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Q: Self-Publishing Sheet Music ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: madelines-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 09 Jul 2003 14:38 PDT
Expires: 08 Aug 2003 14:38 PDT
Question ID: 227135
I would like to self-publish a single volume of 10 piano pieces
written by my late father for which I own the rights. I have already
created the electronic version of the music (originally produced via
Finale, imported into InDesign for page layout, and converted into a
PDF) and am at the point where I can easily produce this collection on
demand. The question I have now is - what do I need to do next in
order to sell this sheet music? I'm not (at this point) asking where
or how to advertise and distribute the music, but rather what if
anything needs to be done from a legal standpoint. For example, am I
required to register it with the Copyright Office? Do I need some kind
of selling license or other type of permission? I have no idea, and
would very much appreciate a clear step by step list of where to go
from here. (By the way, I've taken a look at a few books and articles
on self-publishing, but they deal with books rather than sheet music,
and they often seem to assume that you are setting up an entire
publishing company for yourself.)
Subject: Re: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 11 Jul 2003 08:39 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi there madelines~

Here is the step-by-step procedure you requested:

First, you’ll need to formally file with the Copyright Office, in
order to help prevent others from copying the work and profiting from

1. Go to this pdf document and print it out:  (If you have trouble
getting the document to load, go instead to and in “step 2”
click on Form PA.)

2. Fill the form out completely. 

3. Write a check for $30, made payable to “Register of Copyrights”

4. Make two complete copies of the compilation of music, which the
Copyright Office can keep. Be sure to include a title page. It is best
to have the music printed first, and then send the Copyright Office
the published result.

5. Put all the above items in an envelope.

6. Since you’re not the original copyright owner (your father would
have been), you will have to provide legal proof of your right to
copyright the work. For more about “Who Can Claim Copyright,” see this
page of the U.S. Copyright Office’s website: , as well as their
article “Transfer of Copyright Ownership:”

7. Send off the package to: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101
Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

Your registration is effective the day the Office receives all the
proper materials. As long as the Office has everything they need,
you’ll receive formal notice of the copyright within 5 months.

You do not need any kind of license simply to sell sheet music or a
book of music—UNLESS doing so will disrupt your neighborhood. For
example, if you have delivery trucks coming and going from your house.
Each city or county has slightly different rules about this, so you
should probably check them out. Just call your local city office and

You’ll need an assumed name license if you decide to creating a
publishing company name. If you are just using your own name as
“publisher,” you won’t need this license. Assumed name licenses are
obtained through the state or county. When you call your city to ask
about the above, you can also ask exactly where you should apply for
an assumed business name.

Depending upon how you want to go about selling the book of music, you
may or may not want to get an ISBN (International Standard Book
Number). If you plan on selling the book on your own (via the
Internet, in person, or via snail mail—with you acting as the
“bookseller”), you probably don’t need to worry about an ISBN. ISBNs
are used primarily by book and music stores. There may be times when a
customer will come into a book or music store seeking your book, and
if it’s listed with ISBN, the store can call you and order a copy for
the customer…but in your case, this is unlikely, unless you have some
really strong advertising and marketing for the music.

Having an ISBN will *not* ensure that book or music stores carry your
music. However, if they know that your book of music is out there, and
they have a desire to carry it, having an ISBN will enable them to
easily order copies.
Should you decide to get an ISBN, you’ll have to include the number on
the back cover of your music book, and on the copyright page. For
paperbacks, it also needs to be on the book’s spine.

To apply for an ISBN:

1. Go to

2. Click on Application for an ISBN Publisher

3. Click on “Continue your application process…”

4. Fill out the ISBN form

If you have questions about filling out the form, go to the “How To
Complete The Application” page:
There is a fee for this service. It varies: $14.95 for 10 ISBNs;
$39.95 for 100 ISBNs; $119.95 for 1000 ISBNs; and $299.95 for 10,000
ISBNs. There is also a processing fee, which varies according to your
application, from $225 on up.
Good luck!


