Have you ever considered commissioning music written especially for you or your organization? Commissioning a piece of music is a collaborative process, and there are many factors to consider. The following FAQs should help you think through this process.
1. What will it cost to commission a work?
The fee is determined by a number of factors, including: the length of the proposed work, the instrumentation (e.g., soloist only, chorus, chamber ensemble), and the time frame provided for its composition. Once the piece is composed, a master score and parts for the performers must also be prepared. The cost for this service is included in the fee. Current rates available here.
2. When is payment made?
Half of the commissioning fee is paid before the project begins, and the remainder is paid upon receipt of the completed score.
3. How long does it take a composer to write a piece of music?
Generally, it is best to allow 9-12 months from the signing of an agreement until the work has been completed. In some instances, shorter time frames (e.g., 3-9 months) may be arranged.
4. What do I need to know about texts?
If a text is needed, you may want to choose a passage from the Bible or other sacred writing. For a secular work, a public domain poem makes a nice choice. If a copyrighted text is selected, securing permission to use the text and paying any corresponding fees are the responsibilities of the commissioning party. If necessary, the composer can assist in the text selection process.
5. What is included in the letter of agreement (contract)?
Normally, the letter of agreement will:
- Identify the commissioning party and the composer
- State that the composer is not an employee and is not working “for hire”
- Describe the work as negotiated
- Include a clause indicating that the composer will not infringe on any existing copyright
- Indicate delivery dates for the completed work and all parts necessary for performance
- State the agreed upon fee and method of payment (50% on signing the agreement and 50% when the completed work is delivered)
- Describe the composer’s liability if the work is not completed
- List travel expenses that will be paid if you plan to have the composer at the premiere
- Indicate what license is granted to the commissioning party (e.g., performance, recording, local reproduction)
- List any rental fees for use of the parts
6. Who actually owns the music?
It is standard practice that a composer retains the rights to his or her own works, so that the legal ownership of the piece remains with the composer. However, the first page of the musical score will include an acknowledgement of the commissioner and, if applicable, any personal dedication. It is customary that the commissioner is given a presentation copy of the completed score, specially inscribed by the composer.
7. Will the composer attend or conduct the premiere performance?
While it is exciting to have the composer at the premiere performance, this service is not included in the cost of the commission.
8. Will the commission be published?
Although it is the composer’s hope that every commission will be published, it cannot be guaranteed. Of course, the commissioner’s name and any dedications are included on the published work.