History of music publishing
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Music publishing is the process of producing and disseminating printed musical scores while insuring that the composer receives credit and royalties (where applicable). This article outlines the early history of the industry.
- 1 The Three Fundamentals
- 2 The Beginnings of Modern Music Publishing
- 3 Licensing in music publishing
- 4 New Technologies
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
The Three Fundamentals
Music publishing did not begin on a large scale until the mid-15th century, when mechanical techniques for printing music were first developed. The earliest example, a set of liturgical chants, dates from about 1465, shortly after the Gutenberg Bible.
Prior to this time, music had to be copied out by hand. This was a very labor-intensive and time-consuming process, so it was usually undertaken only by monks and priests seeking to preserve sacred music for the church. The few collections of secular music that are extant were commissioned and owned by wealthy noblemen. Examples include the Squarcialupi Codex of Italian Trecento music and the Chantilly Codex of French Ars subtilior music.
The father of modern music printing was Ottaviano Petrucci, a printer and publisher who was able to secure a twenty-year monopoly on printed music in Venice during the 16th century. His first collection was entitled Harmonice Musices Odhecaton and contained 96 polyphonic compositions, mostly by Josquin des Prez and Heinrich Isaac. He flourished by focusing on Flemish works, rather than Italian, as they were very popular throughout Europe during the Renaissance. His printing shop used the triple-impression method, in which a sheet of paper was pressed three times. The first impression was the staff lines, the second the words, and the third the notes. This method produced very clean results, though it was time-consuming and expensive.
Around 1520 in England, John Rastell developed a single-impression method for printing music. With his method, the staff lines, words and notes were all part of a single piece of type, making it much easier to produce. However, this method produced messier results, as the staff lines were often inexactly aligned and looked wavy on the page. The single-impression method eventually triumphed over Petrucci's, however, and became the dominant mode of printing until copper-plate engraving took over in the 17th century. This method was adopted and used widely by a Frenchman, Pierre Attaingnant.
The concept of musical copyright had its beginnings in 1575 when Elizabeth I granted Thomas Tallis and his pupil William Byrd a twenty-one year patent monopoly on the printing and publishing of polyphonic music. Later, King Henry VIII of England required copies of all printed matter to be sent to him and offered protection to printers in the form of licenses, primarily to produce a new source of revenue. The first modern copyright law was the Statute of Anne (1709), which protected all published works for a period of fourteen years, later extended to twenty-eight years.
The earliest attempt at a printed musical copyright notice appears in the "Shir Hashirim" of Salomone Rossi (Venice, 1623) which includes a rabbinical curse on those pirating the text, written by Leon of Modena.
The Berne Convention
The first international agreement involving copyright was the Berne Convention of 1886. The core principal of the Convention is its provision that each of the contracting countries shall provide automatic protection for works in all other countries of the union and for unpublished works whose authors are citizens of or residents in those countries. Performance rights are included in these provisions. As of March 2012, 165 countries had become parties to the convention.
The United States
In the United States, protecting music was initially not a priority and it was not included in the first federal copyright law. The Copyright Act of 1831 expanded the law to include musical compositions, although only the reproduction rights for printed music were protected. The copyright term was twenty-eight years plus a fourteen year renewal period.
While England was a leader in the development of copyright, the French led the way in performing rights.
In 1777, Pierre de Beaumarchais founded the "Bureau de Legislation Dramatique" which became the present Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (SACD) in 1829. Many years later, in 1847, this inspired the composer and librettist Ernest Bourget to claim payment for each performance of his works at Les Ambassadeurs, a leading Café-concert venue of that time. A lawsuit won by Bourget and others in 1851 led to the formation of the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique (SACEM) – the first performing rights society in the world.
Other countries followed suit: The Italian Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori (SIAE) was founded in 1882 and the Spanish "Sociedad de Autores", predecessor of the current Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), in 1899. The predecessor to the Gesellschaft für Musikalische Aufführungs und Mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (GEMA) was formed in Germany by composer Richard Strauss in 1903. It became GEMA in 1915 when it merged with another small society.
So, by the end of the 19th century, the foundation had been laid for the modern music publishing industry.
The Beginnings of Modern Music Publishing
As England was to copyright and France was to performing rights, Germany was the pioneering country in modern music publishing.
The first German music publishing enterprises date from the 18th century. Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf of Leipzig, a printer and general publisher, decided to specialize in music printing as of 1754. He became successful by developing improvements in the setting of music type. Gottfried Christoph Härtel joined the firm in 1795, which soon became the partnership of Breitkopf & Härtel. They were the original publishers for a who's-who of great German composers, including Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Wagner.
Schott Music of Mainz was founded in 1770 by Bernhard Schott and still exists today. They specialized in French and Italian operas and, more recently, have published works by Hindemith, Stravinsky, Orff, Schoenberg and Henze.
In 1764, Josiah Flagg compiled the first collection of popular and religious music, printed on paper made in the colonies. The post-revolutionary period was notable for the arrival of the first professional music publishers from Europe in the 1770s. They opened shops in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Baltimore, bringing with them European technology. Benjamin Carr and James Hewitt were two important early American music publishers.
