7 Reasons Why Purchasing Most Choral Sheet Music Is Ridiculous

The process of purchasing choral sheet music is antiquated and in serious need of an overhaul. As awful as it is, I do have to admit, it’s even worse for band and orchestral directors. Since my readers are choral directors, this post will stick to the lunacy of choral sheet music purchasing. Let me start with this statement:


The current way of ordering copies of choral sheet music for your ensemble makes absolutely no sense.

Maybe it did 30 years ago, but it doesn’t now. If we want choral directors to do the right thing when it comes to purchasing music, the industry needs to make serious changes in their approach!

Here are 7 reasons why the process of ordering choral sheet music for your ensemble makes absolutely no sense:


1. You usually don’t know the size of your group at the time of ordering choral sheet music

So what do we do? We may also have a piece in our choral library ready to use, but when the first day arrives, we find we have a few more students than expected.  If we have the budget, some of us over order just to ensure we have enough copies. Others illegally photocopy to fill the void. Some illegally photocopy until they have the means to order new copies. This also includes the delay in being able to receive extra copies as well.

2. Perhaps ensemble members may need more than one copy

If we really want students to score-study, maybe they want more than one copy. Maybe they want a copy at home and one at school. Maybe we want them to color-code their music, which essentially makes that copy unusable for the next person. Another example could be an accompanist who, rather than turning pages, wants multiple copies that are spread out. The number of group members may not equal the exact number of copies needed.


3. Your choral sheet music budget doesn’t necessarily increase in line with the growth of your program

As you gain success and have increased enrollment, your fixed budget means you must order less copies. Yes, if you have a community ensemble where members pay independently to purchase their own music, this isn’t an issue. But if you work for a school, you feel the choral sheet music budget crunch with every added member.

4. Choral sheet music wear and tear is a scam

It’s paper. If we purchased it, we should be allowed to photocopy it. Assuming we have 60 students and purchased 60 copies, we should not fret because 4 copies need to be replaced.


5. The role of digitizing purchased copies of choral sheet music

Some teachers and/or students choose to put their printed music on Ipads, chromebooks, or phones. This is all technically illegal. But why?


6. When choir members don’t read what the composer “rote”

A little tongue in cheek here. I believe there is a benefit to teaching some music by rote. In fact, I teach my two Hanukkah arrangements, Dreidel and Oh Hanukkah, every year and Siyahamba by rote. Now, I happened to arrange them, but what if I purchased them? Should I only buy one copy? Why do I have to store music that I’ll never hand out? On the flip side, why should I be allowed to keep my music in pristine shape while “using” the contents of it, year after year, when another director buys the same music and may wear it out in just one year?


7. The Confusion on borrowing choral sheet music

Some say yes….some say no. What if one high school sings a song and then “lends” all of the copies to another school: is that ok? They are all legal copies, right? This is an example of how these “legal” copies can become a detriment to the publisher and composer, which is why many are hoping for replacement due to wear and tear.

Here’s my solution to the Choral Sheet Music Crisis:

I must confess, while I’ve had this same solution for 15+ years, I only had the courage to sell my own choral music this way recently. Several independent composers have already been doing this, but I believe this is what our entire industry should be doing.

The solution is really simple.

THE SOLUTION: Sell digital choral sheet music and charge one price for the ensemble

As a composer/self-publisher, I was scared that if choral directors initially saw prices were significantly higher than $2.50, they would never want to purchase my music; this is because they would be unaware of the one-price for the entire ensemble at first view.  The reality is that, in most cases, a fixed price will save an honest choral director money; the choral director who (illegally) chooses to order the bare minimum number of copies allowed on a website will likely see sticker shock on a more reasonable one-price per ensemble.


Doesn’t the size of the group matter?

The long and short of it is NO. What may matter is the type of ensemble. I believe a festival choir or professional choir could pay a different price than a school or community choir. But in the end, my choir of 40 should pay the same price as your choir of 100. When sheet music is torn, we can then photocopy it. When sheet music is  lost, we can then photocopy it. If a new student joins, we can make a new photocopy. We can have a extra copies around with music is lost. We would then be able to  legally put the sheet music on google classroom as well as teach students how to score study on a separate copy, etc.

In terms of one-price pricing, the price itself should be up to the publisher. I have decided on selling all of my choral music between $19.99 and $39.99 for full usage. I can charge this low price because I own my own music and don’t have printing or shipping costs.


