Why Commission a Work?

What are the benefits of commissioning a work?

There are many benefits to commissioning a work for your music group. Commissioning a new piece of music allows you to have a work specifically composed with the needs and abilities of your group in mind. You can collaborate on choosing the text, style, length, difficulty and intention of the piece, which not only allows the talents of your group to shine through, but fulfills a specific purpose as well. Some of the occasions for which pieces are commissioned are:

  • To celebrate a milestone anniversary or birthday
  • To honor or memorialize a special member of your organization
  • For the opening of a new hall, sanctuary or auditorium
  • To provide a new piece as the central focus of a worship experience or concert
  • To honor a conductor or special benefactor
  • To provide recognition of your group to the global music community (your name will appear on the title page of each piece of music)

Whatever the occasion, a commissioned work will guarantee that your work will be one-of-a-kind with a world premier of this new composition to mark your special event.

What are the benefits of working with a composer?

Working with a composer allows you to be a part of the creative process.  An initial meeting will be set up to determine what medium you desire, theme, length, difficulty and purpose.  After the initial sketches are made, you will be asked for feedback.  If the direction the piece is going is agreed upon, the work will be completed.

Is it affordable?

The commission fee is based on length of the work, number of performers, and the budget of the commissioning party. Payments are usually in two or three installments depending on the written agreement.

How are commissions funded?

There are many ways in which commissions are funded.  Some include:

  • An ensemble or organization’s budget
  • Patrons who would underwrite a commission
  • Businesses who wish to enrich the community (they would be recognized in the printed program and perhaps on stage at the premier)
  • Grants awarded from arts organizations and foundations
  • The commission fee could be shared by two or more co-patrons, each receiving published name credit and recognition

Who actually owns the music?

It is standard practice that composers retain the rights to their own work, and so the legal ownership of the piece remains with the composer. However, the commissioner is acknowledged in many ways—on the first page of the musical score, on any official recording, in the performance program and often in other written materials. It is customary that the commissioner is given a presentation copy of the completed score, almost always specially inscribed by the composer. An archive recording may be provided as well. Most of all, the commissioner experiences a satisfying sense of participation in the creation of a new work of music.

Some Considerations for the Commissioning of a New Work

  1. Amount of time needed before the premiere – composer to research materials – performing group to rehearse the piece -etc.
  2. Type of piece – sacred – secular – a capella – accompanied – number of instruments – availability – etc.
  3. Choice of text (if applicable) – decided by commissioner or composer or both
  4. Permission to use the selected text-contacting the author, and/or publisher use of text in the public domain – payment of fee required, etc.
  5. Approximate duration of the piece
  6. Funding available – Special gift or grant from local arts organizations
  7. Importance of the participation of the composer in workshops, rehearsals, pre-concert chat, etc. before the premiere performance