For this page, I’ve chosen websites that have a direct bearing on professional composers and orchestrators. Below I’ve got links to performing-rights organizations, composer websites, online resources, and the United States Library of Congress. As with all other listed resources on this website, I’d love to hear any suggestions for other listings. Please send me an e-mail.
Here’s where you go to legally protect your work in the United States. The online process is about as easy as sending a payment through your internet banking. Rates keep rising, so I strongly recommend that you file collections of works, which will protect dozens of works for the same price as a single work. Use Form PA for musical scores, and SR for recordings.
Do NOT use registered mail, a song bank, or any other type of service. They are all scams. Different countries have different approaches to copyright – in some enlightened places, simple online registration of works with a licensing organization equals a strong copyright. But the United States is a special case, especially due to its dominance in the entertainment and media industries. So don’t be an idiot. File a copyright once your work is ready for distribution, publishing, or sale, and especially as the subject of any type of contractual agreement. Though I live in New Zealand, I still lodge works with the US Library of Congress, which automatically protects them internationally under the Berne Convention.
IMSLP now has many thousands of public domain scores available for free download. The existence of this website is currently assisting the development of a whole generation of orchestrators, composers, and conductors. It is perhaps THE most significant website for us on the internet. It’s gotten to where orchestras regularly download parts and scores from IMSLP rather than paying costly fees for rental and shipping.
Go there right now, download a score, and read it.
The Philharmonia Orchestra has really done a great service for young composers and orchestrators. They’ve uploaded interviews, sample passages, and even sampled sounds of their players, and it’s all first-rate, no-cost information. It’s like getting an orchestra to talk to about many questions you might have, and the information can actually be quite useful to orchestrators at any stage of development.
In some ways, this is a stripped-down, less-sprawling version of the Philharmonia Orchestra site above, with very easy-to-access menus covering every main orchestral instrument, with diagrams and video samples with highlighted notation. It’s another great free resource, though at times certain aspects seem unsystematic, like their delineation of woodwind registers. A great introduction to the orchestra for developing orchestrators.
(N.B. The site is Flash-based, so it will not work on some mobile devices.)
This website doesn’t screw around. It’s got up-to-date information about concerts, recordings, news affecting composers, and a great blog posted by Christian Morris. Reading this site makes you realize just what an enormous tapestry of different sounds is contemporary concert music.
This site is pretty much focused on film and television composition, and it’s got some great interviews and articles. Its reviews of sound set releases are indispensable for MIDI composers.
F&GC takes things way farther. In addition to interviews, it’s got lists of resources, software tutorials, and excellent composer guides on varied topics such as music licensing, building composer websites, and finding scoring jobs.
Once your music is regularly broadcast, published, and/or performed, you need to have an agency to collect your royalties. I’m a member of ASCAP, and they are extremely supportive of composers, even offering them health plans and other benefits. They have an awards program that grants fees directly to the composer for small public performance of works, even if the performers haven’t paid anything. When you may have dozens of performances worldwide, this can add up to some much-needed funds for a struggling artist. BMI may have something similar – they certainly have a Classical Music division.
The best approach is to really do some research to find the organization that will do the most for you as a working composer. Australian and New Zealand composers use APRA. There are other licensing organizations as well, and I will list them later when I get the chance.