Ep. 41: Introducing ArrangeMe PRO (with Scott Harris)

Episode Description:

Scott Harris, program director of Hal Leonard’s ArrangeMe is back on the show to introduce ArrangeMe PRO, a new subscription which unlocks new features for users including a higher royalty rate, expanded distribution on the InStore network, publisher profile pages, and more!

Featured On This Episode:
Scott Harris

A 20+ year veteran of the music business, Scott is currently serving as Project Manager of ArrangeMe.comHal Leonard Music‘s self-publishing division, where he helps composers and arrangers form all over the globe publish and make their music available to musicians worldwide. Scott is also an active arranger, orchestrator, and musician in Nashville and beyond and has published work with Word Music, LifeWay Music, Lillenas Publishing, and Hal Leonard.

Episode Transcript:

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

Scott Harris, welcome back to the show.

Thank you.

Fantastic to be here again.

That’s right.

Well, this is your third time appearing in an episode, and I’m sure there will be many more because of how much is going on over there at ArrangeMe.

But today, you’re here to talk about the launch of ArrangeMe PRO, which is arguably the biggest update to the service since the launch of the ArrangeMe website, almost two years ago exactly, actually.

So let’s dive in.

What is ArrangeMe PRO, and who is it for?

Outstanding question, man.

ArrangeMe PRO is meant to be, just like you said, it’s an upgrade.

We early on decided that there’s a lot of features that regular folks, kind of hobbyists and stuff, may or may not be interested in, but we’re certainly worth something.

And so to be able to offer those things to folks that are a little more serious, not to say the hobbyists aren’t serious.

Music is music, and music, we all take music seriously, right?

But ArrangeMe PRO is kind of that elevated experience for your account.

We added a bunch of new features that you can access, you know, increased commissions being chief among them, something that you and I have talked a lot about over the years.

Folks seem to care about that, oddly enough.

All right, we want to make a little change for our efforts, right?

A little pocket money.

And revisiting some things that were once part of SMP Press back in the day, for those that remember that program.

But overall, an improvement to the experience enhancement that we feel is really worth something to pay for.

So that’s my attempt at an overall general overview of ArrangeMe PRO.

I mean, we can talk about the features really quick.

Increased commissions, I mentioned.

Publish your profile page for your marketing efforts.

Bulk title editing.

You get a free No Flight Premium subscription, which is a big deal.

And expanded distribution through our InStore Network at Hal Leonard.

10% discount at Sheet Music Direct.

And some custom branding things and that sort of stuff.

So the publisher profile page, increased commissions, free No Flight, expanded distribution.

Those are four pretty powerful things that are certainly worth something.

We feel like it’s worth the price of admission.

And how much does it cost?


US dollars.

That’s kind of an all-in price.

Like I said, we give a lot for free already with your basic account.

You’ve got to pay for sort of those basic services of anywhere else that our competitors or quasi-competitors are already behind a paywall.

So we felt good about the subscription fee for these elevated services.

Since, yeah, we give a lot away for free already.

And we feel like there’s real value in that too.

You can make a lot of money with a basic account already.

So these extra things feel like are really worth the price.

Is the base level of ArrangeMe always going to be free?

There is a commitment to always offer some free version of ArrangeMe.

Yeah, I don’t know that I can make promises that it’s going to look exactly like it does today or has been, but it really is important to have a free in and where you can genuinely make revenue and commissions without paying a dime.

So like I said, we already give a lot away for free already.

And I think a free version, a free basic version is really important, especially now that we’ve got a paid tier.

I cannot see us going fully behind the paywall.

It’s just kind of against the spirit of what this program is about.

I mean, I can’t make promises.

Obviously, that judgment call is way beyond my pay grade.

But for now, there is a commitment to retain a free version of ArrangeMe for the foreseeable future for sure.

It’s really important to get participation.

I mean, we still feel like it’s a really kind of a best kept secret in this business.

Part of my job every day is to try to spread the word.

And we’re doing our best, but we’re certainly not to critical mass yet by any means.

And besides signing up, is there anything in particular users need to do to be able to transition their account or get it rolling?

Or is it just click and run?

Yeah, it’s click and run, man.

