Ep. 7: Making it Happen With MyScore: Interview with JW Pepper's Isaac Brooks

Episode Description:

Isaac Brooks is the manager of J.W. Pepper’s MyScore, a platform that lets composers sell their original compositions as both digital and print-on-demand products through the J.W. Pepper website.  He’s an extremely hands-on manager, working with thousands of composers to help promote their music and he’s got a lot of great insight that I’m excited to share with you today.  

Featured On This Episode:
Isaac Brooks

Isaac Brooks is the manager of J.W. Pepper’s MyScore, a platform that lets composers sell their original compositions as both digital and print-on-demand products through the J.W. Pepper website.  He is also an experienced audio engineer and classical cellist.

Episode Transcript:

*Episode transcripts are automatically generated and have NOT been proofread.*

Isaac: My name’s Isaac Brooks. I manage the MyScore service. MyScore is a product of J.W. Pepper. So, if you’re not familiar with the company, J.W. Pepper has been around for over 145 years distributing sheet music to directors, teachers, churches, anyone that wants to buy music. So MyScore actually plugs into that mission where we allow composers to, self-publish onto our website.

Music is online within one business day and what we do that kind of makes us a little different than other platforms that are out there is we actually take the PDF that a composer would send to us and set it up for print on demand. So we’re gonna make nice printed, hard copies, send them to the customer in a nice J.W. Pepper box.  And then we also set it up for digital distribution as well. So, a composer can upload as many titles as they want, as long as they’re original or public domain arrangements. And from there, we’re gonna pay royalties off of that as the customer orders it.

Garrett: And what are those royalty rates?

Isaac: Yeah, royalty rates vary a little bit. So, for a printed product out the gate, we’re gonna start at 25% royalty based off of the retail price that the composer / publisher is setting, for a digital product, it’s gonna be 50%, a 50/50 split.

Garrett: I’m definitely gonna come back to the print thing, but before we get in too deep, J.W. Pepper’s not a publisher, correct?

Isaac: Right. So, we really haven’t published any composers for a very long time. like talking John Phillips Sousa that’s as long back as we haven’t done, uh, publishing, but we’ve been, working with every major publisher out there. So, I mean, you can run down the list, Alfred Hal, Leonard Shawnee, you know, all the big players, uh, and then some of the more independent niche, kind of publishers that are out there that are really specializing in like hand bells or, uh, boom whackers or something that’s really specific. but we’ve really focused our business model on distribution. And so, we’re working with schools, churches. most of them have a standing purchase order with us.

We’re an approved vendor. And so, we really do the heavy lifting for a composer, um, a publisher that really wants to focus on creating the music and maybe making it look as good as it can be. and then we focus on, you know, answering the phone calls, getting the music shipped, putting it on a website.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes into that. And of course any self-publisher out there kind of knows the woes of having to go and try and figure out shipping and how, how do we package and now, oh, my, uh, product is now damaged because it, you know, it was thrown on a truck somewhere.

Garrett: You’ve mentioned schools and churches already a couple of times. Is that the specific composer you’re targeting somebody that works in those markets or does J.W. Pepper do everyth.

Isaac: we’re a full service, um, facility. So we’re gonna focus primarily on schools because that’s our core market K through 12. and then from there we can sell anything. If the customer wants it, we’re gonna try to support them in their mission for creating great concerts and building up ensembles.

So, we do have professional groups that are purchasing from us. We have a longstanding relationship with, military bands and, some of the professional ones and some of your more regional bands. We’re gonna work with, groups that are, beginning groups, you know, some, someone that’s, teaching in the classroom, that’s really new to, working with students to professional orchestra directors that are really trying to build a nice program, something that, is gonna drive revenue.

So a lot of composers may focus on kind of the wide spectrum, uh, either writing for very young, uh, beginning musicians, or really focus on the Avantgarde. I’m gonna write this, uh, tone poem that, you know, we need to add a little extra to the instruments to make sure, we can, you know, get exactly what I want.

And so, it’s not to say that we’re not going to support that, but our, our widest market is gonna be with churches and, groups that are probably the middle school, high school, level of performance abilities.

Garrett: Would you say composers on the platform have the most success when they focus on one specific market? Like I’m gonna be a middle school band composer, or do you see people who write for all sorts of things? Does, does that make a difference in their sales figures?

Isaac: Uh, I think what makes a difference in really seeing a, a, a boost in sales is focusing on something and doing it really well. so if you’re a coral composer, like your self Garrett, you know, you focus on what you know, and, you know, really works for your writing ability. I have seen composers that kind of reach into other markets and they do it well, but it’s not what they’re known for.

So, you may have a composer that has a catalog of, you know, 30, 40 titles in the coral market, and then they go and venture into band or orchestra. And the, uh, you know, the name recognition or the brand recognition isn’t already there. So it doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna get sales there. It’s just, how much are you willing to put into investing, kind of looking into a new, way of writing your music and then also presenting yourself as a brand, as a composer writing for those ensembles.

