Renewable Music a while back. The story I told in the comments is relevant to your situation; what one person charges affects what other people are able to charge. I also think women tend to undercharge for their work.

Michael Leddy said...

I like the distinction that the poet Alice Notley makes (in the preface to Coming After: Essays on Poetry (2005): non-careerist “is not the same as not professional.”