Consumers must take accountability in supporting composers

A+collage+of+images+from+musicspoke.com+including+excerpts+from+their+about+us+and+examples+of+pieces+from+their+composers%2C+including+Sean+Ivory+and+Aaron+J.+Fisher.

musicspoke.com

A collage of images from musicspoke.com including excerpts from their ‘about us’ and examples of pieces from their composers, including Sean Ivory and Aaron J. Fisher.

Composing is a time-consuming, occasionally pain-staking, and at times draining endeavor—an investment of passion sometimes chalked up to two cents. 

This process of large retail companies hogging creators’ profit is heard of in every realm of entertainment. A book selling for ten dollars on Amazon can come out to a grand total of three dollars in profit for the author after each sale; the most popular music artists claim that streaming services are hardly as profitable as some may think, and even Disney Channel stars have shared they get shockingly low amounts in royalties for their hit shows—although that doesn’t acknowledge the thousands of dollars they made during their show’s air. 

Cross-checking large music retail sites with artist-catered sites is completely necessary in order to truly support composers. On top of that, taking the proper steps to remain educated on how sales are distributed before utilizing the first search result is vital. ”

In terms of choral music, a 90-10 split used to make sense. Ninety percent of earnings were sent to the printing or publishing company that once had to manually arrange each music note and then print each page of a score individually. This process was updated in the 1960s, but the distribution of money was not. 

Now, a composer goes through the process of composing a piece of music, arranging it themselves in a computer program, and uploading it to a music distribution site, only to get approximately ten percent of the profit in the end. This means if a composer’s piece sells 100 units at $2.25—currently a fairly average price for vocal scores—that individual would earn $22.50 for potentially months of work, while the distributor would be left with roughly $200 for a very disengaged aspect of the production process. 

Obviously, it costs money for distributors to print music, and with a profitable system already in place, it would simply be bad business for a company to lower its profit margin in the name of benefiting artists. This is why composers have taken action and created their own solutions. 

Sites such as musicspoke.com were created with the interest of composers in mind and offer a much higher profit to creators. MusicSpoke’s “About Us” message perfectly explains it: “we are a marketplace committed to musicians. We don’t publish pieces of music. We find gifted composers that we believe in and give them the tools and freedom to promote themselves.” They continue by saying they believe supporting creators is simply “the right thing to do.” 

However, the downfall of these sites is the aspect of accessibility. Choir teachers and choral directors—the main consumers of choral music—will most often stumble upon major music distribution sites long before they discover sites such as MusicSpoke. On top of this, the large distributors have an incredibly vast library that smaller sites just can’t compete with; if someone wants to find pieces for their choir to sing, they’ll be more inclined to do their shopping on a site with the most variety and selection possible. 

The battle for composers lies in losing money because of large corporations or due to a lack of accessibility; the answer then falls to consumers taking accountability. Cross-checking large music retail sites with artist-catered sites is completely necessary in order to truly support composers. On top of that, taking the proper steps to remain educated on how sales are distributed before utilizing the first search result is vital. 

It’s saddening that even something as seemingly pure as the choral music industry could be so unjust, and although the beauty of music is something that can truly be assigned no dollar amount, any amount of money it is assigned should be split up in a way that reflects the true source of effort behind a piece.