Garrett: going along with that, do you think it’s better to focus on one title or rather getting one title to be really popular and drawing people to your catalog? Or is it you know, is it a numbers game? Is it better to have a bunch of different pieces so that you increase your chances of somebody finding.

Isaac: I’m glad that you mentioned numbers came, because it is, and it isn’t. So obviously we want quality content. a lot of our customers know J.W. Pepper for the brands that they, represent. they’re bringing in some of the top publishers and top composers that are writing music that we all know and love.

And so, um, when you’re working to kind of build that recognition with a customer, you wanna offer quality content because they’re going to be the judge and executor of that piece. And they’ll let you know if it’s, if it’s not good or if it doesn’t fit, their particular ensemble. they’ll also let you know if you’re engraving, um, you know, you miss the mark on a note or you miss a, a few things, when it came to actual output of it, But also if you’re focusing on a numbers game and just uploading every voicing for an ensemble or an instrument under the sun, it can muddy the waters.

And so it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you wanna be a composer that’s known for riding really great content and known for a handful of products that everyone loves do that, that works for you and do it really well. If you wanna be known for the numbers and thousands of titles to your name that’s a numbers game.

Absolutely. You know, it’s, it’s really like casting, the wide net, see what shows up. And, um, in some instances you’ll see, where there’s a catalog that is only a few titles and it’s doing really well. You’ll see a catalog that has thousands of titles. It’s also doing really well, but because of the sure.

Volume. So it really depends on the composer the time they wanna put into it. and then also what they’re writing for too. Of course, if they’re writing for advanced groups and they have a thousand titles for a, a really a pro or collegiate level, you’re probably not gonna see as many sales, just because of the accessibility of the product.

Garrett: So going back to the copyright aspect of the platform, you already mentioned that, it has to be an original work or an arrangement of something in the public domain. Are there other restrictions, beyond that in terms of exclusivity or that sort of thing.

Isaac: Right. So there are platforms out there and, publishing agreements, um, that will allow you to do copyrighted works. And we’re always supporting composers to venture into those platforms. We’re a non exclusive agreement. So meaning that you can, um, you can go and, you know, produce music, put it out on your own website, put it out on other self-publishing platforms.

take your product and, do as you, please with it within reason, when it comes to actual copyrights, we only prohibit it when there isn’t Licens. To back it up. So if the composer publisher has worked with a licensing group, to get that permission, and most often it will be a little, a limited use.

they might limit and say, you can only sell X amount of copies, or you can only do it in digital distribution instead of printed. Um, it, it gets a little complicated, but we’re willing to work with that. where we are kind of limited is that we don’t have a blanket license for anything that’s just out on the radio or hasn’t been in the public domain.

Garrett: And I should mention too, that if you are a composer that has, works already in print on pepper, they can link that to your MyScore account. Can’t they.

Isaac: Correct? Yep. So, you know, composers working with, Beck and horse or Alfred Shawnee. we can link that to a composer’s profile. So with MyScore, we have a composer profile. So if you have a website, if you have a lot of social media that you wanna direct customers to, you can link all of that to your composer’s profile.

And anything that you upload to MyScore will automatically fill in there. And there’s a few other features that will allow you to feature different products or build different marketing lists, and then have that located on your composer profile, but you can also link to existing products with that publisher, from that same profile.

So if a composer is really. Just dipping their toes into this game of being online and selling music online and they don’t have their own website. This is a really nice way to direct customers to a platform where, someone can buy it really easily. They can get a full preview. They get to see everything that you’re listing, but then also see, oh, there’s some name recognition.

I know this publisher and they’re already with them. So that’s a really great use of the tool.

Garrett: Do you see those composer profiles getting a lot of use? Are they, are they a popular thing for, for customers trying to, you know, look for new music or look to support new composers?

Isaac: Yeah, uh, going off of supporting new composers, uh, I think there’s definitely a movement to understand who’s writing the music. how can we support them? How can we support living composers? and I, I believe in that, holy, um, I that’s my whole job actually to support living composers. but, we do see a lot of traffic.

We do see customers wanting to know who wrote the music. Also, what else are they writing? in many cases, someone might come to J.W. Pepper, find a title by a very generic search on our website and say, okay, uh, Isaac Brooks has this title for cello quartet. What else does he have? Okay, let me go and do some more searches.

And we are doing a little work right now to, make those profiles a little more accessible to, director or customer that’s searching for them. my plan is actually to link those to the actual product pages. So, someone on that product page, they’ll be able to go and click and, uh, be taken back to your profile.

Garrett: do you know if customers are primarily coming into pepper through external links, like they find a piece on Google or they find a piece on YouTube and it brings them to pepper or are they coming into pepper and going off of the search filters and exploring that way? I mean, obviously people do both, but do you have any sense of where the traffic comes from?

And the reason I’m asking is as a composer, sometimes I wonder if it’s better. Promote a specific piece, as you said, to get them interested and then have them look at what else you have or is it better to just sort of say here’s the catalog, go check it out.

