Garrett Breeze

Selling Sheet Music Podcast, Ep 4: Getting the Most Out of ArrangeMe: Interview With Hal Leonard’s Scott Harris

Garrett:

Well, why don’t we start by you just giving quickly an overview of the ArrangeMe program and all of the different brands and the different websites that are involved.

Scott:

Yeah, absolutely, Garrett.  ArrangeMe is the self-publishing platform owned and operated by Hal Leonard. We are an aggregator. You can’t buy anything from ArrangeMe as you know, but arrangers and composers put their sheet music up through our service and it gets published out to sheetmusicdirect.com and sheetmusicplus.com as digital assets.  And we also have a partner called Noteflight, which is another Hal Leonard company. They are primarily targeted to education more and more, but they have this really kind of great little music editor, and you can use that to publish similarly a composition or, or an arrangement of a copyrighted song through the ArrangeMe platform. And then it goes to SheetMusicDirect, SheetMusicPlus, and also the note flight marketplace, which is sort of their community of sellers and, and consumers. Those are interactive files, which you can transpose and manipulate and, and download and make your own—kind of a cool service there too. So they’re integrated with the ArrangeMe platform as well, but primarily the big services is getting your stuff published to SheetMusicDirect and SheetMusicPlus.

Garrett:

What’s your day to day like as program director? What does that job look like?

Scott:

Yeah, it’s a good question. Kind of every day is a little different. We have a lot of users, tens of thousands of users. So every day there’s somebody needs something, you know, something’s going wrong or, or they can’t figure something out. We’ve got a pretty robust customer service email service that we we’re into every day. I work with our development team, which is kind of your tech/IT folks that are sort of running the site; spend some time kind of thinking high level, 30,000 feet kind of where we are and where we’re going. So I’m, I’m way up there, and I’m way down in the weeds with with customer service and sort of tactical issues. So I’m sort of everywhere in between man. I’ve got marketing meetings and vision meetings, and this week meeting with our CEO, Larry Morton about a bigger picture type of approach. So it’s a lot, it’s very diverse and it keeps me on my toes and I’ve been in this business 20 years and it really feels like, you know, this is the bleeding, cutting edge of this business as far as like sheet music publication. So I got my start as a young editor, right outta college, on music row as, as like a traditional print editor. So it’s it’s been a journey to get here and, and I feel pretty uniquely qualified to run this business.

Garrett:

What’s the rest of the staff look like, cause I, I mean, I know obviously you live in Nashville, the ArrangeMe website says your headquartered in Milwaukee. So, so where is everybody?

Scott:

Yeah, The ArrangeMe website is headquartered in Milwaukee because it’s owned by Hal Leonard. That’s the, that’s the corporate, you know, mothership headquarters out of Milwaukee there. I live in Nashville. And so when I got hired, I was like, you know, I’d love to do this job if it’s a remote gig, but if you want me to come to Milwaukee, that’s not gonna happen. So it worked out for me to, you know, stay here and our life is here. My, you know, wife and kids are here and you know, all that. And so Ella is in Minneapolis. She lives up there and that’s really the ArrangeMe staff. It’s just she and me and then Helena Taylor lives in New York. She’s a part-time customer service specialist that helps us out off hours.  Honestly, I mean, it’s not just us. We don’t run the site really like the logistically it’s the Hal Leonard team on the back end. So we, we have the enormous advantage really to leverage, you know, a lot of the marketing team, a lot of the development team, it, you know, web hosting, you know, all that major machine that Hal Leonard is, we have the advantage of, of kind of plug it into that.

Garrett:

Now this is a bit of a tangent, but I know that you are quite the arranger and composer yourself. And I’m just wondering what it’s been like for you to kind of go over to the dark side, if you will, and, and transition from being a composer and a creator into more of an administrative or a business role.

Scott:

It’s not a departure really. I mean, I got my start on music role as like, as an editor in this business. So I I’ve been on the, on the business side of it for a long time. I went to Belmont university was lucky enough to get a editor job with Warner Music Group, a company called Word Music back then in choral print. So I’ve done the A&R job for a long time, you know, artist and repertoire, aranger and repertoire job. So managing creative talent for a long time, I spent about seven or eight years as a freelance arranger and orchestrator, kind of tried my hand out and was able to survive for a long time, doing that. The just strictly creative, everything from orchestrating to, you know, editorial, to just finale, work, transcription, all that stuff. So there’s a, I can imagine in Nashville, there’s a, there’s a good bit of work there in that world.

