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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000101.txt from 2008/05

From: Martin Baxter <>
Subj: Re: [kl] How do composers make money?
Date: Fri, 16 May 2008 09:27:12 -0400

I think that many composers only make money on works that are
commissioned. Many of these works are still financially unrewarding
in view of the man-hours spent; but there are of course royalties on
the subsequent performances, and (hopefully ) recordings.
Unfortunately many of those who commission works are virtuoso
players and require works that very few will be able to play; hence
sheet music sales for amateur performance are negligible.
Financially the most successful works in the UK seem to be exam
pieces for the various grade exams; if a movement of your sonata is
chosen for (eg) Flute Grade 4 ABRSM you may well sell a lot of copies
and with the current trend for students to want a CD "to know how it
goes" -can't they read music? you may even get royalties on a
recording. Performers like to sell records too. This may sound
cynical but it is a fact of life.
You could try writing a clarinet or flue sonata with four movements
suitable for grdes 4,5,6 and 8. Who knows, you could make a killing!

On 16 May 2008, at 13:17, Curtis Bennett wrote:

> This is pretty much off-topic to this list, but the ongoing thread
> about John Adams made me wonder this. Recently, I was in my FLMS
> (Friendly local music store) and happened upon a string quartet by
> John Adams in the music section (John's Book of Alleged Dances). This
> is a fairly recent piece of his, and was recorded by Kronos Quartet a
> few years ago. It was $40. It struck me as a bit odd since I live in
> Tulsa, and I have a hard time believing that there is any demand for
> such a difficult piece of music in this town. I can only guess that
> the number of active string quartets in my community probably could be
> counted on one hand, and the number of those which could play such a
> complex piece such as that would probably be 1, maybe 2.
> So, it struck me, how do composers make money? Surely writing such a
> piece would net Adams very little actual income. And even if it did,
> it would die off very fast once the market had been glutted. That is,
> once all the people who could play it got it there'd be basically no
> one else to buy it - at least not enough to sustain him.
> But as far as I know, John Adams doesn't have a day job. He's not a
> conductor, he's not a professor - he's a composer, and does it full
> time.
> Anyone have any insight into this?
> --
> Curtis Bennett
> ------------------------------------------------------------------


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