Isaac: Right. really great question. obviously Google is the number one search, engine out there. YouTube is number two. we see a lot of traffic coming from Google. and any, any product that you are listing, through MyScore is eventually added to the Google searches.

of course, if you’re getting more traction, those are gonna bump up and search results. but the way we set up our products, we are, we are looking to, bring in, those voicings we’re bringing in, instrument groups we’re bringing in, the keyword that that directors would be searching for. So, um, yes, they’re gonna be coming through, a search result on, on their, browser of choice, but also.

My biggest thing when advising composers that are looking to get more traction to their products, sharing out the product link to that composition, you just uploaded is gold because if you have a network of, directors or other musicians that you’re working with, and that happens to live on Facebook or Instagram or some other social media that’s direct marketing right there, and it is in most cases free.

so having a direct link to a product is always gonna work, much better than someone coming to a website and searching very like the broadest search parameters. We get new uploads of music every day, just from MyScore composer publishers. And then we also get, you know, thousands of titles from all the other publishers J.W. Pepper is working with.

So, You wanna be able to stick out in a crowd, especially if it’s a product that would be a little more generic. Let’s say a holiday tune, a Christmas Carol that’s for S a T B. Well, there’s gotta be, you know, almost half a million results for, for a voicing and a category like that.

Garrett: Well, since you brought up Christmas, let’s dig in a little more to the, search filters within J.W. Pepper. So let’s take silent night for example. I looked it up the other day. Currently there are 771 coral arrangements of silent night on the platform. Two of them are mine, so I’ve already doubled my chances there, but what would I need to do, to get my pieces to rank higher within the pepper, search engines, when you go on the website and you type in silent night, Well, how do I get mine to show up ahead of the other 700.

Isaac: Right. Yeah, that’s a really good question. So within the searches, themselves, so you’ll have the, left banner, that’s like the pepper exclusive, so it’s gonna break down every category by voicing, holiday instrumentation, even video previews. so all of that gets broken down. but then within those search results, the 700 plus that you mentioned, you can also filter by top selling, most relevant and then newest.

for instance, your. Titles that you’ve added probably here in the last two years. There’s been other titles that have probably been added since then. So newest would probably not be the best ranking for you. but as your products are selling, those are going to bump up to the top and that’s gonna be based off of the preferences of the customer or the director that’s searching the website.

They might want to see. Hey, what, what is hot right now? What is selling? What are other directors doing? or they wanna see what is brand new? I just came to the search, you know, three months ago. What else is there now? Because, a lot of directors are looking at J.W. Pepper as the source for new music and that’s kind of our, deal.

you know, we’re, we’re trying to always have new offerings for customers coming in. and so it really does make it nice that we do have those search abilities, but, there really is no rhyme or reason to like how products are gonna rank above everything else.

Garrett: Is it wrong to assume that J.W. Pepper is going to be pushing the titles from more established publishers ahead of the MyScore composers or once you get into the system? Is it really just up to the algorithms and the robots to go with whatever’s the highest selling or I don’t know What are the factors that it’s, prioritizing?

Isaac: Yeah. So there there’s a lot going on when, when you’re selling sheet music, a little different than, know, working with your own website, like a, square space or wakes or something like that. we do have a lot of data that comes in. We have, a lot of shopping numbers. We, we can see every cart.

We know how many of each product is selling. we know where the issues are at. and so a, a lot of that all kind of combines together along with, the product that is being built through the MyScore platform. So, you identifying that this is a S a TB for Christmas holiday, adding a description, and then, combining that product, that general product information with sales kind of gives you an overall, Ranking on, on J.W. Pepper.

Now, of course we haven’t really talked about it, but there’s editor’s choice and there is additional marketing that comes with that. And that is usually a lot of the, the cream of the crop. what are composers doing? What are, what is hot right now? I always kind of, harp on, um, composers that are not adding the basic information.

If you don’t have audio, if you don’t have a YouTube link, if you don’t have a cover image or nice engraving, it’s very hard to market something like that because we do know our customers, we know what they’re looking for. And so if we’re lacking some of the basic, marketability of a piece, of course, you know, they’re not gonna be in curated list or in campaigns, but we really do, look to our MyScore, Audience are MyScore composers to see what is new and what’s being written.

uh, great example is that we had, that TikTok fad, with, the Weller men being sung. And now everyone’s like shopping sea shanties. Okay, great.

know, and if you can be ahead of the trends in, in writing music, it’s really great to be prepared and ready for those type of trends.

And that actually makes it really easy for our, our team here of marketers to say, Hey, okay, we got 25 arrangements of C shanties Hey, let’s put together an email. Let’s put that out there. And so those are the type of things that can help drive marketing, of course, with a self-publisher, as you probably know, a lot of marketing and a lot of promotion.

Lands on your shoulders. I mean, uh, going back to your first question about being not a publisher, publishers are taking on the burden of doing the engraving, doing all the work to make the product presentable to a customer. And in your case, and in many MyScore composers cases, they’re the writer, they’re the promoter, they’re the chief marketing officer of their music.