And then I got recruited to run publishing for the, the barbershop harmony society back in 2015. So I did that for five years before I got here. So in many ways, you know, I’ve been on this business side for a long time. COVID kind of struck that job down just, you know, singers barbershops, specifically, they, they sing and they gather, and you couldn’t do either of those things for two years. So I was part of a, a pretty massive layoff there. And then I managed the Hal Leonard account when I was there, cause they’ve got a distribution deal and so knew a lot of people there. And it was a really good fit that were looking for the ArrangeMe program director and applied and, and it worked, worked out great. I’ve been there just over a year now. So I feel uniquely qualified to do this and it doesn’t seem like I’ve gone over to the dark side.

I’ve, I’ve done this a long time.  But also to your point, I mean, I, you know, I’ve been an arranger orchestrator, you know, as long as I can remember and, and I understand what that means and what it’s like to be alone and, you know, kind of chasing after every nickel and dime, it feels good to be able to provide this opportunity for, you know, people that are, you know, sort of doing it on their own, like you man. And I’m just lucky enough to, to be able to see everybody that’s doing it.

Garrett:

Is there anything you wish composers knew about what goes on in the corporate mothership as you put it?

Scott:

Nothing’s ever easy, you know?  So I’ve, I’ve made requests for features or for fixes on the website. That just seem like they would be super simple fixes oh, just copy and paste this code and, and put over there. Well, it is never, ever, ever that easy.  Developers will just laugh cause of all the massive code. And it’s been built on legacy systems and, you know, internal programming and, and database systems that you fix one thing or, or change one thing. And then the downstream effects of that are enormous. The ripple effect is, is incredible. And so people put on the Facebook group or whatever, like, oh, let’s just do this and this. Well there’s no, just do anything there. There’s, it’s always a pretty massive lift to be able to, to, to get something fixed or done most of the time. And then when, when something, you know, I think will take a long time or be super complicated every once in a while, they’re like, oh yeah, we can do that.  And it’s done in two minutes, you know, so I can never tell, you know. There’s a lot of people that touch this stuff and, and it’s a living, breathing thing, this website. You know, things happen on one website that doesn’t happen on the other cause they’re totally independent. Meaning SheetMusicDirect is its own thing. And SheetMusicPlus is its own thing. And we publish to both. So sometimes something affects both or sometimes it’s just one problem with one side or, or the other. It gets complicated real quick with multiple retailers.

Garrett:

Could you talk maybe about the difference between those two sites and I guess why there are two sites? Is there a specific customer you’re targeting or is it just, you know, the way the systems developed organically?

Scott:

SheetMusic direct was the very first digital sheet music publisher in the world. A lot of people don’t know that Hal Leonard started it internally in 1997. And this is this predates iTunes music store. It predates, you know, all the other digital sheet music websites out there. So I, I guess the biggest thing about SheetMusicDirect is that it’s 100% Hal Leonard controlled and operated from day one, which if you’re an ArrangeMe user is kind of, of the short answer of why your chart gets published to SheetMusicDirect the fastest it’s typically within an hour or so. And then SheetMusicPlus still takes about a day or so. And that’s because sheetmusicplus.com was totally independent company started. I don’t, I don’t know, maybe it was 15 years ago or something, but they they’re out in, in San Francisco.

Scott:

So that’s another place where people are <laugh>, they’re cut, they’re headquartered in San Francisco and then Hal Leonard acquired SheetMusicPlus, and then with it came this program, the SMP Press Program / ArrangeMe program, which now has evolved into just ArrangeMe.com. And so SheetMusicPlus is mostly like an Amazon for sheet music, like physical goods and SheetMusicDirect is just digital only because Hal Leonard is, is as most people know, they sell physical goods through JW Pepper, a lot of different physical outlets for Hal Leonard. Whereas SheetMusicDirect is the digital retail space for them primarily.

Garrett:

Yeah. Well, and I think that’s an interesting point to bring up too, because yeah, if you, you look at the Hal Leonard titles, you know, look at, look at Roger Emerson. I mean you can find his stuff everywhere. Yeah. And I think there’s a model to follow there for the users of ArrangeMe, you know, you’ve got it on SheetMusicDirect, SheetMusicPlus you can put it on your own website. You know, you can kind of just blanket the market.

