Musicians are made to wait as free score site goes pay-for

Musicians are made to wait as free score site goes pay-for


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2015

There’s a rising surge of anger among composers and musicians at the decision by Edward Guo, owner of IMSLP, to put the works they have stored in his site behind a paywall.

IMSLP, founded in 2006, is a wiki-type resource for music scores and recordings. According to its Wikipedia entry, the site carries over 300,000 scores and 35,000 recordings for over 93,000 works by over 12,000 composers.

That’s some database, and until now it has been free to access.

But on December 27, in the dead holiday period, the resourceful Mr Guo introduced a subscription model that restricts access to the website. Unless you a $22.80 yearly subscription you will have to wait 15 seconds before you are allowed to view a file – even if it is a file that you yourself own and uploaded. Fifteen seconds can seem like an eternity when all you want to do is check a bassoon part in a copyright-free Tchaikovsky symphony.

Regular users are telling us they won’t visit the site again.

Your thoughts?



Here’s the owner’s explanation:

Hi all,

As some of you may have noticed, there have been a few changes to IMSLP over the past few days, including the new logo. In addition to those changes, there is one more major change that will be implemented shortly, and about which I would like to give a bit more background.

I’ve had some fairly extensive discussions with music librarians and IMSLP contributors recently, and I’ve been thinking about a few of the issues raised, especially with respect to preservation and sustainability. Librarians are growing increasingly worried about these issues, and after some consideration I agree with their concerns. In particular, as IMSLP grows bigger, more complex and more engrained into the fabric of the classical music community, it now seems necessary to think hard about the future and how we can sustain IMSLP for centuries to come.

This is especially true with respect to funding. I have so far largely avoided discussing this topic in public because the income we receive from various sources have been enough to maintain the site so far, but I increasingly believe that this level of funding is not sustainable in the long run. We are not, like traditional music libraries, bound by the service of a conservatory, university or publisher, but rather can do things that traditional institutions are not willing to do, because we serve only musicians and music lovers. But everything is a tradeoff – we also do not have the funding infrastructure these traditional institutions have, and over the past few years I’ve frankly exhausted my imagination in searching for new realistic sources of funding for IMSLP.

And so I will announce here that a subscription system for IMSLP will be put in place. But this will not be a traditional subscription model – in particular, no file will be blocked from access by the public. Rather, a subscription will permit a member to download files without having to wait a certain number of seconds, eliminiate some of the advertising on the site, and a few other benefits. I see this as a way to both preserve IMSLP’s philosophy of open access and to secure IMSLP’s future.

But IMSLP is a volunteer effort, and we recognize the time and work put into the site by IMSLP’s most active and prolific contributors. For this purpose, all existing users who have more than a certain number of edits will be granted an automatic 10-year subscription, and new contributors who contribute a certain amount of quality work will also earn free subscriptions.

Please feel free to post any questions in this thread or by e-mail to



  • Cubs Fan says:

    IMSLP is invaluable to a huge number of classical musicians and orchestras. And there’s nothing “free” – someone has to pay for it. Asking users to contribute a relatively small amount of money is fine with me. Anyone who thinks it’s too much and won’t use the site should do a reality check. One copy of a study score of any Raff symphony will cost a heck of a lot more than $22.50. Just a few reprinted parts from Kalmus will cost more. I’m in!

    • Hank Drake says:

      Agreed. Besides, someone else will create a new free site soon enough.

    • William says:

      Got to love entitlement. Give people something free once and they feel they deserve it forever.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      Agree. A very small price to pay…

    • A leader at GOOGLE says:

      Well Mister – just imagine that Wiki – yes the platform that you’re building your IMSLP on would ask for a charge? All over the world People contributed to ‘your’ service for free based on the free of charge declaration and commitment.
      This is outrageous behavior!
      This is actually NOT your site – it belongs to the public and not to you specifically. As a response to your change of policy – I will remove all my contributions from your site ASAP and will sue you if you will keep it in your site even as a backup/archive.
      I am sure that someone from the big companies/institutions which have almost unlimited amount of space will pick up the glove and will build a site – better than yours FREE OF CHARGE.

      • Violin Student says:

        That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think? We wait longer to watch YouTube videos with ads. I’m very glad that they’re remaining open to all visitors, as it has been a source that has helped me survive my undergraduate years. Waiting 15 seconds is a small price to pay compared to the price of scores–especially for a broke college kid!

