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John Williams executes Order 66 on sheet music


Drew
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John Williams and/or his legal team have made the decision to forbid music publishers from selling arrangements of his music made by third party arrangers. For now, the only Williams arrangements allowed to be sold are the official ones. Many sheet music publishers have started offering user-generated arrangements to be sold, both from self-serve systems as well as contracted arrangers. This opened huge opportunities for sheet music to be sold for music that previously would have never been arranged. This decision is a huge loss for us, since it will not be possible to purchase sheet music that is more accurate than the official piano arrangements, or buy arrangements of unreleased JW music that the official publishers will never even think about arranging. The official piano arrangements have a history of having lots of transcription mistakes. And they're often abridged versions of cues. And only a handful of soundtrack album tracks even get arrangements.

 

 

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It‘s a bad decision. He is censoring access for musicians to play his music they way they want to. I oppose this kind of decision by any composer. 

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So will all these Franco-Italian, highly virtuous arrangements (released on CD) be banned?

 

Or were these authorized - hope so!

 

 

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Great, great decision. I'm sick and tired of hearing third-class orchestras (and better ones) play arrangements that could have been written by pre-schoolers. I had to pay €80 for a concert that contained nothing but that kind of crap. He should definitely publish more, though, but this thread title misrepresents what is going on.

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The thread title doesn't misrepresent anything. Sheet music publishers do not allow users to self-publish orchestral and large ensemble arrangements of copyrighted music. The bad arrangements you heard were either unlicensed to begin with, or official ones.

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1 hour ago, Drew said:

John Williams and/or his legal team have made the decision to forbid music publishers from selling arrangements of his music made by third party arrangers. For now, the only Williams arrangements allowed to be sold are the official ones.

 

Do you have a source for this? I'd be interested to know the exact way they phrased it.

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Is this strictly news? I figured such unofficial transcriptions have always been legally problematic. The only thing that's changed is that Williams, or his team, or perhaps just his publishers (don't forget that it's always been Disney who were responsible for the worst changes to copyright law itself) have now apparently decided to become active in that regard.

 

The general situation is a classic, and not just in the music world. The first US release of Tolkien's LOTR was an unlicenced one, possible because of some legal loophole, which infuriated Tolkien himself at least as much as his publisher. He was always known to tinker with his stuff even after it was released, but the changes that went into the second edition were originally done as a means to ensure that a new copyright claim could be asserted.

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IMO, transcriptions should be less of a gray area than they are. A transcription is either accurate or it's not. Period.

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The official piano arrangements are not good. They are often too short. They often have mistakes.

 

How can this piano arrangement of Buckbeak's Flight be the only one that JW and his team want? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0047426 

 

Nearly every piano YouTuber uses this arrangement verbatim and it ruins their performances.

 

3 minutes ago, Score said:

 

The solution is not to allow random people to publish their own arrangements

 

This is absolutely the solution. They are never going to fix the official arrangements. Let the buyer beware and only choose good transcriptions.

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10 minutes ago, Drew said:

IMO, transcriptions should be less of a gray area than they are. A transcription is either accurate or it's not. Period.

 

Well, if they're accurate transcriptions, they're quite like accurate copies of encylopedias or maps, and both have are famous for fighting unlicenced copies by including invented bits just so that they can prove that the copies are in fact copies.

 

Cover versions are a different matter, and as far as I know are considered fair use for live performances, but not for recordings, so possibly also not for printed publishing. The moral legitimacy of that might be arguable.

 

But the desire to keep control over one's own creative output is understandable, especially in light of low quality transcriptions, regardless of how the quality of the official ones. It sucks in light of the poor (or mostly non-) availability of the original scores, of course. But on the other hand, would we rather Williams compose a few more pieces of music, or spend the next 20 years organising and editing sheet music? Since he's already bequeathed this entire musical remains to Julliard, I hope someone will take charge of publishing more of it in printed form once the time comes.

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20 minutes ago, Drew said:

Here are 7 YouTube pianists making the exact same mistake on "Anakin's Betrayal" because the mistake is part of the official sheet music.

