Commissioning New Music for Choir – FAQs

Commissioning Music for Choir - Michael John Trotta

We surveyed over 50 choir directors to find out what they wanted to know about the commissioning process. Among the many questions, the following is a list of the top three responses, in order of importance.

Top three things choir directors want to know about commissioning new music for their choir:

  1. What is involved in the process?
  2. How will the composer interact with me and my choir?
  3. What resources do I need to take part in a commission?

The following includes additional questions that were not in the top three, but still important points to clarify.

You can check out the original blog post here.

FAQs:

How much input do I get into the creative process?
Collaboration is at the heart and soul of all that we do as musicians. Consequently, the process begins with your input. First, you have a consultation with the composer. Next, you fill out a questionnaire that considers critical parts of your vision. Then, every step along the way you work with the composer to ensure a product that meets your needs.

How long does it take to get a commission completed?
Although this varies with the size of the project, it can be a few months to several years. Plan early to secure the time and project of your choice.

How much does it change the cost to add instrumentation/orchestration?
Price is a function of the length of the music and the forces needed. There is a scale for adding instruments based on the number of instruments. In general, this can add 50% more to the cost of a project. Learn more about what goes into the cost of a commission.

What if I do not like the piece of music you write for me?
The collaboration process includes many things so that this does not happen. When considering a composer for a commission, listen to many of their works. As part of the collaboration process, you will have an opportunity to request your preferred style and level of difficultly, so the work written is tailored to the needs of your group.

How am I guaranteed that you will finish the work?
To date, I have finished over 100 commissioned works, each one delivered on time or early. Additionally, there is language in the agreement that states, if for some reason the work is not completed, you will receive your money back.

Why do commissions cost so much?
The majority of the cost for a commission goes to pay taxes and business costs. If cost is an issue, consider partnering with another group or groups, creating new resources, or scaling your project over a few years. The intake process for new commissions will help reveal what is most important to your group and help you design ways to make it a reality. Learn more about what goes into the cost of a commission.

Will you come to the premiere?
If composers could, they would try to make every performance of every piece they write. In actuality, this is more a function of the schedule and availability of the composer. If you would like the composer at your premiere, consider booking a formal appearance as part of your commission. Learn more about various ways of interacting with the composer. 

Will the music be published?
Whether or not the music is published is a function of the editorial staff of the various publishers, when the piece is written, the level of difficulty, the availability of a high-quality recording, as well as the potential for the piece to meet the needs of other ensembles.

Do I get to keep the rights to the music?
Each choir has, as part of the commission, the right to copy the music for their ensemble. Beyond that, ownership of the music remains with the composer.

Can I send copies of the music to my friends and colleagues?
The right to reproduce music is limited to the choir for which it was written. Please do not send copies to friends or colleagues. If you would like a certain number of printed copies as gifts for donors and administrators, you can request that from the composer. Depending on the number of copies, these may be available at little or no cost to you.

How is the music delivered?
Vocal scores are delivered via PDF. Conductor’s scores and parts are delivered as printed copies.

Do I get to choose my text?/Can we use original poetry?
Best practice is to choose a text that is in the Public Domain. Using texts of living poets, someone you know, or copyrighted texts, results in the need for additional clearances and permissions, and may require additional fees. The easiest option is to select a text that is public domain in consultation with the composer.

How is the piece you write for my choir different from the music you have already written?
This is a function of what is most important to you. Clients sometimes request that a piece be written “in a style similar to _________” or sometimes they want something in an entirely different style. The collaboration at the beginning of the process is an important part of getting everyone on the same page.

What do you charge for a new piece of music?
A standard rule of thumb as a point of departure is $1,000/minute for a piece of music that is a cappella or with piano accompaniment. This does not include fees for engraving, orchestration, or appearances by the composer, and is subject to change based on the availability of the composer. Learn more about what goes into the cost of a commission.

How will you interact with the choir during the process?
Collaboration is important at every step of the process. From the initial vision to the final performance and recording, the composer is available to connect with you, the choir, and the audience to create a work that fulfills your vision. Learn more about various ways of interacting with the composer. 

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  • Benefits of Commissioning New Music – Detail
  • Complete detail of the Process
  • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
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