You sign up, you pay your fee, and you’re off to the races.

Your account is automatically upgraded.

The new features are added.

The only thing that you kind of have to do is set up your NoteFlight premium subscription.

So if you’ve never been a NoteFlight user, if you’ve got a basic account already, if you’ve connected it before or not, all those things you kind of have to actively go in and connect logging into your NoteFlight account, et cetera, because it is a separate program.

Obviously, it’s not a program within ArrangeMe.

It’s one of our digital partners within the Hal Leonard ecosystem.

So that’s the only thing you have to sort of do.

But as far as your regular ArrangeMe stuff, publishing, it’s all done for you.

The expanded distribution happens automatically within a day or so.

Those things sort of get unlocked to the InStore network on the next sort of run behind the scenes.

And you’re all set.

So pretty easy.

Yeah, when I signed up, I think the website changed over, if not immediately, kind of within the hour, because there’s a new menu and some options kind of on the back end that you see as a composer, how you set up the profile pages and that sort of thing.

And I think next day, the commissions were coming through at the higher rate.

Yeah, we added that ArrangeMe PRO tab on the left to everybody’s account.

So if you’re interested, it’s an easy path to get there.

And if you signed up, that turns into, you know, that unlocks to those new features that we’re talking about.

Let’s kind of just go through each of these changes and talk about the best way to implement them.

So the increased commissions, that just kind of happens on its own, right?

Yeah, you’ll see that, you know, the uptick in your sales will be 12% instead of 10% for copyrighted songs, for example.

And then those publisher profile pages, like you said, those get set up in the tab on your account page.

Yeah, so actually, that’s a good point.

That’s something you have to actually actively do too.

So that gets unlocked.

You have to actually create that yourself.

There’s a spot for a bio, your own public, you know, like a pic, you know, an image for your brand, I suppose, or just a headshot, something like that.

And you can customize carousels, like selling carousels of your titles from your catalog.

So that’s another thing you have to actively do, but it’s unlocked and ready to go for you as soon as you sign up.

And then also the title images.

Can you walk us through that?

Yeah, so that’s an interesting piece of data that is not used by everyone, but Sheet Music Direct uses it.

Think of it like an album cover.

And No Flight uses this kind of square image.

So it’s not a cover page.

It’s not a profile image.

It’s a title image.

It’s exactly what it is.

So Sheet Music Direct uses this.

So for example, when you set up your carousel in your publisher profile page, Sheet Music Direct will display that title image.

And for everybody, when you sign up for a basic account, that defaults to kind of the ArrangeMe logo, that like purple blue ArrangeMe logo in a square.

But you have the ability now to customize that for the sites that use it right now as Sheet Music Direct and NoFlight.

So it’s really nice.

So you can do that on the title level.

So you can make every single title different if you’d like, or you can assign one title image to your entire account, all of your products so that they’re all the same.

Like if you have a logo, that’s what I do.

I think you do the same thing, right?

You have one title image throughout your entire catalog.

Or you can mix and match.

So you can do one for your whole account, and then if you want a certain series, you can go in at the title level and update those images individually.

So that’s the difference.

The cover image is derived directly from your upload, that first page of your PDF that you upload.

And that’s what Sheet Music Plus displays.

And a lot of folks have, over the years, started creating their own custom covers, which are really nice color.

Give your chart some pizzazz instead of just that first page of the score, black and white, to kind of set yourself apart, which is a nice professional touch.

We encourage that.

But that is one difference between the retail sites.

And another difference why there’s two main retail sites, right?

They’re both making different business decisions.

They’re two totally separate sites with different customer bases.

And you get the advantage of having your stuff distributed to both.

Yeah, so that’s just something for listeners, I think, to keep an eye on, is what the websites display.

You know, Sheet Music Plus and Sheet Music Direct is not the same.

And so for one, the custom images might be more important.

The other one might be more of the cover page.

But I think it is a good idea to brand your music.

Otherwise, it just looks like some generic upload like everybody else.

I don’t know.

I mean, at the end of the day, it may not matter.

But I think just having a visual brand is helpful in standing out when you have so many search results kind of just dumping at you.

Yeah, you’ve done some good work in that area, marketing tips.

And we’ve sure encouraged that.

