But How Will Mozart Have Incentive To Write New Music With All His Works Available For Free?

from the just-wondering dept

Last year, when the BBC decided to record and then give away free downloads of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies, some classical music record label execs complained that they were “devaluing” the music by giving it away for free — ignoring the fact that a ton of people who probably never (or rarely) listened to classical music downloaded the files and were introduced to Beethoven’s music. Since then, classical music labels have started experimenting with online distribution, but still don’t seem to get that their biggest fear should be that no one cares about the music at all, rather than that no one might pay for it. It seems that the International Mozart Foundation may recognize this to some extent. Earlier this week, they put up free, downloadable archives of sheet music for all of Mozart’s songs and over 8,000 pages of commentary — for which they had to pay $400,000 to clear the publication rights. The site was quickly overrun by much heavier than expected traffic, as tens of thousands of people descended on the site within hours of it going live — suggesting that there’s a lot of interest in Mozart and his music.

However, for all the work that went into this (apparently compiled over a period of 50 years), it’s safe to bet that a lot of the people hitting the site are going there believing there’s free music to download as well. Certainly, many of the press reports are a bit unclear about just what is actually at the site. It turns out that it’s just the scores and the commentary — not any actual recordings, which would probably be a lot more compelling to many people (though, if they’re already having trouble handling the traffic, hosting a bunch of mp3s might not go over so well either). The people behind the offering say they hope to add actual recordings some time soon, but given how the publishers of classical music still don’t seem to be fans of giving away recordings for free (even if it might stimulate a lot more interest in their music), the Foundation may need to cough up a few hundred thousand more dollars to secure more rights.


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Comments on “But How Will Mozart Have Incentive To Write New Music With All His Works Available For Free?”

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26 Comments
misanthropic humanist says:

ants in the shadow of an elephant

Anything that starts “there are two kinds of people…” is probably bollocks. But since I am a master of utter bollocks here we go…

There are two kinds of people in this world, people who create or do something, and those that live off the former. The parasites have one skill, to misappropriate, steal and profit from the work of others. They can do this through the barrel of a gun, or in the modern way all nice and “legal” with fancy words, sealing wax and the a little wooden gavel. A thief is still a theif.

Mozart was a genius. Even the people we recognise as geniuses called him that. Mozart could no more *NOT* write music than fly to the moon, so any discussion of his “incentive” or “motivation” is void. His motivations were completely outside and beyond anything we can understand in a modern context.

The wannabes, the music professors, the transcribers, publishers,
music company executives and corrupt judges that follow in his wake like little dogs following a brass band are not even third rate citizens compared to this man whos work they presume to pontificate and masturbate over. They are not worthy of the responsibilty they have assumed. And yet here they are today, deciding who shall and who shall not benefit from the greatness that Mozart dedicated his short and brilliant life to giving to the human race.

How did this happen? How, during 200 years of history did such a gift fall into the hands of these cultureless thugs and yahoos? Since copyright did not even exist during the time he composed how can it be that someone claims to own his work? We never hear of the estate of Mr Mozart, or his great, great grandchildren so did he die without an heir?

I put it very simply, that those who claim control over the works of Mozart have no such valid legal claim. That if you traced the history of the score sheets back through time you will find (perhaps many) points at which somebody has simply assumed ownership, either through privillage, corruption or sheer criminal audacity.

As a further (perhaps cruel) psychological observation I think that some of these music business nonentities are so awestruck by the work and so elitist in their need to be recognised by association with it that they harbour a dark and bitter grudge against people actually listening to it. They would rather see the music of Mozart fade to obscurity and die than allow it to be sullied by popular enjoyment.

So, are we supposed to be grateful that what is rightfully our heritage is being begrudgingly handed back to us? No chance. Fuck you Anthony Anderson of Naxos, and you Ralph Couzens, managing director of Chandos. Lets see if anyone remembers your names 5 minutes after you’re dead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Motivation

Mozart could no more *NOT* write music than fly to the moon, so any discussion of his “incentive” or “motivation” is void. His motivations were completely outside and beyond anything we can understand in a modern context.

Chicks dig musicians. It was as true in Mozart’s day as it is now. That’s all the incentive anyone needs.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think copyright laws for “classical” music protect the orchestra that played them. the “music” for the symphonies i thought was in the public domain.

so, if i copied something from the NY philharmonic, that would be illegal, but if the NYPH recorded a “free” copy, and posted it, tha’s cool. or maybe the “owner” of the orchestra (i have no clue how they are orginized) said you can download it…go ahead. (owner, copyright holder…w/e)

but you think think riaa is bad forcing you to buy new media, look at classical mujsic. every time they have a concert, or ever year, they relase the same songs…on the same format. how about that 🙂

anyway, it’s cool that classical music is being “shared”

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:

Free Classical Music

Well, it’s completely unmaintained and in terrible disarray, but the entire catalog, mostly classical, of the now-defunct Seattle record company Pandora is available at iBiblio at http://music.ibiblio.org/pub/multimedia/pandora/. Don’t try to get to it through the iBiblio main page, though, because all of the links are broken.

Jim Gramze (user link) says:

Recorded Music, Written Music, and copyright

There seems to be some misunderstanding by some and there is a general rule of thumb that can help.

What you do now is copyrightable. If you are doing nothing more than duplicating someone else’s efforts then that might be “wrong.” But your own work can be corrected even if it is not based on your idea.

The original manuscripts of classical music are in the public domain although ownership of those documents is like owning a physical thing. If I were to access those originals and from them make a “new” score — one that is in some way different in representing the original (there is always debate as written music can be sloppy looking), then my “new” score is copyrightable even though the original written music remains in the public domain.

The King James version of the bible with all the “thees” and “thous” is so popular because it is in the public domain. A newer more modern translation is copyrightable.

Similarly, a musical performance is copyrightable. If you make a new recording of a public domain song, even if your new performance is faithful to the original recording it is still copyrightable.

I hope that clears things up some. I don’t mean to support some of these laws, but to clarify how they work.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

What people don’t seem to realise is how much work has gone into the NMA. NMA is a critical edition of all of Mozart’s works. They tracked down all existing manuscripts and first editions, and transcribed them. If there is a Mozart autograph somewhere containing fragments of some work, that is in there too.

All of this information then gets consolidated into a score, plus lots and lots of commentary. If there is evidence for more than one “reading” of some part of the music, they give the evidence.

And that’s for all of Mozart’s works. This is what the $400,000 pays for. If you’re a scholar of Mozart, the NMA (which does cost less than that) is worth every cent that your library paid for it.

Now if you just want to perform a piece, the NMA isn’t as useful as you might think. To create a score than you can play, you need to edit the mass critical material, bring it into the range of modern instruments and convert it to a more modern notation.

OperaFan says:

re: Pseudonym

Absolutely correct. The NMA would not be useful for performance by “modern instruments” and is only useful as reference material for performance by “historical instruments”.

The primary use of the NMA is for scholars, orchestra directors, conductors, or musicians researching a particular Mozart composition. The NMA is not much like regular sheet music.

And for the commenters curious about placing classical music into the public domain, several 20th century composers have released their entire opus into the public domain upon their death.

Heitor Villa-Lobos immediately comes to mind; all of his work was placed into public domain upon his death in 1959.

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