Research Strategy:
* Reseracher’s own knowledge of book publishing and copyright issues
* Stopping by the Copyright Office website (
* Stopping by R.R. Bowker’s website ( ), handlers of ISBNs.

Request for Answer Clarification by madelines-ga on 14 Jul 2003 11:28 PDT
I just have a couple follow-up questions, if you don't mind too much.
1. Other than the delivery truck situation (which would not be an
issue in my case), are there any other reasons I should take into
consideration for deciding whether or not to create a publishing
company name and get an assumed name license?
2. If I were to decide I wanted to approach music stores and would
therefore need the ISBN (unlikely, but just in case...), I would need
to have created the publishing company name and gotten the license,
Thanks again,

Clarification of Answer by kriswrite-ga on 14 Jul 2003 11:56 PDT
Hi Madeline~

I'm happy to answer your clarification questions :)

1. First, the delivery truck issue is separate from the necessity to
get an assumed business name. The delivery truck has to do with city
ordinances regarding in-home businesses. (The idea is that they don't
want in-home businesses disturbing the neighborhood with heavy
traffic, large signs, etc.) You will have to contact your city in
order to find out whether or not you *must* under all circumstances
have a business license.

An assumed business name (sometimes called "Doing Business As" or
"DBA") is an entirely separate matter. For the business owner, there's
no advantage to getting an assumed business name--except that some
people might think it is "more businesslike." Filings for assumed
business names are strictly designed to help *consumers* know who they
are dealing with, in case of difficulties.

2. If you want to approach music stores, you will undoubtedly want an
ISBN, unless you're just dealing with a few local stores. However, in
such cases, you don't necessarily have to have an assumed business

I hope that clears things up!

madelines-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Very clear and straightforward

Subject: Re: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
From: cynthia-ga on 09 Jul 2003 15:31 PDT
Hi madelines,

This looks like a great resource:

International Songwriters Association 

The Copyright FAQ --By Jeffrey P. Fisher
..."No other aspect of the music industry is more misunderstood than
copyright. Musicians are perpetually worried that someone, somewhere
will steal their creative work. Unfortunately, there is mostly wrong
information that continues to circulate. This FAQ aims to set the
record straight with a simple, no-nonsense, and ultimately factually
correct description of the US Copyright Law..."
Subject: Re: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
From: cynthia-ga on 09 Jul 2003 15:39 PDT
Forgot this one:

The Trademark FAQ
Subject: Re: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
From: owain-ga on 10 Jul 2003 15:01 PDT
The *essential* thing is to register as a (small) publisher with the
authority in your area responsible for allocated ISBNs - International
Standard Book Numbers. In the UK this would be

"If you wish to sell your publication through major bookselling
chains, or internet booksellers, they will require you to have an ISBN
to assist their internal processing and ordering systems. 
   The ISBN also provides access to Bibliographic Databases such as
Whitaker BookBank, which are organised using ISBNs as references.
These databases are used by the Booktrade and libraries to provide
information for customers. The ISBN therefore provides access to
additional marketing tools which could help sales of your product. "

You should also get a barcode images made up and placed on the outside
of the publication for the ISBN and also the retail sales code. In the
UK, this would be an EAN - European Article Number, which is a
modified ISBN. Without this, the book cannot easily be sold in stores
which use scanning tills.

Librarians etc normally receive digests of all new books which are
generated by the ISBN agency, and will routinely check for new
listings in their areas of interest.

You could also check some self-publishing books including, for

- The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own
Book (14th Edition) -- by Dan Poynter
- Complete Guide to Self Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to
Write, Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Own Book (Self-Publishing 4th
Edition) -- by Tom Ross, Marilyn Ross
(these were the two most popular results on searching for
"self publishing")

Although a sheet music work is not physically a book, it is
distributed and sold in much the same way.

Also, don't forget that you may have to deposit copies known as
statutory deposit with your regional or national Library.

Subject: Re: Self-Publishing Sheet Music
From: madelines-ga on 14 Jul 2003 09:58 PDT
Thank you very much kriswrite for your excellent and thorough answer!
Also, thanks to cynthia and owain for additional info!

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