Music Publishing Podcast

Nuts and bolts discussions on the business and practical aspects of being a composer in the 21st century, with host Dennis Tobenski.
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Music Publishing Podcast


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Aug 16, 2016

Megan Ihnen is a Des Moines, IA-based mezzo-soprano and “tireless promoter of contemporary classical music for the voice.” For this week’s episode, we sat down to talk about building community, being generous, and writing for the voice.

Throughout the conversation we covered:

  • Getting inspiration from other fields
  • Building a career outside of NYC
  • Building local music communities
  • Megan’s mission statement of building relationships in concentric circles
  • Entrepreneurship & generosity
  • Being a part of the larger community
  • Starting new music ensembles with close colleagues
  • Fostering the works of living composers as a lynchpin to your career
  • How singers work with text (and subtext)
  • Close collaboration between composers and performers
  • Getting to know your collaborator’s particular strengths
  • Some pointers on writing for the voice
  • Sending music to vocalists
  • How Megan finds music to perform
  • Finding and fostering your tribe

Megan Ihnen
Megan on Twitter
Megan on Istagram
The Sybaritic Singer
29 Days to Diva
Avaloch Farm Music Institute
Seen/Heard Trio

Aug 9, 2016

Thomas Deneuville is another musician whose friendship I owe to Twitter, which is only fitting considering his affinity to and facility with social media. Thomas is the founder of the online new music magazine I Care If You Listen, which he created in December 2010, and has since grown to, a fully-fledged media platform dedicated to user-generated new music videos. A testament to his ingenuity and love of the world of new music, Thomas and I Care If You Listen won the 45th Annual ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor Media Award in 2013.

Outside of ICIYL, Thomas teaches, consults, and speaks about web design, email marketing, social media, and analyzing online metrics, as they pertain to musicians and other artists. He is also the digital content manager for Cornell University.

During the course of this week’s episode, we talked about:

  • I Care If You Listen
  • The quarterly ICIYL Mix Tape
  • Curating a collection of other people’s recordings
  • Creating an online community
  • Having an effective social media presence without wasting your time
  • Setting clearly defined goals for social media
  • Knowing your audience on social media, and learning more about them
  • Balancing your social media content (the 4:1:1 ratio)
  • Curating your social media content
  • Social media reach vs. number of followers
  • Facebook pages vs. personal profile
  • Cross-posting to multiple platforms
  • Choosing the right social network for yourself
  • Mirroring Facebook content
  • The importance of having an email list
  • The conversational nature of email cs. The public nature of social media
  • Email conversion rates
  • Digital sharecropping
  • Autoresponders
  • Enticing people onto your list (permission marketing)
  • Apologizing for sending emails to your list
  • Email best practices
  • Open rates vs. click rates
  • Click budgets and prioritized calls to action

Thomas Deneuville
I Care If You Listen
I Care If You
Astrid Baumgardner: SMART Goals for SMART Music Entrepreneurs
Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Buffer

Aug 2, 2016

In November 2015, Dale Trumbore recommended that Kurt Knecht and I talk about me joining MusicSpoke, an online retailer of self-published scores run by Kurt and his wife Jennifer Rosenblatt. I've been a MusicSpoke composer ever since, and have a number of my scores available for sale there.

Because Kurt & Jennifer run MusicSpoke with such dedication, zeal, and transparency, I wanted to highlight their business, which does so much for the composers involved, and for the community in general, and to talk about digital distribution in general.

In the course of our conversation, we covered:
<li>The wall that traditional publishers represent between composers and score purchasers</li>
<li>The monetary difference between traditional publishing and distribution deals</li>
<li>Reading sessions at conferences</li>
<li>Curating lists of works</li>
<li>Making use of connections in your own state</li>
<li>Using physical scores to make digital sales</li>
<li>The rarely-considered middlemen in scores sales</li>
<li>Piracy, digital rights management, and copy licensing agreements</li>
<li>How people who have no intention of paying aren’t going to pay - either through piracy or not buying at all</li>
<li>How music schools inadvertently foster a culture of piracy</li>
<li>The future of score sales and digital distribution</li>
<li>The hyper-scrupulous honesty of many score purchasers</li>
<li>Fostering community among composers</li>

<a href="" target="_blank">MusicSpoke</a>
<a href="" target="_blank">MusicSpoke on Facebook</a>
<a href="" target="_blank">MusicSpoke on Twitter</a>
<a href="" target="_blank">Kurt Knecht</a>

Jul 26, 2016

Composer &amp; conductor Dominick DiOrio is a supremely talented musician, and we have many friends in common who have raved about him to me over the years. He's a widely-respected choral conductor, and a huge champion of new music, so I've been interested in getting him on the show from the word "go".

