Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Frog Peak?
Frog Peak Music is a composers' collective, devoted to the availability of experimental works. Mostly musical, but not entirely. Frog Peak member artists control which of their works are in Frog Peak, and to a large extent how they are reproduced. Frog Peak is interested in innovative, appropriate uses of technology to get works out cheaply, and in remaining organizationally small and sustainable. We are dedicated to providing a comfortable, simple, and effective home for artists' work. We prefer to include people whose work won't find a similar home elsewhere. Almost nothing is too odd for us. We have no commercial aspirations or expectations. If something doesn't sell for 20 years, we don't care. Our interest is in availability, not promotion or economics.
How do I join Frog Peak?
Call us, email us, or contact us in any way, and send us some examples of your work. Joining is informal, but selective. We prefer physical submissions whenever is possible. We are interested in experimental, innovative art and music. We take the considered recommendations of member artists pretty seriously; many Frog Peak artists have been invited to join. We prefer to work with nice, cooperative people, who are as interested in benefits for everyone in the collective as they are in their own work.
We don't have a formal application procedure, nor will we return things that you send us. We're quite small, and have a very limited number of person hours to spend, so we ask for your patience if we respond slowly. We're not too interested in bios, cvs, awards, etc., and we avoid participating in academic tenure and promotion processes by granting a publication imprimatur.
Does it cost anything to join?
When did Frog Peak start?
Around 1982, in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with its "sister" institution, the American Gamelan Institute, which shares administrative resources. Some of its earliest members and cohorts include James Tenney, Anthony Braxton, Lou Harrison, David Rosenboom, David Mahler, Alexis Alrich, Anne LaBerge, Carter Scholz, Chris Mann, Eric Richards, Dan Goode, Larry Polansky, Jody Diamond, and a number of others.
What does it mean to "be a member"?
Practically, not much; philosophically a great deal. There are no responsibilities of membership other than doing your best to promote the general well-being of your own work, the work of others in Frog Peak, and generally, trying to be a good citizen (that is, doing your part in getting your work ready for distribution). Member artists promote their own work by their own art, activity, and creativity, which in turn, helps Frog Peak. We like it when member artists say "You can get that through Frog Peak" and "Here's the Frog Peak phone number, email, website," etc.
Why is it called a "composers' collective"?
A few reasons, all quite flexible. First, the organization itself makes no profit, nor do the "directors" get paid. All income goes to support the production of the work, the running of the office, postage, production, and so on. Major decisions are often made by consulting other members, and we expect people to help out when they can. But, perhaps most significantly, one of our key precepts is that everybody's work will help everybody else's. There are famous composers in Frog Peak, and totally unknown ones, and everything in between.
What do you mean by "we take people, not pieces."?
Once we accept an artist, we'll carry anything by them, in any medium (well almost--we won't ship extremely large, heavy, hazardous or explosive materials, although we do have one item that's been classified as inedible). We exercise no editorial or aesthetic control. If you want to include a book of your poems, your baby pictures, your complete symphonic works and your blank vinyl LP of contemplations of ancient Korean poetry, that's fine with us. Just send us enough copies, or an easily reproducible master. Our only constraints are practical: what we can store, reproduce, ship. We discourage pieces done on bowling balls, sticky substances, or sharp objects.
What kind of work will Frog Peak accept?
Anything, once an artist becomes a member. Our main interest is in experimental stuff, but we don't have a fixed definition of what that means. If an artist is interesting to us, or argued for by one of the active member artists, that's an important factor.
What will Frog Peak do to promote my work?
List it in the catalog (now, only on the website), and often announce new members and works over quite large email lists. We don't have enough money to advertise (except occasionally). We do have a "new additions" list that we send out regularly (3-4 times a year) to distributors, and some libraries have standing orders for everything new that comes in.
How does Frog Peak survive financially without requesting performance royalties, being a non-profit and actively seeking grants and donations, or having directors with trust funds?
Don't ask...The euphemistic answer is that we consider ourselves a model for low-impact, non-intrusive, sustainable economic behavior.
Is there some document that outlines all of Frog Peak's rules, ideas, and policies?
This is as close as it gets.
If I have a score, how does Frog Peak handle its distribution and reproduction?
