This whole music-publishing thing has been a really great adventure so far. In fact, I'm glad that I didn't know how much I didn't know before I jumped in.
I've been learning about everything from working with distributors (Marina Music, Hickey's, JW Pepper, Stanton's), printing "booklet" format on good-quality 11x17 paper, tracking inventory and sales, getting the word out (still accepting much help on this end of things!), and pricing products.
Speaking of pricing... From the outset, I decided that, although I'm a boutique publisher (no Miley Cyrus medleys in my catalog), I'd try price my charts in line with comparable products from the major publishers. (Honestly, I've learned that those prices are too low to be sustainable for a 1-man operation, but that's OK with me for now, because I'm just getting in the game.)
Also from the outset, my intent was to deal primarily in digital delivery of sheet music. So, I spoke with several music-teacher friends about this, trying to get a handle on pricing the PDFs. The word I got was that the benefits of digital delivery (same-day, print multiple copies of parts for students, no shipping costs, no fossil fuels used in transporting goods) were such that a price-break for PDFs wasn't necessary. In other words, price the printed music and the PDFs the same.
The costs of printing music
Well, since then, I've upgraded my printed product so it is comparable to those of the major publishers: 2-sided, 11x17, booklet format, good-stock paper, bound scores, score cover, etc. This printing costs $$. And, because I'm a small operation, I basically have charts printed on-demand, keeping a small inventory of only my few most popular works.
An average jazz ensemble piece costs me $5-7 to print. But, a long chart can cost me as much as $10 at my local professional printer. (If I were to print at home on my standard laser printer, it'd probably cost $1-2 in paper, toner, and masking tape).
Digital Delivery Discount revelation
I recently purchased Ray Ricker's new book Lessons from a Streetwise Music Professor (a good read, by the way). I noticed that the e-book price (kindle, etc.) was about 20% cheaper than the paperback. The price differential has since changed to about 30%.
I'm also a pretty big user of iTunes and Amazon mp3s. If I need to learn a tune for a gig, I don't think twice about spending $.99 (or even $1.29) to get an instant download of the tune.
That was when I had my "duh" moment, knowing instantly that discounted digital pricing is the standard in other media. I realized that, as a consumer myself, I pretty much expect the digital pricing to be cheaper on something.
Save on Digital HirschMusic
From that point on I knew that I wanted to price my products similarly, offering discounted pricing for PDFs on all of my compositions and arrangements. At this point in time, you will save at least 15-25% on all PDF purchases.
Small ensemble music savings hover at around 25% for PDFs, while the jazz ensemble savings are typically 15-20%. The jazz ensemble savings will increase next year, when I raise my print-music prices (without changing the PDF prices) to better reflect the costs of printing and wholesale pricing.
Feedback from you
I still sense that I'm at the very beginning stages of a long adventure. I've got tons to learn, and my ears and eyes are wide open. If you've got ideas for me that you think could help, please fire away!