And so we rely heavily on composers to get out there, get their name out there. do the marketing, do the events, you know, going to an AC D a event and getting your name out there and, performing and getting into workshops like those all combined really make it, kind of a symbiotic relationship, having a music on pepper, you doing your own thing.

And then hopefully from there, we have sales that are coming in from that.

Garrett: Take us behind the scenes. What does the team look like?

Isaac: so what we do, as you know, and, and probably a lot of your followers know about adding music, composer can add music at any time of day.

what we do is we’ll kind of collect all the submissions from that day, hold it and convert all of the data that you sent to us, the files, the audio clips, descriptions, any images for your cover. And, we’re gonna process that in batches, you know, we just have way too many submissions coming into to do it a one off thing.

so from there, we’re combining all of that information to make a product on pepper. usually that is taking, one to two business days. my goal is to get it to be within a couple of minutes. we’re getting down to usually like six hours. So, that is. You know, the fastest that it’s been with J pepper, really going back before then, it used to be like, we could only process like 10 to 20 products a month because someone was physically scanning the music in with the Xerox and then getting it to the website somehow.

And this is all before all the tools that we had,

Garrett: I should have asked this before. How long have you been with pepper?

Isaac: So I’ve been with J.W. Pepper for four years going on five years. I started out with a program called cut time, which is a group management tool for directors and educators to help, manage their ensemble members and instruments and music. and then I was brought over to the, my MyScore team to help with the marketing.

And then that kind of just morphed into, Hey, we’re gonna let you talk to composers and let you go to events and, kind of run this thing and help improve it for our composer base. And, uh, I really enjoy it. Uh, it it’s the fun thing to be able to work with composers and see, the new music that’s coming in.

not a lot of people know this, but I get to see all the music that comes in through, MyScore composers. I look at it. I listen to it. there’s some really good stuff out there.

Garrett: Can you give us a sense of how big the program is? I mean, how many composers do you have? How many pieces have they upload?

Isaac: so, MyScore is celebrating 10 years. you know, we’ve been around for a decade. it started out small right now. We’re, we’re hovering around the 2000 mark. and I’m working with composers every day, to get them into our program. and from there we’re, we’re close to.

Like 400,000 product skews. Now, from there, there is voicing after voicing, after voicing on those. So, yeah, some of the largest, products that I know of have like 37 voicings on them. So that’s technically 37 different products for one group and it gets complicated when you start talking about groupings because we also break it into products that are available for print and digital.

So. we have a small team. some people know Josh kale. he’s really on the back end, getting products processed and online. And he does a lot of work with our print, warehouse down in Atlanta, Georgia, to make sure all of our products are ready for print. here within, you know, 24 hours, like I said, we also have our editorial team, a few folks that are kind of hands on looking at music, advising, per their, their market that they’re over.

and then we also have the backing of J.W. Pepper. As a whole. So, if you’ve ever called J.W. Pepper and gotten one of our awesome customer service reps, like, they are working on your behalf, because as a composer, you don’t wanna get phone calls at, six o’clock in the morning saying, Hey, my product is stuck in, you know, Tuku carry nuMe, Mexico, what’s the deal

and then, uh, we have a web development team that runs all of J.W. Pepper, and our J.W. Pepper website to really make that the best place for customers to buy from. so we’re always improving. but I’m, the liaison, for composers to J.W. Pepper. And, uh, so I get to hear all the good and all the bad and everything that we can improve.

Garrett: the print aspect of MyScore. Is that something that, has been there since the beginning? Or was that an added feature? I mean, what was the chicken and what was the egg here?

Isaac: Yeah. so like you mentioned, when we first started out, it was very small. It was a little slow at, first, you know, a decade ago, computers were not what they are, and of course in a decade from now, they’re gonna be completely different. so we, we started with a small batch. the intent was always to digitize, existing music.

and of course, uh, the software’s been there, notation software finale, Ellis it’s been there. but the way that we were receiving music was in physical copies. Well, you can only pass out so many products before you have to go and buy and get print done again. And so our goal was really to grow, our print on demand service, because we were working with publishers that had their products ready to go in a digitized format.

they just didn’t wanna, you know, pay the warehousing fee. They didn’t wanna have to figure out, how do we print this? You know, and the cost of papers going up. So the intent was always yes to do print. And then, our ability to take that same file that we were digitizing or composers publishers were digitizing for us and sending it to us, morphed into our eprint program.

So eprint is basically on demand, regardless of it being a coral octavo or a. band set, a customer can go in purchase that, get the copies that they need and then print it at home or at their office. Um, so the intent was always to have, uh, have a digital version, have a printed version. And then MyScore is kind of, a really nice combination of it all.

I like to mention to most people that work here at pepper, that MyScore is a microcosm of everything, pepper it’s, you know, all of our shipping receiving it’s royalties, it’s promotion, it’s our website. when it comes to printing, we have always been trying to refine and make that process as seamless as possible.

