Composerwave: music publishing 2.0

The music publishing industry has worked pretty much the same way for centuries – if a composer is deemed significant enough, one of a small number of publishers buys the copyright for their music. From that point on the composer is out of control. The publisher decided who gets a license to perform the music, who records the music, who uses it on film, TV or adverts; and takes something like 30-50% of all the proceeds of doing so.

In this day and age, there ought to be a better way. So in the same way that Smashwords, Amazon and Lulu are allowing self-published authors to reach directly out to their audiences, Composerwave is Music Publishing 2.0.

The concept came from Robert Dufton, an acclaimed chorister (author of ‘The Lay Clerk’s Handbook’, one-time Songman, Tutor and Librarian at Sheffield Cathedral as well as Assistant Director of The Sheffield Chorale and winner of a choral scholarship to Truro Cathedral), composer and also physics graduate.

The system works like this: Composers register for a free account, create a profile, list their works and make performance permissions available, either for a single performance or in perpetuity for a particular venue or ensemble. A performance permission could cost as little as 50p, though a composer can also list pieces as being Creative Commons, or can gift performance permissions to anyone they like. Each permission bought or gifted generates a code which performers need to quote in the programme notes (or equivalent) for the performance.

Performers or directors can search the system, peruse the linked media (Composerwave can pull in embedded media from YouTube, SoundCloud, AudioBoo, Vimeo and Bandcamp), and even download the scores, to help them decide whether they want to perform the piece before they pay the fee.

In the fullness of time, the system will also allow performers or directors to commission works from composers – creating a contest to which composers can submit their pieces, with a fee going to the winner.

The site is one of the biggest online applications we’ve built, tracking income and outcome transactions, managing the catalogue of pieces with their associated scores, manipulating PDF uploads, and incorporating a bespoke CMS for news updates. The design is totally responsive, giving a great experience on mobile devices without a massive payload.

It’s a bold experiment and we’re excited to be part of it.



You may also like