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Music Self-Publishing

Updated on August 13, 2013

What does Internet Have to Offer for Contemporary Composers?

To begin with, I would like to define the notion of publishing itself, to make it fully clear in simple words. So, basically, publishing your music means putting it OUT THERE in order for people to hear it. As with any kinds of media, you can find a publisher who will have the whole work done for you, OR you can do it yourself, which is called SELF-publishing. In this article I tried to outline how you can do it in both ways.

World of music
World of music

Recent Trends in the Music Industry

Within the last decade the way music industry functions has significantly changed. Be it for the reason of growing accessibility of online resources or for the redefinition of priorities, but today the former strict attachment of a musician to a third party is no longer that evident. The number of alternatives keeps enhancing and the choice is being diversified. Let's take a glance at the new aspect the music world has taken on.

World Music: Imagine a Situation
World Music: Imagine a Situation

Imagine a Situation

Suppose you are a purposeful and committed composer. Or arranger. Or both of the above mentioned together. You have some good pieces of music in your repertoire but you have no idea how to let them be known by the public at little or no cost. You need to find out how to publish your music. The task is clear, let's look at the options.

Traditional Methods of Music Publishing

Those who may still consider traditional music publishing a rather safer and more secure way of promotion can stick to the standard scenario of cooperating with one of the renowned providers of these services. These can be Performing Rights Societies – like ASCAP, BMI, GEMA, Kobalt (to name just a few) – that would take charge solely of your performing rights and gather money from certain types of public performance or reproducing of your music (e.g. concert halls, TV, cable, etc.). Or, you could contact Music Publishers (Alfred, Hal Leonard, Boosey) that would handle the material side of your work: printing and distributing of your sheet music. Of course, most of these companies will make sure your rights are secured, your music is distributed and your persona is promoted, with the least effort needed on your side. There might be differences in contracts but the idea is like that. However, such organized activity requires fundamental funding, so don’t be surprised when eventually you get just 15% commission off the sales at best. Sometimes, the revenue might not reach you at all. Moreover, they usually prefer to deal with people who have already ‘earned a name’.

Getting a Personal Website

If the cited method is not what you think would suit you best – here is what the new technologies have to offer you. First of all, you can try to go on a so-called solo self-reliant sailing. Absolutely on your own. That would imply creating your own website and entail constant update of its contents – posting news, links, samples and what not – in other words, being consistent. A simple site doesn’t present many difficulties, however, if you like to create something more refined, like establish an online store – that would demand more knowledge and efforts. What regards marketing techniques, you will have to begin with as simple and direct ones as spreading a word among your friends, relatives, acquaintances. Social network activity will be fine too – uploading some of your works on a MySpace page could do the job. Thus, your site = your risk, your responsibility. That’s where you begin the self-publishing.

Websites to Help You Get Published

Yet there is another scenario you could go for. Out there in the open scope of the Web one can come across a number of websites that represent the new trend in music publishing. They vary by the type of services they provide, but all of them are useful in their own way and are no doubt a new word in this sphere. That is a big cake that can feed all the talents of the music community.

Talking about the opportunity to publish your sheet music online, a huge slice of the cake belongs to a group of web platforms that provide tangible support to new composers.

Those websites like,,, all have one thing in common - they give a chance to shine and to be heard.

Of course, there are nuances in functioning of each of them. Let's look at the chart below where I tried to systematize a bit the evaluation of main services provided by these websites.

