One of my favorite things about nkoda — the subscription music service for sheet music — is its vast library. It’s the reason I was optimistic in my initial review of nkoda at its launch in 2018; and it’s the reason I continue to subscribe to nkoda today. (I even included it as a required “text” in my graduate music theory syllabus this semester.) However, one of the earliest pieces of feedback I gave during the beta was that I wanted a way for self-publishing composers like me to add our own works to the library.
That has not been possible until this month, when Escobar Digital launched their new aggregation service.
Escobar Digital, the aggregator for nkoda
Independent performers and recording artists have used aggregation services for years. Services like CD Baby and Tunecore have allowed indies to appear alongside artists from the biggest labels in digital sales and streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and others.
Likewise, Escobar Digital allows scores from small publishers and self-published composers like me to live in the nkoda catalog right next to Barenreiter Urtexts, Boosey and Hawkes Masterworks, and the bleeding-edge releases from Composers Edition.
Creating your catalog
Music Aggregation Services Finland, the company behind Escobar Digital, allows anyone to sign up and distribute their own music through the service. Upon signing up, you’ll be asked to select an imprint for your music to be associated with in nkoda’s catalog. I opted for the default Escobar.Digital, but you can also choose Harmonia.Digital and Composer.Directory.
Imprint names are purely cosmetic and have no meaning; they just show up as the publisher name in nkoda. Choose carefully, as this cannot be changed later.
Once signed up, you’ll select a subscription level — more on that in a bit — and provide some basic profile information, including banking details for direct deposit of royalties earned from the service. From there, you can begin adding to “Your catalogue of works”.
After providing some basic information about the piece like the length and a program note, you’ll upload PDF files for all the scores and parts for the work. This could be a little tedious for large works, as each part needs to be uploaded separately and labeled. But once you’ve done that, it will immediately begin being processed into the nkoda library. In my experience, this usually took less than 30 minutes.
Once a work is in nkoda’s library, it is searchable just like any other work, and it is added to your “artist” page on nkoda as well. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to update a score once it was added. (Not that you’ve ever changed your mind or made a mistake in one of your scores.) The same is true of the artist page, which pulls in a bio and headshot from Escobar Digital.
Fees and royalties
Using Escobar Digital costs $14.90 per year for five works, and then an additional $5 for each additional set of five works: $19.90 for ten works, $24.90 for fifteen, and so on. This is Escobar Digital’s only revenue stream that I’m aware of. They do not take a percentage of the royalties from nkoda.
Speaking of royalties, nkoda pays royalties to publishers based on a per-user percentage of use. So if a user spends 17% of their time looking at your music in a given month, you’ll earn 17% of the royalties from their membership. nkoda doesn’t share exactly how much of the nkoda subscription fee goes to publishers, but Jari Eskola at Escobar Digital confirmed that it is a “significant majority” of subscription revenue.
Escobar Digital is exactly the service I was hoping to find for adding my own works to the nkoda catalog. It’s simple, straighforward, and priced reasonably. I can’t say if it’s something that is going to earn any significant money for me, as it’s very early days for both nkoda and Escobar Digital. But I’m ok with that, as I see nkoda availability as complementary to digital and hard-copy sales of my scores on my personal site and elsewhere.
I can also imagine Escobar Digital adding other digital distribution channels as well, just as Tunecore adds recordings to dozens of retail and streaming sites. And we have seen apps like forScore and Newzik add retail integrations in recent years. I asked Jari about future platform plans for the service, and while he didn’t have any specifics to share, he did say that they hope to expand to other digital services once their nkoda integration is established. And in these times of pandemic-induced social distancing, digital distribution is likely to become increasingly important.
I’ve had early access to the Escobar Digital beta, but I fully intend to continue my subscription now that they’ve launched, and I hope to see more services like this to support independent and self-publishers in the growing digital classical music ecosystem.