Obviously going from, you know, ingestion or bringing in new products has been. A little difficult, especially when you start talking about, larger products, like a band set or orchestra, there’s just many components going to one product. coral music is a lot easier. so we’ve been working with, industry partners, you know, printers and, and big tech gurus that know a heck of a lot more about this than we do.

You know, we really specialize in music. they really know how to figure out, this is how you manage a file. Here’s how you print a file. here’s how it’s gonna stay in, your database until a customer wants to buy it and not, you know, become corrupted. So, yeah. Long story short. Yes.

It’s always been the intent to do print.

Garrett: It’s fairly automated. Isn’t it? I mean, if I upload a new piece to MyScore within a couple of hours, or I should say, once it goes live on the website, it’s available for customers to order printed copies. Correct.

Isaac: Correct? Yep. So, it’s set up for print automatically, that does, kind of introduce a few elements that we ask for. from the composer, we’re asking, a little details about the sheet music, you know, if it’s set up for an octavo format or if it’s set up for an eight and a half by 11 or a nine by 12, formatting,

Garrett: talking

about the upload


Isaac: yeah.

because all that information that we. take from the composer or ask for from the composer is directly going into our ability to serve up the music either in print or digital format. obviously we wanna make sure that a customer is getting the correct number of copies of a flute part.

You know, if it’s of a band set. We wanna make sure that it’s being printed on the right size paper. We have a lot of options, you know, octavo up to oversized 11 by 17, uh, and everything in between. we also wanna make sure that the binding is correct. And so all of that goes into that initial upload that a director or a composer is building with us.

and then that allows us to make it available within the order. You know, if someone’s ordering the music, they’re gonna get, they’re gonna get the copy that you’ve set out and said, I want it to be printed this way. Send it to the customer.

Garrett: Well, and that’s one of the things that’s most exciting about it because at least in my case, I’m in the coral world, a lot of larger choirs don’t want to go through the hassle of printing, a hundred copies of a new piece of music. And so I see a lot of, I see a lot of customers, you know, when given the choice going with pepper, just because they can print it, not have to, you know, not have to use their own ink, not have to use their own paper.

What’s the turnaround time on that. You know, if I order a new band piece, how, how long does it take for it to be printed and shipped to me?

Isaac: Yeah, it depends on the time that the customers making their order. usually if they’re gonna order earlier in the day, that gives us more time to get it in our print queue. obviously right now is a high demand time. You know, we’re, we’re talking in, the fall season, you know, back to school season.

So every director is basically shopping on our website right now. and there’s a lot of orders going out. we do prioritize, based off of shipping methods. So if someone needs an expedited, a one day turnaround overnight, or two day turnaround, uh, we’re gonna. Those orders, uh, because we know there’s a need.

so typically we’re gonna print and we’re gonna get that out the door as soon as possible. and then from there, it’s really based off of our shipping partners, and how fast you want the products. So if you wanna wait a week or two and pay a little less in shipping, enjoy waiting on the postal service and going through the snail mail.

or if you need it next day, you know, pay that FedEx, shipping fee. And then, hopefully from there, you’re gonna get that next day, sometimes a little up in the air when it comes to shipping, because you’re introducing a lot of different things. but, to answer your question, yeah, the product is ready for print as soon as it goes online,

Garrett: and we’re talking days, not weeks in terms of ordering it,


Isaac: right. and, and we’re getting to the point where we’re, turning it around within a couple of hours. again, I, I wanna make it, so we have it online, ready for print within the same day, within a couple of hours of submitting the product. of course, you know, we wanna make sure that the product is ready and has all that information.

So when a customer orders it, there isn’t any hiccups in the process, you know, having the wrong size, having the wrong files, you know, that just introduces a delay in getting the product to the customer.

Garrett: I’m curious what the sales figures look like for digital versus print on demand. Are customers gravitating towards the print more than the digital or what does that look


Isaac: Yeah, that’s a good question. So really that’s gonna depend on, the product itself, we obviously see more band and orchestra sets, going the printed route, more of a smaller, ensembles, like a quarte or, uh, octavo, they’re probably gonna do an eprint if they need it right away. so in most cases I’m seeing it lean a little more like 60% print, 40%, in the digital realm.

 now. That is a really unique situation because you might have a customer that wants to buy, a digital copy. They need it really quick. And then they go turn around and buy physical copies. They might go and, you know, furnish their whole ensemble with, you know, 150 voices with a, a printed copy rather than realizing, oh, this is seven pages.

I don’t wanna, you know, print that seven pages 150 times. So, you know, you’ll see both of both. And, we’re still kind of in our pandemic season of life. and, you know, when, when things were shut down, our digital options really were the thing that directors and teachers needed, because it is flexible.

we have a program here called my library. And so anyone who has a customer with J.W. Pepper, has their account set up with us. And, they can manage all of the products that they purchase through my library, which essentially allows them to get it onto their computer, their phone, their tablet, view the music.

And then they’re able to print out the number of copies that they have purchased. So if they’ve purchased five copies of a coral or 10 or a hundred, they can print those out, legally within their rights of, of the purchase order. and then from there, after they’ve printed it out, it’s only in a viewable format and they have to buy extra copies if they need to print more.