Let's Compare the Figures

How to publish music scores online
How to publish music scores online

As you are able to observe, all these websites allow the author to reserve the full copyright and serve just as platforms for distributing (publishing) his/her music. The good thing is that most of them don't charge any fee for membership. As for the services available, one can get a unique URL at www.MusicaNeo for free and also at musicalion after paying the full membership fee of 29 EUR per year. Such pages will serve you as your own websites. Only one of the analyzed sites offers composers to sell not only sheet music but also the rights for its performance, either for a singular or for multiple performances (MusicaNeo). The same site also provides its users with the service of transforming handwritten sheet music into printable digital format. What regards the payment procedure, it's necessary to mention two aspects that usually cause clients' concern. First, the amount of commission that a composer earns, and second, timing/method of payment. In two cases the author receives up to 80% of commission off every sold item (ScoreExchange - 50%-80%, and Myscorestore 80%, excluding VAT), MusicaNeo charges 33% for its service, and Musicalion lets the composer get all he/she sold after charging either 9 EUR per 2 months or 19 EUR per 6 months or 29 EUR per year. The earned money usually is transferred to a PayPal or a bank account, and the transaction is performed at the end of each quarter (ScoreExchange and Mystorescore) or month (Musicalion). MusicaNeo transfers money immediately (or on request). Eventually, to get a better understanding of the whole procedure (which is not at all complicated) and to learn how to self-publish music, you can pick any website and go directly to their web address. Finally, to draw a line to the conducted analysis, it's essential to say that all the websites under consideration present interesting resources to use.

However, if I were to pick one, I would highlight Publish Sheet Music at MusicaNeo as the most innovative and an easy-to-use platform, judging by the selected criteria.

Other Ways of Self-Promotion

Alongside with such publishing platforms, the world networks bulks in online music stores. The most well-known include SheetMusicPlus, MusicNotes, MusicRoom or JWpepper.

However, these websites mostly offer sheet music distributed by the publishers and do not let composers publish their works. We’ll get to them next time, as for now your main aim is to sort out a different task.


Am I going to get rich now ?

Having set their choice on one of the publishing platforms, some of you may think their job is done here and relax waiting for millions of banknotes to flow to their account. A-ah, too early. Virtual world conceals too many illusions and surrenders only to those who know how to get use of it properly. In the first months after your sheet music has appeared online, get ready to run down the problem of low traffic, meaning there will be few visits of your personal site. But don’t get upset.

Consider this: would you yourself buy music scores of some unknown composer? Doubtful. Even offering your works for free access does not at all guarantee hundreds of downloads. That is why you are to adopt an important thought – Internet is just a bonus-tool: effective but additional. Working a name – this is where you are to depart from. A sequence like ‘giving a concert – entering a music contest – video recording the performance – posting it online’ is sure to bear perceptibly more fruit than uploading the unknown music scores and leave them hang out there like a dead weight. Extend the ‘live’ audience of your music: if you snatch out their interest, people will try finding you online for more music, photos, news, personal facts, etc. You need to acquire some level of popularity before online promotion turns into a helping hand for you.


How do I Acquire the Desired Popularity?

To earn a name (exactly to ‘earn’, as it’s hard work in fact) you’d have to follow a step-by-step scheme. No one can get you better promoted than you yourself. And you have to keep that in mind all the time. There is no need to rush the events and be flashy in self-advertising. Success comes to those who are considerate and thoughtful in acting. That’s why after publishing music one had better focus on the most basic things at the beginning: the way of its presentation. That involves a number of things but can be generalized in one simple phrase – quality content. This is what is going to be promoted in fact, so it’s better to make sure that all the data you put online is worthy.

After the needed level of quality is reached, it’s time to proceed to linking. The more often you are mentioned online, the more ‘liked’ you become by both search engines and people’s Internet community. Moreover, just like you get ‘social’ in real life, you can be social in digital world. Being spotted in all possible social networks, forums, blogs, videos, articles, etc. would surely broaden your own network of useful contacts and would eventually start building the needed online reputation. And that, in its turn, is easily transferred into the live one.

The Earth
The Earth


15 years earlier - would you believe in such an opportunity? What used to be incredible and too remote now comprises the present. If you are up-to-date and are ready to bring your creative work to the next level, it's about time to grab the chance. Contrary to the well-spread prejudices, it doesn't take a fortune to get 'published'.

Self-publishing has taken its turn. But do not forget that to bring your name to the top, you need to work hard both in the real life space and in the digital world. Whatever promotional tools you may choose to apply, the key to your success is your MUSIC. So please, do write it well.

