If you haven’t seen this story yet about one conductor’s fight to overturn this draconian copyright statute, definitely give it a read. It impacts all music performing ensembles:
When Lawrence Golan picks up his baton here at the University of Denver, the musicians in his student orchestra see a genial conductor who corrects their mistakes without raising his voice in frustration.
Yet Mr. Golan is frustrated, not with the musicians, but with a copyright law that does them harm. For 10 years, the music professor has been quietly waging a legal campaign to overturn the statute, which makes it impossibly expensive for smaller orchestras to play certain pieces of music.
As a conductor for high school-age ensembles, the cost of renting music that is 75 + years old is frustrating. Spending $500 or more to play even one movement of a concerto by a late 19th century or early 20th century composer just seems plain wrong to me. Who exactly benefits from these high rental fees? Not the composers, certainly.
I especially like spending that kind of money for a rental and then opening the package, only to find yellowed, cracking, barely usable parts. Those fees certainly aren’t going toward upgrading the quality of stock being sent out to ensembles.
In an age where all aspects of our lives are moving online, the hard copy music publishing rental structure seems not long for this world. I can only hope that ensembles in 10 or 20 years will have better options available than what we presently have.
Photo Credit – Benjamin Rasmussen for The Chronicle