Custodial Plan Newsletter - August 2021

Submitted by ACA on Mon, 11/29/2021 - 14:43

On Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 3:57:36 PM EDT, G. Genova <[email protected]> wrote:


Dear ACA Composers,


We held an online meeting last month to discuss issues related to the ACA Custodial (legacy) Plan.

The meeting provided an opportunity to answer questions about the Custodial Plan from the membership and to consider questions that relate to individual circumstances with some composers and estates. I can set up another open house meeting on Zoom to continue the discussion. The goal is to have information available through an open house discussion, through email and online at that provides a clear explanation of the application process, the requirements that ACA needs to initiate the Custodial Plan for individual composers, and the benefits of the Plan for those composer members who purchase it.

Some notes from the Custodial Plan meeting highlights:

Meeting took place Wednesday, June 30, 2021

ACA Custodial Plan Open House online

Questions and Discussion

Gina Genova, Director of American Composers Alliance

Robert Gibson, Board member, liaison with SCPA

Christine Clark, Board member, President of Theodore Front Musical Literature


1. The Custodial Plan of ACA has proven to be successful for the composers who set it up and purchased it in the past.  It was designed to keep music scores and parts in print and available and it succeeds in this mission. 

In just this past year, ACA sold and licensed uses of music by Otto Luening, Miriam Gideon, Leslie Bassett, Ann Silsbee, Robert Ceely, Allan Blank, Elliott Schwartz, Margaret Fairlie-Kennedy, Brian Fennelly, Karl and Vally Weigl, John Eaton, Robert Helps, Paul Martin Zonn, Martin Boykan, Halsey Stevens, Ronald Roseman, and Leon Stein, among other legacy ACA composers.

2.  The agreement ACA established with the University of Maryland, Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA), giving the older score masters and historical files to a large institution has been managed well and continues to benefit both organizations. Our connections with SCPA continue to grow in ways that mutually benefit both organizations. It is important to note that SCPA does not have any connection to the ACA-managed Custodial Plan. The ACA Score Collection that was relocated to SCPA in 2000 was officially deeded to SCPA in 2016. 

3. ACA's most prominent customers are regularly requesting materials that would not be available without the work that has been done by SCPA and by ACA to keep the custodial scores in print. 

4.  The ACA Custodial Plan is a continuation of publishing services with additional services offered.  ACA provides distribution, information/ promotion services, and licensing of music for performances, recordings, and other uses.

5.  To be clear, the majority of income we earn from score sales, rentals, and licensing, is being generated by current living composers in the ACA catalog.

6.  For this reason (No. 5), we must carefully manage the work hours we use for bringing older scores into modern editions, realistically, and prioritize activities that promote the full catalog.

7. Composers should endeavor to send to ACA their most current completed works, in good format layouts (as discussed in our March 30th open house meeting), program notes, lyrics typed up, recordings, and other information. This is very important as we grow the website and provide more access to our music catalog online. Customers want music; they want to learn as much as they can about a piece, see sample pages, and hear recordings or excerpts. 


Some facts about what ACA does:

  • ACA serves as an administrator, to license and negotiate aspects of the composer's copyright, including score sales and rentals, license of works to appear in other publications outside of ACA, and if requested, mechanical and streaming licenses for recordings, sync licenses for video and film, and dramatic rights for theatrical productions. 
  • ACA enters into distribution agreements with other companies to more widely distribute ACA scores to customers around the world.
  • In the fiscal year 2020-21, ACA sold on average 50 scores per week. PDF downloads represented about 24% of score sales income overall. 
  • ACA's digital file collection of scores is managed on secure servers hosted by and by AWS Amazon Web Services.
  • ACA currently provides electronic materials (e.g. audio files needed for performance) to customers via download links, rather than on CD or DVD disks. The permanent link to the files on our secure server is copied into the score itself.
  • ACA pays print, score sales, and licensing royalties to composers and their heirs based on income collected by ACA.
  • ACA does not control copyright. Composers and/or copyright owning heirs can revoke the ACA publishing relationship on request.
  • There is overlap between regular and custodial memberships. 


The Need for the Plan

There are several potential outcomes for a composer's catalog. For example, a composer's works may remain managed, in print and available. In other situations, pieces can lapse into what I call "the void" through publishing mismanagement and unclear instructions from the composer or estate; and, entire collections can be completely lost from neglect. ACA works with composers, their families, and archive representatives, to ensure ACA works receive the best possible continued management.  There are many ACA works now in the public domain, and we remain committed to keeping them in print on request. 

Naming ACA as your custodial administrator and giving ACA permission to manage your music is one of the best options I have seen available for composers. The longevity of the ACA catalog is secure and the catalog grows in quality and importance each day.


The Custodial Plan fees paid to ACA act as a type of endowment for the organization. The money raised through the purchasing of the plan is held in a trust account.  It remains in place, used only if needed to provide services for that composer's music, as well as for capital projects like renovating ACA's infrastructure (website) and protecting ACA's mission for the long term future as technology changes and the catalog grows.

ACA wouldn't be what it is today without the custodial support of past composers - Ussachevsky, Nowak, Goeb, Gideon, Luening, - etc. each of whom greatly helped ACA succeed and eventually advance to a position where it can compete with mainstream music publishers and even maintain services through a global pandemic.

The unique qualities of the ACA catalog have been appreciated by a great many musicians over the past few years and this interest in the catalog does not seem to be slowing down.  We are working to improve databases and infrastructure to stay strong in honoring the current mission, our predecessors, and the future composers of the organization.

ACA needs skilled professional staff, support from businesses, and contributions from skilled musicians to maintain the quality of score production customers expect.

Some questions from the open house discussion:

Who owns the music in the Custodial Plan?

Composers establish who controls their copyrights when they are no longer managing it. This can be family, friend, legal representative, or an institution like ACA, or another institution the composer values.

Who receives royalty payments from the Custodial Plan? 

ACA can continue its services for the composer when publishing rights are set to remain with ACA and a Custodial Plan is set up. The royalties normally sent to the composer can be redirected to the entity established as executor or heir, or funds can be reinvested back into the composer's custodial services account at ACA to keep providing benefit and strength to the organization. 

How is ACA's digital catalog stored, and what would happen if ACA as a corporation was dissolved?

ACA digital files of scores and parts - some from scans of physical materials and some from born digital work - are well maintained and protected with multiple cloud backups at secure services. If ACA were to shut down, the valuable score collection, the official records, digital documents, composer files, and meeting minutes would be left in the care of SCPA, our library collection partners at the University of Maryland, or provided to another organization that has the ability to keep the scores in print for the future. 

These decisions, if necessary, would be the responsibility of the Board of Governors you elect at ACA.

Please use the contact web form at the ACA website (link here) if you wish to discuss applying to the Custodial Plan.


Thank you for your continued support and care of ACA.

My best wishes,




Gina Genova, Director

American Composers Alliance Inc.

Composers' catalog and archives

New York, NY


****This message is intended only for current ACA composers and their estates.****


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