How to promote your own music in the Internet age

Opinion

This post from Florida newspaperman and Sibelius user Greg Stepanich got me thinking. He says:

Most composers today who want to be heard have to do everything themselves, founding their own companies, setting up their own distribution networks. The old days of the publisher and his representative have retreated in the face of changes in the marketplace for music. But just because technology allows us to self-market our music and reach people all over the world, that doesn’t necessarily make it a better system. Publishers and their representatives are a good thing to have, especially if you are working yourself to the bone on creative output and you’re just too tired after that to have to get up and then go “sell your smart ass door to door,” as John Hiatt once said.

I think this is a great point. The Internet and all of its associated benefits have surely removed many barriers to entry for creative people of all types to share their creations with the world for fun and for profit. But merely making it possible to get your music out there doesn’t guarantee it an audience. Greg suggests that the democratizing influence of the Internet and technology in general has made it mandatory for content creators not only to come up with the idea, i.e. actually do the creation, but also publish it and promote it. How can you succeed at all three of these things?

We have done our bit to try and provide a platform for composers and arrangers to share and profit from their music. SibeliusMusic.com, our self-publishing and community web site for Sibelius scores, is the largest collection of new sheet music on the Internet. The current total of scores stands at around 90,000 scores, and the site has grown at a pretty consistent rate of around 150-200 new scores every single week since it opened eight or so years ago. It’s in the top ten destinations on the web for digital sheet music, with tens of thousands of unique visitors every month. And that growth has come largely through word of mouth rather than through aggressive marketing campaigns: SibeliusMusic.com is a true community success.

And as a promotional vehicle, it really does work. I myself have been fortunate enough to have one of the few works I have posted on the site performed in New Zealand, literally on the other side of the world. If you take the time to visit the forum on SibeliusMusic.com, you will see the occasional post from a composer or arranger who has had to remove a work from the site because he or she has managed to get it published by one of the traditional print publishers. One or two print publishers have even sprung up out of contacts made and music found on SibeliusMusic.com.

So SibeliusMusic.com may not be the 21st century John Walsh (the pioneering 17th century publisher who, having started out as an instrument maker, quickly became a prolific publisher of music on a scale hitherto unknown, and who published some of Handel’s works composed in England) that Greg is looking for, but it’s a great stepping stone for composers and arrangers who are trying to find an audience.

By the way, I can’t resist drawing your attention to what Greg thinks of Sibelius itself:

I love my Sibelius software; it makes everything look beautiful.

Thank you, Greg!

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