SMP Press A+ Experience: Life Shaping Composers, Composers Shaping Music,  Music Sharing Life's Stories

Calling on All Composers

Good morning, Good evening my friends and colleagues,

I hope those of you who are just rising to greet this wonderful day are awakening to a day that will be nothing less awesome.  I also hope that my other dear friends and colleagues who are soon ending their work day had a satisfying productive day. Today I wanted to share my experience with SMP Press especially those of you who haven’t yet decided to give this program a try.  First, I will start off by saying the folks here at SMP Press at Sheet Music Plus have given me such stellar customer service as a composer contributor.  SMP Press is an awesome program. But its awesome factor is deep and personal to me on several levels. Your experience may be different.  The timing of my discovery of SMP Press had such a profound impact on me.  I believe that if there's opportunity for a creative person to be creative – to create and to self-express, that artist should feed and nurture that aspect of his own soul and being. What gives a person fulfillment and meaning? What is a person's happy place?  Sometimes people joke about having been temporarily in their happy place, having spent an atypical weekend doing the atypical.  Yet, this atypical weekend was so extraordinarily satisfying - it was both named as a desired goal and a recognition of what it means to be happy.  Then why was this so atypical?  Should not our life pursuits be focused on achieving our dreams, that which brings happiness. If composing or arranging music is what makes one happy, then why do anything else? If there are opportunities to compose new music or to add new life to existing music with a new arrangement, wouldn't you seize those opportunities?  

SMP Press has spent considerable time and effort to gather and build a global, creative powerhouse of independent composers, songwriters, and music publishers to provide customers of Sheet Music Plus (SMP) with the bonus of original music compositions often not available anywhere else in the world. In addition to these original works, SMP Press has established a special arrangement with music publisher Hal Leonard that allows SMP Press composers to search a database of copyrighted music with over a million titles of copyrighted music, pre-cleared for SMP Press composers to create musical arrangements of these songs that are under copyright protection. Nowhere else will you find this.   Of course, there are specific restrictions as to what type of musical arrangements are permitted to SMP Press composers. Large ensembles such as show choirs, marching band, wind ensemble, and orchestra are not permitted.  However, solo to small ensembles are permitted. Mashups or medleys are also not permitted. These restrictions only apply to the SMP Press sheet music database of copyrighted music. SMP composers are free to compose original compositions in any way they like, for any mode of expression, from soloist, duet, small ensemble to a large orchestra.   Composers, the world is still your oyster. (Sheet Music Plus, 2019)

Discovery of SMP Press Community: Life Evolving and Shaping Us as Artists

In late January of this year as I was surfing the internet, I rediscovered Sheet Music Plus.  I had purchased sheet music from SMP before.   At the time I rediscovered SMP, I learned about their SMP Press program. I had literally just finished composing Tears from My Eyes: Remember Your Feelings (for Orchestra) and Tears from My Eyes: Reflection and Contemplation (for Flute Choir). It was a very heavy time for me and my family.  The desire and inspiration to compose came after I learned about the gravity of my parents' health waning. I was not prepared for the news. The emotional impact was deep.  Memories of the past came flooding in reminding me how important and dear they are to me.   This influenced my music writing suddenly and with such profound impact. I departed from EDM/Dance genre proclivity and reconnected with my deeper, more intimate classical training side. While I was writing Tears from My Eyes: Remember Your Feelings(for Orchestra), my emotional intent and desire was for listeners to join me and go down memory lane.  But to stroll down memory lane would not have been enough.  I wanted to remember all the feelings behind those memories because those feelings were instrumental in shaping the person I am today.  Most importantly, I wanted to honor my parents before it was too late, to convey my deepest love and appreciation for them, and to express my recognition and gratitude for all that they have sacrificed to ensure my success and happiness.

