Next BIG Nashville Spotlight: Musicnotes

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Musicnotes is the leading Internet-based sheet music store offering nearly 110,000 pieces of digital sheet music and guitar tablature. We caught up with the company’s CFO, Tim Reiland, who will be speaking at this year’s Next BIG Nashville conference.

How did you get involved with Musicnotes?

As a music lover and an angel investor, I worked with our CEO Kathleen Marsh in the investment banking world in the 1980s and, when Kathy called me when she co-founded Musicnotes in 1998, I was very intrigued and made an initial investment.

The story is way too long to tell but Musicnotes made it through the dot com meltdown of 2000 and numerous other challenges in the decade that followed. My role evolved from lead investor to CFO and Chairman. What I can now say is that Musicnotes is battle-tested and our passionate team of 40-plus people in Madison, Wisconsin is ready to kick some serious butt in the years ahead. And, oh yes, we are profitable and cash-flow positive.

Which instrument sales the most digital sheet music?

Piano – hands down. The second most popular “instrument” would be voice. Our sheet music is used in auditions all the time. The third most popular instrument would be guitar. This category is being decimated by all of the illegal guitar tablature sites but we are determined to help the industry find the “right way” to monetize this large market including our “free” MXTabs.net guitar tablature site. Past guitar, instruments like flute are very important as well as trumpet, violin, etc. We have some very cool ideas for notation for all popular instruments looking out over the next few years.

A few years ago the company signed a distribution deal with Word Music, a publisher of Christian music. Does religious music make up a great deal of your business?

Religious music makes up about 20 percent of Musicnotes’ sales. It used to be the fastest growing part of our business but over the past year or two our growth in the religious category has been about the same as our overall digital download growth of 25 percent. We have plans to significantly expand the Christian/religious music category at Musicnotes in the years ahead and are excited about the potential.

How many downloads does the site average per month?

Musicnotes is currently generating over 200,000 downloads per month at an average download price near $5. We “ain’t quite iTunes” but the Musicnotes business model is very interesting for selected songs that people want to learn to play.

Last year, Music Notes teamed up with TuneCore, where any artist selling more than 25,000 songs within 90 days can have at least one of their songs professionally scored, translated to sheet music and made available for sale via at Musicnotes. Have many artists taken advantage of this?

Yes, we have added several singer-songwriters through this relationship with TuneCore, including indie artist Ron Pope who sells very well on Musicnotes. We are looking to expand our relationship with TuneCore and others. Again, not every song should be translated to sheet music given the up-front investment needed to transcribe individual songs. If everyone involved exercises good editorial judgment, Musicnotes can generate significant incremental royalties for publishers and songwriters on great new songs people want to learn to play.

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