A project for NZ Music Month...

In 2011 I celebrated NZ Music Month in style by writing 31 microscores in 31 days. It was a huge success, they all got recorded, are hugely popular and I use them almost weekly when talking to students about composition and instrumentation. In 2012, while I was involved in many Music Month events, I didn't have a music composition project and I was pretty disappointed about it.

So in 2013, it's back!

NZ-Music-Month1

What I like about this project is that usually all of my time is spent on other people's music - an absolute joy and honour - but it means I never get any time for my own composition. So NZ Music Month is a great annual opportunity to make sure that I work on my own music and have something worthwhile to show at the end of it.

I have debated for some time exactly what I would do this year - more daily microscores, weekly ensemble pieces, fortnightly larger pieces - or perhaps something slightly different.

I'll go for something slightly different.

For a long time, years in fact, I have wanted an online store to sell my own music - easily and automatically. Aside from works for professionals, I have a lot for students, community and school ensembles - and there is a great market for this. Sure, people can already buy it - through SOUNZ and by emailing me - but that doesn't quite cut it. People should be able to search on the internet, find a piece, discover and experience it, buy it, download it, play it. And I don't want to just export or print a version from the latest Sibelius file, I want to have properly published music - finalised, stylised, done, dusted, complete.

Initially, I thought I would finish a collection of piano music to sell - editing the current four pieces I had and writing four new ones - but I decided that I was still avoiding the most important step of all - to get this online store of music up and running and full of the music that I already have. So, now it's going to happen.

By May 31, my birthday and the final day of NZ Music Month, people from all around the world will be able to buy my published music easily and automatically from this site.

Here are the main things I will need to consider:

  1. What to publish
  2. Editing and publishing
  3. Selling method, charges, etc
  4. Cataloging
  5. Promotion and launch

It's going to be a big month - I've got an Auckland Philharmonia premiere, Auckland Symphony rehearsals, the 48 Hour Film festival, 10 days in Australia, a trip to Hawke's Bay, plenty of music prep, arranging and teaching commitments, and my 30th birthday!

It'll be a big month, but I'm really excited and I look forward to writing several posts along the way - addressing the points above and no doubt discussing the setbacks and triumphs. Stay tuned.

The PDF - a musician's best friend?

In this digital age of computers, devices and the internet, this wonderful thing called a PDF is becoming an asset that we really can't live without. We make them, receive them, explore them and store them - but as musicians, what are the ways in which we can use them and enhance our working environment? adobe_reader_logoThe acronym stands for "portable document format" and that describes them well - no matter what software application you are using, what sort of operating system you are on, or even what device, the PDF will look as it should as a fixed format. Also, it can't be edited, which is great for a whole raft of reasons. They have been around since 1993, but it's only in the last 10 years or so that they have really come to fruition, as we are sharing documents like never before and are using the internet to distribute our material. And because of all this, software is now also making it increasingly easy to export, save and share in this most wonderful format.

When I mention "devices" I am referring to things like the iPhone and iPad, which are of course wonderful standalone, but I often am referring to them an extensions of the computer. PDFs can be seamlessly synced between devices using services like Evernote.com and Dropbox.com, and so access to them out on the road opens up so many more possibilities.

I've categorised some thoughts about how PDFs will benefit three areas of the industry: writing musicians, performing and teaching musicians, and music consumers.

THE WRITING MUSICIAN

As a composer or arranger your ability to distribute your music, and the ease of doing so, is incredibly important. It doesn't matter whether you are on the other side of town or world you can quickly email PDF documents to your performers. All they need is a computer and printer and you know your music will be presented exactly as you wish.

I recently sent music off for a recording sessions in London - I finished and emailed it to them a few hours before it began and had complete confidence it was sitting on the orchestra's music stands exactly how I wanted it.

Professional orchestras have their own preferences when it comes to physical preparation of the music and so they often only accept a PDF master set - with the volume of music that goes across the music librarians desk, it's very efficient to just have the PDFs.

On your website or in your promotional material you might like to present samples and examples of your work, in which case you can easily add watermarks to keep it safe or add extra information.

Very handily, programs like PhotoScore (www.neuratron.com) can scan previously printed music and import it into the Sibelius, the notation software. I do this a lot - where someone may want an arrangement of a certain piece, or a piece needs to be transposed - I don't have to begin with hours of entering the original note by note.

THE PERFORMING AND TEACHING MUSICIAN

As a performer or teacher you generally need to carry large amounts of music around with you. Aside from potentially putting your shoulder out, the ability to call up music quickly in certain environments is very important. Having your music as PDFs on a digital device can mean huge amounts of space saved and the ability to bring up any chart in a matter of seconds.

