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music office Illustration: Fabián Muñoz. Illustration: Fabián Muñoz.

The music editor or Music Publisher (I)

If from Cuba you type in Google the editor + musical combination, you will get, in approximately 60 seconds, 343 million results. Why then would it be worth talking a little about this figure and his role in the music industry, especially in Cuba?

But first… where did this title come from that seemed stolen from the world of literature? Well, from there. Do you remember the scene Amadeus in which Salieri copies Mozart's work by hand like a madman to the same extent that he creates it, trying not to miss a single detail of what the genius from Salzburg is humming? At the time reflected in the film, this was still the most common way of “capturing” music. Without a radio, or phonograph, or any way of recording sounds to play them later, the music distribution system, beyond its human execution, was the manuscript (made by someone who, in addition, must have known musical notation). 

But that situation had been changing for a couple of centuries. When the printing press was invented in the fifteenth century, the lives of many people, including music composers, were going to take a brutal turn. Rather than living by reproducing the scores of works by hand in an attempt to get them — by horseback or foot messengers — to the European orchestras and operatic companies that could “represent” them and make them “famous,” publishers and printers began to make copies. of the scores in those enormous iron machines of the first printing presses. Just as they made copies of books, which were no longer unique originals written with a goose quill. And with that was born copyright, with the possibility of reproducing, in multiple copies, the works produced by the human intellect, although at the rate of appropriation of the inventions and technological advances of that time; it would be centuries before printed sheet music spread into every pocket.

In the beginning there were no exclusively musical publishers, but rather they pressed all kinds of works (literary, musical, maps, drawings, etc.) in their workshops, thus achieving greater diffusion through their printed reproduction. Thanks to this and to the pressures or lobby policy that they did for decades, they also got the States to protect their investments, granting them certain economic privileges derived from the commercialization of the copies or copies. 

Later, the "publishers" specialized. Already at the end of the 19th century, printed sheet music was the main commercial use of musical compositions. The music publisher had specialized and other ways of copying music were also beginning to emerge, now in a format suitable for audio playback (the phonograph). 

Even though today's music publishers are in very few cases dedicated to the reproduction of musical scores (there are few "pure" publishers left, and this only in the field of academic or classical music), the figure of the music publisher (as it is known in English) has only established itself over the years within the so-called music industry. This name or function is assumed by any person (natural or legal, that is, individual or company) that undertakes through an agreement with the author to carry out a series of activities associated with the promotion of the musical work, in exchange for a percentage copyright that the works generate in their commercial exploitation. 

The music publisher thus becomes, by signing an assignment contract or publishing contract, with or without an advance payment (which is not mandatory), a commercial partner of the composer, someone who performs (or is supposed to perform) a series of diligences so that the work, let's say, "walks" more. 

Among its basic functions a modern music editor of popular music should, for example, perform several, if not all, of these activities: 

– Make demos or models of the still unreleased works and make them available to performers or producers, A&R departments, managers or artists who are recording or choosing repertoire.

– Stimulate the synchronization of musical works in audiovisual works (series for TV, movies, video games, etc.).

– Grant exploitation licenses and manage the copyright of the compositions.

Publishers vary in size and scope: some are independent individuals or small businesses, and others are multinational companies with large staffs and multiple branches around the world. It is also more than usual that the main users of music (record companies, television channels, content aggregators or multi channel networks) have an editorial department or area with which they obtain additional benefits to their core activity and/or save resources of all kinds.

 Even the composers themselves, especially in the event that their musical work is abundant and intensively exploited, often create music publishers to manage it more closely and not lose control.

Publishing contracts, for their part, can refer to a specific song, several or an entire repertoire, although many laws (especially in Europe) prohibit, in an attempt to protect the author from abusive relationships in the sector, that they may assign their future works (not yet created) and oblige to make reference in the contracts to precise works. There are also contracts in which the authors agree to write a specific number of songs for a publisher in a certain period of time, generally in exchange for advance payments. 

Wow… I wasted two pages of information about the music publisher or music publisher without having answered my own question in the opening paragraph: Why would it be worth talking here about this figure and his role in the music industry, especially in Cuba?

To avoid overwhelming you, and by the way to get you to continue visiting us, we will talk about the music publisher in Cuba and its importance in the second part of this material. In the meantime, you can send us your doubts and we will try, with great pleasure, to clear them. 

Avatar photo Darsi Fernández Hyperlink with human figure. He has a bad memory only for what suits him. He dreams of retiring to read. More posts

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  1. Lupe Pérez says:

    Better, impossible!

  2. Clara Neila says:

    I really liked the article.

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