 

(Short rant begins) If I can be a bit brutal... I do not see the point, for a piano beginner, of uploading a video on youtube where they play an arrangement - clearly intended for beginners - of a well-known orchestral piece that can be easily heard in its original form. What is any listener supposed to gain? Surely I am from another generation, but I have the impression that, nowadays, anyone who can play two notes in a row immediately rushes to show it on youtube. (End of the old-school, old-generation rant)

 

Anyway, the point is that those arrangements are intended for beginners (therefore, very easy and not very "pianistic", mistakes aside), because (I suppose) JW and his team do not see anyone else than a beginner wanting to play those pieces on a piano. This is where JW is wrong; it is the same wrong reasoning for which he doesn't want to publish printed editions of some of his complete film scores, which would make the joy of many composers and of anyone who enjoys and feels culturally enriched by studying original sheet scores. JW and his team should just consider that also more advanced pianists might want to play those pieces in good arrangements, and take care of providing those. If they don't want to do it on their own, they should let someone do it in an authorized way, with full access to the original scores and the approval of an editor who is trusted by JW; a bit like Liszt's transcriptions of pieces by other composers, who were always based on the original scores. There are three possibilities: 1) either JW does not care, or 2) he doesn't want for artistic reasons (not every composer is forced to believe that his music can be rightly represented on the piano), or 3) they calculated that the demand for advanced piano arrangements of his music would be too low to justify the effort. 

 

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10 minutes ago, Drew said:

That's not the arrangement intended for beginners. It's the official piano arrangement for intermediate and professional players. And it has at least two wrong notes in the melody.

 

It depends on what is meant for beginners. What I mean is that this kind of piano writing can be mastered by a 2nd-3rd year student, provided he/she has a big enough left hand to reach the interval of a tenth which occurs in a few chords. There is nothing, in the writing, that can be considered "pianistic" enough for an advanced or professional concert performance. That piece could be arranged more effectively for piano, with the use of more advanced piano techniques. The fact that they are not doing it, makes me think that they don't see a market for it, independently of what they write on the book. If they wrote "advanced", I can only imagine that they wanted to stress that it cannot be played by a 1st-year student. 

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In other words, John Williams discovers Youtube for the first time...

 

Seems like the nuclear option to just blanket ban third party transcriptions/arrangements like this. Of course it can't be about the money. Perhaps he's preparing some new sheet music project himself? :conf: Odd

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6 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

Could it be a financial / prestige incentive for Julliard to work on the publishing of his bequeathed scores?

 

I doubt it. This decision mostly affects piano and small ensemble arrangements.

 

21 minutes ago, Score said:

 

It depends on what is meant for beginners. What I mean is that this kind of piano writing can be mastered by a 2nd-3rd year student, provided he/she has a big enough left hand to reach the interval of a tenth which occurs in a few chords. There is nothing, in the writing, that can be considered "pianistic" enough for an advanced or professional concert performance. That piece could be arranged more effectively for piano, with the use of more advanced piano techniques. The fact that they are not doing it, makes me think that they don't see a market for it, independently of what they write on the book. If they wrote "advanced", I can only imagine that they wanted to stress that it cannot be played by a 1st-year student. 

 

Advanced arrangements typically cannot be made without the starting point of accurate transcriptions. Such accurate transcriptions are now not allowed to be published.

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So, to everyone who is happy about this decision:

Are you happy that "The Battle of Crait" is only three pages long? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0180302

 

Are you happy that "Main Title and Escape" is only four pages long (with the Main Title portion taking up three pages)? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0180300 

 

Are you happy that "Ahch-To Island" is only one page long? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0180293 

 

Are you happy that "The Speeder Chase" is only two pages long? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0216313 

 

Are you happy that "Hedwig's Theme" is only five pages long? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0043146 

 

Are you happy that "Journey to the Island" is only five pages long? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0101496 

 

Are you happy that there will never be sheet music for the film version of "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra"? https://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0037246 

 

Independent transcribers would fill in these gaps and now it's ruined.