For music not already existing as PDFs you can of course scan in music and keep all of your current collections. There are wonderful online music databases such as IMSLP.org which contain predominantly scanned royalty-free music.

The use of digital music stands is becoming very common (this is where you view the music on a screen rather than a printed copy), either by the use of dedicated systems or with devices like the iPad. Their use in band and orchestra environments is also becoming more common - they are not just restricted to the high-budget stages of American Idol!

I have written several posts on the topic of digital music stands and using iPads for performing on my website so check those out if you are interested.

THE MUSIC CONSUMER

I don't know about you, but when I purchase sheet music I want it right then and there. So the option to pay less and choose the "download as PDF" button always gets my click. As a person selling that music it is also my preference, as the transaction is completed automatically and there is no need for any packaging and posting - it's just money in the bank.

With this, however, there are potentially problems where your music could be easily distributed further once someone else owns the PDFs, but the argument is that you could always do this via a photocopier anyway - it just takes a few extra steps and may not be quite so pretty.

Even though with choral music is it common to charge per copy required, that really doesn't translate to other music and I don't see that working well for choral music for much longer - it is a little too trusting to ask someone to buy two copies of something rather than just buying it once and printing it twice. Generally now PDF music is licensed to the purchaser and they can do multiple copies as they wish. MusicNotes.com has nice way of indicating this by marking each page with a "Authorised for use by Ryan Youens".

So are PDFs a musician's best friend? Absolutely. With the internet, websites, email and various devices being such an important part of our work, distributing and receiving music is essential and it's essential for it to be done safe and efficiently - with a PDF.

This post was originally published on 17th March 2013 at www.flutefocus.com.

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!

Shout-out to VaultPress

I hope that somebody other than me noticed that my website has been down for a couple of days(!) There was a rather disastrous situation on Saturday night (NZ time) where I temporarily lost everything. However, I feared not, as I use VaultPress for my backups.

"VaultPress keeps your site safe. Every post, picture, and page. Every comment, revision, and setting. Everything."

Due to some issue on my site or server I wasn't able to restore it myself as you would usually be able to do easily. I submitted an "emergency" issue but I had to wait until Tuesday morning (NZ time) for the VaultPress support to come back online! Tuesday morning came and right on cue Brian emailed me. Within about an hour he had found and fixed the problem and restored my website.

So, I must give a shout-out to VaultPress and the superb service they offer. They say they are:

"The world’s best WordPress security, backup, and support."

...and I think it might be the perfect truth. If you have a website or blog using the Wordpress platform and your data is important to you, then VaultPress is the way to go.

SOUNZ moves forward, again

SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, has a fantastic new addition to their website - www.sounz.org.nz. Until now you have had three ways to explore New Zealand music - via browsing the music, the people or the events. Now, with thanks to NZ On Air, you can actually experience it.

This is a great new addition, here is why. No matter how amazing a piece of new New Zealand music is, people always seem to be cautious about grabbing hold of it and giving it a life. Looking at a sample score often doesn't allow you to imagine it, reading about it or hearing from somebody else that it is a great piece doesn't help either. To give you confidence you really need to have experienced the music yourself.

With this new addition you can do exactly that, view videos and experience the music - see the mallets moving, see the staging, feel the atmosphere and be introduced to new music in comfort. Chris Watson, a New Zealand composer, knocks it on the head by saying:

"I think moving pictures are, short of getting bums on seats in concert halls, the most effective way of communicating contemporary composition – and the YouTube/Vimeo paradigm provides an international, 24/7 audience."

Of course composers with their own websites have been implementing video for some time, but for New Zealand music to have a central resource where you can put your feet up and experience the music is fantastic.

This new addition is aligned with two other projects: digitisation of audio held by Radio New Zealand Concert - a joint project between the Alexander Turnbull Library, Radio New Zealand and SOUNZ. And Resound, which is reactivating recording licences and auditioning them to get them on to Radio New Zealand Concert and making them available online such as on the SOUNZ website. Excellent!

So, go experience.

Contemplating the new website

Well surprise surprise, the website now looks a little different. It's probably not a good thing, but I can't go for too long with my website looking exactly the same. I think the problem is that I'm always browsing through other peoples sites and I'm continually learning more about design and web stuff. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. lol I'm tempted to say I "really like the way it is now" but it just occurred to me that I say that after every new site goes up. lol Anyway if things don't work or you have ANY feedback, please leave a comment or email me.