Ep. 38: Musicnotes “Behind the Notes” Podcast: Lucas Koehler and Jillian Shively

Episode Description:

This week I am *on location* in the Nashville office of Musicnotes.com to talk with the hosts of their brand new podcast “⁠Behind the Notes⁠,” Lucas Koehler and Jillian Shively!

In addition to their podcasting duties, Lucas works for Musicnotes as a Product Management Specialist and Jillian as a Content & Production Assistant.  They had a lot of great insights to share from their years of helping composers (like myself) publish their music.

Composers, Arrangers, and Songwriters can visit the ⁠Musicnotes Marketplace⁠ to sell their scores on the Musicnotes website, and artists on YouTube can also look in to becoming a Musicnotes ⁠Signature Artist⁠.

Featured On This Episode:
Lucas Koehler

Jillian Shively

Jillian Shively is a pianist, composer, and copyright specialist working for Musicnotes as a Content and Production Assistant.  She is also co-host of “Behind the Notes,” the official Musicnotes podcast and performs regularly at events in the Nashville area.

Episode Transcript:

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

Well, hello everybody and welcome to a special episode of Selling Sheet Music, special because I am on location, which is not something I get to do very often.

But today I’m in the Nashville office of musicnotes.com, sitting with me on this very comfy couch, I might say.

It’s a good couch.

I need to get a better podcasting couch.

But sitting with me, Lucas Koehler, who is a producer and product management specialist, and Jillian Shively, a content and production assistant.

They are also the co-hosts of the brand new Behind the Notes podcast from Musicnotes.

So we’re doing our podcast thing and joining forces to talk for a bit today.

So first of all, good morning to both of you.

Thank you for being on the podcast.

Yeah, of course.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way.

Give us your background, who you are, where you came from, how you ended up with Musicnotes, all the basic stuff everyone’s dying to know.

You want to start, Lucas?


Better no longer than me.

So I have been working for Musicnotes for six years now.

I started as an editor.

So I did that for five years.

And then, what was it, February of last year, I moved to Nashville to work in this office, switched over to the marketing development team.

We’re called the pop team now.

And so I started in as artist relations.

And then, since then, I’ve been promoted to producer and product management specialist, which I never remember.

Sorry, I never remember the second half of the title.

How far back do you want me to go on the resume?

Well, what’s your music background?

So I started, I actually, in high school, actually I sang in a couple of punk rock bands.

And that’s as far as I got with it.

Heck yeah.

Yeah, and then in college is when I started taking music classes and taking lessons.

So I’m a bass player.

My degrees are in upright, but I do play a lot of electric.

I went to, did my undergrad in Madison, Wisconsin.

I moved there in 2000 and ended up staying there for a long time.

Did a bunch of local stuff there, a lot of local bands and a lot of private lesson teaching.

And then in 2015, I went to grad school at Northern Illinois University, which is in DeKalb, Illinois, probably about 40 minutes outside of Chicago.

Got a master’s in jazz studies there.

And then after that, started touring with a band out of Minneapolis and started the gig at Musicnotes.

Great, Jillian?

Yeah, so I have been here, I think it’s been just over a year now since I started at Musicnotes.

And I moved to Nashville after I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in film scoring.

And I just purely wanted to just be in a place where there was more music.

So I just made the move to Nashville with no other agenda but just to be somewhere where there was, I mean, it is called Music City.

I’m one of those.

But yeah, I just moved here.

And I was looking for jobs.

I perform and teach and I was looking around and I saw the Musicnotes building.

I saw the logo, because I had used Musicnotes growing up as a musician.

And I was like, that’s themusicnotes.com.

So I applied here and started here.

And yeah, it’s been such an awesome year to work at Musicnotes in Nashville.

And now starting our podcast too at Musicnotes and all the music going on in the office all the time.

It’s been super fun here.

So tell us more about the company.

What is Musicnotes and how does it fit into the larger sheet music industry ecosystem?

It is the largest online publisher that there is.

So we are purely online sheet music.

We don’t produce paper products.

Although you could print off what you buy from us, but it’s primarily digital.

So the company just turned 25.

It started back in the late 90s.

And yeah, it was essentially trying to fill a gap in the sheet music publishing industry as far as doing online publishing.

Everybody else was basically you had to buy a book, whether it’s in a store or order it from the website.

Whereas with their whole concept in the beginning was get it on the website and then you can download as needed and print off as you needed.

So we do, we work with all the major publishers that are out there, Universal, Sony, all the big guys.

And then we work with a ton of smaller artists.

We have a program called the Signature Artist Program, which is like a lot of people who are like YouTube famous.

You know what I mean?

Whether they’re doing, I think we might know somebody like that.

But there’s a lot of people who are pretty popular online, but maybe don’t have some huge record deal and they’re not big touring acts, but they’ve got a lot to offer.


And so with that program, we cut deals with them to where they write their sheet music out or they pay for it to be transcribed, send it to us, and then it goes through our editing process.

We put it into our own.

We have a notation program called Muse and we’re the only ones that use it.

So we have a tech department.

No relation to the Muse score.


I don’t know which was named first.

Honestly, I haven’t been here long enough, but yes.

So the only people who use Muse and know how to use Muse are the editors, essentially here at our company.

And it’s interesting.

It’s a very neat program because rather than notating from scratch, we do a lot of scanning in and then it’s kind of a combination of notation program with coding.

So having that extra, that other way to do the notation makes it look really, really clean.

Really clean and clear.

Okay, let’s get sidetracked by this.

When you’re working on a piece as an editor, what is the interface like?

Are you typing in code or are you using MIDI, using a keyboard?

Like what does that look like?

No, it’s code.

It’s all code.

I don’t know if Muse, I would imagine you could actually probably play it in there, but I never did.

That never came up for me.

So no, a lot of it can be like drag and drop.