We have a few audio issues at the beginning of the episode, but everything smooths out nicely after a few minutes, and we have a really wonderful chat.

In the course of our conversation, we talk about:
<li>Wearing the dual hats of conductor and composer</li>
<li>How performative pursuits can inform your writing, and vice versa</li>
<li>Common score review practices for choral conductors</li>
<li>Composers who have (or don’t have) a vocal sensibility</li>
<li>Adjudicating competitions, and what disqualifies many entries in the first round</li>
<li>Recording requirements in competitions</li>
<li>The evolution of choral music in the US, and its effect on choral writing</li>
<li>The affinity toward new music in the choral world</li>
<li>Operatic vocal technique as the primary style taught to voice majors</li>
<li>Self-conscious composition</li>
<li>Giving students compositional tools without pushing them into a particular style</li>
<li>Submitting works to conductors and ensembles</li>

<a href="" target="_blank">Dominick DiOrio</a>
<a href="" target="_blank">NOTUS: IU Contemporary Vocal Ensemble</a>
<a href="" target="_blank">Graphite Press</a>

Jul 13, 2016

Alexandra Gardner is a great composer who, thanks in no small part to her time as an Associate Editor for NewMusicBox, knows a lot about the nuts and bolts workings of the concert music world. For this week, she and I sat down to talk about a wide range of practical considerations for composers.

  • During our conversation, we touched on:
  • Pricing your scores
  • Comparing your prices to similar scores by other self-publishied composers or put out by traditional publishers
  • Prices that reflect blood, sweat, and tears cs. those that reflect concrete costs of printing & binding
  • Taking where you are in your career into consideration when pricing your scores
  • Composer web sites
  • Integrating your non-musical interests into your composer site to make it more interesting and engaging
  • Making your site easy to navigate, and your materials/info easy to find
  • Providing the information that performers and presenters need
  • Information redundancies across your site
  • Taking into account the Luddites in the concert music world when making your site
  • Evaluating the use of your time honestly
  • Advice and “your mileaeg may vary”
  • Getting your doctorate
  • Gaining skills from non-musical day jobs
  • Networking and how we perceive it
  • Capital “N” Networking vs. lower-case “n” networking
  • Contacting new people

Alexandra Gardner
Alex for NewMusicBox
“Fair Trade for Sheet Music” by Dennis Tobenski
Alex Shapiro: Notes from the Kelp

MPP on Twitter
MPP on Facebook

Jul 6, 2016

After having never met Rob Deemer before in person, I had TWO conversations with him in less than a week for the podcast! Conversation No. 1 was marred by some unexpected audio issues, so we re-recorded less than a week later, and that's what you're getting this week.

During Convo No. 2, we talked about:

<ul><li>How side projects can boost your career</li>
<li>Being able to talk about your music</li>
<li>Labels as specifiers &amp; Labels as marketing</li>
<li>Drawing parallels between concert music and other fields</li>
<li>The ways we talk about “new music”</li>
<li>Music as an Experience</li>
<li>Program notes</li>
<li>Social media as a serious form of professional communication</li>
<li>Interacting with musicians when you (or they) live outside of a major metropolitan area</li>
<li>Teaching inexperienced artists how to interact on social media</li>
<li>Forming deeper relationships online</li>
<li>Building community in different ways</li>
<li>Relating public professional interactions to professional didactic experiences</li>
<li>Operating as a professional online</li>
<li>Being human and approachable online</li>
<li>Teaching teachers to compose</li>
<li>Teaching entrepreneurship and business skills</li>
<li>The history of self publishing &amp; the history of teaching music in universities</li>
<li>Career trajectories</li>
<li>Short term gains vs. long term sacrifices in publishing</li>
<li>Making educated and thoughtful business decisions</li>
<li>Balancing your time between admin tasks and writing</li></ul>


Since we covered such vastly different material in each conversation (of course with not-insignificant overlap), we've decided to offer our first conversation as "bonus content" for this week's episode, if you don't mind listening to "the sexiest voice in classical music" through a slight haze of static. Download it <a href="" target="_blank">HERE</a>.