Garrett: How big of a threat. Do you view piracy or photocopying? I’m wondering if you have any insight to that because you offer both physical and. Digital sales of the same title. So what are you seeing?

Isaac: Right. so what I hear from composers is that everyone is, you know, getting ripped off and someone is going to the photocopy machine and, you know, taking their music away from them. but I’m obviously an advocate for composers to get paid, what they’re due. And, we obviously wanna see, people doing the right thing and buying the correct number of copies.

so we do try to make that, uh, as easy as possible for a customer to do. in some cases we do have copy minimums, to help them say, all right. instead of it being one copy, they’re buying five copies or 10 or 20 copies, because we know that there’s not a one voice choir, we gotta sing together.

of course there’s gonna be bad actors out there that, you know, they need to go and, get the music right away. But in some cases, I, I don’t think that there’s a lot of people that are, um, maliciously trying to do it. I think there are probably a lot of, folks that are out there that Don’t know that this is illegal.

Garrett: I guess what I’m really asking is do you think having the option to do both helps with that kind of like in the early two thousands, you know, having iTunes. didn’t make downloads of music go away, but because it made it easy for people to download legal copies of music, you did see piracy go down and I’m wondering if it’s a similar thing here where yes.

You sell the digital files, but also you can get physical copies. And so it’s, it’s all in one place. And I wonder if, if you think that helps of course it’s a hotly debated issue and no one really knows for sure. how honest people are being. But I am curious if you’ve noticed trends because of that, because you have the option to do both.

Isaac: And I think going back to, the one off scenarios where someone has a need and they’re like, I have budget constraints, I have this or that. And having the ability to buy the correct number of copies, the physical copy instead of. Hey, let me just go and make my copies, you know, really quick.

I think that does help. Of course. you know, we’re, we’re not in the business of policing that, we’re a distributor. So we do know who buys our, the music that we’re selling. we also do track the returns. JDA pepper has a very generous, satisfaction guarantee. and it does allow for returns of music.

And that’s just a part of the business. If you don’t want returns, don’t sell sheet music.

Garrett: How do returns make sense for the digital copies?

Isaac: that’s a conversation we’re working through right now. We obviously don’t want someone, maliciously going and, getting their copy and then, oh, Hey, I have to return this. so again, like I said, we do track, we do keep an eye for anomalies.

Garrett: I mean, of course, if somebody is going through and doing that multiple times, it’s kind of easy to pick them out and put a stop to it. But I guess the reason I’m asking is because you have the full score previews on the site, you have in many cases, composers that have put the scores on YouTube, you have the full audio files in my mind.

There’s not a need to get a perusal copy anymore because it’s all there on the computer. And so if that’s true, you should know what you’re buying before you buy it. and so what would be the point of a digital return? yeah, there’s conversations that are happening, around that subject. we’re really in the focus of how do we venture into a digital era for sheet music? you know, for thousands of years, it’s been written out on physical paper, someone had to go and make their own copy.

Isaac: Now it’s really easy. You can take your camera phone and, you know, go and scan the music and boom it’s, you know, it’s there. so you know, a lot of that kind of comes around having a mechanism that, does monitor does prevent someone from, getting extra copies. So, our program, like my library does keep track of the number of prints.

It does allow for someone to reach out to us if they happen to have, you know, a paper jam, you know, we’re gonna obviously help them out and, you know, make sure that they get their, copies that they’re due. But, uh, I see a lot of composers, like you mentioned, you know, putting out, previews of their music or just giving away, like, Hey, here’s a, free file.

Not having the gated content and, just having it floating out there. And I mean, it, it opens you up to a lot of different things. it’s also sheet music. I know that it’s someone’s livelihood, but it’s also sheet music. unfortunately the technology’s just not there yet.

but we are, we’re exploring, a part of J.W. Pepper’s history has been innovation we have teams that just think about ideas and how can we make the process better for our customers, but also our composers and our vendors that we’re working with to sell with us and also feel comfortable selling with us too.

we never want to strong arm anyone. Doing something that doesn’t work for them. and that can be, you know, based off of royalties that could be based off of, you know, selling the music or having a full preview on the website. of course those type of things do help, but, it’s really like a case by case kind of thing.

Garrett: you have the advantage of seeing what all of the composers using the platform are doing. And I’m wondering if you’ve noticed particular things that have worked really well for other composers, for marketing their music.

Isaac: Yes. Uh, few things that have worked well. And I really like right now is, uh, adding QR codes to your music not going too, far in having it on every page. it does allow a customer, or even a student to interact with the music a little more than just a copy of paper. so if you’re creating content like, backing tracks or accompaniment tracks, or maybe even just a demo of the product, you know, that QR code can be used in many different ways.