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I feel like this is a case of these self published arrangements (via these services) going under the radar of Williams' lawyers.  It's long been nearly impossible for you to get the rights to arrange Williams' music for performing ensembles unless you were one of the chosen few.  When I write for marching bands I always check on Williams titles, but they have been impossible to license for as long as I've been doing this.

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Making an arrangement of JW's music is one thing. *Selling* it on sheet music platforms and making money from it, that's just plain piracy of someone else's work! I see no reason why such arrangements should have been allowed to be sold in the first place. Copyright laws are meant to protect the artists, not the fans!

 

If anyone wants a 20-page virtuosic version of the Battle of Crait, they can make it themselves. The official piano folio is only meant to highlight passages from the soundtrack in a way that's approachable for intermediate, amateur players. We have to appreciate that these books exist in the first place, but also recognize who they are for. To this day I still play and thoroughly enjoy the Harry Potter folios, or Jurassic Park, as exciting, yet not too advanced, piano music and I couldn't care less if you told me it's missing 95% of the score or if the melody has a couple errors. I sit down, play through the book and have a good time!

 

P.s. There are some official, advanced piano arrangements. They are fiendishly difficult to perform!!! Check the Devil's Dance official arrangement for instance!

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It is not piracy to sell on these sheet music platforms. They get the license for every piece that is published. Williams' lawyers simply changed their mind about this after seeing them. It's the wrong decision, but nothing being sold on these sites prior to the decision were illegal.

 

If I were writing copyright law, I would make it illegal for copyright holders of music to have a say in how third parties arrange their music (assuming publishers do quality control). It's not their business. Just take the royalty money and let it go.

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Is this really anything new?  I seem to remember trombonist James Nova saying the same thing a few years back when he created that album of Star Wars music arranged for trombone ensemble. He tried to get his transcriptions published but was told no.

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There are two ways to get copyright clearance. One is to pay a fee and get a license. The second is to ask the copyright holders. You can get a license, legally sell something, but then the copyright holders send takedown notices anyway. That's what happened here.

 

This is how distributing cover songs works. You pay a distributor to get the license. But at any time, the copyright holders can take down your music.

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I remember being told JW since forever does not openly allow arrangements of his music, although they do exists assuming they were approved or there was a loophole in copyright law back in the day. But there are many online forums that have arrangements put up that people make money off of in some way and JW does not. So first, I can understand this point.

 

Second, Steely Dan complained about this all the time. Even companies like Hal Leonard releasing stuff that's "official", was in fact not correct at all. The Beatles also complained about this when they still cared about Apple, and I'm sure many have gotten annoyed with this. But given there are websites like Musescore where people can just throw up whatever they want and swear up and down "its completely accurate and more accurate than (whatever) published version" is total BS. They are usually wrong. As a composer myself, who is much more open to sharing my music for free, that would still drive me crazy. So JW is not only right in his assessment, he is also joining a long list of writers who have been doing this for a very long time.

And in terms of "censoring" people, well copyright law exists for a reason, number one. He's not banning you from playing it or talking about it. Putting together an arrangement or any version on a platform online where people are making money off of it and the composer isn't censorship, its stealing. And further, making money off an arrangement which is neither unique/ original, and is further wrong, is just plain stupid.

2 hours ago, Drew said:

There are two ways to get copyright clearance. One is to pay a fee and get a license. The second is to ask the copyright holders. You can get a license, legally sell something, but then the copyright holders send takedown notices anyway. That's what happened here.

 

This is how distributing cover songs works. You pay a distributor to get the license. But at any time, the copyright holders can take down your music.

 

That isn't REALLY how that works, at least in the USA. A license really only comes into play for recorded music, most commonly a mechanical license. This is why so many albums exists of arrangements of his music but the actual score DOES NOT exist for purchase. Album royalties are much easier to collect, and the mechanical license is essentially an upfront payment and/or royalties included.

