Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

How much should self-published composers' music cost?

A simple question:
 
Given that (a) most self-published composers can only afford to provide a PDF from which you then must make paper copies, and (b) those copies can require more frequent replacement than do traditionally-printed works, how should a self-published composer price a piece of music in a way that would entice you to purchase?  What pricing and licensing strategy seems most fair and appealing to you as a potential purchaser?
 
If you have ever purchased a piece of music from a self-published composer who "does it right," please feel free to name names. 
 
 
Replies (19): Threaded | Chronological
on September 4, 2012 3:22am
As a largely self-published composer, I have generally looked on sites like JW Pepper for works of similar voicing and duration, and priced accordingly. When supplying PDF files I would simply take out the copying component and something which might be seen as my "time compenent" (for assembling the music) and whatever is left is what I would charge. Occasionally I would give a bit of a discount for a significant-sized order.
 
David Hamilton
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
 
on September 4, 2012 6:05am
This is an issue being talked about among composers, publishers and performers. With the rise of the internet and the ability to easily distribute music there are many more questions about how, what, who, how much, etc. popping up.  There was a very interersting and honest discussion that explored this topic at the Chorus America conference this summer.  One of many points was the amount of time it takes for a self-published composer to input (engrave) and polish their own score after it's composed, and how this can and should be factored into the price of the work.  As for distribution and licensing, no one currently has the answer about how to "do it right," but there are publishing companies and self-publishing composers who are exploring different options with the goal making a quality product and having the business side of it be fair all parties involves.  It's going to take time and there are going to be some ideas that work better than others.  We just have to keep the dialogue going with one another until we get it as "right" as it can be.  
 
Graphite Publishing is a collective of composers who is currently trying out new ideas with score distribution.  You can read more at http://www.graphitepublishing.com/   
on September 4, 2012 6:21am
Speaking as a long-time choral librarian, I appreciate the concept and convienience of sending a PDF and licensing the purchaser to print a specific number of copies.  In one case, we performed a self-published piece by a composer from Norway, and it was done this way.  I can't imagine how much it would've cost to ship 75 paper copies from Norway to the US.
 
My only gripe with this method is when the per copy price is set, and the piece formatted, as if it was to be printed and distributed in the traditional way.  Remember that you're pushing the cost and effort of reproduction onto the purchaser.  This is typically not as cheap as you'd think.  Call a place like Staples and figure out how much it would cost to print your piece - either as a series of double-sided 8-1/2x11 or A4 sheets, or onto folded 11x17/B3 paper.  The latter is MUCH more expensive - the paper costs a lot more, you can't use the self-service machines, and since they have to do it, you have to pay more.  It also requires some planning and additional effort since you typically have to drop the copy job off and pick it up later.
 
A related point, alluded to above, is to format your piece so it's easy to print onto standard 8-1/2x11 or A4 in black and white. 
 
Thanks for considering this,
Alan Rothenberg
Philadelphia, PA
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 4, 2012 10:26am
You said it Alan.  I have lived a sheltered public school life and have taken the cost of photo copying legal pdfs, letters home etc for granted.  I started a community music business and dropped a hundred bucks just for the paperwork and waivers for 20 singers!
 
As a conductor this is what I want.  
     1.  $1/copy from PDF for standard length octavo for choir, piano and one or two instruments.  For larger scores I would expect to pay more.  
     2. Permission to replace damaged copies,  because they will all be damaged after once through.  Normal octavos (chorals) last for 6 to 10 uses and then I would be replaceing only a fraction of the original number.  This could be one perk for going with a self-published composer's works.  
     3. The ability to make the copies quickly with a committment to pay later.  This is another advantage I have found with self-published composers.  I can add a piece to my choir's repertoire without having to find out a week after ordering it that it is on back-order.   (That reminds me I owe a composer $10)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 4, 2012 8:56am
I too am self-published; however, I do not at this time offer PDFs of my music for sale. I prefer to represent my music in the best possible light by selling only bound copies, and for the most part, these are saddle-stitch bound (staples in the middle). I have taken great care to emulate publishing houses' format so that my music looks as good as theirs. I do send pdf preview copies upon request via email, but the finished copies are bound published quality. Generally speaking, I price my pieces at $2.00-3.00 per copy, with price breaks for various quantities. Still very economical. You are welcome to vie wmy websites for samples.
 