      • Bjohnson says:

        Spoken like a true “all about me” person. “FREE” doesn’t mean there are no costs involved in ongoing and “forever” maintenance. I applaud IMSLP for forward-thinking AND still allowing “free” access even though it means the user may forfeit a whole extra 15 seconds of their life.

    • Nick says:

      Agreed – no problem at all

    • egidius streiff says:

      NO WAY!
      I have genereously supported IMSLP (200$) just before the introduction of this scheme, upon which I have received a letter saying ” thank you for your support …. however, this is not a subscription (without me even knowing there would be something like this).

      I will not fund IMSLP ever again. This is how you loose wellmeaning people.

      Egidius Streiff

  • Mark Beesley says:

    This is a very valuable resource, and, contrary to popular belief, the ‘Web’ is not free, but costs money to have a presence – web development costs, server costs etc. The subscription is modest, and they have an alternative for the casual user. The alternative would be to have advertising, which everyone would moan about, or for someone to sponsor it, or for an academic institution to take it over in the interests of the public.

  • Cross-Eyed Pianist says:

    Other sites such as Pianostreet require a subscription and don’t offer anything close to the huge archive as IMSLP. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to pay a modest subscription to enable IMSLP to continue what it does

  • RW2013 says:

    Waiting 15 seconds is a small price to pay for so much.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    The whole 15 seconds bothers them, eh?

  • Michael Hankinson says:

    As a contributor to IMSLP, I and all other contributors will get free access to the site – furthermore there is definitely a cost in maintaining such an enormous database and the required storage space. This has to be paid for by someone, and I think that the nominal charge of less than $2 per month is not unreasonable – it’s less than a professional subscription to Soundcloud and as “Cubs Fan Says” – a study score will cost more than an entire years’ subscription to IMSLP. I should know, I’ve just paid far more than that for a barely legible score of a French composition which I needed for a concert. I think this is a fair and reasonable charge.

  • qwerty1234 says:

    “Regular users are telling us they won’t visit the site again.” lol. and do what? start paying for the scores? The subscription cost is totally reasonable and the 15 second wait time is just fine for those who don’t want to commit.

  • David Horne says:

    I will probably pay, it’s an invaluable service. Someone who rarely uses the service likely won’t be put off by a 15 second wait- similar thing with YouTube videos etc.

  • Anthony Kershaw says:

    How dare he start to monetize a great idea he developed. Damn him!

    • Loris says:

      Damn straight. How dare he? This is not a ‘great idea’ Guo developed. It’s an obvious idea he’s now trying to suck money out of. Unlike you, not everyone who contributes to the site is a wannabe Steve Jobs or admirer of “great entrepreneurs”. (Forgive me for drawing that obvious inference.) People contribute because they want to take part in a voluntary community effort that will benefit everyone, not Edward Guo. The 15 second waiting limit he has unilaterally put in place is exactly the same thing you find on shady download sites. Yes, I know, I’ve visited some. I live in Eastern Europe, I don’t have the advantages you enjoy.

      As almost any academic librarian knows (both in the US and Europe and abroad) there are places one can visit to avoid the ridiculous fees placed on research article downloads. In fact, the latest surveys show these have become the point of first resort even for researchers in the US. The same thing needs to happen here with this content. It was freely given by people with the understanding that it would be made freely available to everyone else. Guo has no right to change the rules midstream.

  • Hilary says:

    I love this website and would be prepared to pay the new asking price.
    I often download scores onto my ipad and play them from there for work. The screen is just about big enough.

  • Mick says:

    Don’t see any problem waiting for 15 sec. It could have been much worse, like making a real paywall.

  • Gaelen McCormick says:

    I agree with many who say “why do we expect everything to be free?” Maybe because it exists online and not in print form?? Well, I’ll be happy to pay the nominal fee, considering how often I’ve used it for research (from home, in pajamas), to give students a starting point before they order the next solo, to check a part that I’ve left at the hall. And frankly, offering the free-but-wait-15-seconds option is a boon to young students that might not pay for the service. I remember being mighty upset with the NY Times went to subscription online after years of reading it for free. But really – all that great research and writing has to cost something!

  • Leslie Harlow says:

    Worth every penny.

  • Halldor says:

    I use it daily, as do all the orchestras I’ve worked for (often to replace unusable hire sets, supplied by supposedly reputable publishers for 3-figure sums). For what the site offers, this would be a laughably small fee, even if it was a genuine paywall. For simply delaying access for FIFTEEN SECONDS…oh, come on: this is absolutely nothing!

