Monthly Archives: April 2013

Website Improvements are here!


Website improvements

The website improvements I mentioned in my first blog entry went live today!  These changes improve usability for Art of Sound Music customers and allow us to post new works more quickly.

Highlights of our website improvements

Easier and faster to add products to shopping cart

Previously, if you typed “soprano” into our search box, you would see a list of many nice pieces, including one especially lovely piece by Barbara Harbach called “Emily!” that you might want to buy and have us ship to you:

Emily Before

Emily Before

In the past, to add the “Ship to Me” version of Emily! to your shopping cart you’d need to:

  1. Click the radio button next to “Ship To Me”
  2. Click in the text box that says “Add: 0”
  3. Type a backspace to erase the “0”
  4. Type a “1”
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the page
  6. Click on the blue “Add selected products to cart” button

Here’s what you see today when you reach that listing after a search for “soprano”:

Emily After

Emily After

We auto-insert a 1 (instead of 0) in the quantity box, and we now place “add to cart” buttons next to Download PDF and Ship to Me .  To add the hard copy to your cart you would simply need to:

  1. Click on the “add to cart” button to the right of “Ship to Me”

Having 1 step instead of 6 allows customers to get things done more easily and quickly.

A dash of color

The earlier version of our website relied heavily on the color blue, and that was giving us a case “the blues”.  Key headings now sport a cheerful dash of orange to brighten your day!  Orange is also the background color for our blog.

Website before and after

Website before and after

Menu improvements make products easier and faster to find

We’ve reorganized our product menus to make things easier to find.  For example, in the past choosing “Brass Quintet” would lead you to a list of the many hundreds of items we have in that category, which could be a bit time-consuming to look through.  Now, when you click on “Brass Quintet”, you can limit the search results by grade, style, occasion or (like before) show every product in that category.

Products appear in multiple categories

Many of our works don’t fit neatly into just one category.  For example, Low Motion by Ingo Luis, a feature for Bass Trombone with 5 trombone accompaniment, now appears simultaneously in the Bass Trombone category and the 6 Trombones category, making it easier to find.

Many new “behind the scenes” features

These enhancements allow us to post new works even more quickly!

Reach our blog from our store

There’s a link to our blog at the top and bottom of each website page.

Improved choral score pages

We have some great choral composers on our roster such as Nancy Wertsch.  We list choral works a bit differently than instrument works – they usually have a minimum order quantity and choirs need lots of copies for their members.  Before, our choral product pages had a drop down list starting from the minimum quantity of 5 and then going up in increments of 5.  This detail took more some time to set up, stopped customers from ordering the EXACT quantity they needed and took up a lot of screen space as you can below with Nancy’s “…with Peace in Mind”:

Choral before

Choral before

As of today, that screen has simplified to show just 2 choices (see below). It uses less space, is more flexible for customer and is easier for us to prepare.  That’s what I call a win/win solution!

Choral after

Choral after

New shortcut URL to reach our website

Need to get to fast?  Just type “” into your browser.


We’re working hard to make our website the very best in the sheet music industry, and we’ll be introducing more time-saving features in the future.  We’d welcome any suggestions you have in the comments section below.

How to navigate the sheet music copyright maze

Copyright Maze

Copyright Maze

There is a lot of interest and confusion about how to legally arrange works that are protected under copyright.   I’d like to start by saying I am not a lawyer, so just accept the information below with that in mind. 

Navigating the copyright maze

To legally arrange a work under copyright, you need to get permission in writing from the copyright owner or designated copyright administrator.  There are two possible permissions which can be granted simultaneously, the “Permission to Arrange” and the “Permission to sell”.  These are not one in the same, as some schools and other non-profits will seek only “permission to arrange” as they just want to arrange a work for their own performance, not to sell it.  This is the majority of what you will discover when doing a Google search about the topic.  However, I assume here you want to arrange a copyrighted work and sell it to others.