Tim Miller
on September 4, 2012 10:56am
Tim,
 
I'm with Jack.  I'd rather purchase a  pdf, make my own copies, dupe them, and pay less, than get fancier copies and pay more.  $3.00 is not economical to me for an octavo of normal length, 2-4 minutes.  70 singers, 20 short pieces in a concert, every dollar counts.
 
David
Applauded by an audience of 4
on September 5, 2012 6:19am
I had always thought that the advantage of self-publishing was to cut out the costs of the "middle men" (the publishing house and the distributor), and that therefore the price should be something more than the than what the composer would receive if they worked through a publisher, but something less than the consumer (choir director) would pay if HE/SHE bought the music from a publisher/distributor.  To charge what Pepper would charge (or apparently slightly more than that in Timothy's case) belies that whole strategy.  Just a thought....
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 5, 2012 10:17am
Thank you, Julia, for this question. I don't have any responses for your question, as I take this to be a learning opportunity for me.
 
I've done similarly as Mr. Miller has done, but only with parts to larger works and creating fancy, spiral bound scores also, but these go beyond the scope of your question.
 
Reading your responses and my last query has changed the way I think about the way my music should be handled.
 
Craig
on September 5, 2012 12:40pm
May I join in, as a partner in a small publishing business? We sell music only in PDF format, and our thinking may be relevant to self-publishers.
 
There's a basic question: is it more important to make money, or to get our music performed? Should we charge the maximum that the market will bear, or the least that will make our efforts worth while? As a long-term plan, we go for lower prices, more sales, more performances, and hopefully a growing reputation.
 
Another big decision is about what we offer to our customers. There seems to be no point in simply emulating in PDF format what traditional publishers have done on paper. Digital distibution is an opportunity to do different and (we hope) better things for music users. Also, it is unreasonably optimistic to base a plan on notional "rights" that we cannot enforce. So we accept that some people will print and photocopy our music, as they do everybody else's. We offer a deal that allows that, on terms that (we hope) look so reasonable that most customers will be inclined to honour them, even though we have no legal leverage.
 
Specifically, we deliver a PDF to our customers from which they may print as many copies as they like, as often as they need (so worn and lost copies can be replaced). The terms are that the PDF and the copies are for the group that buys the licence, and may not be given, lent, sold or hired to anybody else. The PDF prints a footnote to that effect on the music. We deliver MIDI files with every PDF, so that the technically proficient can create "practice tracks" for their singers.
 
Our website includes full PDF files for every piece (music and underlaid lyrics only) which can be freely downloaded and printed as perusal copies. They're overprinted "sample" and a footnote says that they're not for performance or rehearsal.
 
Obviously, it's possible for people to abuse this set-up and rip us off by using our music without paying us. So they can too for almost every other publishing method, including old-fashioned print. We don't think it happens a lot. Worrying about it would only make us depressed, so we don't.
 
Oh, one final thing. We haven't put our prices up for almost a decade. We really do have to, at least for our cheapest pieces, which currently start at £3 (say $5) for a licence for a group of up to 12 singers. That obviously doesn't cover the cost of fulfilling an order. I will indeed be adjusting the prices soon.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 9, 2012 9:20am
Great question, Julia!
 
After being published by Warner Bros. (a book) and BriLee Music (octavos), I have joined the ranks of the self-published.  A few reasons:
 
I experience first-hand contact with directors, and solicit feedback from them throughout rehearsals, offer suggestions, and see them through the concert.
 
Each piece is much more affordable than pre-printed octavos, usually costing one-fourth as much for the license to copy, amounting to one-half as much once printed up on-site!
 
Singers can mark up the scores as needed, significant, because many of my clients are teaching music literacy via handsign/solfeggio.
 
I write melodic singing lines for all voices, making "singability" a priority, no matter how easy or challenging the piece may be - something publishers seem to overlook more often lately.
 
We are awash with an incredible array of choices for choral repertoire, so self-publishing allows me to maintain my unique voice as a composer - I can maintain lyrical writing standards without compromising to what is perceived as "the market".
 
