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Over the years I have compiled a number of original compositions (orchestral, choir, string quartet, etc...). I would now like to share/make them public. However, I have no knowledge of where people usually "publish" their compositions and what the requirements and "impact factors" are.

What are good places to publish original work, based on:

  • The type of recording: recorded using professional musicians, rendered using computer software, delivered in sheet music format, ...
  • The style of composition: choir, orchestral, ...
  • The "impact factor": promotion offered or not by the publisher,
  • Publication criteria: the musician must already be known in the field, or anybody can submit a piece, ...
  • Publication price: is publishing free or is there a publication fee?

Please note that I am mainly looking for online solutions, i.e., publishers that can either be accessed on the internet, or are exclusively "online" ways of making a work public.

closed as off-topic by Carl Witthoft, Tetsujin, MattPutnam, Richard, Todd Wilcox Jan 9 '18 at 14:20

  • This question does not appear to be about music practice, performance, composition, technique, theory, or history within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is essentially the same as asking for specific equipment recommendations – Carl Witthoft Jan 5 '18 at 12:13
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    @CarlWitthoft Far from it, this is neither software recommendation nor hardware recommendation. It relates to publishing one's own music. – Klangen Jan 5 '18 at 12:51
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    tbh, it's either Carl's reason or 'opinion-based'. It's not a good topic for SE, it will also vary greatly depending on your geographical location & the genre of the music. The libraries are heaving with pseudo-classical pieces & so much of it is already in the public domain it doesn't leave much room for new artists. From personal experience, I can make far more money by writing the twee crap they play on daytime TV than I can from anything fully orchestrated, & the first I can knock out 2 a day, rather than 1 a week. – Tetsujin Jan 5 '18 at 13:17
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    @Tetsujin I don't think there's anything wrong with this as a question for SE, but I agree we don't tend to allow 'external resources' questions on this particular SE site (and many others are the same). – topo morto Jan 5 '18 at 13:46
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    This question is on-topic as it relates to the practice of publishing and self-marketing for composers. See my answer below. – jjmusicnotes Jan 5 '18 at 14:33
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Here are some websites where I've seen plenty of self-published works. All of them have these in common:

Publication price: All of them are free. No fees required! Better make accounts for them, though.

Impact factor: None of them will publicize your music anywhere near particularly hard. It's your job to publicize the links to your accounts with these websites.

Publication criteria: Anyone with an account can submit to these websites.

Now here are the websites:

IMSLP

Type of recording: IMSLP loves, loves, loves PDFs and will not accept any other file types for sheet music. You are allowed to submit MIDIs of your own work, although it's not recommended. This website highly encourages that you submit recordings played by humans.

Style of composition: IMSLP is mainly a reservoir of classical and folk music, although it holds quite a few ragtime pieces, and jazz and gospel can probably hide pretty well in there. You might find a few examples of even more modern music in there if you search hard enough!

Publication criteria: The most important criterion for submitting music to IMSLP is this: It must be in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license. This means that you've got to be willing to let people distribute your work without express permission. IMSLP recommends slapping on a Performance Restricted Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 license for one of the most restrictive licenses: others can freely print off your work for personal use and play it privately--heck, they can play it in venues where nobody earns a cent--but they can't make a CD with it and sell it, sneak it into a video game that costs money to purchase, or rearrange your piece and publish that rearrangement. If they dare do, you have the power to shut down that use. You can also publish under a variety of less restrictive licenses.

IMSLP also will not publish anything with copyrighted material. Want to sneak in a quote from Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride"? You're not getting that piece with that quote published unless you also hand in written permission from Leroy Anderson's copyright holders to use that quote. And let's just say that getting that written permission is extra hard. IMSLP uses Canadian copyright rules, which are more lenient than American copyright rules, but they're still strict enough to prevent a ton of copyrighted material from getting past the radar.

Musescore

Type of recording: Musescore forces you to submit their exclusive MSCZ files. This means all their default audio is computer-generated. These are displayed on the website as musical scores with audio playback. Users can download MSCZs, audio files, and PDFs from the website. You can sync your pieces to YouTube videos, but I've found that to be a messy and inaccurate process. You can also publish your Musescore pieces to YouTube. They'll only let you do that once per day unless you pay for Musescore Pro, though.