    Bothered? Just go and make yourself a cup of tea while it loads. Type a tweet, compose a haiku, gaze out the window at the clouds. Whatever. Honestly!

  • K Browning says:

    I agree with what Mr Guo has done – as many have stated you could easily pay that much for a single score. Even if you didn’t want/couldn’t pay, the fact you only have to wait is also very reasonable.

    Good on him!

  • Wurtfangler says:

    Norman, where exactly have you got the idea that ‘regular uses’ are going to stop using it? That seems ludicrous, and the comments above from users ALL support the view that 15 seconds is hardly a problem and that the subscription price is extremely reasonable considering the invaluable resource that IMSLP has become to many of us.

    Can you let us know exactly what the problem is, according to the ‘regular users’ you cite?

  • Sixtus B says:

    Not much evidence of a “rising surge of anger” amongst the above comments…..!

  • Daniel says:

    Let me help to explain the problem here.

    The files hosted on the website are public domain scores. These have been scanned by contributors, like me, and are organised on the website by us. We are prepared to do this because we provide a valuable service to musicians. In this sense, it works just as Wikipedia does.

    Mr Guo has not explained why additional money is actually needed. He has already admitted the website is generating sufficient revenue to continue in its current form. He has suggested plans to hire employees and turn the company into some kind of business. The money will certainly not reach me or similar contributors. I want my contributions to help musicians, not help a business.

    The changes are akin to Jimmy Wales (the founder of Wikipedia), blocking, without any prior warning, every Wikipedia page for 15 seconds. Wikipedia is valuable because of the work of ordinary contributors. Why do we want our work to pay groups of employees that were never needed before?

    15 seconds for one page is not long, but 15 seconds for every single page makes browsing the website almost impossible. How often do you visit a website just to see a single page? The restrictions are far worse than they initially seem.

    There are clearly many who are prepared to donate to IMSLP, at least under its previous open-access model. It is imperative IMSLP focuses on maintaining a good relationship with musicians and contributors, and being honest and sensible with its finances and what it genuinely needs, instead of hindering access for the vast majority of users.

  • Daniel says:

    I think I should try and explain why this is such a problem:

    • Daniel says:

      The files hosted on the website are public domain scores. These have been scanned by contributors, like me, and are organised on the website by us. We are prepared to do this because we provide a valuable service to musicians. In this sense, it works just as Wikipedia does.

      Mr Guo has not explained why additional money is actually needed. He has already admitted the website is generating sufficient revenue to continue in its current form. He has suggested plans to hire employees and turn the company into some kind of business. The money will certainly not reach me or similar contributors. I want my contributions to help musicians, not help a business.

      The changes are akin to Jimmy Wales (the founder of Wikipedia), blocking, without any prior warning, every Wikipedia page for 15 seconds. Wikipedia is valuable because of the work of ordinary contributors. Why do we want our work to pay groups of employees that were never needed before?

      15 seconds for one page is not long, but 15 seconds for every single page makes browsing the website almost impossible. How often do you visit a website just to see a single page? The restrictions are far worse than they initially seem.

      There are clearly many who are prepared to donate to IMSLP, at least under its previous open-access model. It is imperative IMSLP focuses on maintaining a good relationship with musicians and contributors, and being honest and sensible with its finances and what it genuinely needs, instead of hindering access for the vast majority of users.

      • Anon says:

        Browsing will be just fine “at speed” as I read it – only file downloads with a 15s delay.
        As far as current funding goes, he makes it clear he doesn’t feel it is sustainable model in the longer term. Good work for tackling the potential problem early, and at such a modest cost it makes almost no real difference to almost everyone. Contributors aside, someone has to maintain the code and pay for the servers.

      • John Ellis says:

        That a great point Daniel. Those of you who contributed to the database will get a “free” membership, but… essentially he’s trying to monetize a coop after the fact and not compensating those played a significant role in creating that database. Additionally you may not have contributed if you knew he would be monetizing it. Because all the work in there is public domain and no fees have been collected copyright infringement hasn’t been an issue. That changes if you’re making money off of someone else’s intellectual property…. this is a Pandora’s box that may not be worth opening.

        Personally I have no problem with paying a fee, it’s a good service. I’d like to know that the money is being distributed to those that earned it though.

        I would also have no problem with a 15 second wait for advertising if that’s how he want’s to monetize it.

        I have a problem with doing both. Youtube makes it’s money on traffic volume and distribute the income appropriately. Others offer subscriptions that allow you to opt out of advertising (maybe that’s what he’s doing … it’s not very clear).