To summarize - I always want my pieces to be within reach for any school choral program - the price, after you have printed your own copies from a licensed PDF file, should be no more than half the price of printed octavos.  Many of my choral works are initiated as commissioned pieces, so I control the copyright, and set the commission fee in an affordable range, then factor in the post-premiere revenues that hopefully will follow.  You also can have the piece the same day you inquire about it!
 
John Armstrong
on September 10, 2012 10:04am
Self-publishing doesn't really "cut out the middle man," it shifts that job to the composer.
 
The investment of time in composing a piece, in the equipment and software it takes to prepare a score, in web site design, hosting, and maintainance, in the time it takes to recieve and fulfill orders, in demo recordings, and in the time that you spend letting people know you exist, that time is all work time, not free time. It has been my experience that even with top-line publishers, I ended up doing a fair amount of that "middleman" work myself anyway, which pushed me towards self-publishing. However, the profit margin for those publishers remains slim, and top line publishers do larger volume than self-publishers. Without investment of time and money in the business end of it, composers end up with a bigger percentage of nothing. None of us has infinite resources of time and money, so running the business, especially in the start-up phase, tends to come out of our composing time budget, which I don't think is the goal for any of us. 
 
To compare us to food production, we are not the corporate farmers that supply enormous amounts of monoculture, high yield, herbicide and pesticide stimulated potatoes to fast food restaurants for the fries that are killing us for enormous profits by way of massive volume. We are the specialty growers who take our own organically grown, heirloom potatoes, dug by hand from our own gardens, to the farmer's market, where we sell them directly to the people who will eat them. The cost per potato is higher for us than for the corporate farms. If we sell our potatoes for less than what it costs us to grow them and take them to market, where does that leave us?
 
Do some accounting of your time, the equipment you use (computer, a place to keep that computer, etc), and everything you do to get a single piece of music to a thousand singers. Give yourself at least minimum wage. See how much you have to charge to break even. Would your plumber, your barber, your child's piano teacher, anybody who is not independantly wealthy, do what they do, no matter how much they love it, at a financial loss? Do you think your time and talent is less valuable than the people you pay in the normal course of living your life? Our farms are all different, of course, and that formula may come out to a pdf price above or below the (insert fast-food music retailer equivalent here) price. Commissions are a big chunk of that formula, and selling to choirs can easily be thought of as part profit, part promotion for whatever you do next.
 
Consider this, also. If you are not covering your costs in time and equipment, including all the hidden costs that go into creating and presenting your art, you are contributing to an atmosphere where choirs and conductors expect healthy, gourmet food for McDonald's prices.
 
I am heading back out into the field, farming is a full time job. 
 
Reg Unterseher
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 10, 2012 2:11pm
Interesting analogy, Reg, and it got me thinking some more about the question.  But I think your analogy needs just a bit of tweaking.
 
It might be closer to the mark to compare most self-published composers to those specialty farmers who farm on the side (on top of a "regular" job) and offer their gourmet fruits and veggies at farmers' markets one day a week (thus forfeiting having any "days off" and losing lots of sleep), or those full-time farmers who have income from other sources that pays the bills and subsidizes their farming activities (perhaps a traditionally-working spouse, a retirement fund, etc.)--at least while the composers are still relative unknowns.  
 
And well-established composers (how did they get that way?), who from their own herculean efforts and talents become fortunate enough to be able to work full time at composing and "ditch the day job" or stop receiving income from other sources, get most of their income from commissions, not sales of their music in general (the normal split I've read about is 80/20).  So they would actually be more like a mythical farmer who enjoys working for a succession of rich clients up on the hill who pay the farmer to grow enough of just one very special fruit or veggie for one family and sell it only to that family, one rich client at a time.  (Of course then the farmer hopes that each rich client up on the hill will tell their rich friends about the wonderful delicacy and the wonderful farmer, so that the farmer will then get orders for different specialty crops in the future.)  And after the original rich client is satisfied, the mythical farmer could then magically "clone" (at little or no cost) that particular special product and try to sell it to anyone at a customary low price, and magically deliver it via the net.
 
