Caveat Compositor redux

My post Caveat Compositor seems to be the most popular post here, so in keeping with the spirit of caveats and keeping an eye on shady practices: I got an email today about the International Music Prize™ for Excellence in Composition 2011, and it contains some language that threw up a LOT of red flags.

The rules and regulations state that a) “By entering the competition, entrants will be deemed to have agreed to be bound by these rules and by the decisions of the Academy which are final in all matters relating to the competition,” and b) “they will grant to the Academy a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the submitted compositions, in whole and in part, in any media formats and through any media channels.”

Let’s read that again, shall we?

they [composers] will grant to the Academy a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the submitted compositions, in whole and in part, in any media formats and through any media channels

Break it down, now:

World-wide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license: No matter where any of the following occur, you won’t be paid a penny for it:

to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the submitted compositions, in whole and in part: They can do whatever they want with your work. They can copy it as much as they like; they can give it away or they can sell it (because they’re not going to define “distribute” any further); they can create their own arrangements of the piece, of which they will then own the copyright; they can perform the piece; and they can record the piece and sell those recordings entirely for their own profit. All without paying you a dime.

in any media formats and through all media channels: Wherever and however they like.

Then we have this gem:

By entering the competition, all entrants agree to release, discharge, and hold harmless the National Academy of Music and its partners, affiliates, agents, sponsors and their employees, officers, directors, and representatives from any claims, losses, and damages arising out of their participation in this competition or any competition-related activities and the acceptance and use, misuse, or possession of any prize awarded hereunder.

Which means that there’s likely shady practices afoot. Should you enter and something unfortunate happens, like the National Academy of Music – which I am assured does not exist in either the United States or in Greece – decides to release your entered work(s) on a disc and refuses to pay you any royalties, or creates an arrangement of your work and markets it as their own and refuses to pay you any royalties because you signed over that right by entering, you have no redress.

Here’s the kicker, though.

The prize? It’s a “Diploma in Music Composition at Preliminary, Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced or Expert Level, awarded by the National Academy of Music”.

I’m sorry: the National Academy of Music? Why have I never heard of them? Why does their website redirect to the music prize website, rather than a real, reputable site with a mission statement and description of who they are? They claim, after all, to be “a public educational charity of the State of Colorado”. And who benefits from this charity? Charities certainly don’t charge the people they intend to aid and give nothing in return. And since when does an American charity charge anyone in Euros?

While we’re at it: What in the hell is “Music Composition at the Preliminary Level”? Or “Advanced Level”? What are the criteria for these designations, which exist nowhere else in the concert music world? And why do I have to pay you so that you can judge my work at whatever level I think I’m at to maybe get a meaningless piece of paper from you? I already got my pieces of paper, thank you, from accredited institutions with actual composition faculty.

This, dear readers, is a scam, pure and simple. Stay away. Far away. They’re taking your money and maybe giving you a bogus “diploma”. All while grabbing rights to your work, from which they obviously intend to make a profit. Hell, they even say flat out that you might end up with losses and damages from having even entered the competition.

Run away.

Caveat Compositor.

About Dennis Tobenski

Dennis Tobenski (b. 1982) has been hailed by the New York Times as a "dynamic vocalist" and a composer whose music is "distinctive and engaging". He has studied with composers David Del Tredici, Chester Biscardi, Daron Hagen, and Stephen Andrew Taylor, and has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Prairie Center of the Arts, and the Ucross Foundation. Dennis is the co-founder of the Tobenski-Algera Concert Series, whose mission is to present and promote new music by young and emerging composers, and the founder of NewMusicShelf.com, an online digital distributor of scores by self-published composers. (http://www.dennistobenski.com)
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4 Responses to Caveat Compositor redux

  1. SGS says:

    Excellent post. This is definitely a scam. But, the paragraph about “release and hold harmless” is a standard contract provision, so it doesn’t really make this any sleazier than it is. Just %100, rather than %110, let’s say.

  2. Pingback: “Prelude No. 1″ awarded Honorable Mention for the International Music Prize 2011. | Garrett Shatzer

  3. Pingback: DennisTobenski.com News › The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business: Competitions Pt 1: Application Fees

  4. Pingback: Dennis Tobenski: Composer/Vocalist | The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business: Competitions Pt 2: Rights Grabs

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