Recorded music is easier to collect on. Print is not. As far as I know there really is no such blanket print license, and it is very detailed down to how many units you want to print. Online sites like Muse Score and Sheet Music Plus can get around this because they are saying well here is this kind of one time use license which may or may not cover everything for you. Reading the fine print also helps. But in any case, I can't ever remember seeing a print license, physical or digital, that was not approved by the copyright holder in advance.

Also, things being taken down is probably because, like I said, because there is no agreement with the copyright holder they are completely in their rights to have it taken down. It is tricky on sites like Youtube where even if you secured the proper licenses and agreements and AI filter will take it down. But for print, I can't imagine it exists on the commonly used sites.

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Like I was saying earlier, several sheet music publishers now have self-publishing. There is no way the copyright holders can approve each arrangement. It's legal because the music is licensed beforehand. Like, the copyright holders send them cue lists that can be arranged. It's not stealing.

 

JW was surely getting royalties from licensed third party arrangements before the takedown.

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2 hours ago, karelm said:

@Drew, This is a copyright issue.  Nothing to do with JW.  Musicnotes sells arrangements. Making any arrangement is a duplication, and permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.  I've made arrangements of dead composers' music and it is public domain in some countries and under copyright in other countries (Puccini, Rachmaninoff, etc).  When it is not in public domain (like all of JW's music), the copyright owner can grant or prevent the right to copy the music.  If Musicnotes did not profit from this music, they would likely not have a copyright claim.  For example, student orchestras frequently play arrangements where the concerts are free/nonprofit or educational.  If they charge a fee, they must abide by the copyright owner's rules.  That is exactly what the youtuber email you posted is describing.  This is every artist's right - to have a right as to who uses their music unless permission is granted.  When the music is purchased, it includes a right for use.  In Musicnotes case, they didn't purchase it and used it without permission - the copyright owner said stop.  Additionally, the odds are good that this is not JW but Disney.  Disney owns the music and recording (it was owned by Lucasarts before the sell to Disney).  Disney says a school can't use the image of Mickey Mouse because they own the concept (Intellectual Property) of the character that is Mickey Mouse.  Think of it this way, the Beatles music is very prized property because it is incredibly recognizable.  Should that music be used in pornography?  The Beatles who created that musical idea have ownership of who uses the music and how it gets used.  That is what is happening here.  Kevin Kiner can adapt the Star Wars music for his purposes because he was hired by the copyright owner, Disney, to score their projects.  JW might hate what he did and doesn't have any legal ground to object.  He might be given some opportunity to weigh in but this isn't legal, but respectful.  If someone uses the music for non-profit uses such as educational or satirical, they have very little grounds of preventing this due to 1st amendment rights.  

 

The "John Williams declares war on sheet music" title of this thread is completely misleading and uninformed.  The response from the copyright owner makes complete sense.

 

Totally agree with all that. And interesting story since you brought up Disney- I once emailed them about the Shakespearian versions they put out of Star Wars, asking very simply, what the procedure would be JUST to apply for permission to perform it in a community theater and I received a very aggressive cease and disist letter within 24 hours.

2 minutes ago, Drew said:

Like I was saying earlier, several sheet music publishers now have self-publishing. There is no way the copyright holders can approve each arrangement. It's legal because the music is licensed beforehand. Like, the copyright holders send them cue lists that can be arranged. It's not stealing.

 

JW was surely getting royalties from licensed third party arrangements before the takedown.

 

No, that isn't how that works. Read all of the legal stuff you agree to when using the platform. They will all essentially say "use at your own risk" because they, as you even said, CANNOT have every thing uploaded onto the site approved. It is really on whoever uploaded it to do so beforehand. They don't just pay JW out of thin air, and to search their massive library of user uploaded material would take a very very expensive AI, which may or may not be able to do it accurately.

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These sites have a massive list of approved songs to arrange that changes all the time.

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The sheet music publishers have deals with the copyright publishers for self-arranging. They send a giant list of songs that can be arranged, along with exact crediting info. When you submit an arrangement, you have to click on exactly what song it is. So, it keeps track of if the song is licensed. If the song gets pulled from the licensed song list, the arrangement gets pulled off the store.

