A University of Richmond law grad is making piano music more accessible, even for those who don’t play the instrument.
William Miller produces music for player pianos — the kind that have keys that go up and down on their own. He believes live music can add life to any room — especially around the holidays.
“It just sets the scene amazingly well. When you’re just sitting around the fire Christmas morning or around the Christmas tree opening presents and having some soft piano music playing in the background, it just gives a different feel than just putting on a CD onto a pair of speakers,” said Miller.
His company is called Player Piano Premier and he started selling discs in October. He hires pianists from around the world, has them play and then sells their music on a CD or floppy disc so the piano can mimic their performance.
“We have a number of artists,” said Miller. “Everything from young, up-and-coming pianists to grizzled veterans.”
Miller says getting your hands on player piano music can completely transform the sound of a song.
“Playing a digital file that’s been compressed and the sound and the warmth taken out of it through a speaker is just not the same as having a live piano being played and having the soundboard vibrate and the strings vibrate,” he said. “There’s just so much of the music that can be lost when playing it from a conventional speaker system versus having a live piano play.”
Miller got his start selling pianos at Rhapsody Piano and Guitar. He noticed a lot of people were coming in looking for music that just wasn’t available or was hard to find.
Rhapsody Piano and Guitar general manager David McNeal acknowledges player piano music can be hard to come by.
“Now it seems that they really don’t have the discs readily available,” said McNeal. “Everything is a download online, and frankly, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to go through the hassle of downloading.”
Miller decided to fill that demand, at a lower cost.
“What was available at the time was just from the manufacturer and was about $30 to $60 a disc,” said Miller. “I saw an opportunity to provide some high-quality music at a much lower price point.”
His mix of education helps.
“It just kind of fell into place,” he said.
Miller’s undergrad from Radford University is in music. He also has a law degree from the University of Richmond concentrating on intellectual property, like copyrights. That allows him to write all the contracts for his artists. And his new endeavor is getting more music to more people.
“Most people get player pianos because they love the sound of piano music and they want to enjoy it, but they may not have the years it takes to learn how to play it proficiently,” he said. “This gives someone an opportunity to enjoy what is a very large investment that they’ve made in their house.”
Miller says he hopes in a few years he’ll be able to provide a subscription-based internet streaming station full of music for player pianos. He also plans to get more of his discs into piano stores.