ISM launches the Composers Pack: Composers Edition Jump to main content

ISM launches the Composers Pack: Composers Edition

It is common for composers to resist thinking about their practice as commercial endeavour, their compositions as products; and naturally so. Artistic processes rarely obey the laws of the market economy which we in the UK are particularly subject to. Indeed, there are fundamental incompatibilities, such as cost of the time required to craft a work of art being rarely covered by direct return from sales or performance rights. If you’re a composer you’ll doubtless have written numbers of works for little or no fee and have habitually given way scores and parts (made at your own expense). The majority of composers live not by their commission fees or remittances but by also working elsewhere, in conservatoires and universities, as performers or in unrelated work - a long standing practice recently coined as a 'portfolio career’.

That contemporary classical music needs audiences because it needs to be paid for as Robert Hugill argues in his recent article for the Institute of Composing Journal (see link below) is beyond doubt. Thinking too much in terms of market economics is counter-productive, but that is not to say that there aren’t some fundamentals which can be fruitfully applied, if we can get away from the jargon.

Here are some ideas rescued from sales terminology:

  1. If people can’t hear or see your work, they’ll never know about it
  2. Stopping to think what someone else might see in your music can be really productive
  3. Most people don’t like getting something for nothing nearly as much as they may be given to believe
  4. Giving stuff away for nothing doesn’t get stuff very far
  5. There’s more than one way to get paid, but paid you must be.

Part of taking a professional attitude is getting contracts right so I'm very happy to see the publication of the ISM’s Composer Pack which includes contract templates. For any composer wanting to get a fair deal this will be a very valuable document.

The Composers Edition service is there to help composers professionalise their practice. If you are (or are aiming at being) a professional composer do get in touch - we’ll be happy to talk with you about your practice.

Dan Goren
Composers Edition
[email protected]
Robert Hugill : Who are we writing for?

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View or download the ISM's Composer Pack at