internet music publishing
a survey of independent and open source publishers

by miriam rainsford, mstation contributor.

The accessibility of the internet has undoubtably led to one of the greatest revolutions in availability of knowledge and freedom of expression yet seen. Anyone can now establish a personal web site, at little or no cost, offering information on any subject they wish, be it esoteric, obscene, or simply banal. Yet what are we doing with these new opportunites? Is this all-encompassing plethora of information, yet devoid of any central meaning, a symptomatic reflection of the postmodern age? Sites such as the Power Pylon of the Month and have led some to suggest that, given infinite freedom of expression, society seems to have little to say. The accessibility of the internet has been blamed for some more sinister involvements, including the organising of the recent City of London riots and some racially-motivated bombing campaigns. To be sure, some sites do in fact provide a source of extremely useful information, including the many self-help and support groups such as the Samaritans, Cancer BACUP and Depression Alliance, that thanks to the internet, can now offer services worldwide to users in moments of need. And in general most would agree that due to its while its services may be open to abuse, the Internet is a positive tool which has become an essential part of our contemporary sociological makeup. Musicians have recently discovered the internet to be a window of opportunity into the hitherto closed doors of the publishing world, where commercial success has until now dictated what was deemed acceptable and what was not, leaving those who were working on original material in less commercial fields to struggle to find rare opportunities for performance or release of their work.
I spoke recently with six independent publishers about what led them to consider the internet as an advantageous medium for conveying their work to a wider audience, and also caught up with Mstation contributor Laura Conrad on her recent work including a new edition of Dowland songs.

Alexander Comitas (Ed de Boer) -

The Dutch composer Ed de Boer is currently based on the island of Texel, in north-eastern Holland. His works are lush and grand in scale, with a rich melodic interest and a strong neo-romantic grounding that is much enjoyed by performers and audiences alike, but has at the same time led to his increasing isolation from the mainstream of Dutch contemporary music, where popularity with one's audience is not seen in quite such a positive light. His struggles for acceptance by his peers led to fewer and fewer commissions, and in 1999 his move to Texel seemed to signal yet further isolation from the contemporary music scene. Yet in fact he is enjoying increasing popularity, as around this time he established a website under his pseudonym Alexander Comitas, which has had extraordinary success in allowing his music to reach a wider audience, and thus bypassing the prejudices that had hindered his work. Recently he made the move into internet publishing of his music through a new website, Opus 33 Music, where interested performers may order scores of his work, produced in Sibelius.

I asked him initially what led him into publishing independently:

Through the years I became more and more annoyed by my experiences with publishers. This eventually led me to buy a computer and a scorewrite program - the newly released Sibelius pc version - in order to avoid having to publish my future pieces. I don't mind if a piece isn't published, as long as it can be played, and now I could prepare both the score and the parts of my new compositions myself. Then a piece of mine for wind orchestra, called 'A Night on Culbin Sands' was selected to serve as a compulsory piece for concert level wind orchestras during the 2001 World Music Contest (WMC) in Kerkrade. This meant it had to be a published work. So, I founded my own publishing company, and named it Opus 33 Music (after the opus number of my partly autobiographical string sextet).

Previously, Ed de Boer produced his own hand-copied scores for performances, a laborious and time-consuming project; his first steps into the world of computing and independent publishing were through using the Sibelius score-writing program, which helped greatly in the process of copying large symphonic scores:

A good friend of mine had been urging me to join the club of computer users for ages. When I had done so, the next step, of course, was to join the internet. Here my friend was a very great help: not only did he advise me which provider to choose, but he arranged to hire the domain name for me, and he constructed the entire website to be found there himself. I only had to provide him with the text I wanted to be placed. He also taught me to make sound samples, for placement on the site. When I had founded Opus 33 Music, he helped me in a similar way: he now is the 'Webmaster' of, too.

His gradual involvement in computing, and later in internet publishing, then led on to allow his music to come into contact with musicians internationally, despite his isolated position. He speaks about the advantages that the internet has so far provided in making his work known:

So far, the internet has proven to be useful in two ways: First of all for my private publishing company: all the scores I issue carry the domain name, so, the more I sell, the more people know where to acquire more information. And since a number of wind orchestras are now obliged to play 'A Night on Culbin Sands', and the WMC tells them where they can purchase the material, this is a good start. Secondly, people from all over the world do occasionally come across the 'comitas' site, and send me an E-mail, often complimenting me with the quality of it. (Indeed my friend did a very good job.) And sometimes people ask me to send them one or two scores for performance. So far, it hasn't helped much in the sense of really reaching a wider audience. Most of the performances of my music would have taken place without the internet, too. But it does help to reach people anywhere in the world. What I like, too, is that the sound and score samples on the site enable visitors to get an impression of what music I write. It has always been my aim to write music that can be enjoyed by lovers of classical music, and I think I have sometimes succeeded in realising this. The other side of the coin is that many critics have dismissed my music as being not 'modern' enough. Now website visitors can easily form their own opinion.

A list of forthcoming performances of pieces by Ed de Boer is available, including 'A Night on Culbin Sands', the first work to be published through Opus 33 Music.

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