Newzik & Universal Edition: shaping the future of music publishing

by | Nov 18, 2019

Newzik aims at providing musicians with the best technology and content possible. Every day, our team works hard to develop innovative products and features that overcome the limitations of paper scores -while at the same time exploiting all of its benefits- and tailored to the specific needs of musicians. From day one, our objective has always been to work hand-in-hand not only with musicians but also with music publishers to provide the best content possible. And, now, the best digital content possible.

A new chapter has begun: for the first time ever, it is possible to buy or rent digital sheet music from UE Now’s broad catalogue and receive it directly in your Newzik library.

How did this cooperation begin?

Well, let us take you on memory lane!

This story began in Vienna almost two years ago now. The number of musicians asking for digital scores was growing fast and both Universal Edition and Newzik were convinced that the music publishing industry would quickly have to answer this increasing demand. Luckily, the timing was right: Newzik was a new player in the digital scores industry developing tools to help music publishers enter the digital age meanwhile Universal Edition was on the look for a partner to start selling and renting their extensive catalogue digitally.

Both our companies saw a need for digital scores to be obtainable, not only by individual musicians but also by orchestras, operas and any institutions that works with sheet music on a daily basis. Renting orchestral sheet music can be a real challenge for music librarians. Not only can it take weeks for the material to be delivered but they usually arrive already marked demanding extra hours of work for librarians to prepare this material. This comes as extra costs.

What is it changing for musicians and orchestras?

And for good reasons: after some research, the Newzik team realized the financial weight of sheet music paper for any musician is actually quite consequential yet complicated to accurately measure. Indeed, not only are music library expenses often distributed into the general operations of the orchestra, but some paper expenditures are not even identified.

To give you a clear idea of the expenses related to paper, let’s take a real-life example. For the 2015-2016 season, an orchestra of 80 musicians and 2 music librarians rented 18 sets of scores and purchased 12 sets. The orchestra performed 132 times.

€35,218 a year: the hidden costs of paper

This amount represents the total costs of paper for the audited orchestra. The expenses related to music scores were divided into four different categories:

  • Library paper costs – €18,339 was spent on printing, copying and assembling scores and parts.
  • Extra librarian costs – €10,597 went towards hiring extra librarian assistants to help with manually copying and erasing markings.
  • Publishers Paper Costs – €4,069 was spent on the rental outright purchase of paper scores and parts.
  • Storing Costs – €2,213 was spent annually simply to rent additional storage for the orchestra’s library of paper sheet music.

Switching to digital sheet music can thus help an orchestra drastically reduce its operational costs related to paper. Learn more by reading our full report on the hidden costs of paper.

What are the advantages for music publishers?

In addition, we are convinced that digitization can help music publishers significantly simplify their daily work and processes so that they can focus on creating what really matters: the best material for every musician out there.

The Newzik solution also provides much more copyright protection than paper. If you send paper, it can easily be put in a scanner, and be used illegally by anyone. With our solution, music publishers are able to ensure that the material they send to their clients is protected and cannot be taken out of the Newzik environment. Copies can be restricted, and publishers can set restrictions regarding the number of licences (meaning the number of devices who can display the material) and expiration date, according to the contract that was agreed on and signed between them and their client.

Finally, as Astrid Koblanck, CEO of Universal Edition AG, explained, it also “enables collaborative music-making and annotation for musicians of all levels, from the hobbyist to the orchestra professional”, enriching the music catalogue available while still respecting intellectual property and rights protection.

So what did we create?

When it comes to technology, the Newzik team works hard to develop the best features to answer every musicians’ needs. When it comes to content, music publishers are a cornerstone of this industry and we do not see that changing in the future.

Both Universal Edition and the Newzik team realized that renting digital scores entirely solves the issue of shipping costs and storage by eliminating shipping time and offering librarians and players a pristine digital version, every single time. This led us to want to be pioneers in this matter and after some discussions, to cooperate and create a model to sell and rent digital scores to musicians, music schools, orchestras and opera houses, while at the same time protecting the composers, publishers, musicians and artists. The collaboration was the obvious solution as Newzik could provide the technology and Universal Edition its musical expertise and extensive catalogue.

