Music Publishing and Distributing: Modern Day Techniques

Music Publishing and Distributing: Blog Post #4

The changes present in modern music publishing and distribution techniques and methods are countless in comparison to those explored in my previous blog. In this segment, I will discuss modern developments in music publishing and distribution including how publishing now encompasses both sheet music and recorded works, how distribution has taken a turn from physical copies to electronic files, as well as take a closer look to some of todays largest publishing companies and societies. In my opinion, the fact that music printing and publishing techniques developed from the printing press to current digital printing technologies where anyone can have their own “print shop” on their desk, is shadowed by a far more important development. That is, the idea that music publishing has actually encountered a fundamental change, where publishing music is now more likely to refer to recorded works than printed sheet music. At the time that the printing press was in its heyday, a method for capturing recorded works had not yet been developed. However, in our day and age increasing amounts of media are being consumed electronically. As a result, less music is being published as printed works to be purchased and played by musicians and more music is being published as an electronic recorded work for anyone to purchase and listen to or use as they see fit.[1]

This paradigm shift away from sheet music publications towards publishing music for sale as a recorded work shows how music publishing and its related technology, methods, and ideas are constantly changing and evolving.

Next, I believe it is important to look at how music distribution methods have changed in modern times compared to when the printing press started the entire printing revolution back in the mid fifteenth century. At the time that the printing press was invented, and for many hundreds of years after that, music was distributed as physically printed paper copies, either as sheet music or musical books. While, some music is still printed and distributed as physical paper copies, the vast majority of people depend on an electronic and technology based society, meaning that much of today’s music is distributed through various electronic means. While electronic distribution includes recorded music in forms, such as audio files and streaming services, in this blog I will be focusing on the electronic distribution of sheet music. There are several sites, for example Tapspace, where sheet music can be purchased and then electronically distributed to the purchaser usually by means of emailing a file, such as a PDF, of the sheet music to the purchaser. Electronic distribution of sheet music makes the process of distribution almost instantaneous with minimal overhead costs in comparison to physical distribution. However, I do think it is interesting to note that electronically distributed sheet music is still almost always converted into a physical copy, although the purchaser now usually just completes this step at home on his or her own personal printer once they have received the file electronically.

Continuing on, we will now view some modern publishing companies and explore the ease of creating your own publishing company in today’s day and age. Today, the big three publishing companies that are currently dominating the music publishing scene are, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. Although, one company that has recently been gaining traction is Kobalt Music Group. Kobalt is highly regarded for their modern publishing techniques and for fighting for every dollar that their artists deserve. Relatively Speaking, creating your own publishing company is fairly simple too complete. First, you must affiliate your company with one performance rights organization (PRO) either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC and then create a business entity for your company. The next step is to register your songs with the copyright office as well as your company’s respective PRO and you will be all set to start publishing![2]

This concludes my segment of blogs tracing the development of music publishing and distributing throughout history. I want to thank everyone who is reading this blog, and I hope the information I provided was both enlightening and enjoyable to read! Again, if you enjoyed this installment of blog posts I highly suggest you look at my first series of blogs regarding artist and music discovery, as well as any links I have provided throughout all of my blogs.

[1] Catherine F Radbill, Introduction to the Music Industry An Entrepreneurial Approach Second Edition (New York: Routledge, 2017.)

[2] Jason Blume, “How to Start Your Own Music Publishing Company,” bmi.com. February 19, 2015. Accessed October 5, 2016, http://www.bmi.com/news/entry/how_to_start_your_own_music_publishing_company.

Links to suggested further research: ASCAP, BMI, and Kobalt Music

Bibliography

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