A lot of it can be, okay, so say you need to move a quarter note on the staff, you’re on treble clef and it’s on an E and you need it up on a B.

You can actually put in, I don’t remember the codes now, it’s like 27 or something like that.

You know what I mean?

But you could actually code where you want that to be, or you could grab it and drag it.

That works too.

But a lot of times, like say you’re adding the copyright at the bottom, or you need to adjust the title or add a subtitle or composer and arranger information at the top.

That you will literally open a box, write a code, which gives your text fonts, and then close that up and then start typing.

And is the reason for all this so that it connects to the app or?

No, this was, they invented it this way before they even had an app.

So it’s just simply, yeah, it’s just, it gives you a very clean and very stable in the program, very stable location for everything.

Well, that’s pretty cool, because I don’t know of any company that has their own, you know, super secret notation program that only they use.

Yeah, I’m not aware either.

It was it was invented by one of the founders.

They had to literally code the whole thing out in the late 90s.

They built this program.

And then we have a couple of people in our tech department who are still maintaining it and adding new features to it all the time.

So it’s it’s it’s a great program.

It’s really cool.

And it’s not an AI thing either.

No, not yet anyway, right?

Well, I mean, I’ve always thought that it would be a hard thing.

There’s going to be decisions that have to be made by humans.

Just you know, that’s that’s the big role of the editors is kind of assessing the decisions made by the people who sent it to us, where we agree.

We leave it where we might disagree.

We change it, you know, just and our goal is always to make it as legible as humanly possible.

Well, and I assume that the driving reason behind this is that no matter what notation software composers are using to create the stuff, you can just drop it in and then it all looks the same.

It all looks standard, uniform, you know, whatever.

We can even scan in handwritten stuff.

That’s a little trickier.

You know, that conversion is is is often messy, to say the least.

But, yeah, no, I mean, we primarily most people give us finale files, but Sibelius works, Dorico works, you know, the Muse score, the standard ones.

So it seems to me the company’s sort of sort of a hybrid model, right?

Because you are distributing a lot of music from other publishers, but then you also have your own content that you go out and you assign artists and you and you do that sort of thing.

Yeah, we make our own arrangements, too.

And you make your own arrangements.


So, you know, and and Musicnotes being a digital only company, I mean, that would have been kind of a novelty back in the 90s, right?

But now everybody’s doing it.


I think we were one of the first, if not the first company to kind of like do this.

To be primarily, you know, to be digital.

I mean, everyone had a website, right?

Sort of thing.

But it was a gutsy move, right?

I wonder, though, like, does that change your operating philosophy now that everybody else is moving that direction?

Or does it just mean that you’re ahead of the pack and you already know what you’re doing?

And then and it’s not that big of a shift?

Yeah, I think it kind of does to a point.

I think the like one of the biggest hurdles with it now is like all of the piracy.

That’s so easy to come across now, like online, because beforehand, when you’re the only, you know, company doing that, it’s not like, you know, people are trying to find workarounds.

But now you can I mean, you can pretty much pirate anything online from anywhere.

So that’s one of the things we’ve come across is like, you know, sites popping up, like taking our arrangements or like doing stuff like this, because now we’re not the only one.

So that’s a little tricky because now everyone gets everything digitally.

And then also finding, I think, new ways to like make our product stand out or just kind of like, you know, assure the quality and the effort that goes behind our products, because there’s other, you know, people that are are selling music and every I mean, there’s people selling everything online.

So it’s like now we’re part of this much larger kind of it’s a lot more crowded.

It’s a lot more crowded than it used to be, I think, when it started, because we were kind of the only one.

The piracy issue is interesting because I feel like, you know, ten years ago, we were mostly just concerned about, oh, somebody is not paying for the music or they’re making copies or whatever.

And now it seems like more and more, like you say, there are these websites where people are just grabbing everything and, you know, I don’t know what the term is, but like making these sort of shadow sites where you can go and download whatever.

How does Musicnotes look at that?

Is that like a huge concern?

Is it something that’s annoying?

Is it a big priority?

Like, I guess, how freaked out should I be?

It’s not the scariest thing in the world.

Everything’s going to get ripped off, you know, for every major soda company, there’s some generic soda that tastes similar and it’s got a similar logo in that.

We do work with a company that is primarily there for anti-piracy and they use AI tools now to kind of scour the internet and look for these types of sites and look for specifically places where Musicnotes product might be illegally being sold.

You know, a lot of those are pretty easy to find to be perfectly honest, like we catch those pretty quick.

So there’s always gonna be bootleg versions of what we do but I do think that Musicnotes has a really big customer base, really wide customer base and I think people understand if they’re looking for accuracy, they kind of need to come to us or somebody like us, you know what I mean?

There’s so much stuff out there that’s just flat out inaccurate.

You know what I mean?

It’s somebody trying to, oh, I’m gonna do this without the rights.

I’m gonna transcribe this myself and sell it without the legal right to do so.

And oftentimes somebody who’s gonna go that route probably isn’t that great at the notation anyway.

You know what I mean?

So, and if they’re just doing it on their own notation software and don’t have any kind of standards that they’re trying to adhere to, the product’s just gonna be a lower quality.

So we’re not terribly threatened by that.

You know, like the company’s established, the company knows what it’s doing.

The company has consummate professionals getting the stuff on the site.

So that’s a long-winded answer to a simple question.

We’re not terribly concerned about it.

We pay attention to it.

We fight it wherever we can.

We can’t spend our whole day chasing it.

Otherwise, we’re never gonna get anything done.

Yeah, I think that’s a healthy approach to it.

But I guess for individual composers, I think it maybe hits a little closer to home.

Yeah, of course.

Because the margins aren’t that big for us.

There’s not a ton of money in sheet music.

So somebody stealing from a composer hurts a lot more than somebody stealing from a larger company.

