Friday, August 28, 2009

Agincourt Video

After updating my website recently, I came across a YouTube video that I didn't get to include. It's a really good performance of Agincourt. Check it out:


They do a nice job! Good work!

In other news, I got my upgrade of Finale in the mail yesterday! I've been using Finale 2007b and upgraded to Finale 2010 (I've mentioned it before, but Finale is the computer program I use to write music). The improvements over three years are negligible and mostly cosmetic, but the longer I wait, the more expensive the upgrade gets. Now I just have to find a way to get it on my computer. Hopefully, I'll have it installed this weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bollywood

I've been continuing my ongoing effort to write unique music for students and expose them to styles and forms that that have been unexplored in the string orchestra canon. So I got out my atlas and looked around. There are plenty of arrangements of North American folk tunes out there as well as Latin dances. The musical styles of every European nation have been represented and Chinese and Japanese tunes have been done. There are still lots of options, but the one major culture that hasn't been represented is India.

This is probably due to the fact that Indian raga music doesn't translate easily to a Western format. It's percussive, improvisational, through-composed, and the sounds are distinctive and hard to approximate with Western instruments. India doesn't have "folk songs" in quite the same way that we do. It's a challenge, but I've found that the way around it is to meet Indian music half way - not to imitate traditional Indian music, but to write a Bollywood-style piece.

Bollywood (the Indian film industry, which puts out mostly musicals) has a style all its own, using distinctly Indian elements in a Western format. The melodies usually use the "asian" scale and are highly melismatic, but stay in strict rhythm and take the verse-chorus-verse-chorus forms of Western pop songs. They tend to use tabla drums and sitars, but often incorporate keyboard, guitars, and techno beats. They are a form of popular music, after all.

So, after a lot of research on YouTube and several weeks of false starts and experimentation, I've come up with an Indian-sounding piece that's approachable for advanced orchestras. I should be able to finish it early next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Royalty Statement 2009 (Part 2)

The listings for foreign sales are shrouded in mystery. Though I've heard of a few performances in Austrailia, have found an online German sheet music vendor that sells my music, and got word of a performance in Canada, I'm not exactly sure who it is outside the U.S. that's buying my music. I would hope that it would sell in Japan, home of the Suzuki Method, and in Europe. From what I understand, other countries don't have school music programs analagous to ours and wouldn't need school-level string orchestra music. Here are my top-selling sets of scores and parts in foreign markets:

1. Agincourt & Mambo Incognito (tie)
3. Hot Potato
4. Gargoyles
5. Violet's Tango

As you can see, there's a marked difference from the top five sellers in the U.S. I should note, though, that foreign sales make up a tiny fraction of a percentage of my total sales. Also, the printout that I received shows that several of these pieces sold at different rates - probably in euros, Canadian and Austrialian dollars, and yen.

Last year I got a sheet showing sales of digital downloads from alfred-music.com. This year, there's no record of sales of MP3 files - maybe bacuase they're so few that it will be rolled into next year's statement.

Finally, I did get a notice about liscensing. When orchestras record their concerts, they're supposed to get permission from the publisher and pay a small licensing fee. A few honest souls actually did that this year and I thank them. Liscensing also includes a few listings from "Make Music," a program where directors can access notes from the composer with tips on how to rehearse and perform their music more effectively. I wrote a few of these two years ago and think that I might want to do some more in the future.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Royalty Statement 2009 (Part 1)

I got my annual royalty statement from Alfred Publishing this week! This is where they tell me which pieces sold how many copies. In this case, it's for the period from April 2008 through March 2009. Sales were significantly lower than I was expecting, but I suppose that's a result of the economy in general - schools have less money, budgets get cut, and sales of published music suffer. Hopefully, things will turn around next year.

The statement breaks the sales down to scores only and full sets (which include scores and parts) and also domestic and foreign sales. Here are my top five full sets, in domestic sales:

1. Gauntlet
2. Avatar
3. Gargoyles
4. Agincourt
5. A Breeze In the Keys

Gauntlet and Gargoyles were the first pieces I ever had published and, as always, I'm amazed that they remain so popular. A Breeze In the Keys is brand new, and the new ones always sell well. Sleigh Ride To New Haven is also new and didn't do as well. I knew that Agincourt was popular and expected it on the list, but Avatar is making a surprise appearance in the number two spot. That one is a few years old and I had no idea that it was so popular. Here are the top five sales of scores only (domestic):

1. Gauntlet
2. Avatar
3. Las Mariposas Exoticas
4. Agincourt
5. Gargoyles

Directors buy extra scores to give to the judges at state orchestra contests, so high sales here indicate popularity on the contest circuit. If a piece makes it on to a lot of state contest lists, it's gold: guaranteed sales. Gauntlet is on quite a few contest lists and it shows - sales of Gauntlet's scores were more than double that of the next-best-selling piece. Avatar's sales weren't shabby either, indicating that it's increasingly being used as a contest piece. I have high hopes for Agincourt here and hopefully, as it catches on, its sales will skyrocket.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

dougspata.com

I recently updated my website and took the opportunity to acquire the domain name "dougspata.com." If you type it in to your browser, it will now take you to my site.

I do web updates only about twice per year, but this time I had a lot to change - new YouTube video links (43 performances of my music!), an updated contact page with links to my e-mail, Twitter page, Facebook page, and this blog, and a big update of my published music on the "music" page.

So go check it out and tell your friends - the address is now easy to remember!