Print on Demand is an availability term often associated with low volume titles. In the old days of metal engraving plates and huge industrial presses, a piece of sheet music that didn’t pay for its place in a publisher’s inventory was usually put out of print (forever). The opportunity cost in time and materials to print an old piece that didn’t sell well would simply be too high when considered in light of new pieces of sheet music that might sell in greater numbers.
In today’s world of digital engraving, digital storage, and quick digital printers, the cost of printing any individual piece of music is much lower. The opportunity cost of actual inventory, however, is still high in terms of dedicated shelf space, warehouse labor, etc. For some titles and publishers, Print on Demand is the best of both worlds.
Print on Demand titles, which otherwise would have been discontinued permanently, can now be kept in a publisher’s ‘virtual stock’ indefinitely by virtue of digital storage. They can also be printed much more efficiently in small numbers thanks to digital engraving and printing. While there is often a lead time associated with Print on Demand pieces, the fact that they can still be sourced at all makes up for the wait.
Many of the advantages of Print on Demand for publishers also translate to print-in-the-store programs for retailers or print-at-home programs for consumers.
For an in-depth look at the challenges copyrights face in today’s digital world, check out The SSRC’s Media Piracy in Emerging Economies (free PDF download at the right side of the linked page). This paper focuses on IP primarily in developing countries (Brazil, Russia, South America, Mexico, Bolivia, and India) and doesn’t touch on sheet music per se, so take it with a grain of salt. But do keep an eye out for connections to our industry; they are certainly there.
Quick synopsis: the effectiveness of copyright/IP law is directly proportional to availability and affordability in developing markets and inversely proportional to the comparatively fast growth of technology as indexed against purchasing power of licit goods. That’s a fancy way of saying that, in the specifically researched markets, piracy is popular because the pirate does have the means of accessing pirated goods digitally, but either does not have a licit source and/or does not have the purchasing power to afford them.
The term rack line refers to the uppermost 2-3 inches of the cover of a book. When placed in a ‘waterfall’ type display, this is the portion of the cover that is visible to the consumer. This is important in the context of the publisher’s cover art as well as the retailer’s merchandising. Ideally, the rack line is both clearly indicative of the book’s subject and visible to anyone browsing a sheet music section.
This most often refers to a trade name under which a folio or piece of music is published, but is not necessarily indicative of the publisher’s corporate name itself. A publisher may have multiple imprints in order to market to specific demographics. For example, a publisher who specializes in the church market might also own an imprint which specializes in the secular educational market under a different name. This hypothetical publisher markets and sells under two different names in order to deliver a focused marketing message and brand experience to its customers.
Imprints may be created strategically or they may come about as the result of a takeover of smaller publishers by larger ones. Imprints should not be confused with distribution agreements. In a distribution agreement, a publisher may sell publications with another company’s name on them, but they do not own the name or company.
The days of enclosed systems in which you, your supplier, and your customer were the only moving parts are over. The ever-present competition and outside marketing influences that arrived with the Digital Era have wreaked havoc on the comfortable little market you signed up for, and things may look grim. But there’s some good news. Although you’re no longer the only one speaking on behalf of your products, your products are speaking louder than ever for themselves. And although online and mobile content has a head-start, content is still king and is still your specialty. Although the communities which used to center around your storefront have migrated, they are lost, scared, and can be brought back home. Yes, there are obstacles, but there are also opportunities. To demonstrate these highfalutin platitudes, I am going to try to put them in context for you as a Retailer of the Digital Era. If we’re lucky, inspiration will appear along the way.
Founded in 1895, the Music Publishers Association is the oldest association in the music trade (pre-dating even the Association of American Kazoologists). This education and advocacy focused non-profit dedicates itself to the betterment and preservation of the publishing industry through advocating for the protection of copyrights and providing a forum for publishers to address vital music industry issues.
MPA.org serves as both an excellent directory for research of publishers and as a source of very practical information regarding copyrights and common associated questions. Check out Music Publishing and You, a must read for any print music retailer or publisher.