Scott:

A lot of people thought, you know, sheetmusicplus.com was just going away. You know, it’s like, no, no, no. So SMP and SMD are two different sites. They they’ve got different customer bases. They happen to reach millions of people worldwide, but they’re, but they’re different, you know, and, and there’s, there’s some overlap customers for sure. I mean, you know, when you type in the song you’re looking for in Google, you know, it’ll come up one way or one place or another. I think the, the point is the, those sites are different enough where having your, your stuff published through both is a big deal. It broadens your reach to just that much more

Garrett:

Well. And I’ve just observed with my own titles that you get a lot of benefit from having, you know, a product with your name on it, on these really big websites. You know, even if you just search Garrett Breeze, you know, titles will pop up from one of those sites. And I have no idea how it decides which one to bring up, but it definitely, it definitely has a big effect on your digital footprint.

Scott:

A hundred percent man. And you have the advantage of having a pretty unique name, you know, Garrett Breeze, where Scott Harris is not, is not necessarily a unique name. And my goodness in the music business, there’s three or four Scott Harrises that I know of, or like, you know, Jim Smith or whatever. Like how does that guy get, well, if you’re on ArrangeMe, you know, you’re gonna get, get at least analysis from Google for your sheet music, you know, I guess is the point. So I don’t know how that works either.

Garrett:

Do you think there’s any benefit to using like a publisher name versus your own name on ArrangeMe?

Scott:

Yeah. You know what, that’s a great point, Garrett. I think there is honestly, like, especially as you get more and more titles into the marketplace, I, I think it makes sense to brand yourself, especially if you’ve got a specific thing that you do in your case, coral, I think it is, it is advantageous. It sets you apart. And that way, if, if you really went all the way and I’m talking about bigger picture from, from just a arrange view, but if you set up a publishing company with like BMI or CSAC or, or ASCAP, then, you know, you can, all of a sudden start publishing other people, you know, other arrangers under your, your publishing company. Well, most people it’s just them and having a publishing company name, I think is advantageous. Most of our, our top sellers typically, you know, I’d say probably 60, 70% have a different name other than their own personal name in that publisher name space when they register. And I, I think it’s a level of professionalism. It shows that, you know, you’re serious. And if you do go ahead and register it with BMI or ASCAP, you know, hope for good things; who knows where that, that takes you.

Garrett:

Well, let’s kind of do a lightning round if you will, and go through just some of the program basics and some of the most common questions. Yeah.

Scott:

You bet.

Garrett:

So let’s start with the money. How much do you earn when you publish through ArrangeMe? What’s the royalty rate.

Scott:

Yeah. So if you did an arrangement of a copyrighted song that’s a third party copyright, not public domain, not original, somebody else’s song that is on our song search. You get 10% and then we pay 50%, five, zero on public domain arrangements and original compositions, so half.

Garrett:

And how does all the copyright work?

Scott:

Yeah. So thankfully I don’t do this, but we just surpassed 4 million pre-licensed copyrighted songs. And so all that’s, pre-licensed based on, you know, Hal Leonard’s publishing relationships. That’s why it’s all, pre-cleared, it’s our license department, you know, I’m not out there, you know, making licensing deals and that’s, again, the, the other advantage of being owned and operated by Hal Leonard is, is leveraging all of those, those publishing relationships as well.

Garrett:

Are there any other restrictions or guidelines for what you can do or can’t do?

Scott:

Yeah. I mean you pretty much have a full license to, to do an arrangement of that song. You know, whatever arrangement you want. The only, the only stipulation is that first of all, that it’s commercially available; that you’re not using this to skirt the custom license process. So, you know, let’s say that you get commissioned to write an arrangement for the “Blue Crab Sonata” that was written by Garrett Breeze. If that commission has any sort of exclusivity involved in it, where it is not meant to be available to the general consuming public, then you’ve gotta go through the custom licensing service. You can’t use ArrangeMe to do that arrangement. And also you can’t change the lyrics of the original. So you can’t put it in a different language. Technically that’s considered a different license. You have to secure again, a custom license to be able to change the language. But other than that, it’s pretty much wide open. You can do an arrangement of everything from full orchestra and choir all the way down to, you know, a simple piano arrangement or a simple, you know single instrument. It’s whatever you wanna do. We’ve got space for all of it.

