Choosing repertoire

In order to maximise sales, you need to choose repertoire that your target audience

like to listen to. If you want to sell your CD to the general public like your usual

concert goers, then it’s likely that they’ll want to hear the same kind of music that you

play in your concerts. Quite often when you sell CDs at a concert, you’ll be asked

if you have a recording of something that has been heard during that performance.

Under these circumstances you’re less likely to sell CDs of avant-garde music or

major works if your audience is used to listening to a lighter, more popular style of

music. That said, inclusion of an amount of lesser known repertoire can also act as

a sales handle – programming a piece that has few other recordings available may

be enough to make someone buy your CD, as well as maintaining interest for the



One thing to remember is that each piece you choose should stand up to repeated

listening and as such, you should choose material that is within your capabilities. A

CD recording is not a place to find your limitations, as it makes for a very expensive

rehearsal session. Pieces that can be ‘got away with’ in the context of a one-off

performance in a concert (for reasons of technique, for example) do not make for

good recordings. Risks can of course be taken with one or two pieces, but be prepared

to drop them from the final product and have backups prepared if the risks don’t pay



If the budget allows – or if indeed you have any composers or arrangers within your

organisation – it’s worth considering commissioning new music for your recording.

Fees charged can vary greatly, but the investment can give a high return both in

terms of sales and profile. Remember, though, that commissioning arrangements

may involve paying copyright permissions as an additional cost. At this point, it’s

also worth mentioning that you should ensure that all the material you want to

record is actually legal and available for use. Most recording companies will not

record arrangements which are known to be illegal – this is for everyone’s benefit as

releasing unauthorised material may result in legal action and forced withdrawal of


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Keith Johnson


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