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This article was automatically translated. ORIGINAL

Dreaming a new way of music publishing

How score design can change music

Stefano Vivaldini

2nd January 2021

Books has always been one of my biggest passion, well, to be honest I’m not me most avid reader, what I’ve always loved are the cover, the design, the paper, the fonts. As you could immagine, another great passion of mine is music, and when I started studying guitar, I wondered why sheet music books weren't as well curated as the others. Try looking in your library, I bet all your sheet music books have more or less the same plain cover, maybe not ugly, but certainly not something you would exhibit in the living room. This is probably due to the fact that music publishing has a much smaller market than others, and therefore publishing houses cannot afford to design every single book. So is this the sad and unchangeable destiny of music publishing? From this question my dream began.

The beginning of a dream

In 2014, some of my friends and I performed for the first time in the theater a show I had composed called “Genesi Notturna. I thought that a nice way to reward everyone who had contributed to the making of that show was to give them a book with the score. So it was that armed with glue, string and patience, I printed and hand bound ten books containing my first three guitar pieces. Those books were certainly not beautiful, but that experience aroused in me the desire to personally take care of my scores, a desire that from then on, would become a necessity.

10 Reflect(ive)ed St(udies)eps

When I composed the “10 Reflective Studies”, I still had no idea of publishing them, to be honest I had no idea how it was done, so I printed three copies and bound them (this time with more care) to give them to some dear friends. Because of their insistence that I started looking for a way to publish and after a bit of research I actually managed to publish them. My first book was published and was available on the main stores, but when the box with the books arrived home I immediately realized that this was not the way I wanted my music to be read. That passion for books I mentioned earlier, made me despise the way those books were printed. Something different had to be done. So I decided to withdraw that publication and start from scratch, this time my way.

"My first book was published and was available on the main online stores, but when the box with the books arrived home immediately realized that this was not the way I wanted my music to be read"

First, I needed a reason to truly commit to the making and for that I had to answer the question: Why would anyone buy a book rather than download a pdf and get the same? the answer for me has always been obvious: For the book!. My dream has always been to make sure that books are works of art in their own right, and that they are an object of value. For this reason I decided that as a composer I also had to think about how my music would be read, I wanted to make sure that the book would help the performer in every way. The first idea I had was to create an illustration and a caption for each of my studies that way the book begun to be more than just sheet music. This idea became a constant in all my books, and In my later pubblications, I also cared about the design of the scores, as a composer one of my goal is to make the music as easy to read as possible, that’s why I try to write down every fingerings and I try to care about spacing between staves and page turn. But let’s go back to our story. After I made the design, I had to deal with the book itself. Clearly I could no longer print and bind the books myself. So I went in search of an handcraft printing press that was open enough to satisfy my every request. Imagine the emotion that a bibliophile like me may have felt in that shop in choosing the perfect color, texture and thickness from a sample of papers.

Is self publishing the right choice?

I love my books because they are completely mine, everything has been designed by me personally (including errors) and realized by my little work team. Even drawing has become part of my musical creative process, and now I’m use to consider a work finish just when the box with my books arrives home. Paradoxically, in music publishing, a book made independently can be much more beautiful than one published with a publishing house. The biggest advantage, as you will have realized, is that you are free to create however you want, but of course you must also have the patience to take care of every aspect of your publication. Self-publishing is certainly much cheaper and depends mainly on how many things you decide to delegate (or how many people willing to believe in your project you can find) but on an economic level if you can find a printer press that can print even a few books at a time you can rest assured that you do not have to advance too much money before you are sure you can recover it by selling the books. Obviously there are also disadvantages, the most important is distribution and advertising, a publishing house takes care of making you visible and could even organize events to promote your book, but with all honesty, in a small market like the classical music one, this almost never proves to be a consistent advantage. So if, like me, you love books and want to try to sell an experience that talks about your music in all the ways that a book can offer, try the road of self publishing, the road is more difficult, but I can assure you, full of great satisfactions.

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