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 So where does that leave the unpublished composer’s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 (www.fitkin.com)
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
Pete Sinfield of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters
(www.britishacademy.com) and Geraldine
Allen of Impulse (www.impulse-music.co.uk)
believe that what will take composers’ websites forward are Communication,
Commerce and Community. Martin Dalby (www.impulse-music.co.uk/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 (www.bmic.co.uk) 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 – www.tutti.co.uk.
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: “mp3.com 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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