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,” February 19, 2015. Accessed October 5, 2016,

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



Music Publishing and Distributing: Music Markets of the 16th and 17th Centuries

Music Publishing and Distributing: Blog Post #3

In this third blog post of the series, I will explain the publication and distribution methods of the printed music market from two different geographical regions throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This post will be written as if we were taking a trip to all of these various music markets to learn about each of them specifically. The first stop on our list is mid seventeenth century England and the publisher who was dominating this scene was John Playford. During the mid seventeenth century there were increasing amounts of music being created for amateur musicians. Playford was able to recognize that amateur musicians would make for the best clientele since their numbers and needs for music were rapidly increasing.[1] With this knowledge, Playford would begin to start marketing music towards amateur musicians. Playford ultimately developed the ingenious idea of promoting musical literacy as a way to build his clientele. He did this by promoting musical texts for the most common instruments of the time, including popular music of the time period, as well as basic instructions to help amateur musicians teach themselves.[2] Playford’s business was centered on a bookstore that he operated in London, where customers could come to shop and look for new music, meet other musicians to discuss ideas, and both purchase or be lent books. While his bookstore served as his main storefront, Playford’s house also served as a meeting place for amateur musicians like him, and these meetings were sure to include business advancements to some degree.[3] Although Playford was a major seller in seventeenth century England, music and book selling was not limited to London, as there were numerous shops and market stalls around the country.

In addition to London, both Oxford and Cambridge had university-publishing houses at this point in time which served as an outlet for musicians to purchase sheet music. Along with this, there is evidence that instrument sellers located throughout England sold music manuscripts in addition to instruments.[4] A trend that grew in prominence in the later years of the seventeenth century was for musicians to obtain music books from professional music teachers. Some teachers even began to compose their own works and market them for their students as a way of making additional income and a clever attempt to attract new clientele in order for their printed music to quickly spread their name. Many composers would sell their music books out of their homes, but the vast network of bookstores provided for faster and easier public exposure.[5] During this time, self publication was also an option, so many professional music teachers would self publish their compositions to market towards their students rather than have their works be published by a bookstore as part of a larger collection.

Going back specifically to John Playford, his business was responsible for the largest contribution of England’s musical publications between the years of 1650 and 1700; and while evidence of numerous editions and reprints of musical texts suggests a flourishing market, Playford’s target clientele was actually quite small compared to England’s population as a whole. Information points out that Playford’s main clientele were males and females of the upper class who had sufficient funds to purchase musical books, which would be considered lavish luxuries at the time. This brief look into John Playford and the printed music market of seventeenth century England is just a snapshot of the publishing, distributing, and even marketing techniques of one specific business, as well as an example of how these activities took place at this particular period in history.

The next brief snapshot of music publishing and distribution that we will take a look at is the sixteenth century Iberian Peninsula. In this geographical region, music publishing and printing was heavily dependent upon the abundance and availability of various resources. These resources included materials such as high quality paper, technology such as specialized music fonts for printing presses, and skilled workers with the ability to actually print books and music.[6] Due to the sparse availability of all of these resources, music books produced in the Iberian Peninsula during this time were considered a lavish commodity. As far as distribution went, this job was generally completed by the composer themselves, and as a result music books printed in the Iberian Peninsula were mostly contained within a niche local market until later years. As a result of the high cost and low availability of resources, a lot of sheet music was imported into the Iberian Peninsula from elsewhere in Europe.[7] More specifically, by the sixteenth century, Italy had many well-established print shops that were highly effective and able to produce music books and sheet music more efficiently than any print shop located in the Iberian Peninsula.

Seventeenth century England and sixteenth century Iberian Peninsula are just two small snapshots from the long history that makes up the development of music publishing and distribution. However, these two distinct examples give great insight into the technologies involved with music printing and publishing, as well as the methods and strategies revolving around distribution and customer base for printed music. In my upcoming blog, I will discuss modern methods for music publishing and distribution, which will be heavily focused on the many electronic mediums present in today’s music industry.

[1] Stephanie Carter, “‘YONG BEGINNERS, WHO LIVE IN THE COUNTREY’: JOHN PLAYFORD AND THE PRINTED MUSIC MARKET IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND,” Early Music History 35 (October 2016): 95, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost (accessed October 6, 2016).





[6] Tess Knighton, “Preliminary Thoughts on the Dynamics of Music Printing in the Iberian Peninsula during the Sixteenth Century,” Bulletin Of Spanish Studies 89, no. 4 (June 2012): 521-556, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 26, 2016).

[7] Knighton, “Preliminary Thoughts on the Dynamics of Music Printing in the Iberian Peninsula during the Sixteenth Century.”