Garrett:

Now, what about the copyright for original songs or compositions that you submit, do you get to keep control of that

Scott:

100%!  At that point it becomes basically a straight up distribution deal. You retain all the ownership, permissions and all the things that you are granted as the copyright holder. You’re just sort of entering into a distribution relationship with Hal Leonard and ArrangeMe that says, we can sell this chart on your behalf and, you know, we’ll pay you the, the industry rate 50% of any sale. And what you’re doing is you’re paying that 50% for the massive reach that you wouldn’t get from your own personal website.

Garrett:

Are you tied down to a specific length of time when you publish something?

Scott:

You mean when you publish something through ArrangeMe?

Garrett:

Yeah. Like if I write an original song and I put it up on ArrangeMe, and then I also submit it to a publisher and they want to do an exclusive deal. I mean, can I take it down or am I, am I locked into a certain period or anything like that?

Scott:

Yeah, no ArrangeMe is non-exclusive, which basically means you put it up for self-publishing and you’re absolutely allowed to pursue publication other places. In fact, you know, why not, unless that other publisher, if you find another publisher that wants to make it exclusive, yes. You may take it down. Typically that doesn’t happen. Most people these days will offer you a non-exclusive publishing deal. If you get something, you know, published through their company. But yes, you, especially, if it’s in a, if it’s a composition or arrangement of a PD song, it’s, it’s yours, you can, you can take it down anytime you want.

Garrett:

And what about pricing? How is that determined?

Scott:

Yeah. So we have a floor of $1.99 for public domain and original stuff, stuff that you own the copyright for. There’s no minimums for that stuff based on ensemble. Now, the copyrighted arrangements we do have of tier sort of based on the ensemble, Hal Leonard’s done this a long time, they know exactly what things are worth. We want to, you know, try to avoid a race to the bottom—people selling, you know, jazz band charts for a penny, you know, that kind of thing. So large ensemble typically is a minimum of $49.99, where you’re talking about orchestrations, marching band, you know, eight players or more is our definition of large ensemble quote unquote, and then small ensemble stuff, quartets, quintets, you know, that sort of thing. The minimums are $12.99. And anything like piano related, like a piano vocal chart is a, a $4.99 minimum, which is all, you know, industry standard. Any music retailer is gonna line up by and large with those minimums. And we let the, the arranger, you know, you as a user pick what your price is, you know, so if you feel like your brass quintet charts are great, you know, then you can charge $16.99. You don’t have to charge $12.99, you charge whatever you feel like the market will bear and, and that’s capitalism, right? Something’s worth as much as someone’s willing to pay for it.

Garrett:

So, if I’m a songwriter, is there any way for me to get my music added to the ArrangeMe list? So my fans can do their own arrangements of my songs.

Scott:

Yeah, that’s a good question. Yes, I suppose you would just write into our licensing team lalleonard.com/licensing. I’ve dealt with this from certain artists that have contacted us, you know, directly and said, Hey, you know, I manage my own catalog. How do I do this? And I tend to just kind of send them to our license department and then they kind of make a decision, honestly.  Hal Leonard has deals with all the major labels and publishers and, and all of the major independent ones too. And so that’s why we have 4 million titles. The holes are smaller catalogs, self-administered catalogs of sometimes, you know, notable composers that you wish were there, but we just don’t have either a relationship or any kind of pathway to, to get that stuff added. But, you know, if, if you’ve got a legitimately sized catalog, yeah, contact us.  I mean, ArrangeMe is as good a solution as any to get that stuff out there legally and get you paid. So that next level is kind of what we’re talking about. You know, I’m not sure you’d get an email back from licensing if you had just, you just made a request for one song.

Garrett:

Sure. But there’s more and more artists going independent these days. And I think this is a great way for them to have another revenue stream. You know, if they’re managing their publishing business, this is exactly the kind of thing they would use.

Scott:

Absolutely. 100%. And remember, you know, print rights are administered differently than other publishing services. Like, you know, we talk about publishing in the record business it’s songs and copyrights, but then the print part of that is typically handled separately. And so, you know, that’s often assigned admin rights by companies to companies like Hal Leonard or Alfred or Music Services, or there’s a lot of independent companies that administer copyrights specifically for print. And so if you don’t do that to your point, then yeah, it’s a great way to get your stuff, you know, sort of out there. But again, don’t, don’t write those folks. I’ll get a lot of unhappy people from the license department with, with an inroad of, of, you know, a onesie, twosie requests to add their stuff to ArrangeMe.  It’s gotta make sense for us too, you know, I guess is the point.