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26 minutes ago, Drew said:

The sheet music publishers have deals with the copyright publishers for self-arranging. They send a giant list of songs that can be arranged, along with exact crediting info. When you submit an arrangement, you have to click on exactly what song it is. So, it keeps track of if the song is licensed. If the song gets pulled from the licensed song list, the arrangement gets pulled off the store.

 

To go back to your earlier comment mentioning a bunch of JW pieces you were sad didn't have great arrangements, like Battle of Crait, are these pieces explicitly on the "list" you are talking about? And what about the pieces you regret have no "official" arrangements (ie Minority Report) -- are such pieces on the "list" as well? Do you have a link to that list, or a specific example you could share?

 

I agree with previous comments saying the thread title is misleading. I would add that it's cheaply provocative. There's no "war on sheet music", which remains easily available from Hal Leonard from Big Note piano to advanced difficulty. And it has nothing to do with JW, but with the publishers. Just change the thread title, will you?

 

It's great that there are fans out there dedicated enough to write new arrangements of their favorite JW pieces!! But I won't criticize the publishing companies for wanting to keep some sort of control over what's done with that music. Some arrangements are awesome, sure, but many MANY others are bad and perhaps damaging to the music. The fact that Hal Leonard's arrangements don't replicate the cues note for note doesn't bother me. I have so much more fun playing shorter, sensitive arrangements (like the Keveren) than note for note transcriptions. It's a personal taste, I'm not claiming to be right or wrong, but I'm probably not alone with this preference. There are likely thousands of pianists and teachers tired of amateur arrangements that don't meet their needs.

 

I understand your frustration over this whole issue, of course. It's frustrating to see something we enjoy being taken away. But the internet is a volatile place. Musicnotes is just a baby, an fairly recent experiment, and even if the publishers might have said yes at first, they can think now that it's no longer what they want(ed). We've got to respect that without claiming things here and there that have nothing to do with the actual issues. Something will replace Musicnotes, and the fans are not going to disappear!

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I don't see, how allowing everyone to publish their own arrangement would improve the overall quality and accuracy of arrangements. I would think, you might get very few very well made ones and a huge bunch of bad arrangments with even more mistakes which leads to a complex and confusing situation overall.

 

And if a performer discovers an error in an official sheet, then I don't understand, why, like some wrote here, why he would then be "forced" to perform that error. Argument above was, an obvious mistake in the sheet would not let the players perform the piece in the way they want to perform it. Why is that? Perform it however you want.

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Wasn't one of the biggest motivators for John Williams to start releasing official sheet music exactly the plethora of bad arrangements that started circulating after the success of Star Wars?

I believe musicians call these 'take downs' and I remember reading somewhere that Williams is not very happy with the practice.

If one looks at how much effort Williams did put in releasing his works in some form or another so that they can be played, it's hard to accuse him of being an enemy of sheet music. Quite the opposite, especially when thinking how sheet music was treated by the studios in the past.

Fox and Disney were probably better at saving and archiving, but the rest of them used to throw away everything to save space! It was up to the composers to take good care of their stuff (something Williams learned from Bernard Herrmann).

And even when composers do preserve their work, it's not a given that the material is properly catalogued, proof-read, revised, labeled and organized.

 

We should keep this in mind when thinking that any official release of sheet music requires quite the effort from many people.

 

And I'm sure that given proper time, a lot of Williams' sheet music will become available (I really hope the Julliard is prepping adequately and hiring people to organize Williams' personal scores).

 

I can understand the frustration in seeing a lot of 'crowd-sourced' sheet music disappearing (either when it's shared for free or for money), but I think it's a prerogative of the publishers and authors to keep a good degree of control. The ease of access that digital technology allowed kind of spoiled us into thinking we are owed to find anything we desire.

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9 hours ago, Marcus said:

Regrettably, there are many sub par arrangements of his music in wide circulation.

 

Like the official piano arrangements 

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