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"If the Internet has created the problem, it's possible that the Internet can also fix it," explained Brian Lowdermilk (of the popular contemporary songwriting duo Kerrigan-Lowdermilk) at the April 21 Dramatists Guild anti-piracy event held in Times Square. Approximately two-dozen songwriters gathered at the Guild's home base to send personalized emails to pirates around the world and explain the impact felt from illegally downloaded sheet music.
In 2009, when songwriter, music director and arranger Georgia Stitt was visiting a college class, it was brought to her attention that her material was being illegally shared and traded all over the Internet. Instead of feeling flattered from her music's popularity, she felt betrayed — and began to take action.
"I sent an email in 2009 to like 100 people — musical theatre people, publishers, lawyers, agents, MTI [Music Theatre International] and said, 'Hey, this is a problem, and it's bigger than I can handle. I'd like some help,'" she explained. "And, out of that formed this anti-piracy committee, [which] formed this room today — this huge collective of people who are raising awareness about this issue."
"It was this enormous legendary email with [hundreds of] Tony Award-winning recipients," said Lowdermilk. "Everyone from Stephen Sondheim to, well, us. And, it was really astonishing, and as you read this purposely not BCC'd email, you got the sense that there was no way there wasn't going to be something that came from it. Within weeks of that we announced [the launch of] NewMusicalTheatre.com… It all came out of that impetuous to do something and address it head on and speak to people directly."
Lowdermilk and Kerrigan, along with contemporary songwriters such as Tony Award nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (and web developer Scott Meves), co-founded NewMusicalTheatre.com, a central location on the web to purchase sheet music — in its appropriate keys and formats — and download and print the material instantaneously.
"We get to control where you're getting it," continued Lowdermilk. "I think one of the big [issues with] sites like PianoFiles and other file-sharing sites is that they take the control of what version [performers are] receiving out of our hands. We don't want [performers] going into auditions with typos. We don't want you going out with chicken scratch, hand-written chords that have been photocopied three times…"
Kerrigan interjected, "Piano parts that some person transcribed… We want to be able to have that quality control because that's our hallmark. Those songs represent us just as much as they represent the singer, so to be able to have that control helps us so much in the process of putting our work out there."
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