I am frequently asked, particularly by freelance musicians, how one can go about commissioning a composer. What are reasonable rates/fees, and are there any potential copyright problems one should watch for?

In the United States, New Music USA has a commissioning fee calculator. In Canada, an organization called The Canadian League of Composers (CLC) helps to facilitate and simplify the commissioning of Canadian composers by publishing minimum commissioning rates, as well as sample commissioning contracts. CLC’s rates and model contracts are recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as many other provincial and municipal arts councils, who provide funding for numerous Canadian commissions every year. Commissioning organizations or musicians, composers, or both can apply for commissioning funds by proposing a project to the arts councils.  

There is no fee for ensembles or musicians to apply to these councils. There is no harm in applying and supporting the music of your favourite Canadian composer. Most composers, including myself, would be happy to help the commissioners with the application process. Fortunately, most of this process is done online, and Canada Council has recently simplified the application process considerably. 

Commissioning organizations or ensembles outside of Canada may also be able to enable the commissioning of a project by a Canadian composer by endorsing the project or committing to premiere it, and allowing the composer to use that endorsement to seek funding from Canadian arts councils. 

Apart from the federal, municipal, and provincial funding, there are several other organizations (such as the SOCAN foundation) that may be able to provide funding to support the creation of music by Canadian composers. Some ensembles also rely on private donors, or crowdfunding.

Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, or if you wish to commission a work.