The benefits of one-price for the entire group


Aside for righting all of the wrongs listed above, there are additional benefits:

First off, as the choral director, we will always feel like we did the right thing. I can tell you that up until recently, I had a 15 copy minimum on my website. It’s amazing that 90% of the orders received were from choirs that had 15 members. While this is possible, I also think it’s likely that choral directors felt that since they were going to photocopy anyway, they didn’t want to pay for additional copies, since it was their paper and ink.

Second, I’m tired of seeing both “guilt-induced” and “threatening” comments on sheet music websites and on sheet music itself. The comments range from “federal offense” to “please, please, please don’t photocopy, as you affect the livelihood of composer”. Don’t get me wrong, I understand what they are saying. But I also think this is happening because this industry has not adapted to new technology. Look at how Napster disrupted the music industry, followed by the Ipod and Itunes.

Lastly, borrowing can be prohibited with no gray area. I purchased a piece of music for my high school choir. Now, another high school wants it. They do not have the right to use it. It’s mine. It’s licensed to my ensemble.  Frankly, I believe the publishers should have the right to know who they licensed the music to. It’s no different than a Sight Reading Factory subscription or downloading an music app on our phone. We bought it for our ensemble.



How’s that for a sales pitch? In all seriousness, there’s lots of great music out there. Now, finding the right music it is often a challenge because there’s way too much out there and nobody has the time to find it all.

If you are looking for ways to find choral music, check out this blog:

9 Ways to Find Choral Repertoire for High School

What makes my music unique is that just about all of my arrangements and compositions are a-cappella, yet they are written for self-selected choirs. As a high school choral director who accepts all students into my choir, I enjoy writing for my own ensemble; I understand what a typical high school or community choir member can sing well. This includes an understanding of range, tessitura, leaps, and musical repetition. My compositions and arrangements  sound full and complex, but they are all written with 20+ years of being in the “trenches”. By the way, I still love what I do!

Here are some works I recommend and hope you will take a look at:

1. 5 Holiday Rounds

These rounds encompass all of these holidays. They also tackle unique diction issues. You could then hear all of rounds and learn about each of them.

  1. 9/11
  2. Halloween
  3. Thanksgiving
  4. Pearl Harbor Day
  5. Christmas
  6. Hanukkah
  7. Kwanzaa
  8. New Year’s Eve
  9. Valentine’s Day
  10. Memorial Day

2. Star-Spangled Banner (SAB) and (SSA)

These two arrangements are the best sellers on my website. They are straight-forward and work in virtually all settings. The SAB version is the biggest seller because it can be successfully sung just as an SSA arrangement. Both are traditional and patriotic. Choral rehearsal tracks are available as well!


3. Simple Gifts (SAB) – also available for (SSA) and (SA)

These arrangements are simple, beautiful, and feel both authentic and patriotic. I wrote them for a Thanksgiving interfaith ceremony. The SAB version also has choral rehearsal tracks available.


4. Two Hanukkah Arrangements

a) Dreidel (SATB)

This is a total crowd-pleaser and it is easy to learn. I teach this by rote every year, so you many end up using just 1 copy…..

b) Oh Hanukkah (SSA – accompanied)

I teach this by rote every year. I first wrote it for a middle school mixed chorus (SAB) and then modified it for treble voices about 15 years ago. There’s essentially 3 simple melodies to this song that are passed around. It can be taught in 10-15 minutes. Oh, and it has a really cool piano part!

5. I’d like to save you lots of time and list my best sellers for Mixed and Treble Choirs:

Mixed Choir:

a) Peace (SATB)

I worked hard to set Sara Teasdale’s beautiful poem in a meaningful way. If you don’t like the first 15 seconds, it’s not for you. It is attainable for an average high school ensemble, and can sound glorious when sung by a select or college ensemble. Choral rehearsal tracks are available as well.

b) The Road Not Taken (SATB)

This Robert Frost poem is set beautifully with lots of beautiful pauses to enjoy the scenery on the path.  Check out the video where you can see the sheet music and listen.

c. Answer Me When I Call (Psalm 4) – (SATB)

This piece is fully diatonic and almost everyone is singing the same rhythm at the same time. It is perfect piece for sight-singing and has a meaningful text.

Treble Choir

a) Beauty Shines (SSAA)

This is a song about empowerment. We are more than our external beauty. Beauty shines within all of us and we need to bring that out. I have an arrangement for SATB that will be coming out soon. Contact me if you are interested!

b) Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (SSAA)

This Robert Frost poem is classic. I think this a-cappella composition captures the essence of the scene.

c) Oseh Shalom – SSAA

As a Jewish composer, this text spoke to me. I believe we should truly be calling for peace right now in the middle east and around the world. There is an SA arrangement as well that is equally beautiful.