The general process I use is as follows:

  1. Determine if permission is required at all.  There are different rules for different counties.  In the US, as of the time of this posting, if the work was written before 1923 it is considered public domain.  For most works composed after 1923 that you might consider arranging, permission is necessary.
  2. Find out as much as you can about the pieces as possible, the year it was written, the names of every composers associated (e.g. Lennon and McCartney), etc.
  3. Go to the ASCAP website and BMI website and search their online databases to find the publishing contact(s) for that work.  The work will be listed under just one database, not both.  If the work is not in either database, it may not be copyrighted at all.   Note that the publishing contact is usually NOT the person who has composed it.  It is typically a larger publishing company like Hal Leonard and the like.  There can also be more than one contact for a given piece.  In that case, EVERY contact must grant permission in order for you to arrange the work legally.  This must be coordinated well because you don’t want to pay one just to be rejected by another…you will likely be out of the cash with no way to recover it.
  4. Reach out to the publishing contact(s) you have found.  Some require you to fill out a form on their website, some to fax, some to email.  The process varies by company.
  5. The basic information to provide to the publishing contact can be found in this permission form.
  6. You may receive an email, letter by postal mail or no response whatsoever to your request.  It can sometime take days or weeks or months or infinity (no response).  Patience is required here.  Follow up with another communication medium as needed…phone, etc.
  7. Once you receive response, the publisher may flat-out reject the request or give approval subject usually to some sort of compensation.  These can take various forms.
  • Fixed fee lump sum
  • Percentage of sales
  • Combination of the two

8.  There may be limitations, which vary by publisher, such as

  • May not sell as a PDF
  • Permission to sell is up to a maximum number of copies only
  • Permission to sell is only for a fixed period of time
  • Permission is only for a certain instrumentation
  • Permission to sell only in a select geography
  • Combination of the above


  • If you work with a sheet music company, they can sometimes seek the copyright permission on your behalf and fund it, so you can avoid out-of-pocket costs.
  • Officially, you are not supposed to write one note of an arrangement until after the permission has been granted.
  • You will eventually be signing a contract and sending a check to the publisher.  In some cases, the permission is given at no cost, but this is rare.
  • A copyright lawyer is probably not required to get through the process, but that is your call.
  • The publisher copyright notice will be provided to you and will be required to appear at the bottom of the arrangement.  They really own the arrangement (which is officially known as a “derivative work”), not you.  I have not seen this situation deteriorate into them taking the arrangement and selling it on their own (and paying you nothing for it), but theoretically it could and you’ll have no recourse.
  • Keep organized records of your activities and communications as these can easily get lost and confused over the multi-month span of working on various copyright requests:
    • Name of piece
    • Publisher
    • Date when publisher contacted
    • When they responded
    • Summary of their response
    • Date you signed the contract
    • Etc.

How do I know I’m not being ripped off by “the man”?

I’m not really sure.  In most cases, the financial terms you will be offered are more or less their standard deal and a take it or leave it proposition for you…”the little guy”.  You need to see if their deal makes financial sense to you.  Consider all of your costs of producing and selling the work, and how many you reasonably expect to sell within the allotted time (if there is a limit).  Their fees, when added to all other forecasted costs, may make the venture a financial loser, especially if there are multiple publishers involved or if that work is part of a medley requiring multiple song approvals. 

There is some small amount of ability to negotiate the terms (or “be creative”), but you’ll have little wiggle room.  I have been able to suggest certain alternatives, within reason with success.  But remember, the folks granting the permission are “city hall” and you (generally) can’t fight city hall.  Neither they nor you will likely become “filthy rich” from your arrangement so don’t become a nuisance to them, or they may walk away, not just from this deal, but future ones as well.


I hope you found this information useful.  I have not seen most of this information available anywhere else, hence the many questions I get about it.  In return for this “wisdom” I have shared, I ask that you comment on ways to improve it based on your own experiences.


The information provided above is intended to help readers understand some of the issues in copyright law, but I’m not a lawyer and it’s not officially legal advice.  You should consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, are appropriate to your particular situation.

Welcome to Art of Sound Music “Musings”


Welcome mat

We’ve been thinking of adding a blog for some time and have finally taken the plunge!  We’ll be occasionally posting on topics related to our publications, music publishing in the 21st century, music in general and other “musings” that are hopefully interesting and relevant.

A few items to share right now…

  • We’re working on some website improvements and these should be rolled out in late April 2013
  • Phil Snedecor is one of our newly signed Composers.  He has some dynamite works for solo trumpet and brass ensemble.  His group The Washington Symphonic Brass is fantastic, check them out!
  • We’re starting to add YouTube video links, when available, to our scores.  Here is an example.  If you have recorded one of our works and posted the video on YouTube, let us know.
  • You can now get to with the shortcut