What About a Poll?

Obviously, there are many ways of getting promoted. I would love to find out what it feels like for you - which ways do you take to get to the top? Please, vote!

How do YOU prefer to get your music

See results

Thank you for reading my lens. I would appreciate it if you left a word down there - would be great to know what you think on the topic! It's a controversial one, isn't it?

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      johnnyjohnston 3 years ago

      @chillphotos: Such a wonderful thought Lots of luck and success...God Bless You

    • leilasi profile image

      Leila 4 years ago from Belgium

      Very interesting and well made lens. And thanks for stopping by my lens about minimalist clothing

    • ClearInsightProds profile image

      ClearInsightProds 4 years ago

      Interesting article. Very useful for composers.

    • Tom Gamble profile image

      Tom Gamble 4 years ago

      Very interesting and lots of tips and knowledge to help me structure a planned and home-brewed album! Many thanks!

    • profile image

      TigerJoo 4 years ago

      As a person who self-published a book, I know how important information such as this lens can be for a variety of reasons and for a variety of people (not just musicians). For people who are serious about sharing their work and vision, lenses such as this can be a great tool to help others rise to the top. Thank you for taking your time to make this lens. I am sure it will help countless people.

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      This looks like a really useful study of online opportunities for composers - great lens!

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Great info! I know it will help me a lot :)

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I'm studying this subject, and appreciate this info. I've written dozens of songs but only friends and family know about them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      So I am trying to decide wether to self publish or to have a publishing company do it for me, What are the chances that self publishing will get my music heard and possibly get me a writers contract? If I am seeking a writer contract, will using a publishing company be a better route for this?

    • profile image

      chillphotos 4 years ago

      @Gayle Mclaughlin: All this info is all fine and good. However, it really has not helped me. There is TOO MUCH info for me and I'm not sure where to start... My Mom passed away and I have some of her sheet music. It is piano music. Extremely well composed and written brilliantly. It is, very much, worth publishing. You see, we are descended from George F. Handle. Music seems to run ramped thru us. I would just like to do something for my dear deceased Mom whoâs only wish was to play the piano. And did so with such grace. Yet, she never published a thing. I would like to do that for her now. Can you advise step one for me? I'm just confused.. Thank you

    • profile image

      chillphotos 4 years ago

      I'm not sure I understand this site. I posted something, yet I don't see it. Does it take sometime before posting shows up?

    • profile image

      chillphotos 4 years ago

      All this info is all fine and good. However, it really has not helped me. My Mom passed away and I have some of her sheet music. It is piano music. Extremely well composed and written brilliantly. It is, very much, worth publishing. You see, we are descended from George F. Handle. Music seems to run ramped thru us. I would just like to do something for my dear deceased Mom whoâs only wish was to play the piano. And did so with such grace. Yet, she never published a thing. I would like to do that for her now.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi thanks for the info and tips.

    • frenchlingo profile image

      frenchlingo 4 years ago

      Sometimes self-publish is the way to go to ensure that you target the buyers you desire.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 5 years ago from Europe

      I was surprised how easy it was to self publish

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info...

    • profile image

      lionmom100 5 years ago

      Interesting information for musicians

    • Niko2 profile image

      Niko2 5 years ago

      Great advice and information here - thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Ight im young but i got the potentail to be what i set out to be i wanna be a rapper and some how some time imma fulfill that dream if it takes me downhill imma capture it

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      to the point & helpful

    • fathomblueEG profile image

      fathomblueEG 5 years ago

      This would be a dream come true for me to be the singer I've always wanted to be and get noticed.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      The internet is changing everything! Thanks for helping me to keep up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info! Really helpful and realistic in explaining the basics of marketing one's music.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for putting this together. I found it very helpful. I do have one more question: if I already have my own website, can I just sell my music in the store? What does do for me that i can't do in my own? Thanks again!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm out to publish my boys. Siyanani

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have nothing to say but sign me up!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is extremely helpful for me. As a sixteen year old composer, I'm not certain of how I should go about putting my music out there. Thanks for sharing this :)

    • DahliaValentine profile image

      DahliaValentine 6 years ago

      This is an awesome lens! I didn't know opportunities like this existed for musicians.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Quite a suggestions for music promotions, great for budding artists.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      I believe in the future people will promote themselves in all kinds of ventures, not just musical. Of the working population, those than can work for 'themselves' will. It's getting to be that way now. See you around the galaxy...