        My expectations of the site are currently limited, because I pay no fee. Those expectations will rise considerably if I pay a fee.

        • vaughan says:

          FWIW, scanning public domain music and making it available doesn’t in any way make it your intellectual property! It also doesn’t mean you’re entitled to remuneration when funding is deemed necessary to maintain a service, and significant contributors are, in fact, exempt from fees and waiting times. Enough said!

          • Andrew says:

            One word – Kalmus… That is/was their business model for their orchestral library.
            Step 1 Copy parts from existing edition;
            Step 2 Insert random errors to create a new “edition”;
            Step 3 Sell below price point of credible publisher like Breitkopf or Eulenberg and PROFIT

      • Todd says:

        That a 15 seconds wait is looked upon as unbearable tells us how much technology has destroyed the brains of so many people.

  • Brian B says:

    I gladly paid up. Living in a town now with limited access to anything like a really good university library, I have found IMSLP a godsend. I have a very large personal library of scores including significant rarities but I’ve augmented it in the PD incalculably via IMSLP.
    My problem is I paid the yearly contribution and still have to wait the 15 seconds.

    • Clarke Isackson says:

      I read one response that indicated the user had previously paid for a year’s ‘membership’ and now has to wait like anyone else! That is what is bothering me about contributing to this new level of monetary request; will this new level be appropriately managed or will they slide by the wayside when the next level is developed?

      I have encountered three different forms of blocking in three different attempts to view scores this morning. One for a score that is only available to members – please sign in, another blocking dialogue box asking for funds, and yet another asking for the current donation. It seems that there are loops of logic floating around at every turn waiting to add new nuances to access and surprise to our attempts to access the database. Not good, as I suspect these will never get cleared up. One of these dialogue boxes appeared several years ago and comes and goes on its own accord. Conclusion is that the once clean system is being cluttered by poorly planned gates to access and should be cleaned up. But what about those who contributed prior to this new change and whose ‘membership’ is not considered?

      And then there is the matter of trust. I think a separate area needs to be exposed that shows the complete balance sheet every month if folks are going to ‘keep the faith’ in this system. That balance sheet has to show how many people are being employed vs how many are volunteers. And now you have the problem of volunteers AND folks being paid. The volunteers are being trodden by you change of payment policy if there actually are people in both strata (paid and non-paid). I am glad I am not involved with managing this ordeal.

      The issue of 15 seconds – sometimes every pdf file I try to view (on-line and not download) takes 15 seconds, and then at times that is not the case. Phew, I am glad I did not write this software because it is really a bit messed-up and does not provide a clear experience that can be dependably relied upon by us users.

      The site has served well up to now, but the issues will mount as requests for money become more of a stumbling block in both the sustainability and the messed-up logic of the database access routines.

  • Brian B says:

    A bit off topic, Norman, but may I send kudos to the Danish Centre for Music Publications for their extremely enlightened and and farsighted practice of making their critical editions of the Carl Nielsen oeuvre available for free download via IMSLP and on their website? What a great way to honor and promote a national composer.

  • Celloting says:

    Grateful that we can still access the site! 15 seconds wait is completely acceptable.

  • rohrwerk says:

    15 seconds is NOTHING. It’s all still available after all. Nothing wrong with little incentives to donate – and that donation is PEANUTS. Worthy donation.

  • Andrea Katz says:

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 GO! Wasn’t that difficult was it?

  • Igor Kennaway says:

    15 seconds? It takes longer for a kettle to boil, to brush one’s teeth, and to comb one’s hair. So WHAT is the problem? If those scores which are out of copyright are still available without paying, 15 seconds is hardly a tragedy.

  • Ian Howell says:

    Absolutely worth supporting financially. I also support wikipedia and the art song and lieder page. As a working musician and teacher it is foolish to not. To think that the world isn’t a better place for these people’s work… To think that we shouldn’t pour resources into the things that are actually working and moving this industry forward… I don’t understand those who are against this.

  • CS says:

    “Regular users are telling us they won’t visit the site again.”

    You’re more full of shit than an overflowing septic tank. You’re so full of shit, it’s coming out of your fingers and oozing onto your keyboard, where it gained sentience and entered the crap I’m seeing on my screen. Be honest, shithead: you’re the only “regular user” you’re referring to, aren’t you?

  • T. Manor says:

    You get what you pay for, really. I’ve spotted multiple errors on a lot of pieces and scores from those who submit cleaner versions to combat the 19th and early 20th century copies that are just too dirty and difficult to read. This site is a great spot to get the gist of a piece, but hardly a deep well of reliable works.