Remembering My Feelings

Before I told my Dad about what I had created for him and also Mom, I wanted to make sure everything was just right. The plan was to call my parents and have them both on the phone at the same. I had coordinated with a family friend to come to their home to boot up the computer and to go to SMP’s home page of Sheet Music Plus. I wanted Dad and Mom to see the site.  I knew that they would remember SMP because at the height of all our private lessons, piano, band, and instrumental solo competitions, we were buying loads of music. With the assistance of our family friend at my parents’ home, I wanted to give my parent a grand introduction to the 3 pieces I had composed for them. Because SMP Press had just made composition product pages YouTube ready, I was able to give my parents this joyous surprise. My parents cried and were deeply moved. I could not have done this but for SMP Press’ set up., which is ideal for showcasing a composer’s work. online. That moment was so special to me, I was swept away to a moment when my parents were asking me if I wanted to take piano lessons when I was in kindergarten and studied classical piano all the way through to college when I attended Butler University, Jordan School of Music. I fell in love with other instruments along the way.  My Father and Mother never missed a beat. They never said no.  They were so in tune to each of my new loves in music. They cultivated and nourished each love in just the right way as if they were growing a garden.  They were so good at growing my music garden that I never fell out of love with what was planted and growing.  First, it was the piano. My youngest sister had gotten a toy piano for Christmas.  She never touched it or at least she never got the chance to play because I was banging on it all the time. For the sake of everyone in the family, my parents arranged for me to begin piano lessons However. before they invested in buying a piano, they planned for me to practice every day at another Filipino family friend's home for about a year.  I needed to trek to another part of the neighborhood to practice each day. I remember vividly my friend's grandmother.   She monitored my practice.  She seemed so mean and scary to me at that age. However, that didn’t deter me.  If I paused for just a moment, she would begin yelling something in our language to keep practicing.  I also faintly remember seeing a slipper or two fly by my head   My parents said that they would not force me to do this.  Mom and Dad advised that if they saw the first signs of interest waning, they would pull the plug on lessons.  Despite the trek to practice piano or fly-by slippers, I was so determined to learn the piano.  My interest never waned.  My practice time slowly grew longer. But no one dissuaded me to shorten my desire to practice. My younger brother started piano the following year, my youngest sister started piano the following year after my brother My parents saw that there was a genuine interest in music with my brother and sister.  Piano was not going to be a love for them.  My brother connected with trumpet and my sister connected with the violin. Eventually, Father started this Christmas rotation tradition at home where my brother, sister or myself depending what year would get a new musical instrument or an instrument upgrade for that year.

My next love was the alto saxophone.  I was so awe-inspired by the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who were in the band.  I wanted to be in band SO, SO BAD that I volunteered to carry their instruments into the band room to store them in their band lockers.  I must have a been a sight to behold wobbling into the school with all these instruments.  But it felt so good to carry those instruments.  I asked the band director when students could start taking band as a class. She said that 4th grade.  I was just starting the third grade when I asked her.  I was so down about having to wait a year to start band.   My parents picked up on that quickly. The next week I was scheduled to start my first private saxophone lessons. These love affairs with music only grew more and more.  My music garden grew to include bassoon, flute, and oboe. 

The bassoon is an interesting story.  My relationship with the bassoon started differently than the other instruments.  The high school band at that time needed a bassoon player to play the bassoon solo in the McBeth's Seventh Seal in a Washington D.C. band competition.  I was in 8th grade at the time. The high school asked a few of the 8th grade band student to join the on the Cherry Blossom band festival in 1979. I had only a few months to learn how to play the bassoon.  My junior high school band director advised me that for the most my bassoon training would heuristic in method or self-taught.  A part of me was very nervous and anxious about the whole situation – all those thumb key positions.  At the same time, this anxious energy was fueling an underlying excitement. Playing a solo was not even in my realm of comprehension.  All I knew was that everyone was expecting me to do this.  So, I accepted the challenge. 

My stroll down memory lane was suddenly derailed. Fast forward to the present day. My pooch was barking loudly at the UPS delivery at my front door.  I signed for the package and left it on the floor near the door. When I returned to my desk, I saw a printed copy of my flute choir composition Tears from My Eyes: Reflection and Contemplation. It was halfway in a mailing envelope addressed to my parents.  After I had finished both compositions and then finished both videos, the timing couldn’t have been more to find SMP Press. My parents were so moved and touched to see the songs I wrote and dedicated to them published on Sheet Music Plus. I finished sealing the envelope and put it in tray for outgoing mail.

