The eMUS Format

A major topic with publishers of late has been this question of the creation of an industry-endorsed file format for the creation and distribution of digital sheet music files.

I have outlined some reasons why this is important in the post here but to summarise, the main concern for publishers is that there really is no single technology that meets the key objectives for a digital delivery format:

  • that the digital sheet music can be created from virtually any source
  • the results can be displayed on any platform
  • DRM is incorporated so that it can only be used by licensed users
  • The platform allows users to annotate their downloaded music, and to save and share their annotations
  • the format includes the necessary meta data to assist in the identification and navigation of the files to make them easier to use

To help move this conversation along, BTMI has created a new format for the digital distribution of sheet music that meets these objectives which I have called eMUS.


eMUS is a page-based music distribution that is optimised for whatever target platform is desired (to allow for current and future technologies).   eMUS files are created with the emREADER Publish software from any type of PDF master (whether it is scanned or created directly by some music writing or desktop publishing software).

All output is encrypted with a unique key that is required to view the content of the file.   In fact every edition or version of every part in an eMus project has a unique key that is automatically generated as part of the creation process (so when revisions are published, a new set of keys are used).    Without a key, the files are useless and access to keys is managed through the issue of personalised decryption information that is delivered along with the files when downloaded.  Publishers have complete control over the DRM process so they can dictate the how and when (and for how long) eMUS files are accessible to a licensed user.

One major departure from pre-existing concepts of digital files is that eMUS distribution is completely cloud-based.  All of the eMUS data is optimised for digital delivery and automatically uploaded and catalogued in the emReader cloud.


The amount of storage required for eMUS files will vary according to the destination platform, but hi-res colour documents can be as large as 4Mb/page so considerable storage will be required to house even a modest library.  The cloud architecture we are using (based on Microsoft Azure) has inbuilt geographic-redundancy providing maximum security and availability of your digital assets.

Over the next few months BTMI and some publisher colleagues already working with the emREADER platform will create a small test repository of eMUS files which can be used as the basis of an sample eMUS reader which is currently in development.     Once the concept has been approved, we will be opening up the development to any 3rd party platform that is interested in licensed content for their application to make sure the eMUS platform has the broadest appeal.

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