We’ve written blog articles and stuff and even collaborated on some things before.

Yeah, we encourage you to do both.

But if it’s between that and writing a good chart, please just write a good chart first.

Start there.

And then when you’re ready to up your brand, spend some time investing energy into that sort of next level, like you said.

Brand is important, but don’t do that at the expense of writing a good chart, because ultimately that’s what people want.


Well, it also has to do with where people are finding the music.

If it’s coming up on a Google search that’s taking them directly to the product page, they may not see that title image.

But if they’re within the website searching, it may kind of pop up on the side.

So it’s interesting just all of the different entry points to the music that there are.

And now, I don’t know, maybe the profile pages too.

I am curious, you know, Sheet Music Plus had the profile pages and then they decided to get rid of them.

Now we’re bringing it back.

Like, is there any thought on what the best way to utilize those pages are?

Because I assume most customers are not getting on and like scrolling profile pages.

No, that’s 100% true.

We think of them as truly a marketing tool for you, the seller, the self-publisher.

So you’re right, the S&P Press Program had them.

You would earn them, I think.

That was before my time.

But I understand, like, you know, if you had up to a certain amount of titles or a certain amount of sales or whatever, you earned the page and they were created 100% internally on the Sheet Music Plus staff, by the staff.

So you can imagine as the program grew, that became an impossible lift for that staff, you know, that they weren’t adding people to just do that, you know.

So at a certain point, when it became clear it was going to switch over to Hal Leonard and stuff, they just, they stopped doing them.

And, you know, that made sense.

And then that was something that I had on my list pretty early was to bring it back so that the seller could customize it themselves, which is what we’ve been able to add with a PRO account.

And I think they’re working well.

People really seem to love them.

If you’re expecting it to be able to be searchable, like where customers can find it, I think that’s really kind of the wrong approach.

It’s a marketing tool for you.

So as a PRO user, you are investing some time into marketing your own titles, and it’s a one stop shop.

Some people use it as their own personal website, whether that be the Sheet Music Plus version flavor or the Sheet Music Direct flavor.

They’re very similar, but they look good.

They’re slick, especially if you have a decent image and you’ve cared to do some branding like we just talked about.

It’s a powerful tool, and that’s the one link that you share on your social media accounts and any place that you’re trying to promote your music.

It’s a nice little place to feature your stuff, and you get to control your best sellers or your new releases or any kind of series you have.

I think you can create up to nine or 12 different carousels, and you can have up to three live at a time, and you can reorder them.

Personally, my page right now, I think the top carousel is string quartets, things for weddings, we’re in wedding season, string music specifically for that season, and then kind of have best sellers and new releases also.

And then you might do a seasonal one for holidays, Christmas, Easter, that sort of thing.

You can customize it and move them around and reorder them as you will, and then still have the bio at the top, kind of be static and look nice.

So yeah, it’s a powerful tool, but it’s a tool.

Customers aren’t necessarily going to be interested in that unless you point them to that.

And it’s a springboard for them to learn about your music and then dive into the rest of the stuff they have.

All right, I’m going to hit you with a basic question here.

Who is NoteFlight for?

What is NoteFlight for?

Yeah, that’s a great question.

I don’t know that there’s a definitive answer.

All of the NoteFlight users listening to this have just thrown their phone in disgust.

I mean, they’re done, they’re unsubscribed.

I’ve just offended everybody.

I’m out, yeah.

No, NoteFlight is that cloud-based, web-based notation editor, first of all.

So a lot of music educators use it.

They’ve got the Learn and then now it’s Muse class.

Now that we’ve merged with Muse, there’s a lot of work to be done.

That’s been done on that side.

But they’ve got Soundcheck too, which is a great practice tool where you can actually play into or record a student’s performance.

And it’ll show errors and stuff.

So it’s a good assessment tool, Soundcheck through No Flight.

And it’s a nice way to share little exercises and stuff.

Like I said, music educators love it.

When I’ve spoken at conferences and stuff before, that’s really the group that seems to be most engaged with No Flight is music educators.

But it was originally designed to be an online composer community where you can collaborate, do arrangements together, share your work with other folks, and work on things together over No Flight proper, the program.