I returned to my desk and began reminiscing, I soon found myself back in my dreamland where we left off regarding the show choir auditions. The memories of my high school mentor, Mr. James Carr, were overflowing in my mind with such joy.  This memory was so important and decisive of what I ultimately wanted to pursue for my profession.  I was so enthralled by ambience that surrounded those in musical theatre and show choir in high school. I thought to myself, that because I had last period free my sophomore year, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could be the accompanist for the show choir for class credit?! I thought that I would be a shoe in because I was already the rehearsal accompanist outside of school. Well, the choir director had other plans. He looked at me with such an unexpectedly stern, serious face. "If you want to take show choir as a class, then you will have to audition like everyone else." I was so surprised and taken aback that I could not respond for what seemed like an eternity. My voice quivered when I finally came back to reality and tried to speak. I asked and clarified that I wasn't asking to sing or perform with the choir. I was just offering any instrumental assistance to the group. He just looked at me unmoved as if to say there was no misunderstanding. In the most emphatic, deliberate manner, Mr. Carr advised, "If you want in, prepare a song to sing for the audition. Choose a time slot on the sign-up sheet and be ready to sing your solo for the audition." In hindsight, he knew exactly what he has doing. He was working his magic as a mentor and planting the seeds of self-discovery. He was aware of all my growing interests outside of playing in a band. In hindsight, this was his push to get me to cross that bridge and become a theatrical performer. He knew that I was on the precipice of stepping out of my comfort zone. To embrace the evolutionary change I wanted so much, I needed that stern push to do this or forever hold my peace. I committed to do the audition. So, I left the room freaking out. I chose this Barry Manilow song. Ugh. I found a stool that I planned to use as a prop. I started jotting down notes of when to sit on the stool and at what angle. I also jotted notes down when to walk downstage for a more dramatic effect while I was singing. Although this was my very first audition, Mr. Carr forced me to think quickly and utilize inner creative resources that I have never accessed before. All of this awakened something within me that was way beyond my comprehension. Yet, it all oddly seemed quite natural. What was it that I just experienced? What I experienced was own process of self-reinvention as I was shedding my old skin and coming into a new realization of myself. I was no longer that introverted piano accompanist. I was becoming something quite different. What that would be, would depend on my choices moving forward.  The desire to be a part of show choir was indicative of my desire to evolve.  My choice to audition was indicative of me wanting to open that mysterious door ahead of me to see what awaits me in my future.

Fast Forward to Back to the Future

My past couple of days felt very deep, meditative and somewhat mournful as I undulated back and forth., to and from from memories in my past and present. Along the same lines as to why I was inspired to write and produce Tears from My Eyes, Songs from My Soul album to give thanks and honor to my parents, I was inspired to write a children family book Pooch ‘n’ Kitties : When Gigi Met Mimi. to give thanks and honor to my pet companions who have shared my life journey with me with such unconditional love. Without them, this journey would have been a very dark, lonely one - with a matching story to tell. iMuse Publishing published this book in English and Spanish paperback as well as Kindle format last month. As I was reorganizing my desk, Gigi and Papi came flying out of nowhere. This is in real life. I am not having a psychpticGigi landed perfectly on my lap. Papi, who adores Gigi, came flying right behind Gigi and landed on the top of my executive chair’s back. Startled. I was back in reality  Glinda was at her usual post purring on a stool to the left of my desk chair. Sophie was at her usual post sitting on the ledge of the window in front pf my desk. e on the book about them. However, before I could attend to finishing my book Pooch ‘n’ Kitties: When Gigi Met Mimi, the remaining items on the third movement of Tears from My Eyes Tears from My Eyes: Mourning in the Rain (for Clarinet Choir) needed to be addressed, scheduled, or completed so that the release of the sheet music  and the sound recording occurring in Fall would occur without disrupting the release of Passions Pulse on July 14th.