Sure, totally.

We see a lot more of rip-offs of our specific arrangements, Musicnotes arrangements, not necessarily the artists whose stuff we publish.

Yeah, but we do pay attention to it, because obviously we don’t want any of the composers or writers to lose out on anything for these products.

Well, and you kind of alluded to it, but I think that maybe one of the bright spots of AI is that you have more tools to combat this kind of stuff than you did in the past.

I think everyone’s sort of freaking out about the robots being composers, but they can also help in some other aspects of things too.

Very true.

Let’s talk about the Musicnotes app for a little bit.

What’s the main driver behind that?

Who’s using it?

What’s it being used for?

What can it do?

Honestly, we are getting a lot of our business from the app as of late.

People really seem to enjoy it.

In-app purchasing?

Yep, in-app purchasing.

Our entire catalog’s available there, same as on the website.

Anything you wants there, you could store it there.

You can flip through it there, which is really nice.

I assume you’re using it to perform too, right?

Yeah, if you have your own personal library of songs, you’d like to perform, it’s all on the app.

You pull up your iPad and as you need it, it’s all right there in the library.

You can search by title.

Yeah, so it’s actually a very well-functioning, easy to use app.

Yeah, I think because it eliminates the need to print too.

There’s so many musicians now that have a tablet and just use that to perform and mark up music and rehearse with and everything.

So to be able to have that on a mobile platform, you can just kind of have it all in one place.

Are there things composers can do to make their music more app-friendly?

I know that’s kind of a weird question.

No, that’s an interesting question.

But it’s a different medium that you’re, it looks different on a screen than it looks on paper.

I’m wondering if there’s some things that make it more effective.

I don’t know.

I mean, I feel like if you were to have music, if you were to write something and view it on paper, versus on an app, on an iPad or a tablet like that, I don’t know about the actual music, like if you would need to change anything to it here.

But if you were going to submit something intentionally, or pull it up on your own tablet, I feel like the formatting you could just be aware of.

Because if it’s teeny, teeny, tiny, like if you have a bunch of staves on a page, it’s harder to read on a tablet.

So maybe if you’re making lead sheets, or if you’re even just composing actual sheet music, if you want to have it digital at some point, maybe think about the formatting, maybe putting less staves on the page at a time.

But I can’t think of a way for the actual music to be adapted.

I don’t know, what do you think?

Yeah, no, I agree.

And again, the editors oftentimes reformat.

That’s an easy thing to do in Muse as well.

Say you’ve got, again, like too many staves on the page, or too many measures in one staff, or excuse me, on one system.

You can move that around pretty quick and easy.

It’s actually really, really nice.

So that’s another part of what we try to do as editors is make it very, very legible.

Because it looks digital.

It doesn’t look like handwritten music, like we’re used to seeing.

So it’s pretty clear when you see it on the app.

I can’t think of much that somebody could do when they’re submitting something.

I mean, is that when you say, what can a composer do?

You don’t mean like how could they write their music to make it more app friendly, but literally how could they notate their music to make it more app friendly?

Yeah, I mean, I guess the editors, I guess the answer is that the editors are unifying everything anyway.

Yeah, they really are.

But just, you know, the industry as a whole is moving more that direction.

And I think a lot of, I mean, all of us, I think, are still trained on sort of the old models of, you know, this is how many measures should go on a staff, right?

Or this is how thick your lines should be, and you need to have these margins.

You know, there’s this kind of the old way of doing things because everything was printed and people were trying to save ink.

And now, like, a lot of those concerns are not relevant anymore.


Just, I don’t know, something to think about, I guess.

Yeah, no, I think it’s a good question.

And as time goes on, I think more answers will come out to questions like that, you know?

Well, and I also think a lot of that stuff will end up being more customizable.


Like at a certain point, the tablets are gonna be able to change the size or the scale and kind of just.

That’d be really nice.

Blow things up to be what you want it to be as a performer, you know, color coding.

And I mean, you can already sort of do that by marking stuff up.


And you know, we definitely have like zoom in and out options if you need to focus in on one area.

And there is MIDI playback for everything too, or the majority, a good portion of it.

And so you could even mark certain sections that you want to hear in the app.

You could just take, if you’re working on one line, you know, four measures, you could just grab that four measures and that’s all it’ll play for you.

So something we’ve talked a lot about on the podcast in previous episodes is how it’s important for composers to find a niche or a specialty to focus on.

And I would say the same thing is true for companies too.

So I’ll put that to you.

What would you say is Musicnotes specialty?

I would probably say singer pros.

That’s kind of, I don’t know if they exactly invented it, but they perfected it for sure.

And for the uninitiated, what is a singer pro?

A singer pro, it’s similar to a PVG.

But what it does is it actually gives you, think about it like three, it’s three stabs basically.

The top line is gonna be your vocal line.

Above that is gonna be guitar, cymbals at the very least, sometimes actual, the chord shape will be up there as well.

Then, so that’s your vocal slash melody line, whatever instrument you wanna put that on.

Then you get the piano staff.

So right hand, left hand of the piano.

In a PVG, the melody that we already have in there, our top line, oftentimes is in the right hand.

And maybe it’s harmonized or something with some of the actual piano stuff that’s going on in a song or, you know, a counter melody somewhere like that.

We already have our melody in the top line.

So then it’s just the right hand of the piano.

Same thing with the left hand.

And oftentimes the left hand is either left hand of the bass or, excuse me, left hand of the piano or the bass part for a song.

So like as a bass player, I’ve used singer pros to learn bass lines a million times over.

So it’s a proper accompaniment.

Essentially, I mean, I’ve said it a hundred times before, you could give it to everybody in the band and there’s something there that people could figure their part out from.

It’s like one step up from a master rhythm chart.

Essentially, yeah.