Garrett:

While we’re on the subject of the licensing department, what do I need to do if I want to publish my cool mashup of all 100 of the top hundred songs of the year?  What do you do in multiple song situations?

Scott:

So that’s the one thing we don’t, that’s another big restriction for ArrangeMe is we can’t allow mashups and medlies of copyrighted material. Now you can mash up in medley PD and original songs all day long and people do, but when it comes to copyrighted material, you can’t do two songs for a mashup or medley. So a copyrighted song paired with another copyrighted song. That’s not allowed.  To do that you put it in a request to our licensing team, halleonard.com/licensing, I think, is what the site is. You can verify that, and then you put it in a request.

Garrett:

So I wanna talk a little bit more about that 10% number, because I think when people sign up for the site and they see that they’re only gonna get 10% of the sales price, that’s a big turnoff for a lot of people from doing arrangements of copyrighted songs. And I understand why the number makes sense from your standpoint, because that’s kind of been the industry standard in print publishing for a long time. But my question is why is that rate not higher for the self-publishers because you’re not printing physical copies of the music, you’re not marketing it?  So shouldn’t there be a little bit of room there for us to have a bigger piece of the pie since we’re doing more work?

Scott:

First of all, industry standard in print publishing for physical is not 10%. It’s like 2.5 to 5%. So if Hal Leonard were to hire you, Garrett, to do a songbook of whatever, you know, show choir, you know, your top 10 show choir arrangements, and they give you a traditional print publishing deal, you’re gonna get probably no higher than 5%. And, and so 10%, that’s an extra, that’s double!  Double what a standard arrangement contract looks like, honestly. So when you think about it that way, it’s, it’s pretty generous for a copyrighted song. The other thing that to keep in mind is, you know, when you do an arrangement of a copyright song, something that you don’t own, it’s not only not your song, it’s not your arrangement. The copyright holder owns your arrangement of that song. It’s called a derivative work.

And so as much blood, sweat, and tears, as you pour into that, you know, Avantgarde neoclassical, jazz, funk, fusion arrangement of, you know, Bruno Mars, uptown funk at the end of the day, it’s not your arrangement. It’s, it’s owned by the copyright holder. So, you know, we provide a, a path for you to monetize that and get paid a fair commission for your arrangement, but we’re doing this for the love of the, of the craft. You know, this is not a full-time gig for very many people in the world at all. So those two things: you don’t own the song, you don’t own the arrangement, and the commission percentage is actually pretty fair when you consider, you know, what a traditional print publishing contract looks like.

And when you talk about the splits, I mean, I, I mentioned, we pay 50%, five zero, for original and PD arrangements.  Well, that’s what the copyright holder gets. Every digital license is basically 50%. So you get 10% as the arranger, the copyright holder gets 50% and then Hal Leonard keeps the other 40% for overhead.  The site, you know, maintenance, all the things that are impossible for us, you know, in, you know, independent arrangers or composers, the reach, the different sites, access, all that stuff. You know, it’s a pretty good deal. And I’m not just saying that as the, the program manager. I’m, I’m saying that as an arranger, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty massive. It does rub me a little wrong when I see on Facebook, it say, oh, you know, Hal Leonard is keeping 90%? No, not at all.  We don’t, we keep a fraction of that and give a pretty fair product for, for that money if I say so myself.  And also the service is free.  It doesn’t cost you a dime to use the service, and we’re still paying you 10% on copyrighted arrangements.

Garrett:

Well, you’re certainly doing better than Spotify paying your artists.

Scott:

Yeah, right? Yeah. Hal, Leonard’s committed to making sure everybody’s paid well.

Garrett:

I am glad you brought that up because people don’t think about what the songwriters get. And a lot of the time the artist is not necessarily the songwriter. So you may think, oh, you know, Beyonce has so much money. And, and to be fair, her songwriters probably do too. But, you know, my point is, there’s a lot of other people besides the artists that are getting paid out of this, and that’s a really good—gives you the warm feelings, doesn’t it? It makes you feel good about arranging.