And, we’ve seen it introduced in marketing all over the place. If you go to any, uh, music conventions, it’s all you see now, QR codes are the thing. it actually cleans up what could be a very long URL. And it can be done in a really nice way. and then you, as a composer, as a marketer of your music can track who is viewing and you can engage with, those customers that are, going further than just the sheet


Garrett: How would you rank the social media services by their usefulness in promotion, you know, uh, Facebook versus YouTube versus Twitter? I mean, how do you see those in terms of effectiveness?

Isaac: if I was gonna advise anyone, it would be. Get demos, get previews out on YouTube. a lot of searches happening there. A lot of music lives on YouTube now, what I’m not saying is give a full preview of your music, figure out the tools that work for you to, you know, limit that or do a creative presentation of your music while, you know, letting people know that it is sheet music.

And that’s what you’re doing. You’re selling sheet music. But then once your music is on YouTube or a video streaming service like that, like Vimeo, you have a little more accessibility obviously to folks finding your, your music that they could be looking for sheet music, they could just be stumbling upon it for, the content.

You know, you have something for violin and choir. you know, someone’s looking for that type of content. Um, especially, uh, Christmas tunes too. If you’re writing Christmas music, get it on YouTube. There are people out there that love to listen to that stuff all year round. but then from there, do the links relate, everything back to each other.

what I kind of, See composers doing is that they post their music on YouTube. They obviously give all the references to where they can be found, on their social platforms and then they link it all together. And then, when you’re working with a distributor like J.W. Pepper or your own website, having that, listed in your content really makes it, accessible for someone that wants to buy the music.

I’ve come across, customers that found the music on YouTube. They say, Hey, is this available on J.W. Pepper? No, sorry. We’re not working with that person or yes, we are working with that person, but they’re not selling that piece. And that allows me to go and reach out to them. I do think that over the last couple years, Facebook has been, a really cool place to see the trends of sheet music sales happening, especially in groups, because you have a lot of like-minded people gathering in one spot.

And you can build a group about anything these days. You know, I’m a chal director, I’m a band, I’m a middle school band director. you know, you get a good taste of, you know, what the end user is experiencing, but also what they’re wanting from your music. so if you’re posting there and you’re allowed to post in those groups, run with that, there’s a ton of different, um, self-publishing groups that are just dedicated to, those kind of niche, publishers.

and then from there, Instagram, if you’re really creative and photogenic, and wanna do that type of stuff, that’s a good way to, you know, kind of get into displaying the music. TikTok, if you’re trying to really, you know, get your tunes kind of performed with a video that, you know, might go wild, like the Weller men, you know, try to do that, ride those coattails.

I am, kind of a Luddite when it comes to social media. I’m on Facebook. and we have a Facebook group. I wouldn’t say that I’m like the trend maker on any other platforms, but, of course, if you’re, writing music and you’re releasing, really great audio go to the streaming services for music, get on Spotify, cloud iTunes, let those programs work for you, because those programs are gonna have a particular market.

And if your, ideal market is using those tools to shop That’s gonna be the place that you wanna be. when composers come to. MyScore and they meet with me for the first time. I do advise that sheet music is not a, wildfire kind of thing. It’s a slow burn. It’s gonna take a while to get traction and to get people viewing the music.

and it’s gonna be a lot of work. And if you have the know how to be able to post to those platforms and to link back to your website, to, to J.W. Pepper, those type of things, it’s all gonna work together. And hopefully from there, you’re building a brand that people recognize, they know that you have great music and they know where to get it.

a lot of composers have a nice website, but it’s really confusing on how to buy the music. and I don’t know if you’ve maybe experienced that yourself, like, getting into the game of selling your sheet music. what was that like for you when you started selling your sheet music?

Garrett: Well, I think the, hardest thing is giving people a reason to listen to me versus one of those other thousand that’s, that’s the difficult part. like if you already know that I’m a coral composer and you’ve sung some of my music, you’re much more likely to be receptive to new pieces I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that marketing original music seems a lot harder than even like original songs or certainly harder than arrangements because with arrangements, people at least know what the tune is.

They know where it’s coming from. If you write in a piece of original music, that is a whole different.

Isaac: Right. Going off of what you said, like people recognizing you, I think that comes back to the quality of not just the music that you’re writing. You know, I, there’s a ton of composers that are writing amazing tunes, you know, they outright me. and when it comes right down to it, it’s what are they using to promote their music?

Do they have a designer or do they have a brand template that they’re using, to identify their pieces and it’s identify clearly, like, what is the piece for, what is it. the other thing is what’s the audio like, as musicians, we know notes on the page, we can read music if you’re shopping music, you’re most likely reading music.

but a lot of the time when it comes down to, our market here at J.W. Pepper, we’re working with really busy people. they’re trying to figure out how they’re gonna teach this next class. They they’re probably overloaded with their schedule and they gotta figure out, you know, five or six different concerts for, multiple ensembles.

They need the best stuff right now. And if you’re not presenting them, live, performances or live, song vocals, uh, for coral music or for, other audio, like, instrument groups, you’re doing yourself a disservice because someone found you and now they’re looking at your music and what they hear is basically, it sounds like a Atari.

and I don’t, mean to rag on, the notation softwares. It it’s come a long way. but kind of where we’re at right now, there’s so many resources to get a live. A good audio


really quick.