And there’s chord symbols on all of those as well, right?


So that’s so helpful.

Yeah, there’s not always chord frames, like guitar frames, but there’s always the symbol.

The symbols, yeah.

And then we also make it available in most keys.

We tend to do three sharps, three flats and see when we’re making our transpositions, just because those are the most commonly used ones.

But if people need a different key, four flats, four sharps, yada, yada, they can request that from us.

Now I want you to go look up the most popular key signatures that you’ve ever sold.

The most popular key signatures?

Like sort your product sales by key signature.

Oh, sure, sure.

A lot of Cs.

C, G, D, B flat would be my guess.

It’s just a guess, but.

But it’s really cool for vocalists, especially, to be able to do that, to be able to have a melody and lyrics written out for you and to be able to specify your key.

Like that’s not always, you know, that’s not common for the vocalist to like get that much information.

And so if you can’t sing something, you know, if it’s completely out of your range, to be able to just, boop, there you go.

Just gonna take it up.

Well, that little shift can make such a difference.

You don’t have to post it either way.

And I did forget to mention that it has the lyrics on it as well.


And we’re talking pop music, right?

Yeah, but no, I mean, we do it, you know, art music too.

We can do it with like an aria or something, you know, if it was just vocal and piano accompaniment.

We do it that way too.

Actually, we’ve been doing a lot more of that kind of stuff because we’ve been getting into the state festival solo and ensemble stuff like that.

And so we’re adding a lot of repertoire there.

So we’ve got singer pros essentially for those too.


So in your work with the Signature Artist Program, you work with a lot of independent composers, independent artists.

Are there things that you’ve seen them doing that you would recommend to others in terms of marketing their music and putting themselves out there?

Like, are there some examples of things you’ve seen that have worked really well?

Because I think that’s the biggest challenge for independent artists right now is just getting their music out.

Well, not even getting it out there, just getting people to pay attention to it.

Right, right, exactly.

You got something or I got something?

Yeah, I mean, I think for our signature artists, our composers, I handle a lot of our YouTube stuff that we have going on.

So we’ll have a product on the site and then there’ll be a little blurb at the bottom where you can see a little thumbnail of a YouTube video linked sometimes where you can then go listen to that product.

So I think if you are composing sheet music, if you can find a way to get even just like a MIDI rendering or just some sort of audio of your piece.

And like, especially, I think some of the more successful artists I’ve seen have videos too, like just of themselves playing it or maybe not all the time depending on what the ensemble is, but like a lot of our pianists and guitarists kind of, we’ll make kind of cover videos of their arrangements that they’re doing.

I think that helps a ton because to be able to promote on like multiple platforms is cool because then people from all over can kind of link that back to the sheet music.

Cause you’ll get probably people that are just finding you on YouTube that see your video and they say, oh, I want to play this.

And they’ll go to Musicnotes to find the arrangement.

And you’ll also get people that are looking for arrangements on Musicnotes that say, I want to play this.

I want to, I wish I could hear it and we’ll find you that way.

So I think having that kind of cross media promoting has been, I’ve seen a lot of people have success from that.

And first, the market, I think is a big one.

So like, for example, like when Beyonce put those two songs after the Superbowl, there were people, the moment those songs were available, they were sitting down, they were transcribing, they were writing their own arrangement, they were getting it recorded and they were getting it on YouTube.

So the next morning when people woke up and they’re like, oh, I want to check out this Beyonce.

Let me Google it, bam, their name’s at the top because they’re one of the first people who got it up there.

So there’s some artists, they do that every week.

You know what I mean?

If a lot of new music comes out Fridays, 11 o’clock, if you’re in Central Time Thursday night, when the stuff drops, they are immediately getting to work on it and they work into the middle of the night and they get it online immediately.

So that will not make up for a lack of something interesting that you’re doing with it.

You still have to do something cool with it, something clever.

But a lot of people make a classical guitar version of a pop music song or a piano solo out of it right away.

And again, so first to market is very helpful.

Putting that aside, do you think the schedule of when you put out music matters much as a closer?

Well, does it matter if the music comes Friday or Tuesday or morning or night or that kind of thing?

Like does it need to, does it help to have a weekly, Monday at 10 is my latest arrangement.

Or do people care?

Yeah, I think regularity does.

I think so.

But again, also if regularity, but choices of popular stuff, stuff that’s actually, darn well people are gonna be looking for it.

Like you don’t wait to find out if it’s gonna be popular, you do it anyway.

You have to kind of have that intuition with it.

But as far as like a day of the week, I can’t say that I’ve found one that seems more popular than another Fridays, just because that’s when new stuff tends to come out is Fridays.

But no, I think it’s whenever it actually does come out.

Beyonce’s thing was on Sunday, Jacob Collier I think has something coming tomorrow.

You know what I mean?

And so people gotta jump on it as soon as it comes out.

So how does one get in the know of when music’s coming out to be able to jump on it, like you say?

Oh, there’s a lot of sites.

I mean, lots and lots of sites.

You still wanna look every day because not everything that gets released makes it to the upcoming sites.

You know what I mean?

But so like, I do it for the new releases that we put out week to week.

So I like to look at Genius is a very good site for that.

You can find lots of stuff.

I look at a lot of soundtrack websites, websites, up and coming websites.

You can look at social media too.

Yeah, social media, a lot of Googling, just a lot of Googling, you know?

And like, look, what’s today?

What’s coming out today?

And if you want to stay up late, you know, at midnight Eastern time, what just released?

Because there might not have been an announcement, there might have been a surprise release, you know?

But yeah, so those are the sites that I tend to use, but it takes lots and lots of research.

Or even if it’s building up to an artist releasing something or they’ve released something semi-recently, but they’re still being talked about a bunch, I think you can probably jump on arranging songs that maybe didn’t even come out recently, but songs of theirs will start to be trending now with just how the internet works and how much it circulates.