  1. Make the Tears from My Eyes: Mourning in the Rain master sound recording;

  2. Make the music video;

  3. Set the dates of release of the sheet music and the date of the release of the sound recording. As I was going through publishing process, there was something new I encountered.

Multimedia Perks at SMP

MP3s

SMP Press enables the composers' use of their MP3s as an additional music product for additional passive income stream.   I already knew that prospective customers could preview listen to music to decide whether to buy a song. However, a musical work as an MP3 can also be purchased just as itself for its sound recording value. Like other sheet music providers, publishers have the option of including an MP3 for customers to listen and to assist them in making a purchasing decision.  SMP takes the MP3 concept further and gives the publisher the option to make the MP3 a separate and additional product. Publisher then classifies the MP3 as a sound recording of a performance, an accompaniment, or sing-along/play-along.  A composer may also just provide MP3 of a song of his original creation even if the sheet music has not yet been released for publication.  SMP understands the value of connecting artists with their fans. More positive engagement between composer and fan means more loyal fans who will continue to return and make more purchases.,

YouTube at SMP

When Visionary Quest Records joined SMP earlier this year, SMP had just launched YouTube video capability providing composers and publishers an added medium to promote their given music products. As such, a customer can search and/or discover music via MP3 audio, video, or via music score.  

As for previewing music scores, there are different schools of thought in protecting such music intellectual property that go beyond the scope of this discussion for in depth analysis.  SMP takes an approach like Amazon's "Look Inside."  Prospective buyers get a 5 to 6-page sample of the music score unencumbered by any watermarks.  Other sheet music providers allow full review of music scores, but the scores are heavily watermarked.  As for MP3 previews, a preview of SMP Press original compositions is available in its entirety.  MP3 previews of music arrangements from the copyrighted music catalog are limited to 30 seconds.

The Value of SMP's Copyrighted Database

One might inquire as to how good SMP's music database of copyrighted music is.  First, one measure in determining value of the copyrighted database is whether a song is available when one needs it.  Statistically, then size of the music catalog would be outcome determinative.  With a database of over 1 million legally arrangeable titles, there is less chance that a song would not be available for arranging. Another measure for determining value is whether a song is relevant to current events.  A review of Billboard's chart rankings at the time of this writing on July 7-9, 2019 revealed that chart topping recording artists and their current ranking songs in addition to other songs in their catalog are pre-cleared for music arrangements such as Khalid's Talk, , Lil Nas' Old Town Road, Jonas Brothers Sucker, Post Malone's Wow, Marshmello and Bastille's Happier to name a few.  The popularity of music catalogs of Taylor Swift, Adele, Vince Guaraldi (known for Charlie Brown music), and Coldplay have also added to the value and critical relevancy of SMP's Copyrighted Database.   MusicNotes.com proudly claims a music catalog of over 300,000 sheet music arrangements.  ScoreExchange.com proudly claims a music catalog of over 280,000 titles, which includes both original compositions as well as new arrangements of public domain compositions.  SheetMusicDirect.com, owned by music publisher Hal Leonard, naturally has its direct source for music from the publisher who owns it. From this vantage point, SMP is still a step ahead on what it can offer to its SMP Press composers as well as its customers. (Sheet Music Plus, 2019)

Earlier this spring at the 2019 Grammy Awards had planned into this year's award ceremony shows a tribute to honor Aretha Franklin for her lifetime contributions to the music world.  I was able to find the song RESPECT cleared for musical arrangements.  At a time when a celebrity artist is on the minds of fans due to newsworthy events, the timing of writing musical arrangements can prove to be mutually beneficial for the arranger and the original creators.  The week of her tribute, I wrote 4 music ensemble arrangements, pep band with trumpet solo, 3 saxophone ensembles each featuring a different saxophone soloist (tenor sax solo, alto sax solo, and soprano sax solo).  I also wrote a pep band arrangement of Respect with the added feature of a festive percussion section that was flavored with a hip-hop groove.  As an attorney and musician, I can appreciate the efforts made by SMP to make this happen given the complexities of obtaining all the necessary clearances in what can be aptly named the law of permission.  Legislative intent in copyright law strives to strike a balance in protecting original works of arts, while also nourishing an artistic environment that allows for creativity to flourish. It is a win-win situation for composer and customer.

