As our regular readers may know, I’ve been making efforts to get into the business of creating unique print music arrangements for several months now. So far, my efforts have been focused on distilling songs from recorded artist performances down to a basic SATB hymn structure.
Creating the actual arrangement isn’t difficult. I have a music theory background and Finale notation software. Making a finished arrangement available for sale online is relatively easy as well using Square or something similar.
By far, the greatest frustration comes in attempting to secure a print license from a music publisher. Just as with recorded music, a license must be obtained before a print version can legally be offered for sale.
I’ll outline the lengths to which I have gone recently to obtain a license for the song “Christ My Hope My Glory,” written by High Road’s Sarah Davison and Kenna Turner West.
Some weeks ago, I started my search at BMI.com where I discovered the following.
Note that BMI lists two publishers (Say Amen Music & Dayspring Music) and indicates that is the sum total (100%) of the parties involved.
When I clicked the links for each publisher, I was pleased to find that both directed me to warnerchappell.com for licensing. It appeared I could simply proceed to that website, request a print license, and be on my way to publishing a new arrangement of this song. Wrong.
If you search for “Christ My Hope My Glory” today at the Warner/Chappell website, you’ll see something a little different from what I saw a few weeks ago. The first time I checked, it appeared to bear out the notion that I could apply to Warner for a license for the entire song. Today, it shows that Warner only controls 50% of the song and there’s at least one more publisher that is “unknown.” At any rate, I proceeded to apply. For print licenses I was directed away from the Warner Chappell website to Alfred Music. This is still the direction on the Warner Chappell website today. It is Wrong.
I sent the request to Alfred. After a few days, I received an email reply stating that Alfred does not manage sacred music print licenses for Warner. For that, they said I should contact Word Music. If you click the link to Word, you can scroll down and see as I did, the following: “To obtain copy permission for songs owned or administered by Word Music, Dayspring Music, or Wordspring Music, please submit your request at: musicservices.org.” This seemed promising, because I had dealt with Musicservices before to license songs to record and also to license music tracks to be used in a recording. I was further encouraged, because hey, they explicitly SAY Musicservices handles print license requests for Dayspring Music, which is one of the publishers of “Christ My Hope My Glory.” I thought it would surely be smooth sailing from here. Wrong.
At Musicservices, I quickly located the song, selected License Request, chose Print License, indicated it was a Custom Arrangement, filled in some more details, and sent in my request. After another week or so, I received a reply stating that Musicservices could not issue a print request for “Christ My Hope My Glory.” Instead, Musicservices said the company I should have contacted is…wait for it…Warner. However, they did say they had gone ahead and forwarded it to the correct person at Warner who would absolutely take care of it.
After some more delay, the license arrived today, and that’s when I learned Warner could only issue a license for 50% of the song. It appears that Sarah Davison’s publisher has never bothered to register their share of the song with BMI. Even though Warner only represents West’s 50% of the song, BMI makes it appear as if Warner has the entire 100%.
So yeah…I give up.
I won’t be publishing an arrangement of this song. After all the misdirection and false information in my interaction with not just one, but EVERY entity I consulted and contacted, I’ve lost my will to pursue it any more.
I want to be clear, though, that I am sharing this not merely to rant and rave about my own inconvenience.
This is a vivid example of how difficult the music industry makes it for an honest person to put money in the pockets of songwriters who deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. No one should have to jump through this many hoops when they are trying to PAY someone else.
Sadly, this sort of thing has been the case with 14 out of 16 total copyrighted song I have attempted to put into print since around April of this year. In most cases, the publisher or their representative didn’t even bother to respond.
And sadly, I don’t think the recently passed legislation addresses print music, so it’s not going to get any better any time soon.
Sad to say this is why many part time groups don’t pay or get permission to record other people’s music. The group I was in always did but I’ve heard from others who say they don’t bother because of dumb things like this. Of course some are just lazy or dishonest as well.
Of course, it’s not a reasonable excuse for breaking the law, but I’m sure it does contribute to some degree.
I’ve never had issues clearing songs I wanted to record that rise to this level, thankfully. Print licenses are like the red-headed stepchild in that they don’t get that many of them and don’t care if they process them or not.
Another difference is that publishers have no obligation to grant print licenses, which explains why some don’t bother to respond. They are required to grant recording licenses, or, if they don’t, an artist can still record a song and pay the compulsory rate.
This is a question because I don’t know if this would be helpful, but I was wondering if one of the copyright organizations for churches could help? I only knew about CCLI, but I ran across an organization called Christian Copyright Solutions because I am interested in the possibility of acquiring streaming rights for our Dottie Rambo Fan Club website. They have quite a few fact sheets and seem to be helpful trying to assist new customers. Their website is: ChristianCopyrightSolutions.com
The church where I lead music has CCLI. I can use that license to create an arrangement for our congregation to sing, however, that’s as far as I could go with it. I want to sell an arrangement of the song to whoever wants to buy it. CCLI and CCS don’t offer that solution.
I appreciate the suggestion, but both organizations you mentioned are services aimed primarily at churches, not individuals who want to create a product for sale to the general public.
Did you try contacting Sarah Davison directly? Sounds like you should have tried that first to me! Sad the world will be missing out on your arrangement of this song.
You don’t appear to understand the songwriter/publisher relationship. It is the job of a publisher to handle these matters on behalf of their songwriters. This allows songwriters to focus on writing songs while publishers handle paperwork related to getting them paid.