Why I started a music publishing company

I started my own music publishing company, Lovebird Music, in February.  I suppose did it for the same reasons as most folks who start their own business:

  • I was frustrated at how other companies were doing it
  • I saw an opportunity to do it differently and better
  • I thought I could do a great job and hopefully make some money

I have been writing instrumental music (on and off) since I was a teenager; I started getting serious about it in 1995 when the Dallas Wind Symphony played one of my marches.  I submitted a couple of things to publishers and got a few rejections.  Then in 2001, Bob Brule of Cimarron Music offered to publish several of my pieces.  I gladly accepted even though I was a little surprised by the wording of his contract, which had me sign over the copyright and all rights forever in return for 10% of the net sales price.

Now, I never expected to get rich on any of this.  Writing band music doesn’t work like that.  If you write solid educational pieces that are accessible to a large cross-section of school bands, and if it gets picked up by a large publisher, and especially if it gets selected to an approved contest list (like the UIL Prescribed Music List we have here in Texas)… then you can sell quite a few copies.  But even then we’re talking hundreds, not millions.  The pop music publishing industry is very different from this.  Maybe you can get rich selling sheet music to “Nadia’s Theme” or something but the band/choral/orchestral market is a different demographic.  I don’t know how many copies Eric Whitacre’s October has sold (the closest thing to a band music blockbuster I can think of right now) but I doubt it comprises the majority of his income.

A couple of years later Bob passed away and Cimarron was sold to Lew Buckley and Bryan Doughty in Connecticut.  They have put in a ton of work, but their emphasis seems to lean towards brass music rather than concert band, plus their marketing efforts never take them too far out of New England.  So I was bummed.  I was selling a piece here and there, but people usually came to me first and not to Cimarron and it was frustrating to say, “sorry… I can’t sell it to you, I have to let Cimarron sell it so they can have their 90%.”  These people had heard my music somewhere and sought me out directly – usually via the Internet.  The sale had already been made with no involvement by Cimarron at all.

So I bought back all my band music and started my own publishing company.  Hopefully I’m still on good terms with Cimarron; they still publish some of my ensemble works and I respect what they are doing very much.  I just think I can do better for the kind of music I am writing.  So great, I’ll self-publish.  The Internet is a great equalizer… my website can be just as easy to find as anyone’s.  I should do fine. 

But then I started thinking bigger.

I knew enough about website design and search-engine optimization (SEO) to create a website that was easy to find.  And I knew of a couple of places I could get inexpensive, well-targeted advertising.  Wouldn’t other composers and arrangers be interested in having their works listed on such as site?  And wouldn’t it be great if it worked more like a cooperative than a publishing company, so expenses were minimal and the composer got a bigger share, like 50%?  It would be like I was providing a web presence/order fulfillment/printing/shipping service.  So that’s what Lovebird Music is.

I’m very enthusiastic about this (as you can tell), and the About page on the Lovebird site explains it pretty well I think.  I got legal help in writing the Print Music Agreement that makes it work, and I’ve got several composers preparing works to be listed on the website soon!

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