Outside of SMP: Seeking Permission to Arrange

As I was researching various sheet music providers from the perspective of how they use other composers or music artists, MusicNotes.com has taken the independent composer concept and literally put their own signature to it calling it MusicNotes.com Signature Artists (MSA). (MusicNotes.com, 2019) MusicNotes.com has gathered its own global community of well-known and established composers from YouTube channels of pianists, multi-instrumentalist composers.   Each artist of MSA has his/her own spotlight page with bio; types of music product services they provide, and link to their YouTube channel which clearly displays the breadth and depth of their music product services, their subscriber 6 figure subscriber counts and million plus views.  What do audiences find so appealing?  Each teaches something special and related to music and related to the artist's captivating personality.  I was most impressed with the ingenuity, creativity, and stand out individuality of each artist and how each distinguished each other from everyone else by capitalizing on uniqueness of persona, talent, and passion the channel represents. (MusicNotes.com, 2019) Each artist has an inspiring life journey from all walks in life.  These individual composers/arranger/companies are doing well and deserve the spotlight for their work and accomplishments they have achieved. The most important take away from learning about these artists is that they are all in their chosen happy place and living and breathing that life every day. 

More importantly, as I asked in the beginning of our discussion, I reiterate for you to ponder more deeply. Should not our life pursuits be focused on achieving our dreams, that which brings happiness. If composing or arranging music is what makes one happy, then why do anything else? If there are opportunities to compose new music or to add new life to existing music with a new arrangement, wouldn't you seize those opportunities. Better yet, like MSA, wouldn't you instead create those opportunities for yourself.  The MSA artists appear to exemplify that waiting for that next gig may result in no gig.  Rather, creating one's own gig, as these YouTube channels reveal, may prove more beneficial and fruitful in the long run.  So, fear not the 'what ifs' that you may or may not encounter ahead seeking to achieve your dreams.  All that uncertainty to forego reaching one's dreams appears to be a costly tradeoff.

Now, as an artist having discussed all the reasons to stay the course towards achieving one's dreams, as an attorney, there is one caveat that warrants some discussion. This salient caveat kept sounding off the alarm bells in my head.  Is there ever a discussion of whether the issue of permission was obtained or granted from the copyright owner to make a musical arrangement?   A sheet music purchase can imply a performance is contemplated in the future at some point. But not necessarily so. Nevertheless. A public performance of a new arrangement requires that a permission to arrange license to have been granted.  The properly granted license would be indicated at the footer of the music (Greemburg, 2011)(Burr, 2019) A violation can literally ruin a music artist's career. The scenarios of whether and when to ask permission to arrange can be confusing if one overthinks it.  The simple truth to remember is 'if it ain't yours, get permission especially if a public performance is being planned; when in doubt, get permission.'  The cost of the license can be expensive depending upon the song.  The music publisher has the request form to complete the request for Permission to Arrange.

Tresona Compliance can also do the same but may be more expensive.   It can take up 6 weeks for the license to be in place by show time.   This brings up a noteworthy point of discussion.  Tresona, a.k.a. Tresona Compliance, a.k.a. Tresona Multimedia,a.k.a. TresonaMusic is a big name in the world of copyright and copyright enforcement.  Usually Harry Leonard and/or Tresona Multimedia, LLC go to these big high school music competitions, festivals, etc because the need for new arrangements is great and ripe for those who want  (Burr, 2019) On the one hand, to purchase sheet music doesn't necessarily mean that the song purchased would result in a publicized public performance outside of one's bathroom. But if purchaser is a teacher or music director, the next inquiry is whether purchaser legally bought the song. If the song was legally purchased, then teacher At what point did teacher know that the song needed a new arrangement. Furthermore, that teacher would have needed to pay the arranger for the new the If so, at which point was the decision made to disobey the law knowing how bad the consequences could be if   teacher was caught.On the other hand, like the phrase ‘what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegan,’ in many situations, what is sung in the bathroom stays in the bathroom.   Although you may hear your voice as a sexy glossy musical bed echoing your manly reverb whose booming vibrato bounces off slick wet tile of your shower, where your Standing Room Only audience is bathing in the pleasures of your exquisite vocal prowess, the reality is the proximity of the bathroom walls coupled with the shower can give a false positive on what one truly sounds like in reality. (Haltiwanger, 2015) (Beaudoin, 2015)

