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This summer, I want to earn money to buy sequencing software. I really enjoy arranging songs (as well as writing them) so I thought it would make sense for me to try to sell some online. Can I do that without being certified or anything? If so, are there any sites in particular that I should look into? (Is this even a good idea in the first place?) Thanks guys!

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  • Shouldn't need certification! If you can write, you can write and publish on the web! That's the beauty of it. Good topic though, I'm subscribed.
    – user6164
    Jun 6, 2013 at 19:22

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Feel free to set up an online presence to sell original songs, but I must caution that it takes years to develop a reputation and an interest in your music, so, do not expect to make much, if any additional money if you are just beginning.

Unless you obtain written permission from the original artists, it is illegal to profit off an arrangement of someone else's work. You would need to obtain written permission as well as notify the royalty company they are registered with in order to pay them their deserved royalties. Royalty payments come from sheet music sales, recordings, and performances to name a few.

Regardless, some companies pay out royalties bi-annually (some annually) so any money you might make this summer probably would not be seen for a year or so.

That said, I have a friend who writes little songs for video games and is able to make a little extra cash doing so. All of his pieces are original, and he negotiates all of the payments / invoices / contracts, so it would be wise to research more into those subjects. One popular site is "Newgrounds". Another popular site is "moddb" where you can look for work (to join a development team) but pay is not guaranteed.

I am certainly not saying that you should not try, I bring these points up to keep you out of court and avoid needing a lawyer.

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    Does the whole royalty payment thing count for songs that are considered "public domain" (such as some Christmas carols and nursery rhymes [I think])?
    – Stan
    Jun 9, 2013 at 1:14
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    Songs in the public domain are free reign, however, you need to make sure that whatever arrangement or source material that you use is from the public domain as well. Jun 9, 2013 at 1:55
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The easiest way to legally publish arrangements of copyrighted cover songs is through Hal Leonard's ArrangeMe service.

This has agreements in place with most of the major publishers, so you can submit an arrangement of anything that's in their catalog (which contains about 3 million compositions at this point). They deal with all the copyright issues and payment to original composer/publisher, and pay you a 10% royalty on all sales, which are through Sheet Music Plus, Sheet Music Direct, and Noteflight Marketplace. (They may also be able to handle compositions not in their database.)

If they're your own compositions (or public domain works) rather than a cover song, then you can just stick the PDF up on your website, sell it through eBay, or whatever else you want to do, without needing to ask anyone. You can also still use ArrangeMe for publishing original works or arrangements of public domain works, and get a 50% commission. (Be careful with public domain though, the laws differ from country to country so it can be tricky to know if a work is actually public domain everywhere.)

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No - you do not need anything to start selling your own songs online.

That said, it is worth joining a body like the Musician's Union, the Performing Rights Society or other industry body, as they can help you protect and benefit from your works.

I live in the UK and I rely on the Musician's Union to cover any legal or contractual issues that come up. I am also a member of the PRS so I can get royalties when my works are played. If you are outright selling songs and the rights to them, then this may be less relevant to you but if you are selling limited rights then you may still wish to collect royalties.

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  • How would I join a group like the ones you mentioned? Is there an application process and/or membership fee?
    – Stan
    Jun 9, 2013 at 1:12
  • I don't know about the ones in your area-you'd probably want to either Google or speak to local musicians, music schools etc. Here I joined through the websites. Yes there is an annual fee.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jun 9, 2013 at 7:55

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