It's quite easy now to order most products through online retailers but for some reason, sheet music has been holding on tightly to its traditional channels.
Well, here’s something that will make you take note (sorry) – downloadable sheet music. I imagine there are all sorts of legal and copyright reasons that this has taken a little while to take off. It’s odd really, when we look at the firm foothold downloadable e-books have had for a decade, to the point where we can now buy purpose-built hardware to read them on. Maybe it’s something to do with the music publishing industry, which can sometimes appear heavy-handed when it comes to protecting copyright and collecting royalties. The book publishing industry has been around for much longer, and although it relies on copyright in an similar manner, it has a more mature attitude to its products, especially in non-commercial use; a simple acknowledgement will stave off most litigation.
Anyway, to get to the point … There I was, entertaining some friends one Saturday night, and somehow the topic of conversation got onto Scott Joplin. Next thing we knew we had embarked on a wine-fuelled argument about the name of a certain piece of music, which split the group into two factions (while remaining amiable). Although I have a keyboard and quite a large music collection, my J file was limited to a bit of Janacek and a misplaced JS Bach piece. The argument unresolved, I turned to the internet.
This is when I came across the miracle of online sheet music that’s totally legit and instant. I found an online supplier of sheet music (and instantly bookmarked it) and put the two titles in contention, Maple Leaf Rag and Fig Leaf Rag into my basket (the “Leaf Rag” part was all we could agree on). After paying I was informed that I would have five days to print out the music, which seems fair enough (so just make sure you don’t order it when you’re on holiday or otherwise unable to print).
Then I sat at my stool, theatrically cracked my fingers and started to bang out the addictive ragtime rhythms – and settle the debate once and for all. I won’t embarrass my guests by saying that my faction was right. That would be an entertaining faux-pas, and I simply refuse to do it.
The next day I revisited the site and found an amazing array of music across all genres. The ability to search by artists, genre, era, title and other options makes finding exactly what you want very quick and easy – a revelation in fact compared to browsing paper-based options in a store. In case you haven’t already gathered, I’m completely in favour of this superb way of selling sheet music. I don’t see it as a threat to the traditional printers as you could never recreate the romance and legacy of the medium from your desktop printer, but as a means of study, reference, archive and calming down dining guests, it’s well worth checking out.