So an artist themselves can be trending for a long time and anything by them is probably a good bet for a little small window, depending on if people are talking about them.

So if you don’t know what to do, just write Taylor Swift.

So just write Taylor Swift.

Just forget everything else and yeah, write Taylor Swift.

So do you think music sells better when it’s transformed and inventive and creative, or are people more looking for stuff that sounds like the original, something that’s authentic and true to the record?

I think it depends on who you are as a player, like what you’re, like it because it’s so broad.

Like if you’re trying to, if you’re maybe not a trained musician, but you want to learn an instrument, you’re probably mostly, if you’re not in lessons or something, like classical lessons or jazz lessons, you’re probably gonna look for like the most popular songs and find arrangements of that that you can play.

But if you are looking for something different, maybe you’re super experienced at your instrument.

And if you are into different kinds of music, then maybe you’re looking for something like a twist on a classical piece that you like or something like that.

I think it would just depends on who you are.

Yeah, I think a lot of the, I think it depends on what instrument you’re using.

This is just my personal opinion about it.

So if you’re gonna do a piano arrangement of something, you probably want it to sound pretty close to what the original sounds like.

But we work with a couple of groups, like string trios, you know what I mean?

Like a bass, a violin, and a cello, that arrangement’s gonna get real different than the original, you know what I mean?

But there’s an excitement there.

But also, your target audience is a little bit smaller at that point, you know what I mean?

Because the piano soloist is a huge, huge, huge market, you know what I mean?

But that specific of a string trio, maybe not so much.

So I think it depends a lot on what instrument you’re writing it for too.

Your safe bet is to try and make it sound pretty similar to the original, that’s a safe bet.

Yeah, so what would you recommend to a composer or a songwriter who is not themself an artist?

Because that, I think inherently is harder because you can’t make a video of yourself performing your arrangements, and so it’s a lot harder to get that attention because you don’t have the artist side, like building up the composer side in the same way that, if you’re a viral YouTube pianist, they kind of go hand in hand, right?

But if you’re just a composer, and a lot of us are, like what do you do?

I’d look for a performing partner, but like, yeah, somebody who is a pretty consummate professional at their instrument and try and partner with them, or I would outsource, I would hire people.

People to perform the stuff that I’m doing.

Yeah, I think that’s what I would probably do.

Do you have a thought?

No, that’s probably what I would do also.

I think I’ve done some work even for like people that want their sheet music turned into audio and just like, yeah, created a midi track for them.

So I know there’s people out there that do that.

Even just to have something basic, it might not sound like, you know, the best recording in the world.

But yeah, I think the more you can get it, get it recorded, like something like that, finding a partner, I think that’s a great idea.

Yeah, the example is big.

And you and I talked about this when you were on our podcast recently, where we talked about how you were doing it.

You had the midi for all the instrumentation and then we’re outsourcing for the vocal stuff.

I think that makes perfect sense for what you’re doing.

And you get a nice example from that.

Yeah, like if you’re writing for a larger instrumentation, not everything has to be a live instrument.

Right, exactly.

You can use a combination of real things and virtual instruments and it gets a pretty good result.

Frankly, that’s what a lot of film scores and TV scores are doing.

A lot of that stuff is still in the box, unfortunately.

No, I know what you’re talking about though.

That was actually Jillian and I just released a podcast recently where we talked about that because she did film scoring in college.

Lots of midi involved.

Right, yeah, exactly.

It was surprising how much of the degree turned into…

I mean, you just kind of have to…

If you can get good at making midi renderings of stuff, I think that will help you.

Even if you’re writing arrangements for string quartet or something, if you can get good enough at probably piano to be able to just make just midi renderings or just being able to program it in the computer, I think that’s such a good skill to have now, just to be able to quickly whip up any sort of audio for what you’re composing.

Well, I think that’s why this industry is so hard.

I mean, it kind of sucks.

You have to spend all this time researching.

You have to spend all this time getting good at software.

You also have to find time to write the thing.

And then if you’re also a performer or an artist on top of that, it’s like, you have to make time for recording.

It’s just like, it’s too much sometimes.

I agree.

So I think you’re right.

I think partnering with other people can help just relieve some of that stress because it’s kind of overwhelming to try and do all of that.

And you have to do your own social media and your marketing, your promotion.

We haven’t talked about that yet.

It’s so much.

It can get to be so much.

So are either of you involved with Musicnotes marketing efforts online, the Facebook, the Instagram, the Twitters, or what do we call it now?

The Xs.

I’ve never had a Twitter X account.

That’s the only one I think I’ve never.

Me neither.

I’ve never had one either.

Me neither, but the company does.

Of course.

Well, and the company is killing it.

I mean, relative to, I don’t want to like bad talk anyone, but relative to other publishing companies, like Musicnotes has a really large following on some of these platforms.

And it’s not even a contest.

I get the impression that the publishers clearly have decided, oh, we’re not going to bother with Instagram, right?

Or we’re not going to bother with TikTok, right?

They’ve just made the determination that it’s not going to help their business.

But y’all clearly have.

So can you talk me through that mindset and what your goal is when you get on, when you make a post?

Like what is it that you look for to define a successful social media post?

Engagement, views, and definitely does it lead back to the site, which then in turn leads to a sale.

You know what I mean?

It doesn’t always have to because brand awareness is a big, big part of it.

You know, if people don’t know your company even exists, you know, how are you supposed to get traffic to your site in the first place?

But those are the things I would call success, I think.

Yeah, I think like with our company, we have such a wide audience of different musicians.

So I think social media we’ve found useful in connecting with like a broader spectrum of people, because recently, we’ve kind of been vamping up our social media and like Lucas and I have created different covers of songs and play along videos and kind of like things that people can hopefully engage with more than just like a text post or something.