Jun 21, 2016

Dale is a composer whose career I’ve enjoyed following over the years. I’m always intrigued by the projects that she takes on, and I love the interesting and super-savvy ways that she tackles each one.

In the course of our conversation, we talked about:

  • How performance is the best rehearsal for recording
  • The benefits of long-term musical relationships
  • Taking advantage of your own enthusiasm
  • Touring an album
  • Kickstarting a project
  • Using preorders to fund an album
  • The potential dangers of Kickstarter rewards
  • Imposing artificial deadlines on projects
  • Hybrid publishing
  • Using traditional publishing to boost sales of your self-published works
  • The concept of the “loss leader”
  • Curating a series of scores
  • The gatekeepers of publishing: the good and the bad
  • Taking a methodical approach to your career, and not rushing after everything at once
  • Saying “no” to opportunities that are a poor fit
  • Being prepared for success
  • Accidentally oversaturating the scene
  • Newsletters
  • Being smart and engaging in your newsletter content
  • Using newsletters to increase engagement with your audience
  • Adding people to your list without their permission
  • Putting together commissioning consortia yourself
  • Writing “companion pieces”


Dale Trumbore
Snow White Turns Sixty - Gillian Hollis & Dale Trumbore
Choral Arts Initiative: “How to Go On: The Choral Works of Dale Trumbore”
Dale Warland Choral Series
MusicSpoke: Choral Arts Initiative Series

Jun 14, 2016

For this week's episode, I sat down with San Jose-based composer and engraver Noah Luna to talk about the importance of having professional-quality scores and parts. He offered some great advice on some little things that composers can do to improve the look and - most importantly - the readability of their materials.

In the course of the hour, we chatted about:

  • getting a professional eye on your scores/parts
  • leaving time for proofreading
  • the various communities that engravers/copyists serve
  • how high quality scores facilitate rehearsals
  • how poor engraving can be costly to ensembles
  • the rise of digital devices in performance
  • trusting your software too much
  • listening to music librarians
  • MOLA standards for margins, staff size, page size, and page turns
  • getting feedback from performers
  • being consistent in your score layout
  • leaving your compositional process on the page, and how that can negatively impact readability
  • how sometimes you just have to use Staples or FedEx
  • font usage
  • page layout
  • the idea of taking engraving/copying lessons
  • getting help and building your team

Noah Luna
BCP Music
The Highwayman (by Noah Luna)
Elaine Gould: Behind Bars
Gardner Read: Music Notation
Cheap Impostor

Jun 7, 2016

Erin Rogers is a super-talented composer and saxophonist who I’ve known for a couple of years. We met for the first time over lunch many years ago while I was in the early stages of writing the Composer’s Guide, where we had a wonderful conversation about publishing and composer career issues that has always stuck with me. Our paths haven’t crossed much in the intervening years, so I was glad to have a reason to reconnect with Erin by inviting her on the show. And boy was I glad I did!

This is the first show that I’ve done not just live, but in-person, as well! We attempted to broadcast as per usual, but I discovered after the fact that Google Hangouts stopped actually broadcasting after the first 20 minutes…leaving another 70 that never went out to YouTube! Fortunately, as I’ve learned about doing this whole podcasting thing, I’ve started recording the audio on my own end (and asking my guests to record theirs, as well), so the entire conversation was captured on my laptop, and wasn’t lost due to the screw-ups of our Google Overlords.

After we stopped our broadcast, Erin and I hung out for several more hours, still talking along the same lines as on the show. We poured ourselves another drink and kept talking at my apartment, then went out for dinner, and kept the conversation going there. A part of me wishes we’d “kept the cameras rolling” as it were, because we covered lots of fertile ground.

During our recorded conversation, however, we managed to talk about:

  • Social media
  • How a score isn’t always finished until it’s performed, or until the composer dies
  • Proofreading your own scores
  • The importance of a second pair of eyes on your scores
  • Allowing time for proofreading and part extraction
  • Having the resources of a publisher behind you vs. taking full control yourself
  • Engraving/formatting standards
  • Setting up your scores and front matter
  • Handling perusal scores
  • Licensing performances
  • Being a performing composer
  • Starting an ensemble for the love of the music
  • Following established models, keeping low overhead, and working with the right people
  • Licensing works for performances
  • Some potential pitfalls of working with traditional publishers
  • Some of the new models for working with publishers

Erin Rogers
New Thread Quartet

May 31, 2016

Copyright is the bedrock of every artist’s career – it secures rights and offers protections that allow us to build careers on solid ground without undue worry of our works being stolen or exploited without our knowledge or consent. The Founding Fathers of the United Stated thought it so important that they wrote it into Article I of the Constitution. Every artist should have a working knowledge of current copyright law – they should know the basic rights and protections that they’re afforded, and how they can remedy any infringement on their rights.