    • profile image

      perso 6 years ago

      YouTube could be also one of good exposure resources. I'm using it and results are amazing:)

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 6 years ago from McLaughlin

      Very good info on this article. I wasn't aware one could self-publish music! This is exciting! Squid Angel Blessed!

    • WayneDave LM profile image

      WayneDave LM 6 years ago

      Really enjoyed this lens. I put my music on a certain site and I have had a little success. I think some of the ideas on this lens are worth me checking out. Thanks very much for sharing.

    • jethrosas profile image

      Jethro 6 years ago from Philippines

      I enjoy reading your lens. Keep making more lenses. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      SongCast is another music self-publishing company and its pretty good. Seems to be much better than other ones listed. You keep 100% of your royalties, copyrights, and your music is even distributed internationally.

    • mufke1 profile image

      mufke1 6 years ago

      Great lens...hope you will see some of mines

    • profile image

      godinhora 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for doing the research. Very nice info for one who wants to move slowly and with quality taking the lead in all phases of the endeavor ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Why doesn't anybody accept Score Writer files (.scw)? They could then listen and evaluate within a couple of minutes!

    • Rankography profile image

      Rankography 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great page! I'm also fascinated with the new level ground at the foot of the music industry. There are so many start-ups and individual artists who will have a new shot at being discovered because of this.

    • Chris-H LM profile image

      Chris-H LM 6 years ago

      Thanks for the useful info. I'm a big believer in the self publishing movement in all forms.

    • profile image

      UKMusicStation 6 years ago

      Great article. The music business is changing so fast at the moment and this lens provides agreat snapshot of the current state of affairs. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Brilliant page - really helpful and interesting. After working at a classical music festival with many new commissions, if you have a piece performed at a concert, approach the merchandise people to sell either cds and also sheet music, if people like your work, they may want to try to perform it too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great leads to get started. I wrote a song but only the lyrics. I don't know how to write the music scores although I also came up with the melody to go along with the lyrics. So I seem to be stuck there. But you lens at least gave me a boost to look further into it. Thanks.

    • stylishimo1 profile image

      stylishimo1 6 years ago

      Great lens! And thank you for liking my lens, my partner is a busker and just getting into self publishing, I have bookmarked your lens and will show him as soon as he gets home.

    • willduke lm profile image

      willduke lm 6 years ago

      Great lense and info! It is amazing how far the industry has come in just a few short years.

    • profile image

      HowBoutThis 6 years ago

      As an owner of one of the softwares you mentioned, I look forward to publishing some of my work and possibly making a living from future like projects.



    • OccultPriestess1 profile image

      OccultPriestess1 6 years ago

      Wow- the how to of the "new" music industry. I am sending this lens to my rockstar right away!

    • sabrinasignsrocks profile image

      sabrinasignsrocks 7 years ago

      As a new artist, I am learning as much as I can about all this!!! Thank you!

    • fantasticallyfi profile image

      fantasticallyfi 7 years ago

      A great page - massively useful too.