To better illustrate, let us take a look at two full service music composition, arrangement companies essentially offering the same music arrangement, compositions, transcription services, respectively ArrangerForHire.com and MySheetMusicTranscriptions.com(ANNOUNCEMENT: Composers/Arrangers who are looking for more work transcribing or arranging, please contact MSMT.)  To accomplish fast turnaround times, they have a variety of teams working on many assignments concurrently.) Both produce high quality product. ArrangerForHire.com is capable of servicing larger ensembles and more complex production work.  My Sheet Music Transcriptions appears to have higher volume projects for smaller ensembles. Both are clear in calculating fees.  ArrangerForHire.com and MySheetMusicTranscriptions.com have online website project quote calculators for each type of service. Both are strong good companies.  ArrangerForHire.com makes a particularly point in discussing the Permission to Arrange license given U.S. law, and when it is necessary ArrangerForHire.com will do the copyright management service to obtain it.

“Under the 1976 US Copyright Act [section 106(2)], the copyright owner is granted the exclusive right “to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.” Section 101 of the Copyright Act defines derivative works as including musical arrangements. Thus, in order to legally create and perform the orchestral arrangement, transcription or adaptation, and to legally make copies of the arrangement and distribute them, and then publicly perform the arrangement, permission from the copyright owner is required.” (U.S. Copyright Office; MPA.com)

Outside of the SMP microcosm, if an arranger wants to do an arrangement of song, arranger must obtain permission from the copyright owner.  Arranger can begin search for copyright owner at one of these publishing organizations.  These publishers have their own form to complete when a request to arrange is made.

If the search still has not resulted in locating the copyright owner, then searching at then conducting searches through performance rights organizations below:

·        ASCAP.com

·        BMI.com

·        SESAC.com

·        SOUNDEXCHANGE.com

Well, I hope this was both enjoyable and informative. I have a bonus gift for you next time we meet. You’ll be smarter than most attorneys if you keep this handy gift with you.

Ciao for now!

Bibliography

Beaudoin, K. (2015, January 22). Science Explains Why You Sound Better When You Sing in the Shower. Retrieved from Mic.com: https://www.mic.com/articles/109012/science-proves-you-actually-do-sound-better-when-you-sing-in-the-shower

Burr, J. (2019, July 10). Music Arranging, Copyright and Licensing. Retrieved from Arranger for Hire: https://arrangerforhire.com/music-arranging-copyright-licensing/

Greemburg, M. (2011). Music Copyrights - Tresona. Phoenix: Tresona. Retrieved July 10, 2019, from Tresona Compliance: http://www.tresonanultimedia.com/ckfinder/userfiles/files/music%20Copyrigjts%20-20%Tresona.pdf

Haltiwanger, J. (2015, January 23). Science Proves You Really Do Sound Better When You Sing In The Shower. Retrieved from Elite Daily: https://www.elitedaily.com/news/world/science-proves-really-sound-better-sing-shower/915630

Model Minority Stereotype. (n.d.). Retrieved 7 10, 2019, from https://cmhc.utexas.edu/modelminority.html#what

MusicNotes.com. (2019, July 10). Signature Artists. Retrieved from MusicNotes.com: https://www.musicnotes.com/signatureartists

Sheet Music Plus. (2019, July 10). SMP Press. Retrieved from Sheet Music Plus: https://smppress.sheetmusicplus.com/