And so we have to think about the customers--most customers, not just the rich ones living up on the hill.  Who shops at farmers' markets?  The relatively well-to-do, those who have the extra dollars (and the extra time) to look for and purchase the gourmet fruits and veggies.  Everyone else shops elsewhere, most of the time, where the fruits and veggies are of the "mass market" variety, but affordable--and these days lots of folks who used to shop at farmers' markets are back in the discount grocery stores.  
 
You ask, "If we sell our potatoes for less than what it costs us to grow them and take them to market, where does that leave us?" and say that "If you are not covering your costs in time and equipment, including all the hidden costs that go into creating and presenting your art, you are contributing to an atmosphere where choirs and conductors expect healthy, gourmet food for McDonald's prices."  But isn't that expectation already firmly established?  Aren't choir directors completely accustomed to paying about $2-$3 per copy for a "normal" piece of music, regardless of its quality or specialness (a price point made possible by traditional music publishers based on their "economies of scale" PLUS the pittance that composers receive in royalties)--even when most would consider at least some of those pieces to be "healthy, gourmet food"?  If an "emerging" composer, yet to be commissioned and just starting to be noticed, priced her or his self-published music at a level that would allow the composer to just break even in those early years (or even much later), or perhaps make just a teensy, tiny bit of profit, no choir would be able to afford to buy the music.  If the composer calculated her or his real costs of producing and marketing a work, especially in the early years (and recession/depression years) when customers are naturally few and far between, what would each copy have to cost?  $50?  $100?  $500?  $1,000?  More?
 
I would argue that all traditionally-published composers have always been selling their products for much less than they cost the composers to produce, by meekly accepting the average 10% royalty rate.  How much does a traditional music publisher make on a piece of music over a given amount of time, and how much does the composer make from royalties on that same piece of music?  Has this question ever been asked and answered to anyone's satisfaction? 
 
I absolutely agree that people should pay whatever a product or service is worth.  But, alas, it's the customer that sets that value, not the producer--not the farmer, not the composer.  The very few wealthy choirs in the world can pay premium prices for commissions and publications.  Most can't.  I guess my real question was "What are choir directors willing and able to pay for self-published music these days?"  That's the only question that makes any sense to me at this point.  (And do customers of any kind who consider ANY product ever think about or concern themselves with how much time/money/energy it took to produce and market that product, or are they only interested in how much the product costs them to buy?)
 
And yet a further question using your farmer analogy:  If a potential customer already has a huge pantry stocked full of wonderful, delicious food (that has no expiration date), what incentive does she or he have to go out and purchase more???  Maybe only if the family is sick of eating the same things over and over and over and actually starts to complain, which they never do, being too polite...
 
 
 
on September 10, 2012 3:27pm
I see your point, Reginald,
 
Yet all that interaction with the client director sometimes leads to a commission, a guest appearance or more, so I try to look at the "farming" part as the reward - but then i'm heavily involved with directors in music literacy too.  I guess we each need to decide how to amortize the investment of time and talent and compare it with the return in artistic value as well as revenue.  A major shift in my thinking developed after sharing a concert with Stephen Paulus - the King of Self-Publishing - who strongly encouraged me to stay the course, write to my own standard, and win over my type of choral following through quality and exposure.  If you visit his website, you'll see exactly what I mean.  http://stephenpaulus.com
 
John
on September 10, 2012 9:27pm
Absolutely, John, I think you make excellent points, including noting that Stephen is THE major pioneer and success story in the self-publishing music world. He effectively has his own publishing house, a complete operation, and even has employees. He operates at a profit. He owns the equipment that he uses to print his paper scores, and his employees will do the printing for others who hire them. They do a great job, from what I hear, and charge what it takes to keep the operation running. Stephen is a very savvy businessman as well as an amazing composer, a combination of skills that we don't see all that often, if ever. I featured him on an ePublishing reading session at the NWACDA conference last spring, and he was very candid, clear, and informative speaker in a panel discussion on this very subject at the American Composer's Forum conference in Minneapolis last June.
 
