How to Get Published

In reality, it is very difficult to get a contact with a publisher. Only a select few artists will have the connection and reputation to be supported by an publisher for the entire length of their career. In this section you will find advice directly from publishers working in the industry.

If I'm sent some scores or a CD, I'll usually write back saying thank you very much, let me know when you might get some concerts and I might be able to come along. To take on a composer is a huge commitment in terms of time and resources and you usually expect to take on a composer for their lifetime. So that's a very big step. I wouldn't do it. These days I often advise composers to think about getting an agent rather than a publisher. Because a lot of composers are performers are used to publishing their own work, and what they really need is someone to manage their appearances and projects.

– Sally Groves, Director of Schott Music

Publishers receive large numbers of approaches from composers. It is, in fact, rare for a composer to be immediately signed to a publisher following such a submission: although it can happen, it is more likely that a publisher will have heard a composer's music in concerts or on recordings etc, and followed the career of a composer for a period, a process which eventually leads to a signing. It is also very common for a composer to be recommended to a publisher by a teacher, performer or artistic administrator. Composers who would like to be published need to 'get on the radar' of publishers somehow, by being selected for schemes such as Sound and Music's Voices scheme or the LSO's Panufnik Young Composer's Scheme, or winning competitions such as the RPS's composition prize or the BBC Young Composers Competition.

– Emma Kerr, Head of Promotion at Boosey
& Hawkes Music Publishers


Words of Advice

Keep your materials very much in order and if you're unpublished, always ask for a commission fee and also hire fees if you're producing orchestral music. Very often, performing organisations can be quite ruthless if a composer isn't published. Don't forget to ask what the hire fee will be and it's very important that you protect your copyright, protect your material, and look after yourself properly as a composer.

– Sally Groves


There are no standard agreements. The contracts basically say that the publisher undertakes to publish and promote the composer's work as widely as possible because this generates income for the composer and the publisher, and the composer undertakes to give the publisher their works. Usually contracts are on a first-refusal basis. So the composer offers the publisher to publish this work and the publisher takes it up, but there are some cases where the publisher says actually, we can't take this work on. The composer assigns his rights to the publisher unless you have a licensing deal, which is a very different kind of deal. The contract is always 3-5 years, sometimes exceptionally 10. Very rarely, a composer who signs his works to us, works with us for his whole lifetime. They are usually 5-year contracts, and in 5 years you review.

– Sally Groves

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