So different solutions for different folks, but over the years, it’s certainly evolved into a pretty great music educator tool too.

But you’re creating those No Flight titles in the software, right?

You’re not making them in Sibelius and then putting them over.

It’s something that requires you to learn a different notation software, essentially.


Now there’s a music XML import feature.

So if you wanted to export your Sibelius or Benelli file via XML, and then you can pull it into No Flight.

But you’re going to have to use the, just like doing that on any other software, you have to clean it up and polish it and stuff to make it available.

But that’s currently the only way to make an interactive title available through ArrangeMe, like to publish it so that somebody wants to, if you want to do a piano chart or a guitar vocal or something, you can allow a customer to change the key, hear the playback from the MIDI engine, the sounds from No Flight, that’s the path to do it.

So by and large, people are PDF uploaders through ArrangeMe, the ArrangeMe program.

But the connection with No Flight is really nice for folks that really love that program.

It gives them a publishing opportunity right out of that program that’s completely native and works pretty well.

So when this all happened, the thing that I found to be the most interesting or exciting or insert adjective here was this inclusion in the in-store retailers.

I thought to me that was the biggest deal of the list.

And you know what’s even more amazing to me?

I did not realize that there were still 5,000 retailers left.

How about that, huh?

I mean, that was a surprise to me.

I’m sure there’s more than that.

Yeah, that’s what’s in the Hal Leonard in-store network or have access to this program.

Yeah, no, you kind of danced around it.

Because we have a lot of features and it’s pick and choose, we knew not every feature is going to be compelling for everybody that signs up for ArrangeMe PRO.

So, you said it beautifully, the in-store distribution is a big deal to you, and it should be.

You know, it is a big deal.

But it might not mean a hill of beans to somebody else.

Somebody else might really care more about the publisher page or the title editing or whatever.

Of course, I think we can all agree that the increased commissions is a standard exciting piece to sign up.

But yeah, the in-store network is really, really great.

And honestly, it’s done much better than I thought it might to be quite honest.

People seem really excited about it.

They’re getting sales consistently.

It’s really remarkable.

What we’re talking about is like salesmen at these other…


I mean, it’s not all brick and mortar.

Some of them are digital, but…

No, it is.

It’s brick and mortar.

I guess explain it to me like I’m five.

What is the in-store and how does it…


So the retailer is signed up for this, has access to this program.

It just kind of sits on their PC in the corner.

Think of behind the counter when you go into a…

I’m not going to say any names, but any kind of brick and mortar shop that you would go in and buy sheet music or an instrument or whatever.

Kind of your local mom and pop shops all the way up to larger retailers that have access to the system that you physically go into the store and buy sheet music.

You’re looking for something, right?

And the customer doesn’t see what they’re looking for.

And the salesman says, you know what?

Let’s take a look in the InStore digital retailer portal or whatever.

And so all of the ArrangeMe PRO titles are now available in that database along with the Hal Leonard published stuff.

And so they can search and find that string and bass saxophone and viola lead arrangement you did of the Billie Eilish tune.

Because that’s exactly what they’re looking for.

They didn’t find it in store.

And oh my goodness, great.

So I’m going to buy it.

The salesman prints it out for them right on the spot.

You get the sale and they walk home with the sheet music in hand.

It’s that simple.

Well, yeah.

So kind of like you said, there’s different features of this that are going to appeal to different people.

For me, like choral music, a lot of people buy that in store.

So having it in 5,000 more stores is a pretty big deal.

You know, honestly, I think the biggest deal with the commission, the added 2% is the fact that it moved and that it moved higher.

You know what I mean?

That 10% has kind of been a precedent for a long time.

For me, it’s a positive sign to see that going up.

Granted, not as much as I would have liked, but I think it’s a good precedent to set because ArrangeMe is such a big program and a big user group.

And frankly, a lot of other publishers and distributors look at that and copy that.

And you know what I mean?

For the industry, I feel good about the fact that it’s moving.

That being said, why two?

I’m sure you were in the meeting.

Somebody had to suggest three.

Somebody had to suggest five.

You know what I mean?

Somebody probably wanted one.

Literally, how did you decide on the number?

It’s a great question.

I mean, I can’t get into details, obviously.