In the first quarter of the 19th century alone, 10,000 pieces of popular music were printed by U.S. publishers. The industry, however, did nothing to promote music or develop writers. Songs became popular by word-of-mouth. Most minstrel troupes and professional singers wrote their own music or had songs written to order. Stephen Foster was the first composer who tried to make a living as an independent professional songwriter but, in the 1850s, copyright protection was so lax and royalties so small (or non-existent) that he found himself living in poverty. This changed only gradually as young men involved in other business enterprises began to perceive the possibilities for enrichment in song publishing.
Prior to the 1880s, popular music publishing was a secondary function of music stores or "serious" (Classical) music publishers. After 1880, publishers in New York developed a promotional technique called plugging. By 1900, most music publishers had clustered their businesses along 28th St. (between 6th Ave. and Broadway) in order to be closer to New York's thriving entertainment center. This area came to be known as Tin Pan Alley. The first decade of the 20th century saw the production of more popular music than had ever been written up to that time: about 25,000 songs annually. In 1893, sheet music for the song "After the Ball" sold one million copies and, over the next ten years, went on to sell a total of ten million.
Despite the enactment of new U.S. copyright legislation, including the 1891 Chace Act, which allowed for the international protection of copyrights, the provisions of the 1909 Copyright Act were generally ignored. To correct this situation, operetta composer Victor Herbert established the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), in 1914. It quickly attracted prominent composers such as Irving Berlin and John Philip Sousa, and was able to ensure that everyone was properly paid and credited for their work.
Licensing in music publishing
There are many aspects to music publishing. However, simply put music publishing is the licensing of music for advertising, television, film etc... Music publishing started out by just being the publishing of the actual sheet music, and not even the score. Song sheets were made which just had the lyrics of a popular song and that is what was published. Today, music publishing means the publishing and licensing of songs (as in mp3s) and distributing.
Within music publishing there are many different types of licenses. For instance:
• Blanket License
• Master Use License
• Performing Rights License (PRO)
• Sync License
A Blanket License is a license that is just one big annual fee to one of the PRO's (SESAC, ASCAP, or BMI). The blanket license once paid to the PRO, covers every work that is in the PRO's catalog. Blanket licenses are mostly used by television networks and radio stations so that they can be in the clear with any song they play from one catalog instead of paying license fees for every single song.
A Master Use License is used when you want to obtain the rights to any recorded piece of music. Master use licenses are also only used for media outlets. Media such as film, TV, commercials, anything visual etc...
Lastly, a sync license is, like a master license, a license used for visual works. It will give the licensee synchronization rights. A sync license is mainly used in film, TV, video games, commercial advertising etc... However, with a sync license, to place a song over a scene in a movie or any other visual, you must also obtain a mechanical license. The mechanical license is the license that gives rights to have that sound recording.
A music publisher does a lot to negotiate the uses and fees for the artists on their roster. Today, the publishing companies are a main source of revenue besides live touring, because people are always looking for music to put over any visual work.
Initially, popular music was slow to take advantage of the new technology. In 1910, when sales of the new disc format exceeded those of the old cylinder, more than 75% of the records sold were classical music. One factor in this may have been the expense, which would have concentrated sales among the more upscale purchasers. In fact, until 1925, sheet music sales continued to surpass discs and were the primary source of revenue for publishers and composers. At that point, sheet music sales began to decline while records were still providing inadequate income to compensate. This led to short lived but serious economic problems for some publishers.
In 1927, after the release of The Jazz Singer (the first talkie), the need for music led movie studios to buy music publishing companies, gaining both catalogues of music and experienced composers at the same time. For example, in 1929, Warner Brothers paid 10 million dollars for Harms, Witmark and Remick; MGM bought Leo Feist Inc. and some smaller companies; Paramount started its own publishing division, Famous Music.
- J. A. Bernstein, Music Printing in Renaissance Venice: The Scotto Press, 1539-1572 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 27.
- J. P. Wainright, 'England ii, 1603-1642' in J. Haar, ed., European Music, 1520-1640 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006), pp. 509-21.
- Mark Halloran, Musician's Business & Legal Guide (4th Edition) (Prentice Hall, 2007)
- "Music Publisher Sam Fox Dies at 89"; Associated Press, Daily Mail, Hagerstown, Maryland; Dec. 4, 1971; pg 12.
- On the Publishing and Dissemination of Music, 1500-1850, by Hans Lenneberg, Pendragon Press (c2003) ISBN 1-57647-078-4
- English Music Printing, 1553-1700, by D. W. Krummel, Bibliographical Society (1975) ISBN 0-19-721788-5
- One Hundred and Fifty Years of Music Publishing in the United States : An Historical Sketch with Special Reference to the Pioneer Publisher, Oliver Ditson Company, Inc., 1783-1933, by William Arms Fisher, Scholarly Press (reprint 1977, c1933) ISBN 0-403-01554-5