I love finding new compositions. My favorite way to find a new piece is by asking other composers who their favorite new composers are. So I had two separate composers tell me about the same piece, about a week apart from each other.
Of course I had to find it.
Googled the composer. No one told me the name of the piece. Just composer, bassoon piece with piano, ’nuff said.
Found him. No website……Soundcloud……..Great.
Soundcloud itself is awesome, but there’s one fatal flaw. Some composers do not list the instrumentation underneath the title of the piece. So I, the person who might want to buy a score from you, is now stuck. Do I listen/ investigate all of the pieces, listening to each one until I decide whether this is a bassoon piece or not? Or do I just say “screw it”, and not listen? Of course, it all depends heavily on how much time I have.
10 minutes before I leave for work? Nope.
So I forgot about the piece. I had written the name down on a sticky note. It’s still stuck in my notebook, under “People to Listen To”.
Fast forward: Three. Whole. Months. Later. (today)
I’m now looking at his soundcloud again, right now. Still no website to speak of, but I can see all of what I’m assuming is his music. I don’t even know where to start. It’s all arbitrarily labeled “Contemporary Classical”, which tells me nothing. Josh Groban is also labeled “Contemporary Classical”. All 26 compositions, I’m sure are lovely, but how many do I commit to listening to before I give up? There aren’t even any dates. I’m assuming the bassoon piece is newer, but does that mean it was the one uploaded 3 months ago, 6 months ago? I begin to look, and see that almost everything was uploaded between 3 and 10 months ago. Lol….okey dokey.
I set a timer, because I wanted to see how long it took me.
1st piece: Immediately nope…clarinet….and a flute. Done
2nd piece: Piano….piano….1:15 in….still piano. Done
3rd piece: Piano…..piano…..clarinet. Done
4th piece: Band.
5th piece: Strings.
6th piece: Piano…..piano…..piano…. Done
It went like this for a while and finally at the 11th piece down, I found it. It was a great piece! My friends were right. But it took me 10 minutes to find it. Yes I know, it doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But writing my blog, as short as it is, takes me 5 hours to write each time I sit down to write it. I have to find content, then entertaining pictures, and then write the whole thing. I then have to edit it (because I’m, a horrible, comma, user), which takes about 10-15 minutes depending on how quickly I put it together. Practicing takes several hours. Reeds take up an hour of my day, every day. Looking for your composition, as great as it might be, is not my top priority.
I WANT TO GIVE YOU MONEY. Let’s be clear, if I want to perform your piece badly enough, I will fork up probably at least $20 for a score, if not more. Especially if it’s PDF, and I can get it right now. Some musicians are really bad about this. Sometimes, if the composer offers it to me, I will take it without offering money in return. BUT, I’ve commissioned some stuff later, from the same people, and they get their money’s worth. Or I advertise the piece on this blog. Or I perform it 8 times. I do try to pay people back in some way. I like money as much as the next person. I get it. We are all in the same boat.
I want to play your piece, but if I can’t find it, its not going to get played. Publisher’s websites make it easy, but about 1/2 the stuff I play every year is self-published by the composer. At the most basic level, I need to be able to find your piece and you.
I was not going to make this a DOS and DON’TS list, but I’m going to have to, and it’s going to be painful for everyone.
1) Do have a real website. With like, your name, and an about page (I’m currently violating this one as a performing musician, so you know…grain of salt)
It should be your top priority for me to be able to find your piece. It’s your piece! You poured your heart, soul, and a little muscle into that piece. Maybe it was divine bassoony inspiration, and you decided to write a great bassoon piece for someone. Even if your website is shitty, and geo-cities circa 1999, I will laugh, but if your piece is great, I will not care. I want to know three things, who you are, what you wrote, and if you have a recording/something to look at.
2) Do have your compositions list at my fingertips.
I once went to a website where I clicked on every freaking picture on the front page before I got in to the actual web page. Stuff was all over the place. I had to click on 5 more pictures, just to find the works list. I am essentially sampling your wears before I buy. If Target looked like this website did, I would never buy anything.
I should see headings somewhere, and they should read something like…..
- About me (I do actually want to know something about you, the person)
- List of Works (This is the most important thing!)
- Recordings (It’s nice to know you’ve been performed before. Even if it isn’t the piece I’m looking for)
- Contact (I need to be able to get in touch with you!!!)
3) But Don’t set up your whole website in blog form. I’ve found several composers that set up their whole works list like a blog. So he would blog about a piece, put up the recording with that blog post, with all the details, and that was it. End of story. How am I supposed to find it? I finally emailed him to find the piece. At least I could find his email! If I hadn’t found his piece on the performer’s page, I wouldn’t have ever known it existed.
4) Don’t have your list of works by year, or just in alphabetical order. I’m glad to know when you wrote it…..for my program. If I like it, and want to play it, or let other people know about it, great! I don’t care if it was during your undergrad time at Aspen in the 2000’s. We can put that in the program notes.
List them by instrumentation. Orchestra, Choir, Mixed Chamber, Solo, Solo with Electronics, Chamber with Electronic, Seal Otter with Orchestra, Strings, Winds, Solo winds, Solo Piano, Solo Elephant, etc…..
And any entry should look something like this:
- Concertpiece for Sea Otter and Mixed Ensemble (2012)
If you have a recording or a perusal score (even just the first page is better than nothing), LINK IT.
Whatever you write for, put it into a category, so that I, the dumb performer, can find it easily and efficiently. Your list should be completely browsable, like a bookstore where the same author writes all the books in different genres. Barnes and Noble would never put the self help book next to the YA novel, so why are you listing the flute solo next to the SATB piece?
5) IF you are going to use soundcloud, Do put a link in your soundcloud to your website. Or simply list the instrumentation ON the soundcloud. But seriously, I still need to know how to contact you.
6) Do have an email listed somewhere where I can find you!
Facebook is cool, but I don’t want to friend you. Not now, anyway. And you can’t email people through facebook like you used to a long time ago. Twitter is great, but a bad way for me to get in touch with you, so that I can ask about your piece. Get an email address specifically for your website if you want to. I don’t really care. I just want a way to talk to you, and buy your score. Just let me give you money!
7) DO include a recording, sample recording, or a part of the score. Even if it’s just the first page, or the bassoon part to the bassoon and piano piece. I just need to see or hear something. NO MIDI. Please don’t. I know some other performers have various opinions, but I hate midi, and it’s never helped me decide if I want to play the piece or not. Most of the time, it reminds me of bad youtube videos. But if I can see the first page on my ipad, I will play through it. Or sing it. Or just stare at it a while. If it looks cool, I will take it for a spin.
I get it. You are so busy. I know. But these things aren’t nearly as hard as they used to be, and a lot of you already spend a lot of time in front of a computer, making scores. I just want to be able to find your piece, play it, and do justice to your work.