PDF scores with digital downloads: Poll Results

Last week, and for the first time on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN’s Blog, we decided to run a poll. The topic: incorporating PDF scores in digital downloads. According to Nielsen Soundscan via Billboard, “for the third time this year—and only the fourth time ever—the year-to-date total sales of digital albums have exceeded those of CDs.” Considering the number of apps designed to make it easy to read and perform with a digital score, why not offer them with downloads?

What about getting PDF scores with an album download?

We asked three question:

  • How often do you purchase music in a digital format?
  • What do you think of getting PDF scores with your digital download?
  • Are you more… a music creator, a music “consumer,” or kind of both?

Let’s see what our readers had to say…




Some people took the time to add something (thank you!), and they had interesting things to say…

Booklets before PDF scores

Sure, digital scores are great but apparently, getting a decent digital booklet is not that frequent:

I’d just like to see PDF “booklets” coming with music downloads as an absolute norm—not a rare pleasure. Meta tagging isn’t adequate for documenting and crediting music/creators, we need booklets.

Or maybe a combination of both? Some people already do:

I like to provide score excerpts as well as sketches, much like [a] digital album booklet! I love digital but I think a little supplement can really add [to] the experience!

An incentive to buy more music?

Getting the PDF scores when purchasing music would be a huge incentive for me, and would definitely make me buy more.

But a potential loss in revenue?

Good idea as bonus content […] but because it circumvents the publishing side of the industry entirely, it would likely be harmful to composers who make a large portion of their living renting scores for performance if it became an expected supplement in every album.

Some people talked about partial scores (first page, one movement). Could that be a good compromise?

Something they don’t need

And then, there are differences in how people perceive their audience:

Most regular civilians probably don’t care about pdf scores.

Most of the audience in the real world doesn’t need the score. Many can’t read music despite being pretty knowledgeable about what they hear. Why make them pay for something they don’t need?

Others feel that listeners could benefit from this:

Why hasn’t someone thought of this sooner! Being able to see the score would allow study that feeds the heart, soul, and mind of the musician! It would give the listener so much more understanding of the music.

Just a thought…

Of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface (composers need to get compensated, etc.) but it is worth thinking about—especially when people declare that this would be an incentive for them to buy an album, even at a premium. Knowing one’s audience seems important in this context too: What if 90% of those who buy your albums are musicians (see the third chart on this page)? Could one end up selling more music this way?

Comments are open ↴ Chime in!