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Checklist for Commissioning New Choral Music

1. Identification of parties
Is the contract between the composer and an organization, or between two individuals?

2. Description of work
Duration, number of parts, degree of difficulty, accompaniment, etc.

3. Text
Who chooses the text? Who is responsible for copyright clearance, if necessary, and for any fees involved in copyright permission? Usually these copyright questions are the composer's responsibility but the chorus pays the fees.

4. Premiere
How long does commissioning party have exclusive rights to performance? Usually this right is for premiere only, sometimes also for a stipulated amount of time after premiere (to allow for tour, other performances, etc.). Composer should be protected by setting a reasonable deadline for premiere, so that if the commissioning party runs into difficulties, the work is not tied up for years.

5. Delivery date
When is score to be delivered? If instrumental parts are involved, when are they due?

6. Payment
Amount and method of payment. Usually the commissioning party pays half of the fee upon signing agreement and the remainder upon delivery of score and/or parts.
See http://www.meetthecomposer.org/files/commissioning-music.pdf for payment guidelines.

7. Extra costs
Usually the chorus pays for duplicating of choral scores. Composer pays for furnishing instrumental parts as needed IF the commission makes allowance for this. Contract should state that composer is to furnish good quality, legible score and parts. If professional copying or duplicating of score or parts is required, who pays and how much should be decided in advance.

8. Ownership
Commissioning a work does NOT imply ownership of it. The composer retains the rights of further performances, publication, etc. The composer also usually retains ownership of the original manuscript. The commissioning party is entitled to keep at least one copy of the score and sometimes a complete set of instrumental parts (which may not be loaned out) if this has been agreed upon. Use of these parts in the future with or without additional rental fees must be indicated in the agreement. (If the work is published, the publisher must be consulted about this.)

9. Liability
If composer does not complete the commission, what is his/her liability to return the portion of fee already received? If commissioning party does not perform work on time, or does not make payment when agreed, is interest to be paid to the composer?

10. Recording
Composer must approve record label of professional recording. A separate agreement (involving publisher in cases where composer is under contract) must be made concerning mechanical rights. Commissioning party may ask for first refusal for commercial recording.

11. Publishing and licensing

  1. If the composer is under contract to a publisher, publisher may also have to be consulted concerning rental fees and other terms of the commissioning agreement (see Nos. 8 and 10 above).
  2. If work is accompanied by orchestra that does not hold a valid ASCAP/BMI license, it must agree to secure an individual license for all performances of the commissioned work.
  3. Commissioning party should state in the agreement exactly how the commission credit line should appear in the published work.

12. Legal details

  1. All rights not granted in commission agreement are reserved to the composer.
  2. Amendments must be made in writing.
  3. A method of settling disputes should be written into the agreement.