||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 have more or less complete control of which of their works are in Frog Peak, and how they are reproduced. We're interested in innovative, appropriate uses of technology to get works out cheaply, and in staying organizationally small and sustainable. We are completely dedicated to providing a home for artists' work that is comfortable, simple, and effective. We have a predilection towards work that won't find a similar home elsewhere, nothing is too odd for us, and we have no commercial expectations for work. If something doesn't sell for 20 years, we don't care, our main interest is 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 are very interested in experimental, innovativeart and music, and we take the considered recommendations of member artists pretty seriously. Also, we like to work with nice, cooperative people, who are as much interested in the benefits to everyone in the collective as they are to their own work. Many Frog Peak artists are invited.
We don't have a formal application procedure, nor are we likely to return things that you send us. We're quite small, and have a very limited amount of person hours to spend, so try to be patient with us responding slowly. We're not too interested in bios, cvs, awards, etc., nor participating in academic tenure processes by granting a publication imprimatur.
Does it cost anything to join?
No. There are no membership fees.
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, 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, meeting us sort of "halfway" in getting your work ready for distribution). We want member artists to promote their own work by their own art, and in turn, help 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 couple of reasons, none of them too rigid. First, the organization itself makes no profit, nor do the "directors" get paid. Most major decisions are made by consulting members, and we expect people to help out when possible. But probably most importantly, one of our key ideas is that everybody's work will help everybody else's. There are famous composers in Frog Peak, and totally unknown ones, and people 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 hazardous or explosive materials, although we do have one item that's been reclassified 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 cool. 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 really have a clear organizational definition of what that means. If stuff 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 (print and web), and often announce new members and works over email lists. We don't have enough money to advertise (except occasionally). We send out postcards occasionally to our very large mailing list, usually when we produce a new CD or book. We also have a "new additions" list that we send out regularly, plus we have an extensive press, reviewer, radio and "comp" list, which we use. Since we are in contact with a lot of other artists, with the artist's permission we often give away copies of people's work to help promote them.
How does Frog Peak survive financially without accepting 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 it.
If I have a score, how does Frog Peak handle its distribution and reproduction?
In one of two 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 master copy (we don't do paste up, editing, parts extraction, etc.) and 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. In the latter case, you get a smaller royalty on each item (see below), and we put a Frog Peak cover on your score.
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's been a motivating factor in what we do. We're interested in clarity and simplicity, consistency, and in doing things in a sustainable fashion. There are a number of very good designers associated with Frog Peak, whose ideas we draw on frequently, and who are involved in various ways in various productions.
What's the royalty arrangement?
It's generally 50/50% on artist-produced works, 10% to artists on things we produce from copy masters. We try to send money to everybody as often as we can (some people do quite well).
Does Frog Peak accept gifts and donations?
You bet. There are a couple of angels to whom we are really grateful. 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?
When we can, and not much. There's not a big economic market for scores. In addition, we're constantly in the hole, so we pay artists as often as we can, 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 your work is carefully stored, and availble to others in a professional manner -- that's the payoff.
Does Frog Peak require exclusive distribution of my work?
Well, yes, because if you have someplace else to put your work, you don't need to put it with us. There are some exceptions.We are interested in having as much of an artist's work as we can, and it serves the artist for the Frog Peak catalog to be a kind of "portrait" of what you do. We are not a distriubtor! We're not really interested in being one of several places where people can get your work. The market and community for this stuff 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. You can leave Frog Peak whenever you feel like, or when you get a better offer. Conversely, if you get too snitty, we can give you the boot. We're doing 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 love it when people give us some or all of them for any piece or pieces. There are a couple of artists (we refer to them as bodhissatvas) who contribute the 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 entirely voluntary. To those who do -- thank you thank you thank you -- your generosity helps hundreds of other artists.
What about copyright? Other intellectual property rights?
Artists retain all rights. The only thing we have a copyright on, or any other rights on, are the Frog Peak productions and collections themselves, not the individual artist works.
Where does Frog Peak sell its items?
To lots of people, 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. We also take credit cards and institional purchase orders, so just about anyone can order from us.
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 to make this DIY approach to experimental music and independent publishing work. Nothing makes us happier than lots of interesting artists taking control of their work in this and similar ways.
How many people work for Frog Peak?
Well, we like to think that all the artists, by their commitment and passion, are working for it, and that is pretty much true. Aside from that, we have one half-time, salaried Administrative Director named Paul Schick who does most of the office work, and two directors who are non-salaried and do a lot of work as well.
What does Frog Peak do on the web and the internet?
We have a pretty big website, that we keep up to date. The website contains the main catalog (by medium and by artist), an artist page for every artist (where we list everything of 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 accepts credit cards over the web, and has its own domain name (frogpeak.org). Our stuff is carried by Amazon.com and a few other web distributors. We're fully cooperative with a number of smaller, like-minded organizations on the web and in meat-space.
We maintain an ever-expanding email "spam" list, which we often use to announce new items, sales, etc. We also have a Frog Peak Artists email list which we use for communication with members.
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 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.
What's the difference between a "Frog Peak Publication" and the other materials available through Frog Peak?
Good question. There are two very different ways in which Frog Peak operates. The first is as a publishing and CD company of its own. The second is as a home for member artists' work.
Frog Peak as an editorial entity has published a number of books, CDs, and other items. We -- that is, the directors, people who we work with on sound and design, and usually some member artist(s), 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.
But most everything in Frog Peak is under artist control, where we have more or less no say on anything except the practicality of reproducing it, selling it, and shipping it. We often suggest pricing for things as well, but member artists have ultimate control over their work that's handled in this way.
Is Frog Peak a CD label? A book publishing company?
Yes, both. We have now done 10 CDs under the Frog Peak label, and a number of books.
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 make her own work, 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 designer (Michael Sumner), our own CD mastering and sound guru (Tom Erbe), 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), as well as distributing nearly complete collections of periodicals like Xenharmonikon, furnitures and Feedback, we include a great many artists who do not have a "single" listing in the catalog. We have been especially interested in making available artist's 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 done concert series, endowed a small prize (at Mills, 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 the works of a number of older composers (Johanna Beyer, Ruth Crawford Seeger), and generally been amenable to any whacky notion a member artist proposed. We're small, flexible, and try to leave ourselves open to any idea which furthers the cause of experimental music.
Any more questions? Feel free to email us at fp [at] frogpeak [dot] org