In several different ways. You can send us multiple copies that you make yourself in exactly the way you want, and we will distribute those (until we run out, and ask you for more). Or, preferably, you make one clean copy (we don't do paste up, editing, parts extraction, etc.) and send it to us in digital or physical form; we keep that on file as a copy master. That's better for us. We never run out, we don't have to store multiple copies, and we are set up to print things on-demand pretty easily. We put a Frog Peak cover on your score, and format parts and title pages so they look nice.
Sending out materials as .pdf files has become extremely common, and we have scanned most of the physical scores, or almost all of those of a reasonable size. We send out .pdf scores electronically, but otherwise their distribution is the same as the physical scores.
What are Frog Peak's design ideas?
Over the years we've learned a lot about clean, cheap, simple (to us, elegant) design, and that motivates how we do things. We're interested in clarity and simplicity, consistency, and in doing things sustainably. There are a number of very good designers who have been associated with Frog Peak, and whose ideas we draw on frequently, and who have been involved in various ways in various productions.
What's the royalty arrangement?
It's generally 50/50 on artist-produced works, 8% of the sale price to artists on things we produce from copy masters. We try to send money to everybody as often as we can, which is not too often since almost everything that comes in goes to keeping the office open and producing members' work. Honestly, composers can make more money by registering with BMI or ASCAP, reporting performances, and receiving the performance royalties paid by those organizations. To "availability, not promotion" we should probably add "not profit."
Does Frog Peak accept gifts and donations?
You bet. There are a couple of angels to whom we are really grateful. Some composer members contribute by assigning some or all of their publisher performance royalties to Frog Peak Music (BMI). The best way to support Frog Peak is to send in new material. We could use more, the financial situation is always dire. On the other hand, it's been more or less equally dire for 20 years, so at least it's not worse! No offers refused.
How often do you pay royalties, and how much can I expect?
Once a year, after taxes, we figure out our available funds, and pay artists proportionally to what they are owed. There's not a big economic market for scores, and even less nowadays for physical recordings (CDs, LPs, etc). We are constantly "in the hole," but we pay artists as much as we can. If you're looking to make money by selling copies of your work through a publisher, Frog Peak is not for you. If you would take pleasure in knowing that you are in the company of like-minded composers, your work is carefully stored, and available internationally in a professional manner (including via shopping cart, credit cards, and purchase orders)—that's the main benefit we offer.
Does Frog Peak require exclusive distribution of my work?
Not legally (see "contracts" below). But if you have someplace else to put your work, you don't need to put it with us. There are, of course, some exceptions. We are interested in having as much of an artist's work as we can, and it serves you as an artist for your Frog Peak artist page to be a kind of "portrait" of what you do. But we're not really interested in being one of several places where people can get your work. The market and community for this material is too small, and the duplication of effort is not worth it.
What kind of contract do I need to sign?
None. We retain no rights, there are no legal obligations for you or us. You can leave Frog Peak whenever you like, or when you get a better offer. Conversely, if you get too snitty, manic, agressive, or just plain nuts, we can give you the boot (in truth, this has only happened once). We do this as a labor of love, and we have no interest in fighting or arguing with member artists. Life is too short, and we've got too much to do.
What about BMI, ASCAP, and other performing rights?
We don't require publisher performance rights, but we very much appreciate it when people give us some or all of the publisher rights for any piece or pieces. There are a couple of artists (we refer to them as bodhisattvas) who contribute BMI/ASCAP publishing rights for some or all of their pieces (or some % of some pieces). Those artists are crucial to our survival, because this is, of course, how regular, non-independent, non-experimental publishing houses make their living (not by selling scores). However, we're a collective, so when artists do this, it's voluntary. To those who do—thank you thank you thank you—your generosity helps hundreds of other artists.
What about copyright or intellectual property rights?
Artists retain all rights. The only thing we have a copyright for, or any other rights on, are the Frog Peak productions (CDs, books, collections) themselves, not individual artists' works.
Who buys Frog Peak items?
Individuals, libraries, performers, new music lovers, collectors, distributors, stores, and so on, all over the world. A number of important, major libraries have and maintain nearly complete collections of scores and books carried by Frog Peak.