But I can’t tell you, generally, there’s a little bit of wiggle room.

A little bit.

And 2% was the very most we could justify offering for a subscription fee.

There’s a lot of negativity around this subject, but Hal Leonard’s got bills to pay, man.

Like I said, we give a lot away for free already.

And that’s retail, opportunities, distribution, two major sites, millions of customers.

There’s a lot that goes into it.

It’s not like, you know, Hal Leonard keeps 90%.

We’ve got to pay the publishers, you know, the shareholders, that’s the whole thing.

I mean, essentially what you’re saying is that’s the number you could not lose money on, right?

I mean, yeah, some independent self-publishing, you know, they’ll offer up to 20 or 25.

I mean, that’s just completely undoable, you know, at this scale.

It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Okay, but is there a point where it does?

Putting on my activist hat here, let’s say that I just as a matter of principle think composers need to earn 20%, 25%, right?

Composers earn 50%, Garrett.

Well, yes, arrangers, arrangers, wrong hat, sorry.

Get my hats mixed up.

Yeah, let’s get our hats right.

I’ve got a lot of hats here.

What is the thing that would convince publishers or make publishers feel comfortable raising that royalty rate?

Is it the scale of how much you’re selling?

Is it something about competition?

What are the metrics that are the most compelling in these kinds of conversations?

Yeah, I can’t remember if we talked about this the first time I was on.

Traditional arranger contracts in the print days, like physical print, you’re looking at anywhere between 2.5% to 5% on an arranged piece.

What happens is the company does the marketing, right?

So on the self-publishing side, we’ve essentially doubled or more than doubled that, and you get to do your own marketing.

I mean, if you want to boil it all the way down to kind of the difference between the two, that’s essentially what it is.

And so, gosh, I don’t know, to answer your question, I don’t know what it would take.

I mean, the writers of these songs are getting 50%, right?

Is that still the standard?

I mean, yeah.

A digital print license, you’re getting 50% as the publisher, the copyright owner.

So we’re talking about ArrangeMe users and Hal Leonard sort of haggling over that other 50, right?


Well, yeah, yeah.

And like I said earlier, I mean, it’s all about access, right?

Distribution, reach, and that’s what Hal Leonard brings to the table so well, maybe better than anybody, quite honestly.

And so yeah, that’s worth a lot.

It’s worth a lot.

And then if you can kind of find your niche on how to promote the stuff that you’re doing, you can make a good little side hustle or quite a bit of money, actually.

We’ve got people that make a nice little income from ArrangeMe.

And it’s because they’re making compelling music, you know, arrangements, they’re promoting them, and they found an audience that they continue to feed.

So those are kind of the three pillars from my perspective on how to be successful as a self-publisher.

So we’ve given you all the tools.

And now with ArrangeMe PRO, we’ve given you even more tools to be successful.

And at a certain point, you know, it’s up to you to, you know, deliver and go carve out your place in this world to be a little cheesy.

We’re leaving that in.

Our listeners like some cheese.

So not to split hairs here, but it is called ArrangeMe PRO.

And to me, that sort of signals that it’s more for professionals.

Does that also signal a shift in strategy on the part of Hal Leonard?

Because in terms of the business of ArrangeMe, I could kind of see it go in both ways, right?

I mean, I could see it thriving as its own product for amateur musicians to get their music out there.

But on the other hand, I can also see it being a publishing juggernaut on its own terms, right?

I mean, at what point does this stop becoming self-publishing and just turn into publishing?

I mean, is this like Hulu and Netflix, which are slowly reinventing the cable company, you know?

Because if you look at everything ArrangeMe is providing, it’s basically doing everything a publisher would do except edit the pieces and physically print them.

Yep, yeah.

Well, let me just start by saying, signing up for ArrangeMe PRO doesn’t give you a leg up on search results or any kind of SEO placement or any kind of favoritism on the websites as far as like sales or anything like that.

Why not?

Is that coming in ArrangeMe PRO Plus?

Oh my gosh, ArrangeMe PRO Plus.

That’s a good idea.

I’m writing that one down.

I hadn’t even thought of that before, Garrett.

No, to answer your question, it’s both and, man.