But then we also have like, you know, funny music memes and stuff like that.

But then we also have like, really awesome classical music tips that we post.

So I think it helps us to continue to engage with all of the different, like vastly different musicians that are probably, you know, our customers.

And so I think that’s the hope is to be able to continue that engagement using social media, because that’s just kind of the way of the world these days.

But yeah, it’s kind of where you market.

Yeah, it’s kind of where we’re going to buy billboards and, you know, CBS commercials or something, you know, I mean, it’s just not on the receipt at the bottom of CBS.

Yeah, it just I think those things are became archaic, you know, it’s simultaneously cool and stressful because you want to keep up with it.

And it’s like the way to market.

And so it can get stressful when you’re just constantly looking at views and engagement and oh, is this working?

Is this not working?

But then it’s also cool just because of the amount of content that can be consumed now with social media.

And that is instantaneous.

Like if we have a song release, we can post it in two minutes and it gets out to everyone that’s following.

So yeah, and it gives us a chance to be creative.

You know, Jillian and I fundamentally are performers.

That’s kind of what we always I don’t do it so much anymore, but she does.

It gives us a chance to go, OK, now we don’t just have to come up with a cool arrangement or something of what we’re going to play.

But we can also think about what we’re going to do with the lighting and what part of the office we’re going to use and how we want to actually mix it.

You know, we could because we could we can mix it and make it sound very raw and, you know, very, very apparent.

And it’s just in the room and it’s one mic and it’s like that.

Or we can we can go all out and make it sound more electronic and more heavy.

So that that part’s really cool.

But it is, like she said, a lot to keep up with.

So now we also have to learn lighting is what you’re saying.

Oh, my God.

Yeah, you’ve seen our lighting set up.

I mean, we’re not messing around like we’re we’re hitting it from every angle.

But this is the thing like it’s hard to know where to put your efforts.

Yeah, I have tried various things on social media.

You know, it feels important to do right.

It feels like you need to have a presence.

But I don’t know that I can trace any of my sales to a specific, you know, like set of social media posts.



Like, I don’t think people are dropping everything to buy my latest release just because they saw it on Instagram.

What I’ve observed, I’m curious to get your take on this.

But what I’ve observed is that musicians don’t really care about the marketing gimmicks, you know, because a piece of sheet music, it’s only five bucks.

You know, so like a 25 percent off sale is not like a huge draw when you’re talking in such small amounts, right?


And so I kind of get the impression that musicians, they’re going to buy stuff when they buy it, and that social media is mostly for the brand awareness, just mostly knowing that you exist so that when the time comes, they think of you.


Yes, but I also think that it gives us an opportunity to inspire.

So musicians are going to buy something when they’re inspired to play something.

So we get to use our social media.

Maybe there’s a song they didn’t know about or a song that they heard, and they’re like, oh, well, that wouldn’t sound good on my instrument.

But then we play it on their instrument for them.

You know what I mean?

Or one of our signature artists does, and we share that.

I think that, I know that’s a big goal of what we’re doing, particularly with the podcast, is the intention is to inspire people to want to play this stuff, or even just inspire them to want to read in the first place, to want to learn how to process notation and make something out of it.

I think that’s really insightful, actually, because I think musicians are easily turned off when they are being marketed to.

And so that mindset of inspiring, I think, is really valuable.

Yeah, we’re not trying to gimmick people.

Like you said, it’s a sheet music publisher.

We’re not selling medicine.

You’re not going to trick an oboe player into buying a piece for cello.

You know what I mean?

It’s not like you could post a thousand memes, and that’s not going to change their instrument or what they play.

Right, exactly.

Yeah, no, the memes, if we put them up, it’s because silly music jokes.

We’ve all been to music school and we all make the same silly, dorky jokes.

You know, we do a lot of that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I think it’s kind of like as silly as it is, though, it kind of curates community a little bit just between musicians.

Because, I mean, our audience is super, I mean, it’s super niche.

It’s people that read music or are wanting to read music, right, so that are buying digital sheet music.

So we all, I think everyone, a large part of our audience gets that banter.

And so there’s, I mean, we get a lot of engagement and comments joking around.

And so how do you find that niche?

How do you lock in on that?

Because I think that’s the hardest part about social media is everybody loves music.

You post a funny music meme, everybody likes it, but none of them play, you know, so that doesn’t help you as a composer trying to sell music.

So how do you, how do you find your people?

You mean as a, like as a composer, just posting on like your own?

Yeah, or how do you do it at Musicnotes?

Either way, well, you got to take what you compose, whether it be genre or for a certain instrumentation, something like that, and then figure out where the audience that’s going to buy something like that, like you with the, oh my gosh, you know what you do.

Glee, you know what you do, you know, my brain locked up there for a second.

You wish show choir.

I mean, who’s your audience that you’re going to, you’re going to try and pinpoint?

Show choir, you know what I mean, college, high school, middle school, whatever.

So maybe you try to post some show choir memes.


Yeah, well, you’ve got it.

You’re going to have a gold mine with all the, yeah, all the glee stuff.

Yeah, there’s got to be a lot of memes.

But OK, so me like, say I’m writing a hip, hip jazz based ensemble and it’s based around what the bass player is doing.

That’s a little bitty little market, but I at least kind of know who I’m going for.

You know, right.

So I think, I think, yeah, be it getting the message to them is where things get tricky.

But pinpointing the audience is step one.

Yeah, if you can, it’s really easy, I think, to come off gimmicky even to a small audience.

So I think we try to be like really just as genuine as we can be.

Like we make, you know, like performance, promotional videos and things like that to like Lucas said, like to inspire.

But also because like we like to do it like it’s it’s fun.

And we want to, I think, show people that we’re just we’re just like them.

Like we’re also musicians.

We also love music, obviously.

And we work here.

We love the company.

