announcing the shortlist


June 2000

The importance of the world-wide web in our lives becomes more apparent every day. Organisations throughout the world are having to address rapid changes, and music publishers are no exception. But whilst they are busy dealing with the complexities of music copyright and the internet, more composers now have their own websites – some as an alternative and some in addition to having a publisher.

The UK leads Europe in B2C e-commerce (business to consumer e-commerce: buying with a credit card over the internet) and affordable technology, rapid growth in training and flat-rate unlimited phone access, are driving this faster every year. So where does that leave the unpublished composer’s website? Secure credit-card transactions are only cost-effective after a certain volume, but composers like Graham Fitkin ( still do a lot of business: “I like the fact that I can respond to inquiries personally and with deeper musical knowledge than a publishing house could, and people seem happy to send cheques”.

Fitkin’s site sets out to represent him as an individual rather than corporate trade, giving him personal control over his image and his dealings with people. His e-mail rapport has led him to work in Seattle, Rochester USA and British Columbia. But, as interest grows, so does his commitment to the Web and there is a down side to this personal touch: “There will come a point soon where I don't have the time to keep the site updated, or cope with demand, and I'll need someone else's support”.
No-one believes that the net will replace the handshake or the live performance. It’s still about who you know, although now in a more global sense. And until good quality sound-cards (a computer’s chip for decoding digital musical information) and speakers are standard, the 30-second mp3 (downloadable sound files from the web) may be as much as most users will tolerate.

Pete Sinfield of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters ( and Geraldine Allen of Impulse ( believe that what will take composers’ websites forward are Communication, Commerce and Community. Martin Dalby ( agrees: “Publishing houses are on the wane. Having your own site is not the whole answer but it is part of it. The other part is the formation of composer co-operatives employing a promoter.”

The expanding British Music Information Centre New Voices project ( is typical of this, but Matthew Greenall, BMIC’s Director, sees a few hurdles ahead: “We need to find the resources in terms of production facilities and staff that this expansion would require. And this is unlikely to be fully met through composer subscriptions and sales alone! This might be one reason why co-operative structures are relatively rare amongst composers – who among them has the resources, or time, to administer such a scheme? Also, composing is often a solitary activity and unlike, say, acting, interaction between composers is relatively rare.”

Another project which promotes the idea of co-operation is the next stage of Impulse’s development – Tutti provides small record labels and individual composers with e-commerce for their sheet music and CDs. Initially, they will only take printed scores, and for a percentage, they will warehouse, advertise, download samples and provide secure credit-card facilities. But the real future of the sole trader depends on legislation and licensing fees. Of a major shopping site, Allen says: “ openly flouts copyright. It denies composers their rightful earnings. It damagingly spreads the myth that music is free. Web-users have to be educated to understand the value of music... What composers will need are administrative solutions. The more that these solutions can be carried out on a collective basis, the more effective they will be for the greater number of composers. We strongly feel that on a global basis, for each composer, there will be a niche market and this is where we want tutti to score!”

Paul MacAlindin ( )

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Previous articles:

April 2000
Child's Play

March 2000
tables turned

February 2000
the ENO Studio

January 2000
a challenge from Michael Oliva

December 1999
into the next century...

November 1999
Joanna MacGregor writes

October 1999
obsessed with consuming?

September 1999
spnm welcomes Joanna MacGregor.

July/August 1999
Spectrum 2 - miniatures for piano.

June 1999
Hoxton Hall New Music Days.

May 1999
Bath International Music Festival is 50.

April 1999
Who is Georges Aperghis?

March 1999
On frost, birth and death

February 1999
Keeping busy...

January 1999
Now that's what I call contemporary!

December 1998
Forty years of madness?

November 1998
To plug in or not to plug in?

October 1998
No, honestly it is a cello

September 1998
Composing for film

July/August 1998
New music on old instruments

June 1998
Blue sheep of record companies

May 1998
spnm looks to the future

April 1998
New Music 98 in Manchester