The common plight of the self-publisher is the issue of distribution. Sure, we all have access to professional-grade notation software and binding equipment but these tools do not help us get our work into the hands of performers nor do these tools help us find potential interested groups and expand our music into the larger world. The internet has been a boon for distributing other self-developed media, be it Bandcamp, Tunecore, CD Baby, Soundcloud, Vimeo, or YouTube. In recent years similar sites have been popping up to assist with the distribution of printed materials. Lulu.com is marketed towards self-published authors and provides storefront tools for selling any bound printed materials. Music is certainly possible on this site but two sites are interested in selling their services to self-published composers. The publishing firm JW Pepper launched its “MyScore” service about a year ago and more recently the site ScoreStreet.net has popped up to offer a similar service: give composers a place to distribute and sell their scores with the promise of reaching a larger audience.
MyScore and ScoreStreet both describe their services as ways to get your music to more people with less hands-on fuss. Each place takes over the printing and shipping of printed material, both offer digital sales, and neither site requires an exclusive contract with them. In other words, if you want to put some of your scores up on MyScore, some on ScoreStreet, and see which one works best for you then you are encouraged to do it.
Both sites, of course, charge for their services. MyScore costs $99 to get set up with an annual $25 maintenance fee (the annual fee is waived if you generate more than $400 of annual sales). ScoreStreet is pricier ($29.95 per month or $287.95 annually with discounts to ASCAP and ACF members) but ScoreStreet also promises more marketing and promotion services as well as handling rental licenses, providing assistance in licensing a composer’s work and even assisting with commission contracts. The fees for each of those additional features is a negotiated charge based on the scope of the work involved. ScoreStreet seems to make more of their operating income from user subscriptions and will pay composers 100% of the royalties they earn (less printing, credit card, and processing fees). MyScore keeps the bulk of sales (75% of print, 60% of digital) and works more as a storefront and offers “potential exposure” due to JW Pepper’s already established name in the music industry.
These services are certainly beneficial but they should be carefully considered before plunging in and setting up shop. A lot of us are used to the DIY sentiment and some might not want to lose any amount of control over our product. Going through the process of setting up and maintaining a presence on either site might be too much trouble, especially if you could find some inexpensive WordPress plug-ins to have your own commercial tools on your own site.
MyScore and ScoreStreet will accept any and all who will pay their rates so those looking to use these services to bolster their promotion and tenure files with the illusion of third-party publishing will need to reconsider. While both sites do a certain amount of promotion, composers are still going to have to do a considerable amount of the work in order to stand out from the pack (as always). MyScore’s list of works for their composer page does not tell the instrumentation, length, or any other information about the work other than the title. ScoreStreet gives a lot more information on each score but you really need to know what you are looking for when using their search engine.
If I enrolled with either program, I still think I’d have to do a fair amount of the work in order to find performers and get them materials. And while it might seem unfair to assume that all composers have their own websites, that is usually the first thing I look for when I’m trying to find a score or recording of a work. Composer and self-publishing guru John Mackey has much to say about the good/bad/ugly of self-publishing and these sites may or may not help depending on the individual composer. I think these services are largely benevolent businesses who will facilitate some sales of works and performances. As always, caveat emptor.