Garrett: Well, It’s not that people don’t have the ability to listen to those Atari versions of the piece, it’s just that they don’t have the time or the

brain space to do it.

Isaac: Right. and in my opinion, I think if, you’re putting your best foot forward, and getting your music in the spaces where people are shopping, that’s just one brick of building your brand as a composer, as a publisher. and then also I think you get out there, you do stuff like this, where you’re doing podcasts, you’re talking about music.

you’re doing your presentations. You’re maybe working with a local music group or director, because. They talk to each other, you know, they’re gonna be at the events. They’re gonna be, you know, listening to what everyone else is performing at the festival or at their concert. And, um, you know, if it works for them, it’s most likely gonna work for their group too.

you know, if you can build that network of, directors and folks that want to buy music or in the game of buying music, that’s, that’s gonna work for you. If you’re a composer of music, you should be networking with people who buy music. I mean, that’s, that’s really what it should be.

Garrett: Yeah. And that’s the biggest mistake that I see from composers marketing, their own music is they’ll go on Facebook for example, and they’ll join a group of composers and then they’ll promote their pieces in the group of composers. And you know, that’s wonderful, but they’re not looking to buy your music.

there’s a disconnect, I think sometimes between the interest level of people and then the actual audience that you’re targeting. it’s the same thing, like you said, with Christmas music, if you post a Christmas arrangement on social media, the algorithms are going to assume that’s for just general listening for anybody who wants it, but you really want people that are going to perform it.

Otherwise they’re not gonna buy the sheet music. And so figuring out how to narrow that


is the challenge. I think for most

Isaac: Right. And in some cases that’s a full-time job. I mean, that’s, that’s what the publishers are doing. you know, they got SEO people, they got marketing departments, they got people that are going to trade shows and going to every single one of them and doing that heavy lift of the marketing.

that’s great. I mean, we work with publishers all the time and, and I actually do believe my, my kind of concept of the MyScore services if you use it for a season. And if you decide that, um, working with a publisher is gonna be the best interest for you financially for distributing and promoting your music, kudos to you.

You’ve, you know, hopefully I, I wouldn’t even call it graduated, but, you’re just taking that next step with your music. and for folks that stick with my. There are successful composers they’re running their entire business through MyScore through J.W. Pepper. And that’s the way that they do it.

And, for reasons that, we can only speculate, like they’re either getting more royalties or they want more hands on, control of their music. And so they stick with a


like us.

Garrett: Well, I think it says a lot about pepper. That they made the decision to include the MyScore titles along with everything else and not distinguish it or separate it. from the customer side. If you search for a piece again, if you’re searching for silent night, it’s not going to be obvious to you, which ones are self-published versus which ones are from a traditional print house.

and I think that says a lot about where pepper thinks the industry is going. I don’t know if you have any insight you wanna share on that. Just the debate within the industry about self-publishing versus, those more


established composer models.

Isaac: I think there are some concepts of self-publishing, or vanity publishing, compared to a traditional publisher that are just wrong. and honestly, I think most composers probably cut their teeth self-publishing or you’re kind of doing the hustle, until they get that publishing that backing.

of course there’s no right or wrong answer here. I think that, we’re, we’re trying to remove the walls of making it accessible, to more composers. There’s just more composers out there. we know a ton of composers by their name because, you know, they were, they were the big guys. now we’re opening up to the ladies, we’re opening it to anyone who’s writing music, you know, we’re, we’re trying to make it accessible.

And pepper has always partnered with composers to figure out like, how do you wanna distribute your music? You wanna do it through a publisher, you wanna do it on your own. so, again, no right or wrong answer. and I think you see it with composers that use, a service, like MyScore and.

Publish with one of the big names out there too. because a publisher can’t always take in everything and especially if you’re prolific, you got a thousand titles to your name, don’t expect a publisher to take all thousand titles. Like that’s just not reasonable. but it offers an opportunity to get those titles out there for the customer.

That’s searching for that particular item. and in some cases, you know, they, stand up against any, product that’s out there. and in some, in my opinion, because we’re asking for audio for all the elements that are really make a piece marketable, in some cases, the presentation looks, on par with the publisher.

that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to help. and however we can help. I mean, we’re open to ideas. you know, in my role, I’ve seen MyScore change a, a couple of different times. We’re on the cusp of, launching a new uploader. That’s gonna make it much easier for composers to submit music to us, make it, less time consuming.

so you guys can focus on writing and creating content. but we’re always open to, to partnering with publishers, composers, even the new person. That’s trying to figure it out to like, get on a call with a, a new composer and, help them, talk. This type of stuff out because they just don’t know it’s overwhelming.

and so I think, what you’re doing here with, with your podcast is great because there’s a need for it. I see it. you obviously see it, because you’re in it. I mean, that’s where we’re at. That’s where Pepper’s at. we wanna partner with people.