We want we don’t want sheet music to die.

We want it to stay alive.


I’m the only one who thinks it can.

One vertical video at a time.

Yeah, one vertical, really.

I hear people say that a lot.

I think I’m the only one who thinks it could never die.

I don’t I don’t think it can.

How could it die?

I just can’t.

I don’t think so.

It’s a language like any other any other written language.

Like it’s not going to go anywhere.

I mean, welcome to Nashville.

So many people play that don’t read music.

I mean, there is that potential that that and I don’t want to, again, I don’t want to bad mouth any of those guys, but I think more and more people are just learning to play by ear, you know, and they’re not relying on that notation.

You think more than historically?

I think so because there’s so many more tools now that can help you.

You know, you could play along to things in an app or you could, you know, get into a DAW and look at the MIDI or I don’t know.

I mean, there’s different ways of learning now besides just recognizing chord symbols or notation.

Right, sure.

And I don’t know that that’s, I wouldn’t call it a threat to the industry, you know, but it’s certainly changing how we do what we do.

I mean, I think technology is becoming such a big part of the sheet music industry.


And I just wonder if the music will stay, but the sheet part of it will go away.

Wait, I’m sorry, you mean that the notation will stay, but it won’t be on a piece of printed paper?

Or just no notation at all.

Just like here’s the-

That’s the part I don’t see happening.

I mean, I hope you’re right.


Well, okay.

So these people that don’t read, what do they play?

I mean, here, it’s a lot of guitar, piano, voice, but that’s all the things that sell sheet music.

Those are the top three sellers, piano, voice, guitar.

Sure, but guitar is a good example of, so many guitar players never learn to read.

You can play guitar without having to learn to read.

Playing piano without learning to read, that’s a bigger venture, not to say you can’t do it, but it is a bigger venture.

But let’s also now let’s go a step further.

What genres do they play?

Well, I don’t know.

I’m a nerd.

I play the trombone.

This is not putting anything on a hierarchy, but I would argue probably pop, popular music.

No, I think you’re probably right.

Popular music, you probably don’t really need reading chops necessarily to play a lot of it.

But isn’t that also what sells the most, is pop music, arrangements of popular songs?

Uh, not necessarily, no.

No, art music sells.

I mean, look at Hal Leonard, look at JW.

Pepper, look at Alfred.


They have some pop music, but these are almost 100 year old companies.

You know, they roll art music.

You know what I mean?


And if notation died, all art music is gone.

You might have recordings of it, but nobody’s gonna learn how to play a symphony by ear.

It’s too long.

See what I’m saying?

Yeah, exactly.

It’s just not gonna happen.

Yeah, also every other instrument, but like piano and guitar, like every orchestral instrument, you have to have notation.

I don’t think it would get to the point where like the trumpet players have to like pick out their part in the symphony like by ear.

It’s not to say that doing it by ear is bad.


Look at riff players in Kansas City, the Jazz Cats and stuff.

I mean, none of them read anything.

They just had a series of riffs that they knew and they could work off of those.

It’s always got its place, but the idea that notation could be pushed out for that, that’s the part I struggle with.

That’s the part I struggle to believe.

And I tend to agree with you.

I’m just pushing the point for an interesting discussion.

No, I like the conversation, yeah.

Because there’s all these, I’m starting to see more and more of these AI things too, where it’s like you play along and it like yells at you if you make a mistake, you know?

And it listens to what you’re doing and you have to like play along with it and match it.

I think it’s still notated, but I could see a world where there’s more and more of these kinds of different ways of learning music that are created.

And I don’t know, maybe up ends everything.

We’ll find out, I guess.

I heard it put a really good way by a bass player, of course, but he was saying, you can learn to speak English without knowing how to read and write.

You can do that with any language, but you sure are a whole lot smarter because you do know how to read and write.

You know what I mean?

And so the value of that in music, I just don’t see it.

I just can’t see how I could fade away because of how deep it enables people to be innovative.

Everyone take a moment and think about how amazing that was.

But I don’t want to blow past that, but what I want to know is like, are we selling more sheet music today than we were 50 years ago?

Like per capita, you know?

Like the health of the industry.

And it’s hard to know that because people aren’t super public with those statistics.

But it’s kind of one of those things where like, like you were saying, if we want more people to be buying sheet music, then we need more people to be reading it and writing it and using it, you know?

And so it’s a long-term play, I guess.

I don’t know, do you have any sense of just the health of the industry and how it’s doing?

I kind of had the impression, I hate to bring up COVID, but I kind of had the impression that before COVID, everybody was just going gangbusters, you know?

And the sheet music industry, they were just selling tons of music, and then everything fell apart, and we’re still trying to kind of claw our way back from that.

And maybe since you were already digital only, you had a better time with that.

Did anybody go out of business during that era?

Any sheet music publishers go out of business at that time?

A lot of smaller ones did.

But again, the big major players, none of them did.

You know, the only thing that I heard of was how Leonard was bought.


But it wasn’t because they were about to go under that I believe.

It just it was a deal that made sense to them.

I agree, though.

I could see I can see how it got harder, though, for composers.

And like, oh, yeah.

And especially like because I was in I was studying music during COVID.

And I was in all these ensembles.

And then when COVID hit.


You couldn’t do them.

We couldn’t do them anymore.

So it’s not we weren’t even meeting for like my weekly jazz choir, you know, like we were.

So we weren’t learning music like we were before.

So I definitely think that the music world is still recovering.

And especially like in education and like the composers and arrangers.

I totally think it’s not back to normal.

I agree.

I don’t think it’s like how it used to be.

And I don’t know where that recovery is going to go.

But yeah, I think that just kind of threw everyone for a loop.

I would say I think most industries during COVID, though, had a similar kind of trajectory going on, like how many restaurants closed that are still trying to come back.