It’s with this in mind that I invited my friend Marc Ostrow, an entertainment/IP lawyer and songwriter, to be on the show.

In our conversation, we talked about:

  • basic tenets of copyright
  • the limits of what is copyrightable
  • the Poor Man’s Copyright
  • the benefits of and incentives to registering your copyrights
  • fighting infringements
  • folio registrations*
  • working with living poets vs. dead poets’ estates
  • Performing Rights Organizations
    • selecting
    • collecting performance royalties
    • what PROs don’t do
  • estate planning for artists
  • international copyright issues
  • why you should get permission <strong>before</strong> setting a text
  • First Sale Doctrine
  • licensing vs. selling
  • copying licenses
  • Fair Use
    • Fair Use is not a right; it is a defense against an infringement accusation*
    • the four factors of fair use
    • transformative use vs. derivative works
    • the false “rules of thumb” of fair use
  • our cats

(* – these are important points!)

Marc is slated to come back in July to go into more depth with Fair Use and the seemingly endless misconceptions that people seem to have about it.

Marc Ostrow
Marc’s blog
The Copyright Handbook
Donald S. Passman: All You Need to Know About the Music Business
Steve Gordon: The Future of the Music Business

May 25, 2016

Composer Chris Cresswell and I have known each other for a couple of years, and we never fail to to have long, rambling, fun conversations. Today was no different in this trans-Atlantic chat about self-doubt, finding joy in composing, and mental health for artists.

In this episode:

  • Wearing many hats
  • Finding joy in creating
  • How practical considerations can inform your compositional practice
  • Comparing yourself to other composers
  • Cutting yourself some slack
  • Creating a life that is healthy and sustainable, and also nourishes your art
  • Success and mental health
  • Feeding the whole person
  • How Dennis and Chris try to cope

Dale Trumbore’s NewMusicBox articles
Nico Muhly: Thoughts on Being Well
Jackie Battenfield: The Artist’s Guide

May 23, 2016

Third time's a charm! After a sudden scheduling conflict and a Google Hangouts technological nightmare, Jenn Jolley and I finally sat down to talk about her music, her blog, and the opera company that she helped to found.

In this episode, we touched on:

  • Rejection
  • How processing our emotions is time invested in our art
  • Using rejection to springboard into new projects
  • Competitions and how they're run
  • NANOWorks
  • Building an organization that serves the wider community
  • The difficulty of securing second and third performances
  • The realities of running an ensemble or arts organization
  • Taking stock of your situation and re-evaluating your goals
  • When practical considerations inform your writing
  • The need for more operatic roles for women
  • Composer collectives
  • Resource sharing

NANOWorks Opera
AJD•ective New Music

May 23, 2016

To kick off the Music Publishing Podcast, I sat down to chat with Alex Shapiro, a fantastic composer and friend who writes and speaks regularly about composers’ career issues, and is a Writer Member of the ASCAP Board of Directors.

Appropriately enough, we sat down on April 15 – usually tax day, except that we got a reprieve this year to procrastinate for a few more days.

In our wide-ranging conversation, we talked about:

  • Choosing your own path
  • Redefining success
  • The dissolution of the old composing camps
  • The Magic Bakery
  • The future of copyright in the digital age
  • Self-worth and Self-deprecation
  • Finding a balance in the kinds of work you do
  • Encouraging students to find their own stylistic path
  • The importance of kindness and generosity
May 23, 2016

So you're in the concert music world, and you're looking to improve your career.

Maybe you're a composer who's heard a bit about self-publishing, but you're not totally sure what that fully means, or what you should be doing.

Maybe you're a performer who'e pretty good at getting gigs, and you're starting to think about making a recording, but aren't sure of where to start.

Or maybe you're thinking of starting your own concert series or putting together an ensemble or getting a little opera company off the ground, but feel daunted by the logistics of it.

Enter the Music Publishing Podcast.

In Ep. 0, meet composer, vocalist, and MPP host Dennis Tobenski, and learn what the show is about.

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