When you work in and around the part of the music industry that deals with copyrights, there are constant conversations and contracts spelling out exactly who owns what, how much and who gets paid first. Here in Nashville, the song writing capital of the world, every songwriter fights to keep as many and as much of their copyright ownership as they can, while signing away just enough to get a publishing company to pitch their songs to artists and TV shows and alike. The name of the game is royalties or residuals. This is where the money is made; every time a song is played on the radio, every time part of it is used in a commercial, movie soundtrack, etc, there’s a payment to be made and that’s split up among all the various entities that have a claim on that particular work. It can be a bit of a strange system at times (just trying reading a little bit about copyright law if you want a nice bedtime story) but it works, sort of anyway.
So what about all the other sides of the music industry that function, more or less, on the “gig economy”. What about the music preparation companies, don’t they work with publishers and TV shows to make the music? What about their rights and their piece of the pie when it comes to ownership and copyrights? Well, the short answer is… no. The long answer is…. still no, but there are many ways in which music preparation and engraving companies have put their stamp of ownership on the projects they work on.
Often, this comes in the form of keeping the Finale or Sibelius, or whatever notation system they are using, for themselves and only giving clients PDFs of the finished product. In this way, the music engraving company is claiming its ownership over the production of the sheet music and trying to protect own proprietary processes to create the sheet music. The music engraver does not get residual payments in this way, but often what happens is that when there is a 2nd edition of a piece of music that is created or a re-arrangement of the original work, the engraver will charge again to make all the edits and reproduce the PDFs. This is their form of a residual payment; every time a change has to be made, you have to pay the engraver again. In a world where you didn’t write any of the music and have had no creative input with the creation process, this kind of claim of ownership is common; the music engraver is just trying to find a way to create future income for potential future work based on the work they’ve already done.
I THOROUGHLY DISAGREE AND ABHOR THIS PRACTICE. Engraver’s Mark Music has never and will never, claim ownership in any way over the projects we work on. We did not create, artistically anyway, anything when it comes to engraving a piece of music. Our job is to make the music that already exists into a form that can be read and used in any way the composer or publishing company wishes. We are paid a fee for this service and then we hand over ALL the files, Finale, Sibelius, XML, PDF; everything goes back to our client. Why, because it's not ours, IT BELONGS TO THOSE WHO HIRED US!
1. We didn’t create the programs we use to engrave this sheet music. While Engraver’s Mark Music has worked with music notation software companies to improve and ask for new features in their respective products, we have never written one line of code, designed a feature of the program or had anything to do with the development of the notation software we use. It’s not ours! So to say that Engraver’s Mark Music owns the Finale files we created as a part of our work when engraving a piece of music is ridiculous and even more ridiculous to say we own these files and therefore you must pay more to have them.
2. We didn’t create the music, or had any creative input, in the music we work on. Engraver’s Mark Music is a music preparation company, not a composers collective. This isn’t our music and we can have no claim of ownership on any aspect of it. We were hired to create sheet music or edit sheet music, that’s it. There’s no logical argument that since we engraved a piece of music we now have a claim for residual payments every time its used. Engraver’s Mark Music was paid for our work and that’s the end of it.
3. When music preparation companies won’t deliver the Finale or Sibelius files to a client at the end of a project without an additional fee (if they will do it at all), they are engaging in a sort of “protectionism” of their work, instead of letting the quality and value of the service they provide stand for itself. Imagine a publishing company that wants to make a few changes to a piece of music published a couple years ago. If that music engraver did not provide them with the Finale or Sibelius files, they MUST go back to that engraver, ask them to either make the changes and then incur additional fees or to purchase the files from the engraver, at a cost of course, and then make the changes themselves or assign another engraver to do the job and then get charged again! This is crazy. In affect what the original engraver is saying is “you might own the right to sell the sheet music, but I own the process of creating the sheet music and therefore any changes must come through me so that I may profit.”
Engraver’s Mark Music is a SERVICE, I repeat, a SERVICE for our clients to increase the productivity, the excellence, and efficiency in creating sheet music for use in the studio or the marketplace. Another word closely related to SERVICE is the word SERVANT. We are, in a sense, here as servants, to offer assistance, expertise and value. We do not own anything. Our goal is always to ENHANCE THE VALUE OF OWNERSHIP that our clients already possess, making it possible for them to be more creative, more efficient, more profitable, and more in control of their music.
Engraver’s Mark Music has learned through the years that the best way to protect our business and build our future business is to serve and not claim ownership; to serve and not hold back; to serve and give our clients back the best possible version of the music they created in the first place. Our goal is for each client to always CHOOSE to use our services, for any small or major project at any point in time, because of the value of the SERVICE we provide, not because they are forced to by our business practices.
If you have ever worked with a music engraver and they won’t provide you with all files and pieces of your project without charging additional fees or giving you the run around for weeks until they respond, know that they are not here to serve you. They are trying to protect what they feel is rightfully theirs and claiming ownership of it. That’s not how Engraver’s Mark Music works. We work on the principle that we are here to serve, to create such value for our clients that it will result in loyalty to our services. No matter what though, we don’t own the music. Its YOUR music, always was.
Sammy Sanfilippo, CEO of Engraver's Mark Music