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How do you find out if your music is being performed?

Over and above simply tracking your music sales and/or downloads, how do you find out if your music has been or will be actually performed, by whom, and when and where?  Do conductors ever communicate this information to composers?  I have received a few emails these past several months from individual conductors telling me that they like a particular piece and plan/hope to perform it, but have not heard anything more.  (I realize the spring concert season is not quite upon us, but the holiday season is long past.)  Being able to provide specific (and, I assume, verifiable) information about at least one public performance of a work is necessary for applying for membership in ASCAP, for example.  And being able to simply note that a certain piece has been performed by a certain choir is, I also assume, helpful in generating more interest in the piece on the part of others.
 
I attended a local spring concert given by a very good women's choir last year, and after finding ChoralNet in the summer and beginning to communicate with other composers realized that the choir had sung not one but two pieces by a composer with whom I had been communicating, and I emailed him and told him so.  I think he appreciated my email, but did not say if he already knew what I told him.   
 
Is it appropriate for composers to contact conductors who have purchased/downloaded music and simply ask?  Or is this considered to be completely annoying and gauche?  How DOES one discover if one's music is actually being performed anywhere?  I am assuming here that a music purchase does not always guarantee a performance.   
 
I have been considering adding a written note to each of my pieces somewhere, saying something like:  "Are you performing this piece?  If yes, please tell me the name of your choir, and when and where the performance will be."  And of course then I would provide my email address.  Is this a totally stupid idea?  Has anyone else tried it, or another creative way of finding out about performances?  I have a similar message on my website, but so far I think it is not working...
 
I often think that conductors are so used to performing works by no-longer-living composers that it never occurs to them that we still-living composers would sure like to know if our works are being performed.
 
 
 
 
Replies (23): Threaded | Chronological
on April 9, 2012 1:57pm
I agree. I would appreciate to be informed about conductors who are interested in my pieces and have feedback from them as I have quite a lot of another pieces of similar style and I am able to deliver them much more and co-operate on large projects.
 
Marek Slechta
 
on April 10, 2012 7:06am
Hi, Julia.  I feel your frustration and can relate!  I really like your "attaching a note" idea.  Go for it next time you send out your songs.  
 
In the past, I have emailed the conductor only once to ask them if/when they are performing it.  If they don't respond, I let it go.  
 
I guess another way to track it would be to check out the site of the choir and look at their upcoming concerts.  If they have a site at all, they may list their programs.
 
And last but not least, this may be a long shot because the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) can't possibly track EVERY performance... but contact your PRO and give them a list of the venues that have your music.  It should be up to them to then track the performances for you.
 
All the best!
Elizabeth
on April 11, 2012 8:06am
If you are releasing your music by PDF or other digital formats, I might suggest that you write a letter (even just in the body of the email on which the file is attached) upon releasing the file that states some terms and conditions that you might want considered.  For example, when I release a score for perusal, I ask that the director get in touch with me again if he/she decides that they would like to order the piece for performance.  I then ask how many copies they will need, and if I am charging for the use, I will state what the price per score will be.  After they get back to me with the number of copies, I will attach the final score file to an email which outlines a maximum number of copies to be printed, the fee (if applicable), and other terms that might be specific to that use.  I will almost always ask that the director sends me a copy of the program from the performance of the piece.  I find that this works pretty well most of the time. 
 
Julia, this is basically a different spin on what you have suggested, but I can assure you that it has worked for me!
 
I often have to stop and remind myself that directors have better things to do than constantly be in correspondence with me about my music.  Once they get the piece, they want to rehearse it, perform it, and be done with it for the time being.  :)  It is nice to know when your music is being performed though.  Especially on the chance that you can hear it!
on April 11, 2012 8:08am
I should also add that I sometimes request that the choir record the performance (or even a rehearsal) if possible!  These recordings can be good (or not so good depending on the quality of the performance) prmotional tools!
on April 13, 2012 11:27am
Thank you all for responding--your support and ideas are very valuable and appreciated.
on April 13, 2012 11:35am
Yup, that's just the trouble--I can't apply for membership in ASCAP until I know that at least one of my pieces has been performed in public somewhere in the universe, and I just don't have that information yet.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that somebody out there will perform one during the spring concert season, but unless someone is kind enough to tell me that they have, I won't know!  Aarrgghh. 
 
I just asked some follow-up questions of the CadenzaOne folks in that thread, one of which was do they have a way to let self-published composers know WHO is purchasing their music through their service, or do they keep that info confidential or simply have no easy way of communicating it?  Do traditional music publishers tell composers WHO is purchasing their music?  I haven't worked with one, and simply don't know. 
on April 15, 2012 9:35am
Julia,
    My church choir season ends the first week of June but starts up again in September.  If you have a piece that meets our needs I'll have them perform it.  I don't have time right now to look through very many, but if you are interested respond here.  Let's keep it public so composers can get a real notion of the limits of a typical church choir like you find in 90% of christian churches. 
    SATB or SAB no divisi
    range limits: S: Middle C-top line F, A Ab to D, T C below middle C to F, B F below bass staff to Eb
    Tesitura: mid-range don't leave anyone hanging near the top for more than a few beats
    Christian text in modern English, no Thees Thous etc. 
    Scripture or your own text, no prayers, nothing about Mary, things that mention the cross are great
    No more than 1:50 - 3 minutes long and if that long there had better be some repeats
    Piano accompaniment that frequently doubles the parts or at least harmonically supports them is required
    