Scott:

Yeah, man. And, and you’re not helping the artist really you’re unless they’re a songwriter. I mean, you’re contributing to the songwriter, you know?  I mean, Beyonce, unless she wrote the song, she’s not seeing a dime of that for, for your arrangement, you know, unless she has some kind of publishing or, you know, some kind of interest, but it’s legitimately the songwriter that’s benefiting from this. And those are the people that are often faceless. The people that are behind the scenes that do this for a living.  Some of my best friends are songwriters on Music Row and, and you wouldn’t know them from Adam, but they’ve got hits from all the people that, you know, in the country music business, you know, so, and those guys are, and gals they’ve really struggled since the digital streaming has really taken a hold. And it’s, it’s not the nineties anymore. They’re not printing money like they used to, you know, being a songwriter is, is a tough, tough business, a tough road. So so yeah, your, your arrangement is supporting a, a really talented community that, that needs every, every penny they can get.

Garrett:

So you have the advantage of being able to take a step back and see what all of the ArrangeMe users are doing. And so I’m wondering if you have things that you’ve noticed that are working really well, that you wanted to share; things that composers are doing to market their music or even the way they’re arranging them.

Scott:

Yeah. This is a drum that I feel like we’ve tried to start beating pretty consistently with our newsletter and, and just the way that we’re engaging in our, our usership. Just because you put an arrangement up on ArrangeMe doesn’t mean you’re gonna make sales. Self-Publishing has the word self in there for a reason.  Sheet music is built on four tenets. There’s the content creation, which is what the user does arranging the song, composing the song, getting it to a place of acceptable quality to sell a sheet music, right? There’s distribution, which is what we do at ArrangeMe. We provide a way to sell it and get it out to, to the masses.  There’s marketing, which is again, what the arranger does. You’ve gotta promote your own stuff. And then Commissions and, and Payments, which is again, what we do.

Scott:

So we kind of split the load between it’s an equitable deal between ArrangeMe and the user. And so content creation and promotion are, are always on the self-publisher. And so, you know, promote your stuff on social media, spin up a website. You, you talked about the, the publisher name, that’s another advantage to have a separate publisher name, cause you can set up a separate social media account for your sheet music publishing business with your publisher name at all the, the social media accounts. So Facebook, you know, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, you know, you name it and you can kind of have a steady drum of your new releases. And it’s all, it all goes back to your presence at SheetMusicDirect or SheetMusicPlus obviously your stuff is there at two places, you kind have to pick one and commit and whichever site you like best go for it.

You know, that’s another advantage we have is like, if you don’t necessarily like the look and feel of SheetMusicPlus for example, which some people don’t, you know, promote your stuff at SheetMusicDirect or vice versa, pick one commit and develop that online presence and market your stuff. We did an interview with David Jaggs not long ago, he’s a, a UK based guitar, arranger composer. And, and he said, you know, once you got the arrangement done, you know, then the hard bit starts. You gotta get the word out, make sure people are aware. And so some kind of marketing strategy whether that’s just simple social media or more robust, you add in a personal website into that. That’s what separates the, the people that are just kind of doing this as a hobby and the folks that are really successful.

Garrett:

Do you think that distinction between amateur and professional really matters when it comes to self-publishing?

Scott:

Amateur / professional, that’s probably a bad way to set it. But yeah, I, I think, you know, if, if you wanna take it seriously, you get out of it when you put it into it. James Michael Stevens, another one of our top users, he said something once that I loved, he said, you can’t expect to make a hundred dollars unless you’ve got a hundred charts. I thought, boy, that’s great because it’s a numbers game. You know, you can’t put one chart up and expect to get monthly sales. You’ve gotta continuously feed the beast and get more and more up there because once you’ve done a chart, you put it up there and then it lives forever. And then you do another chart and then you’ve doubled your chances to get discovered and sell copies and on and on and on. So you work on one chart at a time, but over time, all of a sudden one chart turns into five charts, turns into 50 charts, turns into 100 charts and then you’ve got a little, you know, monthly income going because you’ve got something up there that hopefully is is compelling for folks to buy.

Now that’s the other thing you’ve gotta be writing good material. You know, the, the cream rises to the top. You can’t just put junk up there and expect it to sell.  People don’t buy that stuff. They buy good, you know, well-thought out, well-crafted, well-curated arrangements.

Garrett:

So what then do you think is the better strategy? Do you think it’s similar to songwriting, you know, like you’re trying to find that one big hit?  Or is it more about kind of covering the field and publishing as much as you can?

