One of the most fascinating workshops I attended during the ALCM conference was titled, “The Changing Face of Music Publishing,” led by Mark Lawson of Morningstar Music Publishers. He began by telling us the “Way Things Were” ten years ago when he joined the company and contrasted it with the “Way Things Are” today. Ten years ago the company didn’t even have an email address or a website, and their biggest customers were retail music stores. That’s changed greatly today, where most of their business comes from the internet and those music retailers don’t exist anymore.
I think it’s comparable to the sale of books — I heard that electronic books are outselling traditional hardcover publications by 3-to-1. Borders Books and Music has gone out of business. I myself had not read books for many years until I got my iPad a year ago, and now I think I’ve downloaded and read at least 20-25 electronic books.
Our own music publishing company, Ionian Arts, is also changing. When we started this company in 1986 with partner Peter Hallock of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, our first project was the publication of The Ionian Psalter, which were gradual psalm settings for congregation, choir and organ. You cannot imagine how much paper we generated for this project — every church who ordered it got a Psalm setting for every Sunday in the three-year lectionary, plus special ones for saints and feast days. Altogether there are 212 psalm settings, and when you multiply that times 25-30 people in a choir, we killed a lot of trees. At LCH our Ionian Psalm settings took four whole filing cabinet drawers.
A few years ago, we scanned the entire lot and now sell all 212 psalm settings (the choral edition, the organist’s edition, and congregational bulletin inserts) on a single CD, giving permission to print as many copies as needed. Music that is technically “out-of-print” has been scanned, and we continue to sell copies as electronic downloads.
But music in the cloud — that’s going even a step further. Lawson asked us to imagine that each of our choristers had a backlit Kindle-like device, that could be loaded with music purchased from a “locker.” The choir director would purchase music stored “in the cloud,” and “zap” it to all his choristers. He could further mark up the score (indicating breath marks, for example) and “zap” it immediately to everyone’s electronic device.
I must say that I’ve toyed with the notion of scanning my organ scores and reading them off my iPad. That way I could carry a lot of my music without lugging around a bunch of heavy scores. In fact, at one of the harpsichord concerts we went to at the Boston Early Music Festival, the performer had the music displayed on his iPad and he “turned the pages” by a Bluetooth pedal. You can see a similar device by clicking here. And one of the guys in the Male Ensemble Northwest sang from his iPad instead of a music folder at Wednesday’s concert.
Recently I read about an oral device (yes, you place it in your mouth!) which replaces a Bluetooth pedal to turn the pages when reading music on an iPad. That means you “bite down” to turn to the next page! I guess that wouldn’t work for singers, though, just organists!