Should You Buy Sheet Music Online or In Store?

I’m a sheet music fiend. I love to buy sheet music. If you’ve seen those memes about buying more books when you still have a ton that you haven’t read, that’s me.

Hannah B Flute | Should You Buy Sheet Music Online or In Store?

But with sheet music.

But even if you aren’t like that, you still need to buy sheet music at some point. And there are multiple ways to do it.

Why Buy Sheet Music

There are many reasons for you to buy sheet music. Of course, you can only get so far with learning music if you only play by ear.

While playing by ear is an excellent skill to have, some pieces are much easier to learn with the music in front of you.

Sure, as a student, you might be able to borrow music from your teacher. But as you progress, you should get your own copies of music. That way, you can build your sheet music library.

Support composers and publishers

One of the biggest reasons to buy sheet music is to support living composers and music publishers. Many composers don’t make a ton off of commissioned works.

But even if they do, they should still earn some money from other people who choose to get the sheet music for their works.

And with the internet, more and more composers are self-publishing. That means the only way to get their music is to buy it directly from the composer’s website.

Even if you don’t play any music that’s under copyright, buying sheet music can support music publishers. Those companies have to pay for printing and shipping.

So if you want them to keep publishing music, you should support them.

Stay legal

Let’s say you don’t want to support composers. While I don’t know why you wouldn’t, you should still want to be legal. A lot of new music is under copyright protection.

So obtaining that music without paying for it could be considered illegal.

Even older works that have been edited could be under copyright due to the editor’s changes.

If you buy sheet music, you know that that music is yours. You have the right to that copy since you paid the money for it.

Access to new music

Since a lot of recent works are still under copyright, you basically have no choice but to buy sheet music for those pieces.

Of course, you can borrow a copy from your friend or teacher. However, you will have to give that copy back at some point.

And a lot of publishers have notes on their music regarding copies. Making a copy to give to someone else may not even be allowed.

Buy Sheet Music Online

Thanks to the internet, we can buy just about anything with the click of a button. If you want to buy sheet music, you don’t even have to leave your house.

You can shop on different music store websites. And even Amazon has a decent selection of sheet music available.

But that doesn’t mean that you should always buy sheet music online. Like with anything, there are some pros and some cons.

Pros

The biggest advantage when you buy sheet music online is that it’s convenient. You can buy music from your couch.

A few days later, your sheet music will arrive in your mailbox.

If you don’t have time to go shopping for music, you can browse during a quick break at school or work. You can also search for the title your looking for more easily.

Another pro is that you have more music available. Your local music store may not have much to choose from. Especially for flutists and other wind players, general music stores don’t always have much.

The bulk of the sheet music section might include band books and maybe a couple of solos.

However, online, you have access to almost any piece you can think of.

And if you’ve started using your iPad for sheet music, you can buy digital sheet music files. After you buy, the file should appear in your email.

Even if you don’t use an iPad, you can still print the sheet music and use it the old fashioned way.

Cons

While there are some definite benefits when you buy sheet music online, there are also some cons.

For one, you might have to pay for shipping. Some stores offer free shipping over a certain amount, which can be nice.

But others charge a hefty fee. Even Amazon listings might not be eligible for free shipping.

And online, you don’t get to see the layout of the sheet music. I made the mistake of buying a piece online. And the publisher had page turns in the worst places.

What’s more, they could have added a blank page at the beginning, and it would have been fine.

But because of that, I had to copy the  pages just to play through the piece without awkward pauses.

Buy Sheet Music In Store

If you don’t want to shop for sheet music online, you can always go to a music store. And like shopping online, going to a store has both advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

The biggest pro to shopping in person is that you don’t have to worry about shipping. Some music retailers charge a ton just to ship you the music.

But when you go in person, it’s free!

You also get to look at the sheet music. If the layout’s terrible, you can find another edition of the piece.

And if a copy has bad printing, you can choose another one.

You get to pick the exact copy of the exact edition of the piece you want.

Cons

Of course, the biggest downside is that you have to get off the couch and go to the music store. Depending on your schedule or even the weather, that can be difficult.

You also may not have a ton of music available in your local music store. If you even have a music store near you in the first place.

And if you want a digital file, you may not have that option. Many music stores only offer print sheet music. Though some do have a print-on-demand option.

Where to Buy Sheet Music

You don’t have to exclusively shop online or in person for sheet music. While both have their pros and cons, each has their purpose.

Before you decide where to buy your next piece, think about what you want.

When you need something specific

If you have to get a specific edition of a piece, that’s a good reason to go online. You can search for the composer or publisher to find what you need.

But if you want to shop in a store, you can call ahead to see if they have what you need. The sheet music store in my hometown takes calls, and they can order in music if they don’t have what I want already in stock.

When you want something new

If you want a piece of music that just came out, head to the composer’s website. A lot of composers list their works online.

Some sell the sheet music from their websites. And if not, they might link to where you can buy the piece you want.

Buying through a composer’s website is an excellent way to support them. Your purchase will go to them and not through a publisher who may take a high commission from the composer.

When you want to explore

If you don’t have your heart set on a particular piece, it can be good to go into a music store. You can browse the selection and see if anything interests you.

Going into a music store can also be a great way to learn about new pieces of music. I bought a piece last year after seeing it in my local store’s section of new releases.

When you want to support local businesses

A lot of music stores are local or regional chains. And by shopping there, you can support a small business.

Of course, there are nationwide chains, like Music & Arts. However, if your music store is local or regional, consider shopping there over a nationwide retailer.

So…

How do you prefer to buy sheet music? Do you go online or do you hit the road for your local music store?

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