How do you market your compositions and arrangements?

Edited: October 14, 2018, 7:02 PM · I know that soloists employ agents, and these agents shop their clients' lists around to conductors, etc. Do composers do that, too?

How else do composers market their work?

I have found the major publishers to be "unwilling" to even receive manuscripts, even when I have many years of arranging experience, and good referees.

I had a bass quartet played last month, but that will be all I have placed in the past nine months (five pieces for string orchestra, high school level, in February).

Social media gets a bit of interest, but it still is not publishing, or getting the music played in concert.

What do you do, please?

Replies (9)

Edited: October 14, 2018, 8:40 PM · Self publishing is what I've been looking into.

Being 'published' isn't a great thing unless you solely want the prestige of being able to claim you're published by so and so.

You get next to nothing for your sales when you publish and you have to forfeit some of the more important parts of your copyright to your work. The publisher essentially owns the work and not yourself.

I've been slowly building a catalog and am planning to release a couple of choral works next year through the choral association I work with, and then publishing the rest using a platform that will allow me to sell my work and not have to worry about printing, but still let me get more than a very small amount of the profits without giving up copyright. The current forerunner is JW Pepper's My Score platform.

Hope it helps, I know it doesn't really answer the question per-se, but the only real answer to that is 'write something they want to hear', which sounds more inflammatory than it really is. It's just a matter of making them interested, which is very hard to do unless major groups are already interested in your work.

RE: Getting people to play your music - connections, and connections, and connections, and connections..

October 15, 2018, 2:10 AM · Figuring that the difference between next to nothing and nothing is sod all, and having no ambition to be known as a "professional", my arrangements all go straight to IMSLP where they are copyright-protected but freely available under Creative Commons licence 4.0. That way there is at least some personal satisfaction to be had when you read that your string quartet arrangement of Mahler 4 has been downloaded 1665 times. Even better, my string orchestra revamp of an Elgar piece for organ has had 2696 downloads and (google tells me) public performances in Canada, Australia and Spain - fame at last!
October 16, 2018, 6:53 AM · I have delved into this quite a bit and have found it to be somewhat rewarding but also quite frustrating. I arrange sacred music and Christmas songs primarily for unaccompanied violin. I market this music through a web site I created:

I also have a couple music stores selling the books as well such as Johnson String Instrument.
What I have found is that I am barely breaking even in my endeavors. The cost of the website (especially the store features such as credit card payments and such)is rather high offsetting the income I make selling the books.
You can see on the website that I sell books in either hard cover or digital form. The hard cover books I publish myself. The investment was a good laser printer and a good spiral binding machine. So far I have been able to keep up with the demand with this equipment. Certainly the digital form is much easier but many people I have found want the printed book with the nice cover and already bound.
So anyway, my point is that even though I am not getting rich by any means there is still a lot of satisfaction in producing these books so I still enjoy doing it.

October 16, 2018, 6:58 AM · If you want to make any amount of money, you need to get your pieces out into the public. If you can perform or arrange performances of your own pieces, that is basically the only way. Then you self-publish on your own website and hope for the best.

I hear it's not an easy career path.

Edited: October 16, 2018, 8:43 AM · Or be good enough to write music for movies, radio and TV documentaries, a very specialised skill.
Edited: October 16, 2018, 11:32 PM · I must say I would be content to have the music played by ensembles I didn't organise or direct myself. (I am not trying to make megabucks.) I did that for many years, and it was fun, but I am no longer a music teacher with access to dozens of capable students, all keen to play in concert bands, etc.

I have self-published books, mostly school text books, and the delivery costs absolutely blew away any real financial gain. This is especially true of one-off orders, where postage is the only sensible way to deliver the book, and costs are therefore most of the gap between production and retail.

But I am frustrated when I hear musicians and students disengaged with their ensemble work, missing parts being plugged in by some unsatisfactory means, and all the while their directors are declining custom written work, even free of charge.

I don't think writing for televion, radio movies is such specialised work: but you need huge connections to break in. At least half of this work is now done with a scoring program and high-quality sound library, so producing demo tracks is quite straight forward. But I don't think these are even considered, ahead of "Bill's son or daughter".

And, this lack of traction in the market place is not my personal issue. I could point you to some very successful performers who offer their arrangements on the web, and they sell music for nearly nothing in very small quantities.

October 17, 2018, 6:36 AM · Most composers, including myself, sell their music through a library music company. You get paid when somebody uses it for television, film etc. It would have to be well recorded. Usually you can't be too adventurous with library music as it is used in the background for the most part. Typically, you get 50%.
October 19, 2018, 1:17 PM · Music libraries seem to be the most common way people sell their music in the circles I travel.

Most who make Radio/TV music have good solid connections and have a history of delivering on time. It can be a fairly stressful and unartistic endeavor. They don't often ask you to present your music, they usually have an idea in mind which sometimes can't veer very far from accepted norms.You don't make your music for them, you make their music for them. This can possibly discourage the free spirited types.

To answer your question though, " How do you market your compositions?"
Any way you can, othodox, unorthodox or otherwise. I'm not implying you do anything dishonest or immoral, though some probably have...all the way up to selling their souls.

November 14, 2018, 10:29 AM · >How else do composers market their work?

I've seen a lot of composer put their stuff online on popular media. Bandcamp, soundcloud, spotify, youtube, etc. If it's possible to make money out of it, someone will notice and you should be able to publish it.

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