Link to suggested further research: Music Printing History


Music Publishing and Distributing: The Printing Press

Music Publishing and Distributing: Blog Post #2

This post will explore the advent of the printing press, including its creation, materials and mechanics, and lastly some of its vast impacts. However, before exploring its impact, it is important to understand the invention of the printing press. Along with details regarding how it actually works and the materials that were used when printing first began. As mentioned in my first blog post, before the invention of printing, books would have to be written by hand, usually by monks. Needless to say, the invention of the printing press exponentially sped up the process of publishing. Before getting into the specifics of the materials and mechanics of the original printing press, I believe that it is first important to learn some background information on the man who invented the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. He revolutionized the world of publishing and allowed distribution of paper materials ranging from books to music. Gutenberg is of German descent, however his invention actually came together while he was residing in the Holy Roman Empire in the year 1440. The Gutenberg Bible is known to be the first book ever printed on the Gutenberg printing press, with around 180 copies produced.[1]

As far as the mechanics of the machine, the Gutenberg printing press worked by having the reverse image of various letters and symbols etched into blocks. These blocks, which were referred to as movable types due to their ease of maneuverability and arrangement possibilities, would then be coated in a black oil-based ink. Gutenberg elected to use an oil-based ink because the oils allowed for better adhesion to the metal of the printing press’s movable types.[2] A sheet of paper would then be placed on top of the types and pressure would be evenly applied to the entire surface to ensure all letters and symbols were represented fully. Lastly, the paper would be removed from the movable types and the resulting image would be the letters and symbols in standard, readable view.[3]

The impacts of the printing press were felt far and wide, and the Gutenberg printing press is considered by some to be the single greatest invention ever made by humankind. This is mainly because it facilitated the spread of knowledge for every future generation of humans. In regards to printing, the advent of the Gutenberg press allowed for various printed materials to be produced at greatly accelerated speeds in comparison to the previous method of hand writing and copying. The Gutenberg press facilitated new and improved music publishing and distributing methods that would evolve over the next few centuries. The printed music markets of various regions throughout the 16th and 17th centuries will be discussed in great detail in my next blog segment.

[1] “Print Ink History,” Accessed October 26, 2016,

[2] “Print Ink History,”

[3] “The Invention of the Printing Press,” PsPrint. 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016,

Link to a video of the Gutenberg Printing Press in action.


Music Publishing and Distributing: An Introduction

Music Publishing and Distributing: Blog Post #1

Hello and welcome to my second installment of music blogs! My name is Zachary and I am currently a junior at Adams State University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in music business and general business. If you would like to know more about me please refer to the “About Me” tab at the top of this webpage. Inside you will find my full biography along with other related press materials. If you are interested, I also suggest that you take a look at my first series of blogs entitled, “Discovering New Artists and Music,” which details many methods for discovering new music, and includes web links to phenomenal featured artists. For my next segment of blogs, I will be conducting research and analyzing the development of music publishing and distributing methods starting with the advent of the printing press and continuing through to modern-day publish and distributing methods. As this blog series develops, expect to see topics ranging from how the printing press affected music publishing and distribution, the printed music market of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and descriptions of modern publishing and distribution companies. In addition, this blog will be interactive and include pictures, videos, and web links to external sources for further reading. The reason I elected to research the topic of music publishing and distribution is because I have recently begun to venture into the world of electronic music publishing myself. I am currently in the process of creating my own publishing company as part of another project requirement for the completion of my music business degree. For this reason, I thought it would be both interesting and beneficial to investigate the history and development of music publishing and distributing techniques for my music history project.

Before we discuss the printing press and its many influences, which will be outlined heavily in my next blog post, I would first like to cover some techniques on how books and sheet music were created before the invention of the printing press. Before the printing press, books would all have to be painstakingly created by hand. Books made entirely by hand are called manuscripts and a collection of manuscripts is referred to as a codex.[1] After the fall of the Roman Empire, Christianity began to rise. Monks, almost solely in a monastery scriptorium, completed the task of copying texts by hand. However, during the Renaissance, demands for books heavily increased, so the work of copying texts by hand shifted from monks to trained specialists. The size of various text copying operations ranged from a single individual to massive commercial production line operations in larger cities. Sometimes it would take a monk the course of several years to complete one manuscript, while a professional scribe who was paid per project, could finish a manuscript in a matter of a few days.[2] Paper was a Chinese invention and by the time the printing press was invented, the manufacturing techniques of paper had circulated across Europe. Once the printed press was invented, the world of printed materials was completely revolutionized and the practice of hand copying texts became antiquated and quickly faded. In my next blog post, I will discuss the advent of the printing press, its effects on music publishing and distribution, as well as the first book it ever printed, the Gutenberg Bible.

[1] Victoria Diane Horn, “Illuminated Manuscripts,” 2001. Accessed October 13, 2016,

[2] Horn, “Illuminated Manuscripts.”