    • javr profile image

      javr 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's nice to see that musicians have options. The whole music industry is in turmoil and self-publishing might be a good step for new artists. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I've considered doing this, but haven't yet. Thank you for the information. It should help me narrow things down a bit. =D

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 7 years ago

      I'd never thought of self-publishing in music - great lens and topic -:)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 7 years ago

      Music Self-Publishing is a topic I know very little about. Was nice to learn so much about it!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 7 years ago from UK

      interesting and detailed information, I was not aware of how much the music publishing industry had changed. Thanks for this lems

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 7 years ago

      Nice page some really useful information. It's interesting how the industry has changed over the years, with the advancement of technology it's becoming more obtainable for the up and coming musician to get noticed and publish their music. I play for fun and would love to take it further. I think I would self publish as many places as possible. Great resource, love the comparison chart.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 7 years ago from East Central Florida

      A really nice lens. I especially liked the spreadsheet comparing the four websites and the verbage that followed. I wish more lensmasters would do this kind of thoughtful analysis, whatever the topic being addressed!

    • jeremecausing profile image

      Jereme Causing 7 years ago from Philippines

      I use 4shared then copy the code to my blogger site

    • jeremecausing profile image

      Jereme Causing 7 years ago from Philippines

      Great source of info for music publishing... :D

    • profile image

      GetSillyProduct 7 years ago

      Great lens, I play acoustic guitar, but only for me and my own personal enjoyment. But I'm fascinated by the transformation of the industry because of file sharing and social networking sites. For instance, my friend is in a band called The Athiarchists, and they have both of their full albums available for free download. Is it a good business model? Well they certainly don't pull in a lot of profit, but their exposure and fan base is building rapidly which could be more beneficial in the long run.

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 7 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      I'm a writer. It used to be that getting a book published took years and was a one in a million shot dealing with anachronistic bureaucracies. The option was vanity publishers that charged an arm and two legs to put boxes of unsold books in your garage.

      The tables have turned. Now the big publishers are about vanity: awards, clubs, NY times reviews. To connect with readers it has become more efficient to independently publish. My trilogy is about hackers fighting for human rights, only as an indie author can I break rules about composition. Hacktivisim stories cry out for a breaking of unnecessary rules.

      Besides, being an indie writer sounds cool.

    • Nightowl John profile image

      Nightowl John 7 years ago

      Very nicely written with a lot of useful information. Squid Angel blessed.

    • DallasNicole LM profile image

      DallasNicole LM 7 years ago

      I learned a lot here! Wonderful lens. I am not a composer but am a song writer. I haven't worked on this in a while because I got discouraged in working with others trying to get my music recorded... Very informative! Thanks!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a useful resource for musicians looking to find ways to get published. I love music and occasionally play the guitar, but that's it. You did a great job on this lens. **Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I publish on Sibelius and have just released my first CD which is available on Amazon. The music business is so geared up to youth, friends in the know and the influence of major players that it is the only realistic way for us older musicians to publish. It is great to read someone elses take on it! Thank you :)

    • profile image

      sfetisov 7 years ago

      Good jod Inna! It's was great to get to know your point of view on sheet music self-publishing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge in the field and giving me very helpful orientation that will definitely help me start my own career of a composer. All the facts and figures in your article made me feel I can do it.Thanks a lot!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What excellent work! I'm not a composer but am a music fan for sure and sure did enjoy your take on self-publishing. It's great that you are helping others with your expertise.

    • InnaTsv profile image

      InnaTsv 7 years ago

      @Ivanulia: welcome! im happy to help! :)

    • InnaTsv profile image

      InnaTsv 7 years ago

      @DavidM2: I'm glad to know it turned out to be useful for u, David! good luck with your music publishing! ;)

    • profile image

      DavidM2 7 years ago

      Well-done, Inna! thx for sharing the results of your work. It's great that u paid attention exactly to SHEET MUSIC publishing, not a ready CD or smth. There's little comprehensive info on that! And that's so 'to-the-point' for me right now - I was in two minds about how to start it all going, how to 'put it out there' as u say :) now that's way easier! Appreciate your efforts!

    • profile image

      Ivanulia 7 years ago

      A nice piece of work! The author has done a really interesting and useful thorough research. As a composer myself I should note that this websites' comparison will make it much easier for many of us to find a proper sheet music publishing platform. I already did ;) Thanx for the article!