Store's computer customizes sheet music to any buyer's taste CARROLL COUNTY FARM/BUSINESS

November 19, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

A music teacher wants to get the latest tunes for her students to play, but the arrangements are too difficult.

A prospective bride has a special piece in mind for her wedding, but it is written in a key that her soloist can't sing.

Don Myers at Stu's Music Shop in Westminster says he can help.

The new NoteStation computer, installed in his shop last week, can print more than 2,000 pieces of music and rearrange them in any key at the touch of a button.

"For the first time, we have the capability to get pieces of music right away," said the co-owner of Stu's. "But the biggest part is the ability to get a piece written in a version best suited for you."

The system, about the size of a jukebox, consists of a Wang computer and a full-color screen that customers touch to select a piece of music by artist, title, composer or music style.

Selections are stored in a compact disk information system, similar to those that play music. The system is updated with about 200 new titles each month.

Once the sheet music is shown on the screen, a customer can change the key to match a voice range, instrument range or playing ability. Then the customer can print the sheet music on a laser printer and buy it for $3.95 per selection.

"A lot of sheet music is starting to sell for that price," Mr. Myers said. "This is right in line with normal costs."

Customers also will be able to get selections on floppy disks for use with computers or electronic keyboards after the system is BTC transferred to an IBM computer next week. Each disk will allow a computer or keyboard to play a fully orchestrated version of the song.

The $12,000 computer, one of two in Maryland, is the result of more than nine years of work between Jon Monday and Larry Heller, co-founders of MusicWriter Inc. in San Francisco.

Wheaton Music in Wheaton installed its NoteStation computer this week.

Mr. Monday spent 12 years in the record business and eight in computer software production. Mr. Heller worked in marketing research for 22 years before creating MusicWriter.

The two created their company when they realized that sheet music was a perfect product for computer-based operations that create the object to customer specifications on the spot.

"It's not only appropriate to distribute that way, but as an industry, it's needed to meet customer demand," said Mr. Monday. "Through our research we found that for the most part, people can't find the songs they are looking for and when they can find it, it's not in the right key.

"This was just a musician's dream."

But computer technology was not ready for their concept.

"We had to wait for the cost of CD-ROMs and laser printers to come down to make it affordable," Mr. Monday said.

So, the two men began making contacts with music publishing firms. MusicWriter now has agreements with Warner Bros., Cherry Lane and CPP/Belwin -- three of the four biggest publishing companies in the country -- and agreements with several smaller companies, Mr. Monday said.

The company monitors sales of each sheet of music through the computers and pays the publisher's royalties accordingly.

"My partner's specialty is determining what are the right titles to put into the system," said Mr. Monday.

"He knows which ones are the best sellers or most requested to fill in an appropriate category and makes sure there are good selections in each type of music," he said.

Mr. Myers, in Westminster, said he has sold several dozen copies of music since the system was installed a week ago.

"This has been operating very smoothly for us," he said. "We will probably now be able to lessen our buying of titles that are in [the system], and that will give us a better utilization of space. It's an expandable electronic library of sheet music."

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