Finding Great Choral Music 2: The Search For Self-Published Music: Using Distributing Websites

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Finding Choral Music 2

*** Many of the websites have changed in this series, and while the principles are still valid, the specific methods and links may no longer be relevant. However, the posts on composers and their compositions should still be quite relevant. ***

When searching for quality self-published choral music, the use of music distributors can be very helpful. (Click here for the first post in the series which explains the purpose of the series in more detail)

In this post we will examine the services of five high quality music distributors of self-published music. Sheetmusicplus, JW Pepper, CadenzaOne, MusicSpoke, and Swirly Music.

For full disclosure, while I receive no compensation from any of these distributors for this post, I do currently have music being retailed with some of these services: Sheetmusicplus, and CadenzaOne (and since the initial writing of this series, MusicSpoke).

Sheetmusicplus.com Digital Print Sheet Music

Sheetmusicplus.com retails self-published music in it’s digital print program. Right now, they only retail self-published scores digitally, and hard copies are not available.

Searching For Self-Published Titles

To access the self-published scores from sheetmusicplus.com, nearly any search on the website will include these pieces. However, the best way to access these pieces is to press the tab titled Digital on the top of the page (second from the right). Once this is opened, I recommend using the search tabs on the left to narrow your search for scores. A high percentage (I think a majority) of the digital pieces are self-published, so if you find a piece you especially enjoy, enter that composer’s name into the digital search (consider opening a new tab for this) and see what other pieces they may have. You may also consider searching for that composer’s personal webpage on google.

Strengths and Weaknesses Sheetmusicplus has a very effective search system, which is easy to use, and can narrow down categories quickly. It also holds (I think) the largest collection of self-published choral music in any one place. They regulary have great sales on all music (sometimes as much as 25% off). As of now, while all pieces include perusal files, perusal scores rarely include an entire piece, which is a drag if the piece has no recording.

The current printing system of digital print is not great for ensembles, but it is being improved. Soon (they have said the target date is April 1, 2015) they will be switching the digital delivery system to allow you to print the score in a variety of formats, presumably along with a license for the number of copies you purchased. You will be forever able to replace damaged scores, and have rights to assemble the piece the way you wish. When this goes into effect, this will be a great digital print system for conductors and performers. Sheetmusicplus is aggressively trying to build up it’s self-published composition retailing, therefore, noticeable improvements are being made to the system on a regular basis.

JW Pepper My Score

JW Pepper retails self-published music through a program called My Score. They sell these scores both digitally and as hard copies.

Searching For Self-Published Titles

To access the self-published scores on http://www.jwpepper.com/, like Sheetmusicplus, nearly any search on the website will include these pieces. However, the results may bury self-published titles far down in the search, depending on the specificity. The best way to access these pieces is through the My Score link. On the home page, scroll down to the very bottom where there is a list of services. Under the category of “Additional Services” is a link for My Score. Once you are there, scroll down the page (past the featured composers section) to the See All Choral Titles tab. Once here, you can use all the search tabs on the left hand of the page to narrow your search. However, if you use the search bar on the top of the page, you will be taken out of the My Score section and placed into the database at large (which includes My Score, but can make these titles more difficult to find). If you find a piece you especially enjoy, you can go back to the My Score page, scroll down and click the See All Composers tab and find the bio and possible website link for that particular composer.

Strengths and Weaknesses

JW Pepper has a great self-published retailing system, once you can find it. The search system is quite effective, and you can order music digitally or as a hard copy which is fantastic. When looking at a score, you can nearly always peruse it entirely. Most of the scores also seem to include recordings. They also have very nice composer pages. As of my latest venture on this part of the website, the shop tab on the My Score page was not working correctly, but rather sending the searcher to the composer page. I’m sure this glitch will be fixed soon.

CadenzaOne

CadenzaOne is an online sheet music retailer of only digital scores. It includes both traditionally published and self-published music. Imagine sheetmusicplus.com’s digital print service as it’s own company, and that is essentially CadenzaOne.

