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How ACA is different...
The American Composers Alliance is a membership organization as well as a music publisher.
Can anyone join ACA?
Membership in ACA is limited to BMI-affiliated composers writing music at a professional level of expertise, determined through an application process. There are no stylistic limitations for determining membership. The Board of Governors meets twice per year to review all applications received.
ACA has a BMI-affiliated publishing
imprint, American Composers Edition, and registers ACA-composer's works
to this imprint for tracking performances and generating royalty
payments from BMI. Composers eligible for membership at ACA must be BMI-affiliated composers.
ACA and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) have been working together since the early years of the modern music business in the United States, to help professionalize the status of working contemporary classical music composers.
Prior to the formation of ACA in the late 1930s and subsequently BMI in the 1940s, there were very few choices of organizations that could collect fees for the uses of music by classical composers in public performances.
ACA started as a union of sorts. Its early catalog included works by composers who could not find representation elsewhere, or representation they trusted. Within a short span of time, ACA amassed a roster of composers that, in due course, became some of the most well-known music names in the United States, and was arguably the only organization that largely represented concert music by women and African American composers in those early years.
As a publisher...
Classical contemporary music publishing has seen many cycles of varied success over the years. While most publishers choose to represent a single piece or a few pieces from a composer's oeuvre, ACA's model from the start has been to accept for publication all works by its members that are otherwise unpublished by commercial publishers.
Consolidating works with just one publisher makes rights and permissions acquisitions much easier for performers and for researchers and authors who wish to display a composer's work in public. Many pieces are lost from memory because of the difficult road blocks of getting rights and permissions, often due to publishers closing business, or losing contact with estates and heirs.
ACA's publishing model simplifies these issues, first, by maintaining that its composers retain their copyright for their ACA works, and second, by establishing an official status for scores on deposit that reflects the composer's wishes for how they can be made available to the public in the future.
How can ACA be a publisher without owning copyrights?
It's the best of both worlds for the composer. Works by ACA composers are published by ACA through an exclusive publishing license, in which composers grant to ACA most of the privileges of commercial publication. The composer grants ACA an exclusive license to act as publisher, distributing copies of the music on request and negotiating and collecting fees for other licensed uses.
There is never a lock on your ACA scores. If a composer wishes to reassign a piece to another publisher, they are free to do so at any point.
A non-profit organization as music publisher?
Since 2006, ACA has begun to create a new model for publishing this repertoire in a way that provides a support organization for the composer, in service to its mission of bringing American concert music to the public. ACA protects the music scores from being lost or relegated to a dusty out-of-print archive, in consideration of the needs of performing ensembles and researchers of today and of the future, by locating our catalog of music scores, manuscripts, printing masters, recordings, and research files in perpetuity with a large university music library.
In addition to archival management, ACA is scanning and collecting digital music prints in creation of a virtual music library, so that physical scores need not be shipped anywhere for printing, but can remain safe in the archive repository. If, in the future, ACA no longer manages publication, the scores and digital library will remain on deposit at the University of Maryland (College Park), to be maintained there by its ongoing knowledgeable and professional staff.
*In order to be heard, music must be performed, and to be performed, the scores and performing materials need to be available. ACA pledges to make every effort to keep its catalog alive, that is, available--as long as there are people who want to use it.*
Why University of Maryland?
Located near Washington, D.C., The University of Maryland at College Park is a large research institution with state-of-the-art library facilities. It's Special Collections in Performing Arts Library (SCPA) is one of the premier archives for circulating collections of performance scores, and includes The Contemporary Music Project (CMP), the International Clarinet Association, and the American Bandmasters Association Research Center. It is one of very few repositories that can envision the future benefits of taking on a project that involves limited circulation of performing materials from their Special Collections. Most libraries would have happily taken the ACA score collection and locked it away for research-only access. Because of SCPA's commitment to the project, the ACA score collection is alive and growing.
ACA's score collection at the University of Maryland numbers over 12,000 titles of music. Beyond the scores, ACA's composer history files collected over many decades, contain biographical, business, programs and publishing documents for more than 500 American composers who were active in ACA at some point since the 1930s.
The composer history files at ACA are being processed for access through Special Collections in Performing Arts at the University of Maryland.
Open door policy...
ACA is managed by a small, knowledgeable staff, and has low overhead expenses. The majority of its income generated through royalties, licensing, sales, rentals, and donations, is in turn applied back into programs and services that bring American concert works to the public.
The annual concert series presented by ACA over the years has been a showcase for ACA composers and invited guest composers, and is produced entirely by ACA staff and members, with contributions from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music; Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University; NYSCA; Meet the Composer; the Cary New Music Performance Fund, the Met-Life Creative Connections Program of New Music USA, the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund; Yamaha Artist Services, and BMI.
As a non-profit public charitable organization, ACA's financial information is available for public inspection at any time. Board members are elected by the general membership, and both board members and members serve on committees that directly shape the mission of the organization and manage the essential programs for the organization.
Please contact us if you are interested in ACA publishing membership, custodial membership, or would like to become involved with our organization.