BTTH XVI

29 September, 2011
Rat Fink

Aaaaand here we go again.

Wrap your brain around this little drama:

Back in August, I wrote an arrangement of a beautiful song, as I could not find an existing arrangement of it. Through one miracle or another, the chart sounds pretty good. So, I figured I’d better get permission to use it on a concert before I got too heavy into rehearsals.

Located the two composers, contacted their people for permission to perform. It took me a week of bothering them to get them to tell me who owned the print rights. It’s like it was classified information on a national security scale. (???) Once I jimmied that info out of them, I appealed to the Daddy of All School Publishing Companies for permission to arrange the song and for it to be (hopefully) published for sale for school and church use.

Two weeks later, they issue me a Permission to Arrange contract. Wait a minute, though…it’s not for print publishing. It’s just so I can make copies of my own arrangement to use for my choir alone. And to use my own chart, I get to pay $40 upfront, then pay these people $1 for every copy I make for rehearsal.

*blink*

OK, that’s not what I asked. So I emailed the gal back, and asked her to give me the what-what on the printing rights. She wrote back and told me exactly what was on the contract she just sent me. Ooo, hey, guess what? I CAN READ. So I wrote her back and clarified — calmly and politely, but to the letter, and as if I had to make a 10-year-old understand it — exactly what information I was after.

No response.

BOOT.

I have no idea why the doors slam shut when I get to this one issue. I mean, almost nobody takes unsolicited works anyway, so I’m likely screwed regardless, but I honestly want to get to the bottom of this.

I emailed my friend Jerry in Georgia, who is a published arranger (many, many times over), and he wrote back and said he has over 30 of these kinds of things in print, and has never run into this.

I’m beginning to think I’m cursed.

So, I’m putting a call into the Great White School Music Throne today. Any wagers on how many desk droids I’ll have to wade through to be connected with someone who knows jack about this? Cripes.

Oh, and Honorable Mention today goes to CitiMortgage, for sending me a statement with the wrong amount on it for the fourth time. Thumbs up, yeah!

5 Comments

  1. Cripes. We were supposed to go through people to do our own arrangements? Well… whadda know!

    I’ve had this argument with someone before. I can’t remember the outcome because I got so mad that my ears closed in on themselves. OH! You know what… it was absolutely with someone you used to work with… and it wasn’t Scruffy.

    I’m not sure if I got the full story of it, but let me just say that anything I arranged for my kids… we played. I seem to recall this person arguing with me about marching band music verses vocal music. I know you would, in the future, want to publish it and bring in some cash. I could never have dreamed of that because my scoring was so obscure due to the numbers being all messed up. But, honestly, I have a huge problem with the cost of copying music, especially when you’re not supposed to, or even the thought of suggesting to educators that the cost of a piece of music is just the initial cost… and it’ll cost more when you have to replace parts, lose a score… whatever.

    Basically, as an educator… there is only so much grief you can and should be able to deal with regarding publishing/arranging rights. I, personally, think that if our kids are performing someone else’s music… and doing well or at least learning from it… then the damn stuff should be free. Or at least paid for and then used as you please afterward. And you know what? When I arranged stuff for them so that they could sound better, or hacked apart/simplified all of those tunes you watched us do last year on the field, I felt like my job was harder than the publishers at that moment and stopped caring.

    Side note: Only time I never answered a question asked from my students (ever) was “What does A.S.C.A.P stand for?”. I told them to look it up….

    • HA

      I’m sure every current and former music teacher could weigh in on this issue. I’d be willing to bet money that if copyright goon squads did raids on every school choral/band library in the country, everyone would be fined.

      The way I understand from dealing with this very issue with the boys in JECO is that educators get a pass on arranging stuff, as long as it’s used just for that group and not sold. The details are so picayune and involved, I don’t care about much else. I, too, have arranged stuff for my own special voicing needs, much like band directors who have no oboes or horns mangle tunes so flutes and saxes can take over the parts. Cripes, the guys who wrote those arrangements probably did that all the time too, until they decided they should probably make some money while they’re at it.

      When I apply for permission to perform Dinner Theatre stuff, they are all up in my business. I fill out forms that say how many seats I’ve sold, how many nights, ticket prices, and the exact room we’re performing in. Then they give me free permission. It’s nuts. Once I had to pay $30 for a song (can’t remember what it was).

      I am all for giving arrangers their due. From what I hear from Jerry in Atlanta, you don’t make that much off a chart after everyone else takes their bite, so Lord knows I wouldn’t be doing it so I could retire (dangit). And if the planets align and my chart is ever published, I wouldn’t want people passing it around for free. But I certainly wouldn’t mind if somebody bought the chart, then reworked a couple of things to make it easier for a choir to perform.

      I’ve never been asked an ASCAP question! (Or BMI either, for that matter.) :-)

      • Oh, I know.. I didn’t mean “free”. I meant someone else’s music that I arranged or that I already owned and then re-did. I meant free from that perspective. I, as a former musician, totally believe that people who can do that stuff for a living must be paid their worth, for sure. Or else everything else, like music education, would fold like a stack of cards. I would love to know how much those fines are, just for curiosity’s sake. It would be great if they had a fine per one copied page just so I could estimate who out of the band director’s I knew, like the ones in S-Town, would owe…. though, I’m sure they could afford it. :P

  2. Put a copywrite on it and send it in for publishing and see how fast you get a response.

    PK

    • Hello there, g/f! I would do that in a heartbeat, except there are hoops I have to jump through. Ugh.

      Just got off the phone 30 minutes ago with the gal whose firm represents the composer. She called Hal Leonard for me tonight and left a message for them to get back with her about it tomorrow. Nice lady! Maybe there’ll be a happy ending.

      Although…just about nobody accepts unsolicited manuscripts. Now really, how stupid is that? What, they’re full up on arrangers, so no one else could possibly have anything good to offer? It honks me, truly. I mean, maybe my stuff’s no good, but at least I’d like to have someone look at it. My friend (choral director at Georgia Tech) liked it, and he’s been published a hundred times over. I just want the chance to be told “it’s good” or “it’s garbage.” Blah!

      How are you??

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