|Posted by Thomas J. West on August 29, 2010 at 3:15 PM|
One of the challenging things about submitting your original concert band, orchestra, or choral music to publishers is that many publishing companies want "live" recordings of your work rather than MIDI files or virtual instruments. If you are just getting started trying to get published and make a name for yourself, and you don't have a school or community ensemble at your disposal that is proficient enough to make you a decent recording, it can be tough to get it done. As a solution to that dilemma, I created a reverse commission process.
First, A Regular Commission Process
Typically, an established composer will be contacted by an ensemble director or other stakeholder and commissioned to compose an original piece, often for a special occasion. The composer sets his/her own rate for completing the work and sends the score and parts directly to the ensemble. The rates vary widely and depend primarily on the notoriety of the composer. A typical starting commission price for many of the concert band composers I have talked to is $1000 USD per piece. Some composers charge different rates depending upon the skill level of the group, the instrumentation written for, or the length of the piece. I even heard a rumor that David Gillingham charges by the measure.
And Now, The Reverse Commission Process
As I began to look for more opportunities to write concert band pieces, I thought to myself, "Why not offer to write a piece for band director friends of mine for free, provided that they make a quality digital recording of the premiere?" I contacted some old friends and actually ended up writing most of my pieces that way. As a band director, they get the benefit of having an original concert band piece composed specifically for the strengths of their ensemble and get to have their ensembles name and theirs as the subtitle on the score. As a composer, I get the benefit of getting that elusive live recording to submit to publishers. A win-win for everyone!
Reverse Commissioning Creates New Opportunities
Since the people you contact for a potential reverse commission are friends (what marketers call a warm market), you often end up with opportunities you may not be expecting. When I wrote a piece of music for the Warren Local High School Band, the band director at the time, an old friend of mine whom I spent many summers with on a band staff, not only made me a great digital recording, but paid my travel expenses to come out and conduct the premiere. Check out the photo gallery of that experience and that premiere performance on YouTube.
One of the great things about composing is that once you start to get your music performed by live groups, opportunities to write, direct, and program your works for ensembles come along with the package.
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