Saturday, May 02, 2009 - Print and Play Publishing

As of May 2009, all scores and parts ordered through will be delivered electronically in the Adobe PDF format. So when you order a score or part from my Store, you won't be getting paper parts in the mail, but rather a downloadable collection of PDF parts (and score renditions) complete with everything you need to simply Print and Play. Over the next few weeks you will be seeing a host of new and re-vamped products listed in my Store - all the products that involve scores of any size or type will be distributed electronically in PDF once the (modest) license fee is paid.

This is big news and hopefully will serve to provide music directors and their respective ensembles (bands, orchestras, jazz ensembles, choirs, combos, and other groups) more direct control over their licensed parts and scores, printing only what they need, when they need it, with the ability to re-print anytime a part is ever lost or damaged.

There are several advantages to this switch from a paper-based distribution model to the distribution of electronic PDF score and parts:

As a working musician and part-time jazz band director, I know how easily parts get lost or damaged. When you purchase a license for a score from you'll have copies of your licensed PDFs, so you can print out the copies you need, when you need them.

We're a pretty small shop here at (currently publishing only the musical works of me, Rob Birdwell), so it's simply not cost effective for to deliver hard copies of bound scores and parts to groups around the world. Paper, toner, binding, taping, and shipping costs add up quickly. And those are merely the ornamentation of the true "content" of the musical work. But the costs of printing out the necessary parts and score for an orchestra, band, choir (or other ensemble) are relatively small, particularly when the licensee is in control of the parts being printed - nothing is wasted. Part quality will be high and is again somewhat in the control of licensee. Scores can be scaled to an appropriate size for the licensee (you're not stuck with a paper copy that requires a bionic eye to read!). Corrections from the publisher are also easily distributed (not that any of my scores have mistakes!) . Having the PDF files ready to print at anytime makes the process of getting music to the stands a very simple thing to do, as it should be.

This "Print and Play" model of publishing will serve to keep the actual licensing costs of scores and parts to a reasonable rate, ensuring that every band, orchestra, jazz ensemble, choir or other group has access to our ever growing music library, and simultaneously ensuring a reasonable compensation for the composer.

The bottom line is that I want to do everything possible to make access to my library of scores affordable and convenient. Eliminating the barrier of the "paper" burden should go a long way in making my musical offerings more easily accessible and convenient for music directors to program and perform.

There's always the threat of mis-use of the PDF files. Having access to musical score/part files electronically makes them easy to copy, share, or loan.

However, the folks who purchase licenses for my music are my champions. They are music directors, teachers, and performers. Besides, a true violation of the license terms would be a multi-step process, involve multiple parties, and be potentially embarrassing for any organization if/when they were ever caught. One must actually print out the parts, distribute them to the players, rehearse the musical work, program the piece and, finally, perform the piece at a public or private venue - all with full knowledge that they are doing it to avoid a minor licensing fee. But why would an organization even want to risk the appearance of impropriety, particularly when they are serving as advocates for the artistic merit and value of the musical work by performing it in the first place? And with reasonable licensing rates for parts/scores there will simply be no reason for ensembles to violate the license terms. It will, I believe, be a model they welcome and gladly support. Besides, the old model isn't really working - just ask any publisher!

Music directors are burdened with managing both a paper library of musical artifacts (typically in those rows and rows of gray or black file cabinets) and an ever growing electronic catalog of resources, scores and parts. The former represents the past, the latter the future. The past is not an easy thing to shake, but I at least want to do whatever I can to help make new music easily accessible and affordable to a wide range of musical ensembles - now and in the future.

Time will tell, but I think the benefits of the Print and Play model far outweigh any concerns of mis-use or mis-appropriation. The point with any musical work is to get it performed, to reach an audience and, sure, it's nice (as a creator of intellectual property) to get reasonably compensated. I believe it will be a win-win model and will evolve as things like this always do.

As of May 2009, I'm "electronifying" some of my older scores (March of the Flower Children, Heroic Music, and a numerous other works) as well as putting into place the tools and processes for making my newer works flow into this new Print and Play music publishing model. There's much music to write!

By delivering my scores and parts electronically to the groups I've served in the past (bands, orchestras, jazz ensembles, combos, choirs, and a variety of other instrumental groups) I can keep my publishing costs down and still deliver a professional quality, modestly priced "product" that can be what it was intended to be: performed!


Rob Birdwell


Unknown said...

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Rob Birdwell said...

Well John, your comment seems a bit self-promotional (hey, this is my blog dude!), but since your link actually appears to have some musical merit (musical instructional videos - hey, that's terrific!), I'll just thank you for the comment: thanks!