Style of composition: Pretty much anything for classical to folk to jazz to pop to EDM to heavy metal to atonal stuff to heavy metal remixes of classical music are allowed. Musescore is unable to use actual words in audio vocals, so be careful.

Publication criteria: The most important one: unless you pay for Musescore Pro, you can only publish 5 works per account. Musescore will hide your least recent works if you publish more than 5 on a single account. People sometimes dodge this by creating tens of dummy accounts and publishing 5 works each to them. There's also stuffing several pieces into the same work (web page/submission).

Musescore technically lets you slap "all rights reserved" on your music by default. In practice, other users are pretty free to plagiarize you and re-distribute your Musescore works without your consent. It's your job to hunt those copyright-infringing people down. Even if you put Creative Commons or public domain licenses on your works, people will still plagiarize them.

Be aware that copyright holders can get your works-that-contain-copyrighted-material removed from Musescore. You can file a counter-claim if you don't use copyrighted material or you truly believe your stuff falls under Fair Use. In practice, the only works I've heard of that got restored from copyright claims are those that got taken down for really silly reasons, such as sharing only titles with copyrighted works.

Newgrounds

Type of recording: Newgrounds likes MP3s and WAV files. They want detail. They know that people listen to their music with headphones and speakers that extract all the high-quality goodness out of their sound files. Submitting MIDIs is discouraged. (MIDIs sorta sound bad, anyway.) With that being said, you can freely submit computer-generated or human-generated music.

Style of composition: Again, pretty much anything for classical to folk to jazz to pop to EDM to heavy metal to atonal stuff to heavy metal remixes of classical music are allowed. Atonal stuff is probably not that popular, though.

Publication criteria: In general, follow https://www.newgrounds.com/wiki/help-information/terms-of-use/audio-guidelines. You can't publish anything with any sample of copyrighted music. You can't publish anything with stock loops. Publishing a rearrangement of a copyrighted work is risky, but I've heard several remixes of copyrighted video game themes on Newgrounds. Be aware that copyright holders can get such rearrangements removed from Newgrounds, though.

Also safely assume that Newgrounds publishes your music with the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license unless you twiddle the license. Yeah, that means a lot of people can rearrange your music for free and distribute that. But hey, at least they can't sneak it into a movie without negotiating with you first!

Bonus impact factor: Newgrounds acknowledges that there's this killer popular mobile app out there called Geometry Dash that lets people create rhythm game levels with your music in it. If your piece is used in a particularly popular level, masses of people may love your work...for all the possibly wrong reasons.

Soundcloud

Type of recording: Soundcloud accepts only audio files. They don't care whether humans, computers, or elephants generated the audio, though. They also don't even care whether you submit music.

Style of composition: Again, they don't even technically care whether you submit music, but anything from classical to folk to jazz to pop to EDM to heavy metal to atonal stuff to heavy metal remixes of classical music are allowed. Hour-long podcasts are also accepted. So are whale noises.

Publication criteria: Though stuff may sneak past the radar, Soundcloud declares that publishing works with copyrighted material is not allowed. Repeatedly doing so will get your account banned and removed from the website. ...And the copyright holders will be after you hard.

YouTube

Type of recording: YouTube obviously accepts only videos. There are services such as TunesToTube that let you turn MP3s (and possibly other audio files) into YouTube videos. They don't care whether humans, computers, monkeys, or volcanoes generated the audio.

Style of composition: YouTube accepts any genre. YouTube also accepts non-music. Heck, it also accepts completely silent videos.

Publication criteria: The default YouTube license is technically fairly restrictive, which is decent if you don't like people re-distributing your work. However, people will grab your video and use it elsewhere in practice, so be vigilant. You can also publish your videos under more lenient Creative Commons licenses.

Be aware that YouTube will let copyright holders mute the audio or remove your video if you use copyrighted material (especially without their express permission). Upload too many videos with copyrighted material and YouTube may ban you and remove your account. (Get a loyal enough following, though, and other users may follow in your footsteps. See SilvaGunner for further information.)

In practice, your remixes of copyrighted works may never be removed, and you can get fairly famous posting remixes to YouTube. I'm a fan of listening to GaMetal, FamilyJules, DjtheSDotCom, and other people whose pretty much only YouTube publications are arrangements of existing copyrighted works.