I mean, you’re kind of hard pressed to find an industry that’s not a disaster right now.

And so I don’t know that the effects that our industry saw from COVID are any more indicative of a failing or dying industry than the fact that cars are so expensive now.

You know what I mean?

Like automotive industry ain’t going anywhere.

But it sure does cost a whole heck of a lot more than it did five, six years ago to get yourself to use car.

But our company was growing very, very quickly at that time.

And yeah, COVID put the kibosh on some of that.

But we’re not exactly going under here.

You know what I mean?

The car is still doing really well.

We still sell more sheet music than you can shake a stick at.

And think about that for a second too.

We’re talking a piece of sheet music at five bucks a pop.

We have so many customers.

You know what I mean?

This isn’t like, again, like a car dealer who sells 500 cars in a month.

You know what I mean?

We sell 500 pieces of sheet music since we’ve been on this podcast.

You know what I mean?

So there’s people buying it.

There’s people still out there going for it.

I think the point, it sounded like you were alluding to the point that maybe people are not as many people learning to read music nowadays, which I totally think is a pretty fair point.

You know what I mean?

The computer can do a lot for you.

I mean, I think that’s a bigger risk to the industry than anything else.

It’s just if music literacy, if that goes away, then we’re toast.


Man, I just feel we are far away from that.

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that have to fall out before that could happen.

I believe it is a trend, and I believe that the general public may have less of an appreciation than they once did because mass media doesn’t really promote art music, you know, at the risk of saying something controversial.

How dare you?

Honestly, how well was I thinking?

No, I think that’s it.

Yeah, it’s important to just continue to promote education, so that that never would become a risk, because I think, yeah, it’s still super important in funding music programs in schools, and I know that’s always been an issue.

But so long as we can keep hammering down how important education is, I think, I think there’s already such a massive, you know, spectrum of musicians that know that’s the case.

So I don’t think it’s, yeah, like you were saying, I don’t think it’s indicative of, you know, a dying industry or anything like that.

Well, people can’t help it.

I mean, music’s cool.

I know.

It’s just so good.

And again, it’s just the best way to document it.

Obviously, audio recording, you know, what are we doing?

Where the documentation is representative of the sound.

But I mean, music is the universal language, they say.

And then music notation is like a universal written language.


Really cool.


So super accessible, too.

Well, this has been really fun.

I don’t want to take your whole day.

Although we kind of do want to take your whole day.

No, but before we go, talk more about your podcast.


So we’re super excited.

So it’s called Behind the Notes.

We have how many episodes out?

Do we have that now?

And guess what our fourth one is going to be?

What is it?

Well, the guy’s name starts with a G and ends with another term for a light wind.


Yeah, we’re going to have Garrett’s coming out here soon.

But yeah, no, it’s awesome.

We talk about a lot of things, music, you know, interviews with people just across the entire industry.

And it’s been really fun so far.

And yeah, we’re excited to see where it goes.

And it’s another thing where, you know, our real goal is inspire people to want to learn to read music and help people to understand you can make a living as a musician.

I personally have gotten, since COVID particularly, gotten real, I feel like there’s a message out there like music, what you’re going to go study music and try and make a job out of music.

That’s crazy, why would you blah, blah, blah, blah.

And yet I’ve met a million people in my life making money off of music.

You know, so it’s there, it’s there.

And we want to, that’s a real goal of what we’re trying to do, is to let people know that there is something there and then go in depth with the guests that we have on what they actually do and how they got to that point and show people that this is a job, this is a viable job.

It’s been a viable job since, you know, came and were banging on rocks.

You know what I mean?

Like, it still exists.

And so, that’s a big part of the podcast.

And then another part is I just like meeting musicians from all over the industry, you know, doing different things.

And Lucas is an awesome host.

Oh, thank you.

Jillian is a great host.

So, Jillian, the way we’re doing it is we’re doing bi-weekly.

We’re doing me and a guest.

And then the secondary one is always going to be Jillian and I.

So, we just had her first episode come out.

And then, so the Jillian and I podcasts are going to be giving insights into Musicnotes as a company.

And then also, we want to start breaking down songs, like theoretically and orally, and figuring out different ways to learn the songs, different ways to teach the songs, different interesting concepts or the history of the composers or the histories of the performers, things like that.

So, those will be a little more like educational storytelling style.

And when do new episodes drop?

What day?

Mondays every two weeks.

We thought about doing it like the first and the fifteenth, and we were just like, yeah, we’re just going to do it bi-weekly because the math doesn’t line up there.

But yeah, so every two weeks.

So our next one’s coming out.

What’s Monday?

March 6th?

It’s already March 6th.

Well, this episode is probably not going to be out by then.

It might be the fourth.

Yeah, you’re right.

The first is on Friday.

So it’s the fourth, March 4th.

Well, yeah, that will already be out by the time people listen to this.

Yeah, I figured.


But yeah, just every other Monday, just every other Monday, check your music notes.

Music notes Mondays.

Yeah, music notes Mondays.

And I assume the podcasts are on all the things.


So we’re on Google Podcasts now.

Oh, no, Apple was the one we were struggling with.

We are on Apple Podcasts now.

We’re also on Google Podcasts.

And then we are doing clips and reels from the different episodes.

So those are on YouTube as well as full audio on YouTube as well.

And Spotify.

And Spotify, yes.

But yeah, just look up Musicnotes, Behind the Notes.

You’ll find it.

Well, thanks, guys.

This has been really fun.

Any parting words of wisdom you want to leave before you go?

Practice, play, perform.

Oh, dang.

That’s a mic drop.

No, seriously, I was going to say don’t eat chocolate after 11 or something.

That’s the best I got there.

Don’t think sheet music is dying.

I will argue against it firmly.


Thanks for having us, Garrett.

No, thank you.

This is really fun.


Let’s get some lunch.