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Horn transcriptions: fees and contracts?


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Hello all, the disco/funk band I play with wants to add sax/trumpet to their line-up. I mentioned that I have arranged/transcribed for horns with another outfit I've been in for a long time, but for this disco/funk band I would want to "work something out" commercially that leaves everyone knowing where they stand. I'm not really a full-time member (although I'm first-call for keys, I'm not always available), so I wanted the horn-arrangement deal to be completely independent from my participation as a muso.


I found this thread which gives me an indication of what to charge. But I'm interested in any advice on the contractual/agreement I should reach with the band:

- Formats in which charts are provided (PDF. MIDI file? Sibelius file?)

- What is the pricing metric? Time & Materials (per hour worked)? Per page?

- Should I offer a "snagging" period? (In the UK that term refers to a period of time after building work during which any faults are rectified free of charge). That would allow me to correct missing accidentals, add required cues etc.

- How could I ensure that "snagging" is not exploited ("There's a problem with this chart - we want to medley into another song, and you need to chart that one as well" being an extreme example)

- Ownership - would I retain ownership, and simply licence them to the band? If so, who is the licencee? I'm not sure the band has a legal or trading entity of any kind.


I want to ensure everyone is satisfied, and I don't want to destroy the relationship I have with the band as a muso. As usual, this forum is a vitally useful resource for me, I'm hoping you folk can come up with the goods again this time.


Thanks all,


Cheers, Mike.

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I don't have all the answers you need but I've done a fair bit of pro bono arranging so might be able to give you something useful. So:


- Stick to PDFs for the charts you provide. They're pretty universal and you don't get problems with other people trying to "fix" your charts and then having to fix whatever horrible things they've done to your files. It gives you a bit of job security but it does mean that any changes *have* to come through you - which may be more work than you bargained for. If you're "leaving" the job as it were, by all means hand over the MIDI/Sibelius files.

- Per hour is kind of a difficult metric when the person paying doesn't have a good oversight of what you're spending that hour doing. A better way would be to charge by the bar (if you're arranging from a lead sheet) or by the minute (if you're transcribing a recording). The customer has a much better idea of what they're getting for their money. Obviously you have to work out your average work rate to work out your per-bar/per-minute rate from the hourly rate in the other thread. For example when I was doing a lot of arranging for a 17-piece big band from recordings of pop/show tunes my rule of thumb was 1 minute of recorded music per hour.

- Yes, absolutely. There are always going to be things that you miss.

- Have a definition of what a snag is. It's going to depend on the material and the arrangement but something like "rewriting more than 4 bars of music (regardless of where they are)" is a change, less than or equal to 4 bars is a snag. That caters for errors such as cutting and pasting the wrong chord into multiple places, or using a different chord voicing in one bar over four instruments, or writing in a 4 bar cue line into one part. If you're working with big groups, up it to 8 bars in case you have to fix the same issue in several places.

- This is where my knowledge falls down a bit! I'm pretty good with royalties for recorded music but not for sheet music. If you're on Facebook there's a group for Independent Sheet Music Publishers which may be useful (if rather US-centric).


Good luck!

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From what I see out here, $10 per song is a fair price. Typically provided are Bb, Eb and concert charts. This seems more fair to the customer for them to understand and quantify. You may end up losing on the complex tunes, but you'll make it up on the simple ones.


Stick to nothing but PDF.


I wouldn't offer a 'snagging' period. Either your stuff is quality and plays great, or don't sell it.


If they buy it, they'll reasonably expect they own it. While you can request / insist they are the only legal users (or maybe go to the extreme of "you're only buying exclusive usage rights, dammit!") the reality is once someone has a PDF don't be surprised to find them floating around eventually in every other local band with horns. No one respects digital ownership anymore.


So plaster every page with your name, website, contact address, phone number, whatever. It will eventually lead to more work for you.


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Appreciate your input Tim. I agree that once I release the charts, they will be available to every horn player in town. So good point about plastering my info on every page.


I want to offer some kind of snagging period, because I'm only human, and I may make a human error (duplicated accidental, missing repeat barline, whatever). So I want to stay on good terms with the guys in terms of these kinds of corrections.


But I want to avoid them coming back to me after a year and saying "we want a double chorus after verse 3", or even "can you make it more Tower of Power and less Chicago?" That's not snagging, that's a new piece of work.


Cheers, Mike.

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