I only work a few weeks ahead at this time of year so there is still time for something new at the end of May.  We rehearse 50 minutes after service on Sunday so nothing too complex please.  This offer is available to other members that are in the same boat trying to join ASCAP. 
    
on April 15, 2012 11:37am
Thanks, Jack, but I don't have anything that fits your requirements, as everything I have is a cappella and (with only two exceptions) completely secular.  But I hope that other non-ASCAP composers can take advantage of your generous offer.
on April 15, 2012 3:43pm
Julia,
 
A suggestion:  Take one of your works which most closely fits Jack's specifications and create a new arrangement – add or delete parts to make it SAB/SATB, condense the a cappella parts into a playable "hymn-style" accompaniment, and write a new/alternate sacred text for it.  Such a piece could fulfill Jack's choral need and also solve your expressed concern ("I can't apply for membership in ASCAP until I know that at least one of my pieces has been performed in public somewhere in the universe...").  His list of requirements and timeframe include a lot of leeway...an ideal opportunity for an emerging composer.
 
Carpe diem! :-)
on April 16, 2012 6:36am
Julie:
 
Ahhhh, I see that your original, most spirited post has been very significantly edited.  I slept last night on what you said yesterday, considering what I might or should write in response, and came to the conclusion that I would just say I feel strongly that it would simply be inappropriate for this particular non-Christian to even attempt to produce a sacred piece of quality that would fit Jack's venue.  Not only would I basically not be up to the task (or even enjoy it), but it would violate my own prime directive: "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
 
All of that does not, however, keep me from appreciating high-quality Christian and other sacred works from various times and religious perspectives, such as your wonderful "Give Me A Vessel" in the Composition Showcase that has me tapping my feet and smiling every time I listen to it.
 
Carpe diem back to you!
 
on April 16, 2012 1:36pm
White Christmas was written by a Jew.  Just sayin...
on April 16, 2012 4:00pm
Hi, Julia!
 
I was hoping you'd like my original post, but sometimes humor without the .mp3 of the voice or a .jpg of the twinkle in the eye doesn't come across as intended...so I hit the edit to try to clarify.  I enjoy seeing people taking steps toward their dreams and have been thrilled to see a friend of mine recently (after many years of trying) get her first single-song publishing contract.  I think your goal of getting an ASCAP membership is achieveable and I hope it works out for you soon.  When you said you had written two exceptions to secular, I thought you meant that you just haven't written a lot in that area.  I understand better now after your explanation.
 
Thank you for your kind words about "Give Me a Vessel"!...It still makes me smile, too.
on April 16, 2012 4:22pm
Yes, the magnificent Irving Berlin was Jewish.  But "White Christmas" wasn't written for a church service but for a commercial venture, and is considered by most to be a secular Christmas song--yes, I know that's an oxymoron.  Here's some interesting stuff about how Berlin came to write the song, if anyone is interested:
 
 
If I had to compose in order to eat, as Berlin did, I would try my darndest to compose whatever anyone wanted me to compose.  But as I am lucky enough to not have to do that, and I am not magnificent like Irving Berlin, why should I subject even one church congregation to a sacred piece that would not have been composed with great passion or joy or enthusiasm or even honesty--but for a purely selfish reason, which seems to me to be quite the opposite of what Christianity as I understand it preaches?  Just sayin... 
on April 16, 2012 9:05pm
I am a member at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Racine, WI.  The architects that designed the church I attend did an amazing job depicting the resurrection.  The church itself represents a tomb.  The person who made the wooden figure of Jesus rising a little higher than the wooden sun to show Jesus on Easter morning risen from the dead did an amazing job.  Whoever decided to put little crimson squares that come to life when the sun shines through the colored glass did an amazing job. Being a Christian, these symbols have deep meaning for me and give me a sense of the divine.  
 
Were any of these people Christians?  It doesn't matter to me.  They are tools comissioned by the leaders of my church to help me have a religious experience.   I cannot seem to compose anything spectacular unless I am emotionally invested, but for a true composer, the act of composing is a craft.  If I was a missionary and a muslim painted me a picture of Mary holding the infant Jesus because they thought I would like it, I would like it very much.  Composers are storytellers.  I tell Native American stories to my kids even though they are not my stories.  Not trying to push you here, I just love a good debate. I think a composer can tell a story even if it is not one they believe in.  Sometimes someone on the outside can see more clearly than those who live an idea every day.  
on April 16, 2012 11:56pm
I am not religious but absolutely write sacred music, not because I need to (even though yes, three of my largest commissions have been for religious pieces, two Masses and one Night Vigil, (which first performance is this Thursday). The commissioners knew perfectly that I'm not religious but a good composer and I fully engage in making good and deep music, I respect religious people and their feelings very much and I'm writing for them and those feelings.
 
