Minor Changes in Availability of Arrangements
There have been some alternating rumbles of excitement and disappointment in the arranging community over the last year or two over a programme developed by Sheet Music Plus in collaboration with Hal Leonard. They have produced a list of about 1000 songs pre-approved for arranging, so long as you publish the arrangements through SMP. Anyone who has to grapple with the bureaucracy of copyright permissions for new arrangements finds their ears perking up when they hear of it.
The disappointment arrives when you realise that one of the excluded ensembles is choral. I’d been round that loop a couple of times when my friend Debi Cox had the bright idea of actually contacting them with a query, and established that while they don’t know when they’ll be able to add choral arrangements to the list, they are able to accept arrangements for chamber-sized, one-a-part a cappella groups such as barbershop quartets and contemporary a cappella ensembles, up to 8 parts.
The copyright holders have mandated a minimum price for small ensemble of $12.99 per copy. That’s expensive for vocal music, but actually not bad value for a small group compared to getting a licence direct from the publisher on a case-by-case basis.
But it’s terrible value for a chorus. If you were wondering how they were able to publish music for barbershop quartet but not chorus, given the genre’s continuity of practice between the two forms, that’s how.
And of course any arrangement that has been licensed already, is already bound by the terms of that agreement. There are other complications too, but I find this dull enough to think about that I’m not going to make you live through that nitty-gritty with me.
So, why I am telling you this, just to make you share my disappointment?
Well, there are two small ways in which I will be using this programme to distribute arrangements. The first is a small handful of charts from my bottom drawer. These days I don’t arrange until a song has been licensed, but there are a few charts from the past that never got licensed for one reason or another, so I’ve not been able to list. It would be nice to let them see the light of day.
The other area is my collection of arrangements of music in the public domain. As I own the copyright to these anyway, I can publish them through SMP without being bound by the requirements of other copyright holders, and thus can price them as choral music. This will make the arrangements more accessible for everyone, and involve me in less paperwork for handling the licences – which in my book is worth the hefty cut SMP will be taking from the sales!
This link takes you to the search results for Liz Garnett, where you’ll see everything of mine currently available through SMP (including my Happy Together, which appeared through the Barbershop Harmony Society’s previous collaboration with Hal Leonard, though not, interestingly, my more recent BHS published charts). There are also links to individual arrangements from their pages in my list. Where there’s no link to SMP, we’re still in the old regime of contacting me to ask about what to do to about licensing (background to this here, if you’ve not seen it already.)