Searching For Self-Published Titles

CadenzaOne makes no distinction between traditionally published and self-published scores. However, it includes a high percentage of self-published music. From the http://www.cadenzaone.com/ homepage, click either the search button or the “about us” button at the top. A row of musical genres will appear across the top of the page. You can click the choir tab, or (better) you can drag the mouse over the choir tab and see a variety of options for browsing appear (voicing and ocassion). You can further narrow your search by typing into the search bar.

Strengths and Weaknesses

CadenzaOne retails music only as digital files, but has a great delivery system. They deliver the music as a file to your email with a license to print/copy the desired number of scores. They also offer great discounts for ensemble orders. When viewing, perusal scores always include the entire piece. Many scores also include a recording. I do find the search system to be rather mediocre compared to other systems on the web, but the company is rather young and I’m sure will improve with time.

MusicSpoke

MusicSpoke is an online sheet music retailer of only digital scores. However, unlike other retailers, they only market self-published music, aiming at facilitating a relationship between composer and performer, conductor, or ensemble. It is worth reading the “about us” section on the website to truly grasp what they are about. MusicSpoke is selective in who can sell on their website, rather than allowing any composer to use their service. In a sense, they fulfil a publisher role without being a publisher. It is my understanding that they do not vet compositions, but rather composers, which is very different than a traditional publisher. Composers also retain copyright of all their music and receive a high percentage of royalties.

Searching For Self-Published Titles

From the http://musicspoke.com/ homepage, you can search effectively by clicking the tab below the search bar that says “start browsing” or by holding the mouse over the top left tab titled “all scores” and selecting choral music. From here, you can narrow the search by ensemble type with the right hand tabs. When you open a score, on the right is a box labled score details. In it is included tags, which if clicked will select every piece with the particular chosen tag. If you click on the name of the composer in the box above the score details box, you can view every piece by that composer on the website, as well as a bio, and a way to contact the composer.

Another way to search is by composer, which can be typed in the search bar. However, better than using the search bar is to hover the mouse over the “about us” tab on the top of the page and select all composers. As of this post, there are 22 composers listed on the website, with most of the compositions being choral (along with a few vocal pieces). As MusicSpoke diversifies and grows, this may not be an effective search tool for choir conductors. For now it works reasonably well.

Strengths and Weaknesses

MusicSpoke offers (in my opinion) a consistently high percentage of quality music among their scores. I also like the ability for conductors to connect with composers right on the website. In my opinion, their layout and search system needs improving as they grow. Currently, they only display 10 pieces plus 3 popular pieces (in very large graphics that tells you very little) per page after a search. However, once you select a piece, there is a myriad of information available that is quite excellent, including a tag system which can be quite helpful (if not a bit serendipitous) in the search. As of the last time I checked, while every page of a score is able to be perused, a glitch in the system is making the scores nearly unreadable. Most scores include full recordings thankfully. I’m sure this glitch will be fixed soon, as regular improvements are being made. Overall, I think MusicSpoke, now in it’s infancy, will be highly successful and a great tool for finding quality music.

Swirly Music

Swirly Music is unique in that it is a non-profit service. It facilitates retailing both hard copy and digital files of compositions for self-published composers.

Searching For Self-Published Titles

From the http://www.swirlymusic.com/ homepage, click the top right picture for Choral Works. There are a number of search tabs on the left part of the page as well sort options in the top center (it defaults to a sort by popularity). There are not that many pieces on the website as of yet, so searching is pretty easy and fast. If you find a piece you particularly enjoy, click on the composers name to see a bio, all their pieces being retailed on the site, and often a link to their personal webpage.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Swirly Music aims for a particular nitch in the sheet music world, and, in my opinion, is filling it very well (read the “about us” section on their website). The entire website is intuitive and easy to use. Every score can be fully perused and recordings are often available. They have an easy to use and effective search system, and great composer pages. Regular improvements to the website are being made. Although they have a quite small database of choral music at this time (84 titles currently), I have been pleased at finding some high quality scores there.

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The retailing of self-published music by music distributors is still a relatively new service, but one that is quite effective and will continue to be improved over time.

God bless and happy searching!

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