Bonus impact factor: There is such a thing as YouTube monetization, where you get an AdSense account and let YouTube post ads prior to your videos. You can earn some cash this way, although from anecdotes I've heard, you're better off making a Patreon account and offering services to people who donate a buck per song if you want to earn money from your music. (They don't have to be much. Offering high-quality WAV files is fine at the $1-per-song level. Accepting commissions from these people is fine at the $20-per-song level.)

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This is an important question that is often not addressed in schools: Where/How/When to publish your music. This is a huge topic, so I can't discuss everything here, but I'll give a very brief overview of different avenues an entrepreneurial composer can endeavor to follow.

Publishing Houses

  • The biggies like G Schirmer / Hal Leonard / JW Pepper (more of a retailer, but I'll come back to them) are difficult to get into. Typically only take established, successful composers that they know will bring them $$. Getting into a place like this is like climbing an incredibly high mountain with snow.
  • Boutique Publishers like Cimarron Press, FJH Publishing, Bill Holab Music, and Frank Ticheli's company (can't remember the name off-hand..I want to say...something about a Beach?) Anyway, they're smaller and easier to cold-call / get into because they're so much smaller, but they still often have big-ticket clientele. Some offer competitions for composers with the winning prize being your piece gets published / distributed through them. Obviously, you'd then have a foot in the door and could get other stuff published. Getting into a place like this is like climbing a medium-large mountain with snow.
  • Self publishing is super easy as you just register yourself as your own publisher. You develop your own notation / house style, create a catalog / numbering system, a little logo, and then you register all your pieces through a performing rights organization (ASCAP / BMI / SEAMUS) and voilà, your music is published. Then you offer your music for sale on either your website, or you can upload it to a service like JWPepper's "My Score", which allows anyone to upload there music. JWPepper prints, binds, and ships the music for a modest cut of profit (I think it's like 40-60%). Just look up "online sheet music retailers" and then see what their stance on taking new music is. This is like climbing up a small hill with a little snow.

The Rub

So the question is: Big House or Self Publish? In short, Big Houses give you lots of marketing, will sell more copies, and give you greater credibility. The trade-off is that you get hosed on profit percentages. They'll take anywhere from 70-90% of each sale - and if you're just starting out, it'll be 90% or higher. With self-publishing, you might only sell a little bit, but you'll keep 100% of the profit. The other advantage to self-publishing is that you keep 100% of performance royalties as well.

The Truth

Nowadays I know more composers than not who self-publish. Those who don't are basically all in boutique publishers. Composers who live in Big Houses write "educational music" which is the cash cow that drives those businesses. If you're not writing that kind of music, you won't get in. If you don't have decent professional or semi-professional recordings: good luck. If you don't know someone at the publishing house personally: good luck. If your score looks any less professional than what they themselves put out in terms of notation and style and clarity: good luck. To compete with professionals you yourself must be 100% professional.

What you decide depends on your personal beliefs and what's important to you / what you're interested in with your music / career.

  • One reason I VTC'd the OP as off-topic. This is so US-centric it's almost zero use to anyone outside the US. – Tetsujin Jan 5 '18 at 16:33
  • @Tetsujin Perhaps, but it can prove useful to those in the US. – jjmusicnotes Jan 5 '18 at 18:52
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    For sure... but now we hit the usual perception, that the US is somehow "more important" than anywhere else & deserves its own answer. This becomes wearying for anyone not from there. – Tetsujin Jan 5 '18 at 19:15
  • US is not more important; I just happen to live here. I’m not as familiar with European or otherwise publishing, so I don’t have much to say about it. If you’re knowledgeable, I’m sure the OP and the larger community would appreciate an addendum to my answer that details publishing habits / avenues outside the US. – jjmusicnotes Jan 5 '18 at 21:00
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I just wanted to add one thing onto the already great answer. (And this is more relevant to wanting to SELL your music )

There is a A&R site called Taxi Music which posts listings for placements on tv, movies, radio, libraries, etc. The listings are of any genre you can think of, and there are usually quite a few going at once.

Obviously, as anything in music goes, getting chosen for these listings is highly competitive. However, at the very least, the reviewers give you very helpful feedback which will help you develop your skills.

To gain the ability to submit to these listings, you need to pay 300 dollars to become a member though.

(I'll add more information when I get to my computer later today)

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