I genuinely believe ArrangeMe is here for your independent sheet music self-publisher.

Always will be.

And that’s the real secret sauce of this program is literally anyone that has taken the time to create a piece of sheet music can sell it and get it in front of literally millions of customers and have a chance to carve out a way to make some extra income in this business.

And that’s the real beauty of this program.

Now, ArrangeMe PRO is for folks that are taking it a little more seriously, that are willing to pay the fee, the subscription, to elevate their experience and elevate their opportunities to make that revenue and participate in this business.

Now, we already have a Hal Leonard.

You know what I mean?

It’s a juggernaut, a print publisher, digital and physical.

I hope as ArrangeMe continues to grow, and we’ve seen some folks get, I suppose, republished by Hal Leonard in print.

That’s happened several times, both before and even more since I’ve taken the helm.

And that’s always really exciting.

But that’s not necessarily the end goal, Garrett.

It’s for your independent sheet music publisher, truly.

And I think both will continue to grow and thrive, quite frankly.

And that’s what I’m excited about, to contribute every day and give folks that are willing to do the work.

It’s self-publishing.

It’s not us publishing.

It’s self-publishing.

So it’s a partnership.

And if you do the work, you can be successful.

Well, let’s end with this thought.

I’ve seen a lot of debate online about how you measure or how you calculate whether or not PRO is worth it, quote unquote.

So how would you…

Everyone’s posting, I need to make $400 or I need to make $3,000.

Everyone’s doing all this math.

How do you define or how would you recommend somebody think about whether or not a PRO subscription is worth it?

Excellent question.

I’m going to start with this.

People will do their own math and make sense of it for themselves.

From my perspective, the $79.99 is a tax write-off.

Even if you only sell one piece of music, it’s a tax write-off.

My thought is if you sell at least $80 in commissions, if you earn at least $80 commissions, you’re breaking even.

Because you’re writing it off, it gets right off on your taxes, and then you’re sort of in the black.

People have spliced the thought of like, well, I need to make X amount based on the 2% increase, which I don’t know, I guess that’s fair.

To me, it’s a tax write-off expense.

It’s an investment in your self-publishing efforts.

And if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.

Nobody’s forcing you to do it.

I think it’s a pretty great program.

I personally love it.

People that use it love it.

If you’re getting hung up on the dollars and cents, maybe it doesn’t make sense for you.

But I think it’s worth the risk.

Try it for a year and see.

And really downshift and dive into making great stuff and take advantage, full advantage, of all the features that we’ve teed up and see if it makes sense for a year.

And if not, no hard feelings.

But I really think there’s enough compelling stuff available that you’ll be pleased with it and want to keep going with it.

Yeah, and we’re constantly adding, tweaking, fixing things for the program in general.

But ArrangeMe PRO, we’ve got plans to continuously enhance that too.

So yeah, I think it’s worth it, man.

ArrangeMe PRO Plus, you heard it here first, people.

I’m running down, man.

It’s on my ideal list.

Well, if people have questions specifically about PRO, what is the best way for them to get answers?

Great question.

So first of all, if you’ve never signed up, arrangeme.com/pro, that site has all of the features, the breakdowns, the explanations.

It’s got a nice little grid of what you get versus the basic account.

Visit the Help Center, the ArrangeMe Help Center, which is a link at the bottom of the website main page.

We’ve got an entire section dedicated to ArrangeMe PRO.

That’s really for more folks that have already gotten into it or are trying to figure out, okay, the nuts and bolts, the logistics of it.

But if you, after looking at both of those, any sub questions, please just email us at support at arrangeme.com.

The Facebook group is not the authority on how it works.

We’d much rather you email us first.

We’ll do everything we can to get you an answer.

So the Facebook group is lovely for testimonials, people that, hey, I’ve seen this a lot.

I’m on the fence, I’m pro.

What do y’all think about it?

What are the things you love about it?

What are the things you don’t like about it?

And a lot of folks will tend to chime in and say, I love it for this reason or these reasons.

And if that means a lot to you, then by all means, give it a try.

It’s a really exciting development.

And like I said, one that will keep on giving if you give it a chance.

Scott Harris, thank you very much.

Thank you, Garrett.

It’s been fun.

See you next time.