Julia, it is true that any analogy breaks if it is stretched too far, and I have to plead guilty. In my potato story, I was also thinking of fast food chains as the mass-produced, focus-group generated disposable music that is the major subsidizer of my ASCAP checks (oh, irony, you are a mean one). I had in my mind this week's equivalent of Brittney Spears, not just "commercial" choral music, though I do see the epidemic of Eric Whitacre knock-offs in this category. At least the street dealers charge a lot less for their fake Rolex's than the real ones cost. But I should probably speak more directly of our art and the business of our art and ease up on the analogies before it is too late. 
 
As John and I said in various ways, the formula for evaluating reward is not the same for every composer, every stage of development, and every success model. We composers would do well to step back and consider what reward we expect from our work. Legal tender is not the only legitimate reward. At first, I was willing to accept the 10% rate because being published by Oxford and then Walton meant my commission rates went up, more people know of my work and are interested in commissioning me, and (OK, I will admit it!) I finally felt like I was a "real composer," whatever that means. Yes, it stroked my ego, gave me confidence, whichever spin you want to give it. Now, though, if the only way to continue to get people to listen to any of my music was to subsidise it myself by charging less than it costs me to produce, that would seem like pure vanity, to put it most delicately. I would consider it a warning flag regarding the quality of my work. Most artists have an internal struggle between ego and insecurity, and what constitutes success is a big, complicated subject, so I will only add that it seems to me that the notion that value is only properly measured by the market yields more junk than art, and I would rather generate art than money, but I am not at all satisfied that it is an either/or proposition.  
 
We can sabotage the process for both ourselves and our fellow composers by giving away too much. Yes, businesses do absorb expenses in the start-up phase and for other legitimate reasons. The "free samples" commissioning project that Julia is involved in looks to me somewhat like a tried and true marketing model, the sample stations at Costco. I am not complaining about that commissioning project, I hope it is successful. I do, for example, sometimes eat samples at Costco, and buy the product if I like it. If we only give away samples, though, and our clients never go to the freezer and load up their carts, we can't afford to keep the factory open. If we sell the product for less than what it costs to create the product and get it to the store, we go broke.
 
Reg
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 11, 2012 6:52am
Extremely well said, Reg; thank you for your very thoughtful and honest reply to my too-lengthy analogy-tweaking.  Sometimes I think that advances in technology and the subsequent opportunities they present often create more problems than they solve, at least in the early years, and may--for many creative people--simply produce mirages and offer false hope of success.  And the folks on the "creative side" are often far ahead of the folks on the "consuming side" in terms of embracing innovations, as the creators are driven by artistic passions and the need to share their art and succeed (however they define it), while the more passive consumers are accustomed to and comfortable with the old ways of finding and using the products that the creators create.  And the value, the "worth," of what is created is, I think, nearly always very different between the minds of the creator and that of the consumer.
 
Case in point:  I came across an article this morning about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra -- http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/09/11/160892411/atlanta-symphony-locked-out
 
The musicians in the symphony are fighting for wages that they consider at least minimally fair in the face of the current economic climate, wages that reflect the value of their expertise and experience (they have already agreed to significant cuts in pay).  If the symphony charged ticket prices (only one source of its income, I know) that would allow the musicians to be paid what they believe they are truly worth, very few patrons would be able to afford to attend the concerts.  The conflict is everywhere.
 
It is doubly ironic now, is it not, that just when new technologies and opportunities abound for both those who create art and those who might consume it, the overall economy is in terrible shape and thus has contracted, rather than expanded, the markets for the art. 
on September 11, 2012 6:17pm
Hi, Julia, and it's great to be back and active on the List.
 
If I might cast a somewhat dissenting vote to what others have said, the fact that you (or anyone) can ask the question suggests strongly that you aren't prepared to treat you composition as a business.  The question itself amounts to asking, "how much are people willing to pay for my work."  And that is ONE factor in in setting the price points in ANY business, but it is only one of many.  (And I have to say that it is exactly the way the PR Staff of my former Show Ensemble approached the question of how much to charge for our souvenir albums, only the question they asked was "how much would *I* be willing to pay"!)
 
