Making sure the show goes on

Each time a musical or music theatre is staged in Australia, there is a publisher behind the scene, and the work they undertake involves far more than just issuing a licensing agreement.

Musicals are known in the industry as Grand Rights works, and they are licensed directly by a music publisher rather than through APRA/AMCOS. Publishers also license the performance of musical works in a theatrical context (known as Small Rights in a Dramatic Context).

According to Philip Burn, Managing Director of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd (which administers one of the largest catalogues of grand rights works in Australia) the market here is “very healthy, particularly in the amateur and stock repertory side.”

“We're very proactive in terms of licensing our catalogue,” he said. “Our licensing staff have a strong background in classical music and theatre and this enables them to provide informed advice to clients regarding the suitability of works for their particular resources, rather than acting just as a booking agent.”

In addition to this, Hal Leonard regularly calls on major producers and companies, and non-professional clients throughout Australia and New Zealand informing them about works available for license. The company also works extensively with the education market, with special versions of certain works available for upper primary and middle schools, as well as making a collection of musicals available for younger children.

“And in addition to this, we are starting a graduate program to help up and coming performers, directors and producers who graduate from our major performing arts institutions,” Burn said. “This will provide them with special assistance in staging certain works during their first years out of university.”

The company represents major Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Liza Lim and Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank, as well overseas works, including the Grand Rights Works of Disney and the works of the legendary Broadway composer Charles Strouse (Annie), and such well-known favourites as Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof.

When a work is licensed to a client, the publisher frequently provides far more than just a contract to put the work on stage. They also hire and sell rehearsal and performance materials, along with various resources such as the original Broadway artwork, production slides and study guides. Hal Leonard will also design and proof adverstising, posters and programs, making sure that all the contractual billing requirements are followed.

“Publishers in this field work very closely with their clients, both professional and amateur,” Burn said. “We're always looking for ways of helping the show to go on, and ensuring continued vitality in music theatre across the country.”

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