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December 2011 Composer of The Month: M. Ryan Taylor

    I have been working to find composers with various focuses from whom I feel our community can learn. If you would like to be considered for this series, take an active role in our community. Lurkers are welcome, but sharing your thoughts, questions or expertise gets you a free ticket for consideration. I am especially looking for a published composer who writes primarily music for worship.  Special thanks to CCMC member Julie Myers for helping to edit this article.  If you have any critique, comments or suggestions please reply below.
 
    The CCMC ChoralNet Composer of the Month for December 2011 is M. Ryan Taylor.
 
   Ryan is a master at creating revenue streams from a variety of his talents. He piqued my interest when he wrote in a CCMC forum post about the ASCAP Plus program. I hope that by highlighting Ryan’s work, other composers can learn from him and conductors can find value in the many useful products and services that he provides.
 
   M. Ryan Taylor is a multifaceted musician. He is a composer of choral music, opera, children’s songs and some instrumental works.  He is a fine baritone, a choir director and an organizer of community music events. 
 
   Ryan’s biggest success as a composer is his opera Abinadi. It is an opera in two acts and is based on texts from the Book of Mormon. The premiere was performed by the Brigham Young University School of Music. Ryan was invited to be involved in every aspect of the performance. This was a wonderful experience for him. I spoke to Dr. Lawrence Vincent, the music director at BYU in Provo, UT. He shared that the ability of the performers to be in dialogue with the composer was a huge asset to the production. The students were particularly pleased to be working with someone who had set texts from the fundamental scriptures of their faith. 
 
   Most of Ryan’s choral music is available through his website: choirworks.com. Most of these works are available free of charge. Ryan uses the ASCAP Plus program to profit from the performances of many works rather than from a per copy fee.  I asked him to explain his philosophy and how ASCAP Plus works for him:
 
“ASCAP PLUS is a program of self-reporting performances for performance royalties through ASCAP. My award this year amounted to $250, which is an increase over awards that I received in past years. I reported several dozen performances of my works in this last round. It is not a lot of money, but it gives me a justification to offer many of my original compositions for free use. Most of the reported performances were choral works. To earn the same amount of money from traditional publishing I would have to sell about 1250 copies of choral works, assuming $2 per copy and a standard 10% royalty. As an 'emerging' composer, I prefer to offer my original works for free for both business and ideological reasons. I've reached many performers this way that I would not have otherwise and I believe the goal of music publishing should be to get the music out there - the internet makes this easy at a low cost to the publisher (in this case, myself). There are other ways to earn from the music including recording royalties and ASCAP Plus performance reporting.”
 
   Ryan is very adept at using internet resources to make his works commercially available as well.  He uses a website called Tradebit. This site allows you to charge for the digital downloading of your files.  They of course get a percentage, but they handle the PayPal and credit card payments for you.  This is one of the advantages we hope will come with the composers’ marketplace here on ChoralNet.
 
   I also found some of Ryan’s works available on CD BABY.  I asked Ryan to share his knowledge about how to make money from these types of websites.  He offered three sites for permanent digital downloads and CD sales:
 
“On self-publishing your own recordings, there are three services that I primarily use. The first of these is Bandcamp.com, which allows users (accounts are free) to upload recordings and sell them using your existing PayPal account. Bandcamp takes a small portion of all sales, but has no upfront costs and has a really great player that you can use to embed tracks or albums onto web pages or blogs (which people can then buy).
 
   The second is Kunaki.com, which is by far the most affordable CD replication service I have found for small quantities of CDs. Getting your album set up is a little bit technical and they do not offer support in that way, but if you are a bit of a media geek, you should have no problems following their instructions - and they provide a free barcode for every CD you upload to their site. They do require you to order at least one copy of your CD a year to keep it active on their site, but there are no other upfront costs.
 
   The last is, of course, CDBaby.com, which is 'hands down' the better option when compared to competing rival TuneCore.com. CD Baby charges you a one-time set up fee to sell your CDs and distribute digital files. You send them a copy of your album and they convert it and send it out to every imaginable music service of note, including the big two, Amazon and iTunes. TuneCore charges you a yearly fee and does not handle physical CD sales.”
 
   Ryan plays a very active role in his community producing and hosting many arts events with the help of the American Fork Arts Council.  He organizes three concerts a year of works by Utah composers in his role as chairman for the Salty Cricket Composers Collective. He also produces many art song and opera concerts. He holds two multi-congregational church choir performances each year. Last summer he held a choir camp for children that was attended by over 100 participants. Ryan also shows his commitment to building community through publishing a free songbook full of Christmas Carol arrangements and songs in the public domain.
 
   Ryan’s high profile in the American Fork music community led to him being asked to take over as the director of the American Fork Children’s Choir. This was a new experience which made him somewhat apprehensive.  He found a couple of resources that were very helpful (Sound Advice by Toronto Children's Choir Director, Jean Ashworth Bartle and 5 Wheels to Successful Sight-Singing by John Bertalot). Ryan quickly endeared himself to the children of the choir and has enjoyed moving the ensemble forward.  As part of the duties with the organization, Ryan teaches multigenerational classes in Ukelele.  He sees himself as a composer who teaches, and this influences all aspects of his musicianship.  His students, young and old, are taught the tools of creating music.  Ryan also makes Ukelele art designs which he sells on t-shirts, bags and laptop sleeves through a website called Printfection.com
 
   I learned several things from the career of this composer.  Ryan taught me about ASCAP Plus and where to go to produce CD’s and digital downloads of my works online.  He also reinforced my assertion that being involved in the music community leads to bigger and better things.  If Ryan had not been so active it is unlikely he would have been asked to take on the American Forks Children’s Choir.  He would have missed out on an opportunity that now fills his life with joy and helps provide his income. 
 
 
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Resources discussed:
 
mryantaylor.com Ryan's main website
Abinadi Opera
Sound Advice by Toronto Children's Choir Director, Jean Ashworth Bartle
on December 8, 2011 8:21am
Interesting and inspiring; thanks for sharing!  Great to learn about the resources for self-publishing recordings, a 2012 project for me.  And always good to be reminded to be open to new opportunities in unsolicited requests, even if they initially seem a poor fit.
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