Why can't I just do the same thing myself with a photocopy machine, a computer, a post office box?
You can, and we hope you will. One of our goals in starting Frog Peak was to provide an example of how this DIY approach to experimental music and independent publishing works. Nothing makes us happier than lots of interesting artists taking control of their work in this and similar ways.
What does Frog Peak do on the web and the internet?
We have a pretty big website, which we keep up to date. The website contains a search box, the main catalog (by medium and by artist), an artist page for each artist where we list everything by that artist in Frog Peak, a score catalog by instrumentation, some pages for special projects (Frog Peak produced CDs, books, etc.), this FAQ page, and other stuff.
Frog Peak has a shopping cart, accepts credit cards over the web, and has its own domain name (frogpeak.org). Our stuff is carried by a few other distributors. We are frequently and fully cooperative with a number of smaller, like-minded organizations on the web and in meat-space.
We maintain an ever-expanding email list, which we often use to announce new items, sales, or send Frog Peak newsletters. We also have a Frog Peak Artists email list which we use for communication with members.
The Frog Peak website also has a section called "Unbound," where we simply post things for downloading that are interesting, unavailable elsewhere, or unusual, and which we don't sell.
What's the difference between Frog Peak and a "normal" publisher?
We don't demand performance royalties, we don't make any money (we don't even try to make money...), we don't choose some pieces and not others, and we don't exercise editorial control. The best of the big publishing companies are labors of love and economic ventures. We're just a labor of love. Also, we have a garage full of books, scores, records, and CDs produced by us or by member artists.
What's the difference between a "Frog Peak Publication" and the other materials available through Frog Peak?
Good question. Frog Peak operates in two very different ways. The first is as a publishing and CD company of its own. The second is as a home for member artists' work that we produce, or that they make themselves.
Frog Peak as an editorial entity has published a number of books, scores, CDs, and other items. We—that is, the directors, people we work with on sound and design, and usually some member whose work it is, or who's serving as curator or editor—carefully control, in a more conventional way, all aspects of those projects. We serve as producers (and editors) and retain final say over everything.
Good examples of this kind of work are the 10-15 CDs we've produced, the books (Divisions of the Tetrachord, Meta + Hodos, The Frog Peak Anthology, New Music for Plucked Strings) and annotated performance editions (30 critical editions of Johanna Beyer's work; 3 of Ruth Crawford Seeger's).
But most everything in Frog Peak is under artist control, and we have no influence on anything except the practicality of reproducing it (or packing, in the case of artist-produced works), selling it, and shipping it.
What's the difference between me doing my own CD, and having it in the Frog Peak catalog, and a Frog Peak CD?
Any Frog Peak artist can produce work independently, and put it in Frog Peak as part of her catalog. We have no say about what that CD looks like, sounds like, etc. When FP artists do CDs on our label, we take a considerable degree of control over production, design, sound, liner notes, etc., in the same way that a more conventional label would. We have our own designers, our own CD mastering and sound guru, and our own editors, as well as a set of informal guidelines about the look, feel, and production of our CDs.
How many people are in Frog Peak?
Hundreds. Along with its many single member artists, Frog Peak has taken on the complete remaining inventory of several like-minded projects in American (and elsewhere) experimental independent publishing (for example, Soundings, and Lingua Press). We also distribute nearly complete collections of periodicals like Xenharmonikon, furnitures, NMA, 1/1, Feedback Papers, as well as publications and recordings from Open Space. In that way, Frog Peak includes a great many artists who do not have an individual page listing in the catalog. We have been especially interested in carrying already-produced artist books, CDs, LPs, and other small publications that no longer have a way to be available.
Besides providing a home for its member artists' works, what else does Frog Peak do?
We've produced concerts, endowed a small prize (at Mills College, for the most "community minded graduate student composer"), served as design consultants for member artists, functioned as an umbrella organization for member artist projects, resurrected works by a number of older composers (Johanna Beyer, Ruth Crawford Seeger), and generally been amenable to any whacky notion a member artist proposes. We're small, flexible, and try to leave ourselves open to any idea that furthers the cause of experimental music.
Any more questions? Feel free to email us at fp [at] frogpeak [dot] org