    • Jean-Pierre Coulon says:

      Pleeeaaase, when you find an error in a retypeset score, post a notice into the discussion page of the user who posted this score.

  • Eric says:

    Just for S & G’s, I went to the site to try it out & it’s not per page as such.
    For example, looking at the low brass parts for Tchaikovsky, I did encounter the 15 sec. pause, but was able to scroll through all 3 trombone parts & the tuba part in their entirety.
    No pause between parts or pages.
    Even so, $22 is a pittance for such a valuable resource!!!

  • Wyn says:

    Why should it be free. 15 seconds is no time to wait in any case. Who are these people threatening to boycott the site?

  • R. Wicks says:

    I understand that IMSLP has to survive, but all of these scores can be found elsewhere for free. Public Domain is inherently free with the creation of the internet, so I fail to see the value in monetizing scores that can be found elsewhere, for free, with no wait time. Yes, 15 seconds is a small price, but it’s simply so menial that it won’t make people pay for the premium access, it will just deter them from coming back.
    No one wants to pay (in time or money) for free information. And nobody has to with so many sites out there to access the same score/part that IMSLP has. So this model is flawed to begin with. Long term financial stability should be met with donation campaigns and other things like that. Not pay based models.

    • E Viola says:

      Could you give us a list of such sites? I haven’t found anything equivalent, except maybe the choral Wiki, which of course is just choral music. If people have to work too hard to find them, they’ll want to come back to what they know, which is IMSLP.

  • Miles Golding says:

    I pay voluntarily from time to time, as appropriate, for free software (e.g. Search and Destroy, Ccleaner) and Wikipedia when prompted.
    I wonder why IMSLP didn’t take take that option. I’d have gladly paid in the same way, and urged others to do so had they done so.

    Anyway, I’ll pay the sub. I think it’s a subtle way of doing the same thing – that 15 secs gives users time to reflect that if they are even moderate users maybe they should be showing some gratitude in a pecuniary way for such a great resource.

  • Throaty Pianist says:

    I have no problem paying the fee (although I agree with R. Wicks that donation campaigns would be more appropriate for this type of business model), but I’m more concerned with the MS/HS students I frequently send there for free scores. I wouldn’t ask them to pay for it and a few of them couldn’t afford it, even if they wanted to pay for it. 15 seconds isn’t that big of a deal and I get why he’s doing this, but it just seems awkward and bassackwards.

  • ruth says:

    wow i had no idea that there was a free site i’ve been paying for each download on another site !

  • Marg says:

    I fine with the proposal but he’s going to generate a heck of a lot of cash. I’m unclear just why it’s needed to be honest, given that contributors will apparently get nothing. And I hope $22.50 this year isn’t $50 the next!

  • VQP245 says:

    “Regular users are telling us they won’t visit the site again.”….really? Where are they going to go? And, even if they don’t go back to IMSLP, I doubt IMSLP will care.

  • Jonathan says:

    Perhaps the money would be good to add a comprehensive access to all music scores available, even if only through a link to other sites. That is already happening in IMSLP, but it is not comprehensive; or other sites d not allow scores not under public domain to be downloaded, even after payment. One has to wait until they send the score, sometimes after a wait of 5 weeks or more. The regular publisher model is dying. it would be good to have both options of downloading any score, for a subscription or per-score fee; and also buy the printed score if available.

  • David says:

    I totally agree with the majority. I was playing a piece with a pro orchestra and the principle oboist was going through a rough personal issue and forgot the music at home, just prior to the downbeat. There was no time for that person to go home. I rushed to the orchestra office and went to IMSLP and the crisis was averted along with embarrassment for the already struggling musician. Thank God for IMSLP that day and every other day I’ve needed it. I would pay this. It seems a rather nominal fee for one-stop shopping.

  • jim says:

    Most musicians are “poor” and good sheet music costs good money. But it’s short-sighted to try to get everything for free. If you want a decent edition of a work, IMSLP usually does not have it. But instead of buying a reliable urtext, musicians get the outdated editions on IMSLP and the result is that NYC, “The Cultural Capital of the World,” no longer has a bricks and mortar music store. IMSLP is great for what it is, and musicians should support it monetarily, however we also have the duty to support publishers and dealers.

  • Robert says:

    I predict that almost everyone will go the 15 second-delay route rather than pay, the result being that IMSLP will collect very little money and soon be back with a more onerous penalty than a 15 second wait.

