How would I go about commissioning a symphony?

I wish to immortalize myself in a symphony, but I know nothing about creating music. Who would I talk to in order to commission a symphony in my honor? How much do these things go for these days?

Call up a composer and offer him or her a bunch of money.

Sorry, I have no idea how much they would actually want (and it would probably vary a lot from composer to composer), but I should have thought most would jump at the chance provided they would not lose too much money through devoting their time to your symphony rather than to other projects. Somebody like John Williams, who can rake in big bucks from Hollywood, would probably want a lot more than some impoverished schmuck just out of music school. Of course, the schmuck might not actually be very good, either, but there are probably quite a few composers around who have track records, are critically well rated, but make very little money from their music. Those are your best bet, I should think.

njtt has it. My father-in-law is a composer (mostly band music, but some other stuff) and he has gotten commissions from orchestras and bands. You could commission him, but he just turned 95 so you’ll have to act fast. :slight_smile:

I’d say look for new music on the web. There is an organization of composers called NACUSA which has a list of members and links to their music. My father-in-law is in this. Find someone there whose music you like, and you’d probably be able to do a commission with him or her.

If you live in Virginia you must be within easy reach of dozens of professional symphony orchestras and college music schools. Get in touch with one of those. They would contain composers, and certainly known how to reach the rest of the profession. My guess is that students would charge less and professionals would charge more, but I wouldn’t have a clue at how much.

You could get your circle of subscribers and fans to pay the composer’s fee:

So I’d say you’re looking at a minimum of several dozen thousand bucks for a full symphonic piece by an established composer.

And the composer might not even take you up on the deal if you’re not actually planning to get the piece performed.

Well, make sure it’s in ‘C’

Can’t follow the link at work but I assume it’s built on victorious young triads :slight_smile:

ETA: maybe you can offer the composer some Cake.

The harder problem is how to get a major symphony orchestra to perform the work that you commissioned.

The answer would seem to be that you approach a major orchestra, and offer to fund their next commissioned symphony, on the condition that it is named after you. They might ask a small premium, or not, depending upon how well off they are. Assume up to $100,000

There is of course, no guarantee that the symphony will meet your expectations. Nor is there any guarantee that your name will remain attached to it, even if it were a success. In a 100 years time music lovers might simply refer to “The Egomanic” symphony, and your name will appear as a tiny footnote in the concert notes.

As an example, Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto - the Emperor Concerto - was funded by, and dedicated to, Archduke Rudolf. However it was not named by Beethoven, rather by the publisher. This might provide a clue as to the level of funding and eminence of funder expected.

I could write you one.

It wouldn’t be very good though.

Well, I’ll be durned. Next you’ll be telling us that Here comes the EMP’ror, All in his Brand, New, Suit, He must be COLD, But doesn’t He, Look, Cute… aren’t the real lyrics!


I’d also write one, if you paid enough. :slight_smile:

Back when I paid more attention to these sorts of things, the Canadian Music Centre (Link) used to have a list of guidelines of how much a composer should charge for music commissioned per minute. I couldn’t find it this time around, but I didn’t look too hard!

Thats why I like it here, you guys get me, I came up with this thread after that song came on pandora.

Ouch, thats a bit out of my price range. Which brings me to my next question, anyone wanna split a symphony?

Although not a symphony, the Mozart Requiem is co-written (although the commission fee was not split, I don’t believe).

However there are plenty of non-major orchestras who would do it - especially if one brought lots of ticket buying friends to the concert.

Hey, the Montreal quartet Quatuor Bozzini has a commissioning venture that will compose for you at the low low rate of $5 per second of output! (I presume that’s in Canadian dollars.)

For a mere 800 bucks, you get a full “miniature” work 160 seconds long, and you get to specify the composer (from a list of participating composers), the general characteristics of the piece, and the person to whom the work is dedicated. You also receive the signed musical score and attendance at a rehearsal of the piece!

But wait, there’s more: for $1000 you get all that plus a ringtone of your music!

Here’s some detail about a contest to commission music for the group Eighth Blackbird. Note that the announcement says the finalists will receive a “cash prize.” In reality, the prize is almost nothing (IIRC, it’s something like $100 for the finalists and a little more for the winner.) The real prize is the chance to have your work performed by a Grammy-winning ensemble.

So, if you call it a contest and can convince a famous orchestra or group to perform your piece, you may get an aspiring composer to write it for damn near free.


Sorry to just appear, but I work at Meet The Composer and a google alert linked me here. I just wanted to let you know we have good guidelines for what to pay composers and how commissioning works here (commissioning music: a basic guide is the document with the recommended fees). Those fees are recommended for professional, established composers.

We also have a new, separate website, the MTC Studio, where we’re profiling ongoing commissioning projects. If you want to know what composers are like when they’re working, it’s a good place to start.

Also, if you have questions about how to commission music, give us a call at 212-645-6949. Part of our job is to help people commission new work.

Sorry again to just appear - I hope this info is useful.

Well I’m impressed :slight_smile: No need to apologise. I think that pretty much covers the entire question better than anyone could have expected or even hoped.

The intelectual property components are interesting. The system seems to be very much set up as commissioners being patrons. About the only area where composers ever fully relinquish rights seems to be computer games.

Great information, estarriolvetch. Follow-up question: Do you keep a database of “candidate composers”, and if so, how could I get in the database?

And I’ll also throw my name in the Doper hat and say that if anyone wants to contact me about a commission, I’m all for it. My website is in my profile and I’ll be happy to send samples of works I’ve written for solo piano as well as full orchestra. :slight_smile: