One Step Forward…and Two Steps Back

In mid-March, I was happy to receive this e-mail message from Sheet Music Plus:

Sheetmusicplus is finally moving away from the “one-time” digital print model to PDF format, and doing away with their iPad app.

This is a huge win for everyone, from sheetmusicplus to the consumer. I think that sheetmusicplus will experience higher sales, higher customer satisfaction, and lower cost of operations (I had to call in a couple of times when printer issues caused a misprint [even after the “test”] and the print count had to be reset). They also don't have to maintain their app, and their product can be used on ANY platform. As for the consumer, they now have choice when it comes to displaying the music (e.g. using forScore or unrealBook instead of the sheetmusicplus app), and for those wishing to use digital music, they don't need to print it out first and then scan it in again. As a further bonus, since the music is in PDF format, it may be readable with PDFtoMusic Pro, which can convert a PDF generated by a music notation program into a MusicXML file. Most of us want MusicXML files so we can manipulate music or make accompaniment/rehearsal files–most of us are not selling scanned/recognized music on the black market to make a living.

To date, none of my purchased scores have been converted to PDFs. I was going to see if I could convert a sheetmusicplus PDF with PDFtoMusic Pro–but I cannot test that yet.

Again, the move to PDF away from having to print a digital copy or use a proprietary app is a wonderful change in the industry.

And then this e-mail arrived this past week from Alfred, one of the large music publishers:

Alfred went forwards in terms of technology (Hal Leonard has been offering their own system, SheetMusicDirect, for some time) by offering Total Sheet Music, but in terms of usefulness, this model of distribution–print to use or use a proprietary app–is the wrong direction for the industry.

As a teacher in a 1:1 setting, it is hard enough to keep students in the app you want them to use. When each publisher has their own app, a nightmare scenario is created where choir members have to change apps for songs from different publishers. Furthermore, the interaction of every app is different. Most of these services still don't have a way to purchase or distribute a library for students. And from a financial aspect, the companies are still getting face value for the music (when my local music store gives us 10% off on paper music). So as it stands, there is no reward for moving to digital, other than for the company, which gets to keep all of the profit and shares nothing with the local economy. Don't get me wrong–these companies deserve to make money–but when you change the delivery model to a digitial model, the economics change drastically.

I will work on my manifesto for the music publishing industry at another time–but what I wanted to share today was this related news from two different companies in the music publishing industry. I would rather see more of the first news than the second.



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