Yet, before starting the creation process, a few questions were mandatory for both parties to answer and keep in mind:

  1. How do we manage the files?
  2. How can we still protect digital files?
  3. Which platform should we use to “share” them?
  4. What about markings, annotations and intellectual property?

To actually answer everyone’s demand, the Newzik team decided to develop two different digital tools:

 

The Publishing Web Platform

The first one is a “publishing web platform”: a tool dedicated to music publishers wanting to sell or rent on-demand digital scores to their institutional clients (orchestras, operas but also schools and conservatories). Our idea was to build a tool that would constitute the first step of music publishers into the field of digital sheet music, with as little “entry cost” as possible for them.

All the contracting remains outside of the Newzik environment and we have no control nor information about it, which means the client still has to contact the publisher either directly or indirectly through an agent, so that we introduce as little change as possible in the existing business model of music publishers. However, the platform enables publishers to set restrictions related to the number of licences, rental duration, geographic restrictions, exporting restrictions etc… in order to make sure copyrights and intellectual property are protected in a much more efficient way than what is possible with paper format. Another important point is that this process means music publishers don’t have to invest in digitizing their whole catalogue before being able to sell or rent it digitally, and on the contrary can do it step by step for the material that is requested by their clients, which lowers the entry costs compared to competing products. On the other hand, the client receives the material instantaneously in their Newzik environment and not only does it have a better quality than most hired paper scores (which are often already annotated by previous clients, and sometimes lack pages or are otherwise damaged) but they can also retain access of it after the rental period. In this case, a watermark appears on top of the sheet music, making sure it cannot be used for a concert, but it can still be archived digitally by an orchestra librarian and reactivated on demand by the music publisher, for example if the orchestra wants to rent it again next season, in which case all the annotations are kept intact and the material can be used right away, saving a lot of time in score preparation.

 

The Newzik API

The API is intended as a next step for publishers who want to go deeper into digitizing their catalogue. To put it simply, it is an automation of the web platform process that music publishers can implement on their own website in order to sell or rent their content digitally from their own environment. The idea is that music publishers who already use their website as a distribution platform for paper can now offer digital distribution directly to the Newzik app: when a musician buys or rents material, they can choose to receive it in Newzik rather than having it sent in paper format, thus saving on shipping costs and receiving it instantaneously contrary to having to wait several days, sometimes longer.

Music publishers still retain control of their pricing, can market their products the way they want to, and can set the same restrictions as on the platform. However the idea here is to offer a large selection of digital scores which means investing in digitizing the entire catalogue so that their clients aren’t frustrated depending on the material they’re looking for.

No more printing, no more
storing, no more shipping. 

HOW DOES THE API WORK?

The concept is pretty simple and can be explained in 3 simple steps:

  1. Browse the UE Now catalogue on the Universal Edition website from any device, and select the material that you would like to buy or rent.
  2. Once you have chosen a digital product (UE now), the payment process will automatically take you to Newzik, where you will be asked to enter your account information. Use your Newzik ID and password, or create an account if you don’t already have one. Your UE account will now be associated to your Newzik account, so you don’t have to do it again next time.
  3. Your purchase will be sent instantly to your Inbox in the Newzik app. You will receive a notification in your app and will be able to import the content to your digital library.

If you don’t see the score you need, don’t worry. All sheet music and performance materials of the UE will also be digitally available in the near future. For now, please look for the UE Now tag to see what products are available in digital format. And if your piece is not part of the selection, don’t hesitate to contact the UE Now team who will treat the transfer of the sheet music files to UE now as a priority.

So what is next?

What about Android users?

Newzik is an iOS-only app, but we still wanted to allow all musicians to get a sense of what digital sheet music looks like. This is why we are working on a web platform that will be accessible from any device: this way UE now sheet music also be used on a desktop PC, Mac or on Android smartphones and tablets. It will be launched at the end of the year.

When will other publishers implement this API?

With UE Now, Universal Edition is proving that music publishers have a critical role to play in the digital age, and many other publishers have already and will join the movement – the on-going digital revolution of the sheet music industry.

We encourage all publishing houses, big or small, to join us so that we can all work together in providing musicians with the best experience possible. Our teams can easily help you to implement the Newzik API and train you on the best way to optimize your catalogue for digital distribution.

If you’re a music publisher interested in implementing this API and start distributing your catalogue to Newzik users, contact us and we will be happy to help you do so!

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