Studio Licensing: legal music copying
I’ve written before about my frustration with the restrictive and outdated copyright laws generally favoured by the big music publishers (see Finally! Digital piano sheet music copyright is starting to make sense), so I was excited to read my friend and colleague, Australian teacher, presenter and composer Daniel McFarlane of SuperSonics Piano has decided to make all his music available under a studio-wide licence.
What’s a studio licence, I hear you ask?
A studio licence means that teachers only have to pay for music once and then they are freely able to reproduce it for any number of students in their studios for life.
Here’s what Daniel says about Studio Licensing:
As a special bonus for teachers all my pieces are studio-licensed. I love that my music is enjoyed all around the world and the combination of instant digital downloads with studio licensing is the best way for me to reach everyone. Great for teachers as you can get your music immediately and use my pieces again and again. Great for me as I’m not forever running off to the post office! Great for the environment as my business’s carbon footprint is greatly reduced
You can read all about Daniel’s studio licensing arrangements here.
Crazy or Creative?
While some people may think Daniel (and me!) are totally bonkers taking this approach, I actually think it is one of the most sensible licensing arrangements around.
Here’s what we know about music copying:
- Everyone knows that music gets copied.
- Everyone knows it’s illegal.
- Most of us have photocopied music at some stage in our careers.
- Copyright law has a long way to go to catch up with technology. For example, scanning music to read on your iPad is officially still ‘illegal’ at this stage.
- People are going to continue to copy music, just as they download movies and music.
Interestingly, there is one way to make a major impact in the illegal copying of music and movies and that’s to create legal distribution channels that are fairly priced, easy to access and are up-to-date.
It’s why iTunes (and now streaming services like Spotify) had such a massive affect on the revenue streams of music labels and distributors. It’s why the introduction of Netflix in Australia is likely to reduce the amount of illegal downloading of TV shows and movies.
Make legal access easy and cheap and people tend to comply.
In my opinion, that’s exactly what Daniel is doing with the introduction of this revenue model. He is saying, “I know that people will copy my music. So I’m going to charge a fair price and give them permission to copy in the hope that they’ll continue to buy new music and tell other people about it”.
There are a few independent online publishers who have been introducing similar licensing policies recently. Check out Jennifer Eklund’s Piano Pronto Publishing where you can choose “Unlimited Reproductions” on checkout. Jennifer says “Buying studio licenses of Piano Pronto products can enhance your teaching practice and save you a TON of TIME and MONEY in the long run.”
Jennifer has a two-tiered pricing system where you can buy one-off copies of her books for a certain price or selected “Unlimited Reproductions” (ie. Daniel’s Studio Licence) for a second, higher price.
While this method of licensing might not suit all publishers, I have a feeling that it is going to become more and more common in the future. Let’s hope the big publishers cotton-on.
What about all the copying/printing fees I incur?
There is nothing wrong with passing the costs of downloading studio licensed music and printing to your students. In fact Daniel encourages it:
Supersonics Piano pieces will pay for themselves over and over again. You can either:
- Charge per piece/book printed. For a template document click here.
- Charge a set “materials fee” for each student per month/term/year. For a template click here.
Remember also that Supersonics Piano purchases are deductible against your tax liability (have a chat with your accountant).
Similarly, Jennifer Eklund explains the following method to recoup these costs:
Implement a ‘materials charge.’ My preferred way of getting reimbursed for studio licenses would be implementing a $5 a month/per student materials charge. This is in my opinion the cleanest and easiest way to cover the cost of paper, printer toner/ink, binders, and the studio licensed piano sheet music and/or books. Remember you can add to your library gradually. For my students they all pay this $5 monthly charge AND they reimburse me for other books that they need to buy.
Check out Supersonics
If you’re new to Daniel’s music and want to get started exploring his great pieces, check out his Supersonics Series. These are basically collections of all his best pieces from the last 5 years, graded by difficulty.
For just $39.99, you get lifetime access to around 20 pieces in each book. They also come with backing tracks (available separately). Click on an image for more information:
Supersonics Digital – Level A: Elementary: $39.99
Supersonics Digital – Level B: Elementary-Preliminary: $39.99
Supersonics Digital – Level A: Late Elementary-Grade 1: $39.99
Can I use these pieces for exams and competitions?
Just because piano pieces are not in a book does not mean they are illegal any more. I think examination boards and festival organisers are slowly (and I mean slowly) starting to catch up to reality here. If you have any concerns about this, then Daniel suggests:
The simplest way is to attach a copy of your invoice to any piano sheet music that you are required to submit or to bring your invoice to the event. If you want to be totally sure I can create a personalized “authorized copy” for your student.
Jennifer has even created a “Legal Licence Form” which can be attached to any downloaded music (not just her Piano Pronto books). You can access this document here.
It’s so exciting to see this evolution in piano sheet music licensing and I hope others begin to see its merit. It’s a way of accepting reality whilst still supporting composers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring and using all of Daniel’s music with my students. And I hope that this method of licensing (and the recent addition of his music on PianoMaestro) will continue to spread his music to studios around the world.
What do you think? Is Daniel crazy?!