A business plan, as I understand it, STARTS with the cost of production and distribution.  It HAS to!  Without knowing that, you can't estimate whether you can possibly turn a profit.  And part of the cost of production is the education you've already paid for that makes you capable of producing a desireable product, but that's a universal factor in EVERY business and is an up-front cost that has to be amortized over the number of years you'll be active.  So is the cost of hardware and software that you need to run your business, and the IRS recognizes that this also has to be amortized over the useful life of those items.  And all of this takes a background in business and accounting that most musicians--certainly including ME!--simply don't have, and don't have much interest in. 
 
And this is pretty fundamental to the question of whether your composition or arranging is, in fact, a business from which you expect to make a profit, or is more of an enjoyable avocation that simply gives you a great deal of satisfaction and artistic fulfillment.  And since everyone is different, no one can answer that question for you. 
 
But the simple fact is that there's a good reason for conducting market research (which you, Julia, have been very up front about and for which I commend you), establishing whether there is a market for what you feel capable of producing, or whether you need to discover other markets that did not occur to you originally.  But there is still no guarantee that "write it and they will come"!  No one can EVER guarantee that any product will generate sure-fire sales (which is why there is so much derivative junk published every year!), because it is the marketplace's judgement of your work, not your own opinion of it, that matters.
 
There's been a recent thread on the OrchestraList about how composers can guarantee that their legacy can live on and remain available after they pass on, which puts the cart so far before the horse that I've been hesitant even to reply to it.  Composers have NEVER had any such guarantee, and at least until the mid-19th century had no reason whatsoever to believe that their work either COULD or WOULD outlive them.  Every work of art has a finite life span, and only a vanishingly small percentage of the music ever written has managed to live beyond it.  And the argument that "Great Art" is absolute and deserves to live forever simply doesn't hold up historically.
 
But I've said this before.
 
All the best,
John
on September 12, 2012 7:28am
I asked the question not primarily for myself, but for all self-published composers who are still struggling with the issue.  I do not expect to ever make a financial profit from my compositions, and am fortunate enough to not need to, and will be entirely content if any of them are ever performed and enjoyed.  So I am at the opposite end of the spectrum, with an entirely different set of goals than those of composers who truly need or wish to make a living from their efforts.
 
From what I have learned from many other posts, choral music given away at no charge is most often ignored (I used to offer mine for free until I learned this), and that which is priced too high is simply not purchased.  There must be a "happy medium" somewhere, one that would allow composers who need to at least break even to do so, or allow composers who need to make at least a small profit to succeed.  The struggle to find it continues.
 
I asked the question also because I believe that there needs to be much more open dialogue between composers and choir directors in general, about all sorts of topics, in our mutual quest to provide the highest quality musical experience to the greatest number of people possible.  More frequent and forthright communication may not resolve all issues to everyone's satisfaction, but I believe that the lack of it does not help any of us succeed.
on September 13, 2012 1:24pm
Wow what a great discussion.  I want to share my pricing model with you, Julia, and anyone else interested, because it took me a long time to calculate the real cost (and hidden costs, as Reg said) of selling PDFs -- which I call "Digital Editions" -- through my website.
 
First, my paper copies are priced to be able to make a very small profit.  The small profit here is important because of my dealer policy (which you can read more about here).  I charge whatever the actual shipping was, plus a $2 handling fee (covers the shipping supplies and my time/gas taking it to the PO).
 
Digital Editions are 40% off the paper retail price, plus a $10 Digital Licensing Fee per title (or $25 for "rush").
 
Digital Editions come with a license that reads:
Hello [CUSTOMER],

Thank you for your order!  Your digital sheet music from Abbie Betinis Music Co. is attached.  Also attached is a document called "how to print."

These Digital Edition PDFs are formatted to open with Adobe Reader, but may also work with other PDF readers.

YOUR LICENSE is printed on each page of your score. More specifically, this license permits [ENSEMBLE, CITY, STATE, COUNTRY] to print up to [QUANTITY] copies of [TITLE], and to keep a single digital back-up of each PDF as a perusal/library copy.  Further duplication, uploading, forwarding to singers or colleagues, or any other additional dissemination of this copyrighted work is illegal.  Tampering with the license is a federal crime.

I would encourage your organization to print and physically distribute the music, but if you must forward the PDF to your musicians, please always include the full license terms above.