Scott:

I would tend toward the latter. Honestly, we’ve got people that do both. We’ve got folks that are really successful at ArrangeMe that pick one song and arrange all the life outta that song, everything from full orchestra, choir, all the way down to the simplest, you know, one line solo instrument and you know, that’s what they do. And they, you get a lot of arrangements out of that. And we also have people that focus on one ensemble type saxophone quartet, brass quintet, string quartet. And they do that really, really, really well and pick songs that inspire them in that, in that arrangement type or format really, really well. I don’t know this there’s necessarily a, a formula it’s just, it’s unique to you. You pick what inspires you. And then beyond that, I, I say it is a numbers game. Get as much out there in the market as you can.

And if you’re doing good work, people are gonna notice you and, and start saying, oh, I really love that hymn arrangement you did. Gosh, I wonder what else you have.  Cause that’s the first thing you do, right? When you’re a music consumer like, oh, I really love that arrangement. What else do they have? You know, you can’t just rely on the one thing you’ve gotta have more, you know, you have more to, to show people to, to sell to people. And so, you know, the more you have absolutely the more, you know, successful you are likely to be if you’re doing good work. So I say both and, but I would tend to, to drift toward the ladder, you know quantity charts that is quality.

Garrett:

All right. So let’s imagine that I’m a brand new arranger. I just signed up. I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know where to set the bar. How many copies of something do I need to sell for it to be a quote, unquote success? What, what do good sales figures look like? You, you have access to all the data, you know how much money we’re all making, right? Yeah. So like what’s a, what, what’s a good, what’s a good successful title look like?

Scott:

First of all, it’s relative. I, I hate to give that answer, but I, I would say first of all, the first benchmark, is it a good chart? You know, have you vetted it? Does it work? Is it enjoyable to play? Is it playable? Is it singable? For me personally, that is a successful chart already. I’m not sure I would chase success where, where numbers are concerned. You know, if you want to do this for a living, you’re gonna be writing like, arrangers arrange, writers write. And, and if you’re getting hung up on, oh, I need to be selling x amount a month or being making is, you know, x amount of money every month. I think that’s kind of getting the cart before the horse or putting the end before the beginning.

And are you doing it because you love it?  Are you doing it because it’s what you do? And, and if you do it because it’s what you do and it’s cause what you love then, you know, money is gonna come. Like you’re gonna start selling stuff because you’re, you’re passionate about it. And that, that, that translates to your charts. I, I laugh sometimes, you know, just online forums and everything, people that are obsessed with the nickels and dimes of this business, rarely do anything, you know, cause you’re focused on the wrong things. If you’re focused on your work and, and your charts and the quality and, and the fact that you love it and producing good quality work, the sales will come. I promise the sales will come

Garrett:

Well. And I guess that’s where I was kind of going with my question about amateur versus professional. Because if you’re trying to make a living as an arranger, it’s not enough to just publish something because you love it. And, other than sales, we have no data really to gauge whether or not it was a good idea to choose that song and arrange it, you know? Yeah. Because I do think with 4 million songs, you gotta be really selective about what you choose.

Scott:

Think about it this way, Garrett.  ArrangeMe facilitates over 40,000 individual separate self-publishing businesses. So think about the landscape of music publishers and sheet music publishers and how varied that landscape is. And then ArrangeMe as a microcosm or a macrocosm, if you wanna think of it that way, of over 40,000 individual business people, you know, a success for you in your business might be a different success than someone else in their business. Even if it’s the same tune, cause your arrangement is gonna be way different than someone else’s arrangement. And it, it’s probably gonna be a whole different format. You know, we’re talking about the difference between a mixed wind quartet arrangement and then a full blown show choir arrangement. And it’s probably the same song. And so really you’re talking about the markets for that chart.

Garrett:

And that goes back to your point about the self of self-publishing being important. You have to, you have to do the work to know what is going to make a difference in your area.