  • May says:

    I’ve always wondered why one of the big publishing houses (Music Sales, Boosey) hasn’t tried to acquire IMSLP.

  • SVM says:

    The issues of long-term sustainability that Mr Guo mentions are indeed important, and I am glad to see that he has been talking to music librarians about this. For such a major resource, metadata and indexing are vital, and in such a manner as to be interoperable and standards-compliant (so as not to be reliant on using a particular piece of software) — MARC records strike me as an obvious choice.

    This recent development demonstrates extremely clearly why the initiatives of individuals such as Mr Guo, however well intentioned, cannot be taken as the basis for creating a permanent repository. A huge number of people and institutions uploaded scores on the understanding that they would be available for free in perpetuity (or, at least, for the lifetime of the site), and, in the case of public institutions/charities, the free access may be a vital facet of their capacity to discharge their obligations to *their* funders. The IMSLP can reasonably argue that they are not contractually bound by the responsibilities of uploaders, which demonstrates why any permanent repository really ought to be run by a public institution bound by statute to maintain free access. Of course, this entails such institutions investing in the servers and computing resources required to maintain such an undertaking, instead of simply using the IMSLP’s. It also entails funders understanding this need, and paying for the operational costs as part of the funding package instead of saying “why not just upload it to [insert name of third-party “free” website]”. The difficulty with present funding cycles is that they are often project-based, and do not account for ongoing maintenance — this needs to be addressed, for too many digitisation projects have fallen into disrepair (or have simply disappeared) as a result of not being maintained after the scanning and uploading were completed.

    Returning to the case of the IMSLP, I suspect the fifteen-second wait is designed to prevent mass downloading by bots and unofficial mirror-sites (which are wont to take all the credit for providing the material, despite assuming very little of the costs involved) for the profit of third parties. In other words, it seems to me to be fulfilling an equivalent function to a CAPTCHA, but without requiring lots of third-party scripts and cookies in the process. Having said that, a legitimate “human” user downloading just one set of orchestral parts will be hit with a lot of waiting! As for uploaders, I can understand their frustration, but I must say that I am not particularly surprised at this unwelcome development to the IMSLP — a similar furore erupted several years ago when the IMSLP first added advertising.

    The best course of action would be for uploaders to insist on having a clearer commitment to perpetual free access enshrined in the terms and conditions of the website, and to refuse to upload anything until such time. The trouble is that, without institutional backing and a commensurate budget, no website can realistically offer this security of commitment *and* expect to still be around in a decade, let alone a century. So, in conclusion, will any institution step up to the challenge and create a better repository, and with better cataloguing (for a start, I think that recordings should not be in the same series of serial numbers as scores)? I can think of only a handful of institutions globally with the expertise for this, but whether they have the funding as well…?

  • rtp says:

    Interesting move… IMSLP has became the top website for score sharing, and it is the reasonable time to ask something in return. But from whom?

    Occasional downloaders wouldn’t pay for this extra 15 seconds of waiting. They can get annoyed of course…

    Musicians who study a lot of music are probably willing to pay.

    It is probably not fair for the contributors, who put lots of efforts into scanning the scores, ends up seeing someone else making money out of their efforts.

    What does the paywall/membership means:

    To occasional users: hey, your are not paying, we let you suffer a bit…
    To conductors/ musicians: you should pay because you are benefiting.
    To contributors: you have uploaded your score. We give you the golden star (allowing you to download for free), but apart from that we can do whatever we want..

    Finally, it this golden star (free membership) mean anything to the contributors? Since they have scanned the scores, probably they should have alternative ways to get the score even if IMSLP shuts down. Indeed, from a a quick look at the imslp forum, none of the contributors was stupid enough to feel happy about the gift…

    ** One should also realise that other score-sharing website has became less popular because of IMSLP and are probably having a hard time over the past years. The “free” policy have damaged alternate ways of score sharing, and now it’s time to benefit from this damage.

  • bratschegirl says:

    Based on the comments from Daniel above, it sounds like the issue some are raising is not primarily objection to either the 15 seconds or the subscription model. Rather, the issue is that IMSLP is not entirely one person’s creation, but that one person has made this decision without involving those who justifiably feel some ownership in the site, having contributed substantially to its content. Mr. Guo seems not to have taken this into account. A modest subscription fee seems reasonable to me, but I also understand the feeling that the process should have included more stakeholders.

  • sl says:

    It’s no question of free or not free, but if it has to be paid, then the contributors who scanned and uploaded all that priceless stuff (most of it in public domain) should be paid and NOT Mr Guo! Because of this change he will be a rich man in short time thanks to the immense work of others and most people here are so stupid to applaud him for that.