If you know your performance date(s), please click the link below to let me know!  This is optional, but greatly appreciated, as it helps me when applying for grants and other opportunities. Plus, your performance will be added to my website's calendar! http://abbiebetinis.com/wp/report-a-performance

Above all, I hope you enjoy the music!  It is my pleasure to share it with you.

With my very best wishes,
Abbie Betinis, composer
 
Here's how I came to this 'percentage-plus-flat-fee' model, which I like very much:  The 40% discount comes from doing the math Reg advised above: taking into account all the costs I was SAVING by selling a PDF -- no printing, no binding, travel to PO, packaging, business insurance on the inventory, etc.  The Digital Licensing Fee (either $10 or $25) covers the unique costs of selling Digital Editions, namely my time in adding a customized license to each score, the software license that adds the watermark, and -- for the rush editions -- the costs of dropping everything to fill the order immediately. 
 
It was a fantastic day when I realized that the Digital License Fee needed to be a flat rate per title because those uniquely digital costs are fixed, whereas the unique costs of printing paper scores are variable by volume.
 
(In other words, it takes the same amount of time/expense to license a Digital Edition for 4 copies as it does for 400.  But an enormous difference to print 4 copies vs 400.)
 
I like this 'percentage-plus-flat-fee' structure because:
 
1)  it has its own 'break even' point for each score.  Once the customer takes into account their own cost of printing the piece, it's almost always better for them to buy the printed paper scores for small orders (which are quick and easy for me to fill here in my home office), and for them to buy the PDFs for larger quantities. 
2)  it rewards honesty by making large orders of choral sheet music affordable, while encouraging them to buy traditional paper copies for single perusal scores (which are at least a little more difficult to forward/print/distribute).
3)  it is -- for the way I work at least -- both sustainable and scalable.  With my old paper score pricing I actually found myself losing money when I made more sales (because I couldn't afford the time to print/bind large orders and had to subcontract it to a print shop).  By encouraging large orders to be digital, the more orders I get, the more profit I make... which seems like "duh, you're running a business aren't you?" but it has taken me this long to figure out.
 
Anyway, this is working well for me right now, and I'm very happy to recommend it.
 
Abbie
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 14, 2012 5:47am
I found the messages of John (11 September) and Julia (12 September) in some way related to my experience. So I bring my little contribution on the "extreme strategy". At some point in my life I decided to publish my scores. I faced the "business plan" problem, as mentioned by John, for a while, but I was quickly aware that my attitude was against any business plan; my condition was similar to Julia's one: my life would not change without, say, 200-300 euros coming from selling my scores. Therefore I followed a generic and maybe naive determination of helping choirs/a cappella groups, sharing my scores for free. I opened a site, with short mp3 samples and the list of the available scores, specifying they were free, just warning to use properly the scores (the copyright matters). But several unexpected things happened: 1) although everything was free, I received very few requests in the first two years (sure less than 10) 2) Someone treated me as an unexperienced and inadequate arranger; 3) someone else, after visiting my site, emailed me not for the scores, but asking whether I was available for other kind of musical services, of course for free. So I realized that my plan of helping choirs was far less effective than I could figure out, for this reason: if someone browses the internet searching for scores and stumbles across free scores, their thought is: "Free scores = rubbish. Let's pass on". Anyway, being not interested in money or glory, I went on my way. Then some different kind of contacts began reaching me: "such scores for free?? You're crazy!", "Are these scores REALLY yours? Why don't you sell them?"...and so on. The underlying thought, in this case, was: "If one offers good scores for free, then there is something strange/wrong underneath". So I got to the following paradoxical Conclusion 1: if you want to share your scores for free, prepare yourself, put on your helmet, and, above all, produce scores of quality higher than the average level of scores on sale, otherwise nobody will be seriously interested in your work. Conclusion 2: An excellent strategy to hide your scores, at the same time keeping them at your disposal, is sharing them on the Internet with the explicit mention that they are free. Ah, maybe some of you could be curious how things are getting on with my site and my free score sharing activity after three years: of course such an invaluable information is not free: pay me and you'll have the answer :-)
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.