Bravo! You’ve written a great piece of music and performed it with an ensemble. Everyone enjoyed it, and others want to use it with their groups. You’re thinking about publishing your piece so that you can sell music to more customers. Now what?
Selling your original music compositions or arrangements can be both rewarding and overwhelming. If you’re an independent composer or small publisher interested in distributing music on a large scale, you may be wondering where to start. Self-publishing and working with a traditional publisher are both valid options—it’s up to you to decide which best fits your needs.
We recommend that those who are new to selling their music consider self-publishing. You don’t need to go about it entirely on your own: services for independent composers, including My Score by J.W. Pepper, help to manage the business side and streamline the publishing process. When you are just getting started and have limited resources, these services can be enormously helpful! Plus, composers who use My Score retain 100% of their copyrights, so you always have the option of using multiple services or switching to a traditional publisher.
As you set out on your self-publishing journey, we recommend keeping these five things in mind.
First, Copyright Your Music
It’s important to make sure your compositions are protected before you start circulating them and promoting them for sale. Be sure to register your music with the U.S. Copyright Office.
For more information about copyright protection for your original compositions, check out our Copyright for Composers webinar recording, where we share answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject. Topics covered include publishing arrangements of public domain titles and using the copyright symbol (©) in your formatted piece.
Maximize your Marketing (with a Limited Budget)
If you’re a self-publishing team of one, you’ll have to toss on your marketing hat to determine the best and most cost-effective ways to get your products in front of customers. Do some research to find out which social media platforms and marketing channels, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and music blogs, your potential customers use most frequently and where they’re most likely to find you.
Social media ads, videos of performances, and audio files are great ways to promote your music. Depending on your marketing savvy and the size of your following, promotional posts and paid ad campaigns can be smart ways to expand your reach and visibility.
My Score helps composers get their music in front of directors, musicians, and educators. Your one-time subscription purchase includes a customizable profile page on the J.W. Pepper website where you can advertise your titles, feature new products, promote product groupings, and list links to your website and social media profiles. We’ll also add you to the My Score composers database and department page, so customers will be able to find your compositions by either searching for your name or browsing by music category. Your music will be shoppable on jwpepper.com and available to list on your website.
Other promotional opportunities that J.W. Pepper offers My Score composers include Editors’ Choice and nationwide reading sessions. Our editors review thousands of titles each year and designate the very best as Editors’ Choice selections. Music published through My Score is eligible for inclusion in repertoire lists for the reading sessions we support, which means attendees—including school, church, and community music directors and educators—see and perform it.
“After several years of having my music published by traditional means, I decided to give J.W. Pepper’s My Score a chance. I have discovered many advantages to using the service. For one, I like the transparency of seeing my sales daily. Through traditional publishing, the composer never knows their sales until the yearly royalty check arrives. Another benefit is that instead of making a 10% royalty for each sale, I make 50% for ePrint and 25% for regular printing of my works. It is nice to get my works online within 1-2 working days, rather than having to wait sometimes years,” says Dennis Eveland, a composer and retired Texas band director who taught for 35 years.
Deliver Digital and Print Copies
When it comes to processing and delivering orders, logistics can be complicated. For example, you may encounter upfront costs from your vendors or inventory storage challenges. Delivery of printed music requires fulfillment services, and distributing music digitally involves providing customers with technical support. All of these moving parts will affect the customer experience and, in turn, reflect on you and your business. Print-on-demand services can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses but could cost you in other ways (think print minimums and production turnaround times).
J.W. Pepper processes and ships My Score print copy orders as we receive them. We have no print minimum and do not charge any production costs. We also make your music available digitally through our ePrint service. Orders are backed by the Pepper Guarantee, and your customers receive full professional support for both digital and print purchases.
Know How Your Royalties Are Paid
Some self-publishing platforms have payout minimums you must meet before you receive royalty payments. Make sure to check each platform’s payment terms, distribution schedule, and payment method before signing up so that you know what to expect. Royalty earnings vary: the industry standard for printed sheet music ranges from 10% to 20% of the purchase price on average. For digital copies, composers can expect to earn up to a 50% royalty payment for each sale.
My Score composers receive 25% of the retail price on every printed sheet music copy sold, and digital sales earn 50% of the retail price. There is no minimum payout for royalties, and they are paid quarterly. Composers can view sales on their personal dashboards, which we update daily.
“Composers want to get paid faster! I’ve seen composers start earning royalties on their music within weeks of listing it on My Score. Not having to wait years to get paid gives you the gratification of knowing your music is being performed and earning royalties,” says Isaac Brooks, product manager for My Score.
Check Music Files to Prevent Quality Issues
Don’t forget to do a quality check! Nothing makes a customer more unhappy than receiving poorly formatted music. Your masterpiece could be deemed unplayable if files are not formatted correctly for digital and print distribution. Be sure to check exported notation software files to confirm that your upload has retained its formatting and is legible. For playability and printing purposes, keep in mind that adding a cover or additional pages (such as a composer biography, program notes, or an instrumentation page) will increase your page count and affect page turns. If you use a print fulfillment center to distribute printed copies, we suggest getting a sample. It’s helpful to see what your customers are receiving.
Composers who upload music files using My Score can select print finishes and bindings based on music type. J.W. Pepper prints all sheet music professionally on 60-pound paper. We print band and orchestra set wrappers on 100-pound satin-finish (non-glossy) paper. Our team will work with you if there are issues displaying or printing your music.
Self-publishing is a great way to get started distributing your music! As a self-publisher, you have complete control over what gets published, and you’re involved in every step of the process.
If you’re ready to get started but unsure where to begin, reach out J.W. Pepper’s My Score team. They would be happy to schedule a demo with you or answer your questions about self-publishing with My Score. To learn more, go to the My Score page or contact us at email@example.com.
Thank you for your excellent “5 pint” document. I have done it many times now but it’s always good to review. Would you please consider creating a new doc on What To Do After You’re Published. The marketing and advertising part of things is mind boggling to me. (and potentially VERY EXPENSIVE). Also, please tell us what YOU do for our exposure. When people search Pepper, does the search include all of our stuff as well?
Thank you, Allen, for your comment and the suggestions. Yes, a search on our site includes My Score pieces. Here are a couple of webinars that may help with marketing:
Marketing Sheet Music http://myscoresupport.jwpepper.com/support/solutions/articles/61000295014
Quality Audio for Selling Sheet Music http://myscoresupport.jwpepper.com/support/solutions/articles/61000295013