  • Jim says:

    Wait 15 seconds? That’s horrendous. I shall in future, consult the library catalogues, mail my request, pay the $30, and wait the 2 (yes only TWO) weeks for my music to arrive in the post. AND I won’t have to pay the $2 it costs me to print an orchestra set.. Quite a simple decision really.

  • Peter says:

    I have no problem with a fair fee for using this site’s services.

    But I wonder if the owner is aware of the mountain he is climbing, how extreme the change is going to be, when you change from a pro-bono community service into a publishing business.

    The resources he will from now on need for customer service, lawsuits, regual taxes and tax consultants, licensing issues etc. etc. are potentially far outweighing the little revenue he will gain from the 1st class/2nd class access model.

  • sf says:

    No worries, the owner is fro the law school
    Welcome everyone! I’m Edward W. Guo, the creator and leader of IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library. But IMSLP is very much a group effort, so treat me as another member of the team when I’m on this site. Besides guiding the project (gently I hope) and resolving the occasional dispute, I am just like any other IMSLP contributor.

  • charles4brass says:

    I have been pulling different music off this site and will gladly pay the small amount of the subscription just for the convenience. Besides, I have felt guilty just downloading all this good stuff for free anyway. Lots of neat stuff, I find things regularly for a little string quartet I play in, with my “metal cello” as I call it, I cover the cello part on my trombone so these nice ladies who play violins and viola can play quartets again!

  • Ralph L. Bowers Jr. says:

    As many have said nothing is ever truly free someone ultimately pays, and with this yearly cost so low it is a bargain to help support.

  • Julia says:

    It seems that after reading the announcement on the forums and then all of the comments above, Mr. Guo, although having two degrees (one in Composition from NEC and one from Harvard Law), does not yet have the wisdom to pilot this huge website that he started with many eager contributors (because of his original mission statement to host public-domain works which are free to access for everyone) and idealistic and good-natured intentions, but honestly, he’s 28 years old- I doubt many of us would have the wherewithal and gumption to know what to do in the face of so much scrutiny (especially those foreign librarians–I know how tough the GEMA in Germany can be (I’m living here and dealing with it every day–horrible, really!) and so of course he thought that if he was getting this kind of criticism from (seemingly) all sides, then it was also obvious the he was going to try to figure out some sort of model to combat the problem and also silence the critics.

    Maybe instead of people just viciously attacking him in forums and in the comments above (some of you, not all….), those of you who do feel morally opposed to his choice in how to manage what he views as a problem that he caused (in starting the whole thing with his idealism), why not just email him (feldmahler (at)–it is listed right on the imslp page, his email address!!) and actually offer a HELPFUL solution, or get him in touch with those people who can.

    I know that we (the musicians who use this site regularly for parts we don’t have, which are either too expensive to buy, or simply because of ease of use in being downloadable anytime, anyway) have all been remiss in not expecting something like this eventually (because hey, we did all save a LOT of money by downloading (even the occasional user!) pieces which we otherwise would pay a lot for, or even maybe only a few bucks for in making copies at a machine but still…), and I think that it also might have been a red flag that we never (even after using the site for so many years) saw a campaign like what Wikipedia or Firefox does (where they ask, openly, from their users, for funding money).

    So, we should have seen this problem coming.

    However, we didn’t. So, now what shall we do?

    First off, the fact that this site has existed so long due to the efforts of Mr. Guo and ALL of the very valuable contributors is frankly speaking, amazing.

    Secondly, the 15-second ad idea for occasional users isn’t bad, nor is the idea for 10 year free memberships for significant contributors, HOWEVER, a.) the significant contributors should have had the chance to be ‘in’ on this decision before it was announced to the public, and b.) why didn’t Mr. Guo ever ask before publicly (like some others have mentioned above in this thread) for donations for a certain amount for a certain purpose?

    Thirdly, I am SURE there are donors out there somewhere (and if Mr. Guo isn’t a professional fund-raiser can we really fault him!? Sheesh, he has two degrees already and he was just trying to do something good for all his fellow musicians in the first place with this idea, so can we get off our high horse with all these critical comments as if he was some evil CEO who had a master plan of getting rich quick from unsuspecting poor musicians?! He was obviously just trying to remedy a problem (as pointed out to him very critically by some credentialed people in high places- hard to withstand for a 28-year old, I’m sure!!!, and therefore he came up with a bad solution. Basta!) so why don’t we all contact those people who we know could help him on this front!?!?!? Surely we all may know someone who either a.) could donate a significant amount of money towards, or b.) we know someone who is a crazy awesome Major Donor Fundraiser for some sort of organization and who is A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL in asking for MONEY!