Yes, that's my craft speaking. For my biggest Mass (which is on a published CD and available on Amazon and more) I even got the crit that the music showed deep religious feelings. Which I took as fairly high praise. :)
on April 17, 2012 2:49pm
There's a big difference between a church used as a venue (as the majority of community choirs do for their concerts) and performance as part of a worship service. It's understandable that ASCAP wouldn't care about the latter, since they're in the business of collecting performance license fees and worship services are exempt from performance licensing requirements. Did they really mean to exclude churches as venues? (What room in the church is used doesn't matter either way.)
on April 17, 2012 3:30pm
wow - if churches in Iceland weren't counted as venues at all, I would probably only get half of my performance fees. STEF, ASCAP's sister organization here makes a very strict difference in concerts and worship services, as it should (yes there's a fee for the worship services too, but that mainly goes toward a fund for new church music to be written).
on April 17, 2012 7:28pm
Elizabeth,
 
Have you called or e-mailed ASCAP explaining your situation?  A public performance is only one of four options for membership qualification:
 
A.      Public performance in any venue licensable by ASCAP
         (club, live concert, symphonic concert or recital venue, college or university, etc.)
or
B.       Performance in any audio visual or electronic medium
          (Film, television, radio, Internet, cable, pay-per-view etc.)
or
C.       A commercial recording
or
D.       Published sheet music, score or folio available for sale or rental
 
I'm not clear what you mean by "instrumental pieces purchased for videos (on church websites)" - but it might fit option "B".  Also, if any of the churches where your music was performed broadcast the service on the radio, that might count, too.
on April 18, 2012 6:12am
Unless I have completely lost my mind or my memory (either or both are completely possible these days) it seems to me that ASCAP now has NEW criteria for composers for membership in their organization.  I do not remember reading that self-publishing one's compositions and making them available for sale or rental was one of the possible criteria that could be met for membership last year when I visited their website.  It also appears that now they only have two categories, "writer" (assume this means lyricists and composers) and "publisher" (which includes self publishers).  Thank you, Julie, for the new information.  
 
Here is what their website says (copied and pasted): 
 
"To become an ASCAP writer member, you must have written or co-written a musical composition or a song that has been:
  • commercially recorded (CD, record, tape, etc.);
  • or, performed publicly in any venue licensable by ASCAP (club, live concert, symphonic concert or recital venue, college or university, etc.);
  • or, performed in any audio visual or electronic medium (film, television, radio, Internet, cable, pay-per-view, etc.);
  • or, published and available for sale or rental.
If you will be self-publishing your own works, please be sure to complete the on-line publisher application as well. Now, it's time to begin."
 
I do not remember seeing all of those "or's" last year...OR the line about self-publishing--although, again, my memory could be faulty.  So it appears that a self-published composer like me must apply as both a "writer" and a "publisher," which would entail paying double the application fee of $35 for a total of $70.
 
on April 18, 2012 7:35am
 
Julia wrote:
 
"So it appears that a self-published composer like me must apply as both a "writer" and a "publisher," which would entail paying double the application fee of $35 for a total of $70."
 
Exactly right, and that's good news! Speaking as an ASCAP member in both the composer and publisher categories of some years' standing, I am happy to receive regular checks from ASCAP in both roles. ASCAP pays composers and publishers separately and if you wish to receive both amounts you must be registered as both.
 
It's probably the best $70 investment you could make.
 
Dan Gawthrop
on April 18, 2012 3:46pm
Dan,
 
Do you know much about the ASCAP Plus Rewards?  I did not realize I was eligible; however, a colleague of mine recently received a reward through this program.  He had about the same number of choral pieces published as I have (6...and I just had #7 accepted...Yea! :-D)  The website says it rewards composers who "create music with a value beyond the scope of performance surveys".  But I'm still a little fuzzy on how it works...it sounds like the more known performances of your music you can list, the better(?)
 
The deadline is July 1, for anyone who is interested in applying or learning more about it:
 
P.S.  Julia - The ASCAP qualifications I listed above were copied from the application on their website.  I had not noticed the self-publishing comment that you found.  So...good for you!  It sounds like the door is open for you to apply.
on April 18, 2012 4:51pm
 
Hi Julie,
 
I'm no expert, as I had been a member for a number of years before bothering to apply, but in the event I was granted an award the first time I made the attempt. (It was a modest sum, but all sums are welcome!) The instructions really tell you all you need to know, and I suspect the cut-off level for awards will vary from year to year as the number and quality of applications rise and fall. Surely, more performances can only help, but really, anything you can list which shows your activity and involvement, and your acceptance on a professional level by other professionals, would add to your chances. Lots of colleagues apply and receive an award every year; we should all strive to be among them!
 
Dan
on April 18, 2012 6:44pm
There's an online application and you just list your new works, performances, and recordings. A panel reviews it, and you hear (in the fall, I think) if you've been awarded. you receive the money in January with your royalties. It's for composers, so it doesn't apply to the publisher side of things. I've received a little one every year for many years now.
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