On being an independent music publisher

For National Small Business Week (May 1-7, 2022) I’d like to take a moment to highlight self-published composers as small business owners, and to offer some personal reflections on the topic of independent music publishing.

I’ve often come across references to self-published works defined as “unpublished” works; or sentiments that composers might distribute their own work by default, but couldn’t be a “real” publisher. In practice, though, this clearly isn’t true!

Traditional publishing houses may have the capacity to accomplish things that a composer might not always be able to do for their own catalog. And not every composer necessarily thinks of themself as a publisher, or approaches their publishing work with intentionality. But there are composers out there operating (or co-operating) their own independent publishing businesses with significant skill and seriousness. Just a few powerhouse examples that come to mind: Alex Shapiro (Activist Music), Jennifer Higdon (Lawdon Press), and Melissa Dunphy (Mormolyke Press).

It’s important and consequential for folks both within and adjacent to our field to acknowledge the work that composers may choose to take on as their own publishers. Many of us routinely employ a set of skills that go far beyond the act of artistic creation, and that labor adds value to each of our projects.

Preparing a press release, DVD, and score sample for my first opera way back in 2013
Preparing a press release, DVD, and score sample in support of my first opera back in 2013, while I was in grad school.

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