Sheet Music Publisher Hal Leonard Gets Its Hands on Applause

News   Sheet Music Publisher Hal Leonard Gets Its Hands on Applause Applause Books, a 15-year-old publishing firm specializing in performing arts and film books, has been bought by Milwaukee-based music print publisher Hal Leonard Corp. As reported by Variety, Applause founder Glenn Young will remain publisher and retain editorial control (he also maintains an equity stake in the company), while Hal Leonard Corp. president and CEO Larry Morton will take over the marketing and distribution of the company's 25 annual titles.

Applause Books, a 15-year-old publishing firm specializing in performing arts and film books, has been bought by Milwaukee-based music print publisher Hal Leonard Corp. As reported by Variety, Applause founder Glenn Young will remain publisher and retain editorial control (he also maintains an equity stake in the company), while Hal Leonard Corp. president and CEO Larry Morton will take over the marketing and distribution of the company's 25 annual titles.

Morton told Playbill On-Line he'd started discussions with Young last summer. "Glenn is an extremely creative person," said Morton. "He's built a great catalogue focusing on the theatrical side of publishing. But to take the company to a higher level, you need more financing and stronger distribution capabilities. Now the idea is to go forward and build Applause even bigger, with Glenn focusing more on product capability.

"Applause will continue to operate independently," continued Morton. "The book line will continue to be branded as `Applause,' distributed by Hal Leonard."

The New York offices of Applause and Hal Leonard will likely merge, but the Applause bookstore, on West 71st Street in Manhattan, is not part of the deal and will continue to operate independently under Young's management.

A privately-held company valued in the $100-million-plus range, Hal Leonard Corp. was founded in 1947 by Harold "Hal" Edgstrom and his brother, Leonard Edgstrom. They'd had a dance band in the 1930s-40s and started a small music-publishing firm in their garage. It wasn't until current chairman and CEO Keith Mardak arrived in 1970 that the company began to grow into the world's largest music print publisher, with more than 45,000 titles -- from individual sheet music to music and instruction books to band & choral works -- in the catalogue. The company also creates multimedia CDs, CD ROMS and internet websites, as well as representing the print music for companies such as Walt Disney Music, Sony Music, BMG and EMI. President Morton anticipates expanding Applause's range of music-related theatre books. Though Hal Leonard already has a division of books about music topics (biographies, musical instruments) rather than simply sheet music, the company wants "to expand under the performing arts umbrella." Uniting with Applause is, therefore, "a natural step."

For his part, Young told Playbill On-Line, "I really love working with authors and ideas, creating better manuscripts and more alive ideas. That's the only passion I really want to pursue. I don't want to be a businessman primarily; I want to collaborate with other creative people. Instead of worrying about getting an invoice or why someone's order wasn't shipped out overnight, I can remain true to my best self. This is the arrangement that allows me to do that."

Calling the union "a perfect partnership," Young explained, "We were the subject of many completely unsolicited offers. We're a small organization with the sexiest roster of authors in the theatrical and cinematic field, so we drew a lot of interest." Applause's roster has included a Sondheim anthology and works by Stella Adler, John Gielgud, Michael Caine, Oliver Stone, Herb Gardner, Eric Bentley and Mel Gussow.

"Now authors will see their books on many more shelves," Young said. "Efficiency and delivery will make everybody happier."

-- By David Lefkowitz