Here’s the thing. It is illegal to photocopy music in order to avoid purchasing it, and it hurts composers, publishers, retailers and probably more, when we do so. It’s just so easy – especially with multi-purpose home printers that can make that copy in seconds. It’s a pain to go and buy or order a book that might take weeks when you want it NOW, and it seems like a waste of money to buy a book when you know you might only use it for one piece.
That justifies nothing. I’m concerned at the amount of stuff that my own kids have acquired dubiously – computer programs, copied CDs from the libraries – you name it, they’ve surely done it, with no compunction. Which means there are that many people who have already devised ways around everything – which still justifies nothing. Have we not raised them better than this?
But photocopying music is no better. Over the last few months I’ve been purging my stashes of music and books – I’m not a hoarder, can’t stand the clutter, and in these moods I usually end up tossing something I have to re-buy later. I’m happy to say that there is not one piece of illegally copied music left. What I do have is some legally downloaded music (thank you, IMSLP), and books that have been purchased over the years (decades).
The issue hit home earlier this winter as I was preparing students for the Ensemble Recital. With all due diligence I had purchased some of the music to sell to my students when one parent (also a music teacher) balked, saying, “Why can’t we just photocopy it like everyone else does?” Being the type that really hates these confrontational moments, I backed down immediately, saying the student could just borrow a copy that I would then keep, putting myself out financially. And I don’t think I’m all that unusual in this business.
Better planning in advance on my part and better enforcement of my own studio policy (the part that states students should expect to pay $60-100 per year on music) should mean that photocopied music in my studio is a thing of the past. And now I’m accountable to a much wider audience!