Boston, 1969: During a study visit at the now world renowned Berklee College of Music (then known as Berklee School of Music), the German jazz musician and arranger Kurt Mass came to a decision: he wanted to give German jazz musicians access to the know-how of the American jazz lecturers through the ‘Berklee Correspondence Course’, a mail-based distance learning course already operating in the USA, which the musical establishment in Germany was not yet opposed to at the time.
Maas couldn’t however make his idea a reality as the rights to the project were still being denied to him. Yet for him, his connection with Berklee founder, Lawrence Beck, would pay off. Namely, instead he offered Kurt Maas exclusive European distribution rights for the college’s in-house book publications. Maas saw more than a business opportunity with this offer: This is how the educationally ambitious musician got the unique opportunity to obtain high-quality teaching materials for his jazz course which he wanted to offer in Germany.
Because at the end of the 1960s, outside the USA, it was still extremely difficult to come by any jazz sheet music or relevant teaching material. Original arrangements for big bands were also still in short supply in a European music scene whose need for jazz material was continually growing.
Back in Germany, Maas made his apartment the base for his business and started life as ‘Berklee Publications’, with sales of sheet music and textbooks which were published in the USA by ‘Berklee Press’. The market response to his products quickly surpassed expectations. Jazz enthusiasts from Germany and other European countries showed a keen interest in the American products and the sheet music business was soon also offering items from other publishers.
However, the core product offering was initially composed of jazz sheet music from predominantly American publishing companies, which made ‘Notenversand Kurt Maas’, as he was known once his product range had been expanded, stand out from most other European providers.
During the following years, which along with the development of the sheet music business, also saw Kurt Maas devote himself to an intensive educational career as head of the jazz department at the Richard Strauss Academy of Music in Munich, the company continually expanded its range of repertoires.
The big increase in product inventory levels that resulted, finally meant that a move for the company (which then totalled five employees along with Maas) to new premises became necessary. In 1995, the distribution business moved to new offices in Martinsried near Munich, with more space for the hugely increased number of sheet music items that needed to be stocked. Yet the company’s decisive move into the future was not the one to physical premises, but the tapping into the virtual space of the online world.
Martinsried, 2001: Around the turn of the millennium - against the climate of the beginning of the internet era - Kurt Maas recognised the need to be commercially involved with this new medium and its distribution potential.
The physician Wolfgang Hamann, with whom Maas had already developed notation software in the 1980s, designed a website for the distribution of sheet music, which once again took the product offering to a completely new level at the same time. Now the business offered sheet music material covering every music genre and for every conceivable instrument, with the new online distribution business at www.all-sheetmusic.com created along these lines.
Feldafing, 2006: In the years following the launch of the online business, the distribution company increased the volume of its products even further, thereby creating the need for another increase in floor space. Kurt Maas made use of this situation and the distribution business had its own building constructed based on his own concept. Offices that represented a pleasant work place for staff and an attractive focal point for customers seeking an alternative to the impersonal online business.
For this purpose, a new building was created in Feldafing am Starnberger See (based on the plans of the architect Ludwig Hölz), that not only provided sufficient space for logistics and distribution, but could also be used to invite customers to come and browse and take a look around.
Maas therefore placed an emphasis on having plenty of light, the sheet music shelves were organised as though in a library and a sitting area was installed with a keyboard for sampling the sheet music.
Nowadays, the Kurt Maas sheet music distribution company has the capability to deliver approximately 700,000 titles with the fastest turnaround. The European sales division of Berklee Press became a reliable point of contact for musicians, teachers and ensemble conductors from every music genre.