Scott:

Yeah. And sales numbers, your sales numbers. I mean you have access to those from ArrangeMe and nobody else’s really matter. I mean, if you start noticing trends, like we’ve done a series of interviews with more quote unquote successful top arrangers from the arrangement program and, and almost every single one of ’em says some version of, yeah, gosh, I, I did an arrangement of this song and I really thought it would be a big seller, but it wound up not doing anything. But then this one over here that I just sort of did on a whim for some other purpose has taken off. And it just, there’s, there’s a bit of a, of a nonsensical approach to it. You just, again, it goes back to my point of just do good work. There will be charts that you’ll never ever guess that do well that you’re like, I don’t know, great? Glad I did one but, but last thing we need is another sort of mediocre arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I mean that is just saturated. Good grief. So if you hear this, please, don’t put another arrangement of that up there. You can if you want to, but the likelihood of it selling is, is, is pretty low.

Garrett:

Is there anything we, as self-publishers can do to get our titles to rank higher on the search engines within SheetMusicPlus and SheetMusicDirect? You know, if you look at Google, for example, there’s lots of data about, you know, the more content you have, the higher you’re going to rank or the, the more text you have, the higher you’re going to rank. Are there factors like that, that we should be considering as we publish titles?

Scott:

Here’s where the line of delineation between ArrangeMe and our retail partners sort of comes into play. So they are their own companies. Like I don’t have any sway or say in how they work or they do their business. I can make requests. There have been a few instances where I’ve been able to sort of beat a, a drum of a consistent request and we’ve been able to, to make some updates with our retail partners, but as far as search results go, man, I, I think the best thing to do is back what I said before, which is like drive traffic to your charts on those sites.  Every arranger, you know, you can sort their catalog by bestseller or trending or whatever on either SMP or SMD and the more traffic that you’re driving to those, those particular links for your specific arrangement, the better your chances of getting placement is, you know, I don’t think I’m going on a limb, but like traffic means something. If a page is just there and nobody goes to it, then other than somebody actually searching for that specific song title in that specific arrangement format instrumentation, and then maybe even your name, you know which gets really specific, right? They can find it that way within the site. But if you’re driving traffic, I think that means something, you know, but it means the most, if people are buying it.  Beyond that, I would be way out of my depth to, to make any sort of speculations.

Garrett:

How would you like ArrangeMe users to be getting in touch with you? And if we hound you with requests for features to add to SMP and SMD, is that something you want?  Is that helpful? Or is it something that’s annoying because you don’t have any control over what the other sites do?

Scott:

To your first question: support@arrangeme.com, that’s our help center. Don’t just post something on Facebook and expect us to answer it. We might, you know, we’ll get there and it it’ll get to us eventually. But the very best way to get in touch with us is through our help center or, you know, support@arrangeme.com. I answer those, Ella answers those, Helena answers those. We try to do a good job of making sure they don’t sit too long. We’re constantly churning through requests and issues and troubleshooting and all that stuff. So, so that’s the best way to get in touch with us. I promise I have a spreadsheet way longer of features and things to address and add at the different sites and, and features for the ArrangeMe site itself. I promise my, my list is way longer than anyone else could possibly, you know, submit requests for.

So typically when those things come in, it’s, it’s something we’ve already thought about now. I don’t wanna discount, you know, someone with a genuinely good idea. So if, if you have an idea, just shoot us a note and say, hey, if you, you know, I dunno if you’ve thought about this, but just add this to your list of features. Here’s why, you know, it would be great. And if we don’t have it, I’ll add it. We’re constantly looking forward. We’re constantly looking to improve. We’ll make this as good of an experience as, as positive of an experience as we humanly can for our users. Because, you know, if, if the platform, if the tech is getting in the way, it’s just, it makes for a, a terrible user experience. And, you know, you’re not motivated to use the platform. And so if it’s easy to get a chart up there, that’s my goal.

Garrett:

Before you go, are there any big updates or features that you want to tease? You know, let, let’s break some news on the podcast before you go!

Scott:

Man, I’m not ready to break specific news, but I will tell you this. We do have some really exciting things coming very, very soon within, you know, months.  We’re working on a couple of big things that I think people would be really interested in and and excited about. And I feel like there’s a big blue sky for ArrangeMe, we’re growing like crazy and stay tuned. If you’re a user, you get our newsletter. Stay tuned to our socials @ArrangeMe on Facebook and Twitter. And @ArrangeMe pub at Instagram, those are our primary social media sites. And we’re excited about the future.

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Garrett Breeze

COMPOSER, ARRANGER

Garrett Breeze is a composer, arranger, and orchestrator whose credits include film, television, video games, Broadway stars, major classical artists, and many of the top school music programs in the U.S.

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