    So who’s with me? I’m going to contact my friend today who does just that for work to ask him if he’ll help by contacting Mr. Guo and offering his services. Perhaps we can save this sinking ship if we would all start help bailing out the water in the ways we know how.

    If we’re so dependent upon this resource (which many of us are from either a time or money standpoint, or both) then let’s start helping out in DEEDS, not words!!!

  • Martin Robinson says:

    To those complaining about the 15 second wait when viewing a series of parts:

    Right-click the links and open each in a new tab. 15 seconds later you can go through the whole series and click to continue each download.

    It doesn’t take much longer than viewing a single part.

  • pual says:

    I am very much amazed at the apparent resistance against things being free in this thread. Do you not realize that IMSLP is just a thin layer floating on top of an ocean of free things? TCI/P, FTP, SMTP, HTML and all the other protocols that sites like these need are, and always have been free. Linux is free. There would never have been an internet as we know it without free and open things. More to the point, the music on the site is free (out of copyright), and so are the type-settings.

    If you really feel guilty about using free things, please do not forget to donate a couple of hundred euros to the Chopin memorial fund after your next recital of his nocturnes. If you downloaded the scores from IMSLP please also make donations to DARPA, CERN, Linus Torvalds and his teams, the editor or his heirs, the poor guy who submitted the scans free of charge, and anyone else involved.

  • Andrew says:

    The positive thing to note is that Edward Guo has clearly made the right choice in consulting with music library professionals. IMSLP – amazing as it is for what it has to offer – is in some ways a strange beast that needs rationalisation (although many of us have become accustomed to its idiosyncrasies). With their help could he apply for a large grant to obviate the need for a ‘subscription’? It would be worth trying to establish links with a national library, doing so by setting out plans to apply for a grant in collaboration. It’s also in the interest of organisations such as the MLA to get involved, so perhaps they would be willing to fund the project. Grant writing takes time, but the librarians would lend Guo and his colleagues the credibility needed to apply for something big and help them develop the site further with everyone on board — music librarians, and perhaps publishers too.

  • Musician says:

    I feel that many, myself included, would contribute funds if there was transparency over the accounts (eg. how much does it actually cost to run). I’d be very uncomfortable to find that there more than 50,000+ users potentially generating a potential million+ $ per year, whilst the server costs are minimal. It may suprise non-tech people that web hosting is relatively cheap…

    I’m happy to pay to support a site, but I’m not happy if my $ was used for excess profit, given that majority of the site content was donated free in terms of content and time by the community for the community.

    Hopefully in time Mr Guo will be more open about the cost base, and work with the community more positively to raise the funds required. For now you can skip the wait here…

  • GreaseBug says:

    I wrote a Greasemonkey / TamperMonkey script similar to the one posted above. It removes the new IMSLP download delay and also bypasses their disclaimer prompt. It can be found here:

    It’s quite easy to install and restores immediate access to scores. Enjoy.

  • Daniel M. says:

    It’s not the 15 secs, not the small fee, not that things run for free etc. It’s as simple as it gets: Mr. Guo wants to drive a Ferrari of his own. Nothing wrong with that in principle except that he didn’t made this idea a reality by himself. He’s using other people’s time, work and money (those who contributed to make imslp what it is today) for a 10 year free of subscription reward they didn’t settled upon. A much honest approach (that probably wouldn’t include a luxury car) would have been the policy of laying things out in the open and ask for donations in an efficient way.Those who say fine by me the fee and 15 seconds had nothing to do with it aside from downloading. Fine by me, too. It’s not the first project of its kind that fell victim to the greed and it won’t be the last. And I won’t be making any donation anymore.

  • BetsyT says:

    Having used this site for several years, I gladly paid the fee, not because of the 15 second wait, but because web sites and their maintenance are not free, no matter how generous the owner. I also contribute annually to Wikipedia for the same reason: I’m grateful for the hard work and generosity of so many people.

  • Michael Hankinson says:

    As a contributor and frequent user I think the site offers excellent value. Just go a buy on score from a retailer and you’ll soon see !

  • joaquin says:

    Which is Guo’s policy to distribute the income between the (thousand of) contributors?

  • Elizabeth Pamela Walker says:

    Thanks x