Stephen Flaherty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jason Robert Brown, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk Sound Off on Sheet Music Piracy and Advice for Songwriters

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23 Apr 2014

Jason Robert Brown
photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images

As for advice, Brown said, "Young writers have enough bullshit to worry about without having to worry about this. It should not be something that a writer has to worry about. The writers should write. Writers write, and that's what they do."

Kerrigan and Lowdermilk said that up-and-coming writers in the industry shouldn't be afraid to charge singers for their music — even if it's a small amount — watermark their music and personalize it for the singer, so the material can't be traded.

Stitt offered, "On one end, I'd say, 'Keep writing — get your music out there,' but then on the other hand, it's, 'Have a backbone and realize that you're not a public service — that you are actually creating a business and that your work has value…' A lot of people [think], 'I'll just give this one away for free because then somebody will hear my song, and maybe somebody will like it, and then I'll give this other one away…' Ultimately, it winds up feeling like a hobby, and you can't support it."

On the upside of digital sharing, Oscar winner Stephen Schwartz and Tony winner Marc Shaiman believe that the Internet can provide a great outlet for new songwriters.



"I actually think it's a good time [for new writers] for many reasons. It's much, much easier to [put your material out into the world]… I think that's what you do. You have to have something you can show — an example of your work — that you can give to someone to listen to, and I think it's become easier to do that," said Schwartz.

Shaiman added, "The Internet is so fantastic for exposing songwriters who haven't had a Broadway break — [or] anything close to that — [because] now their songs are literally around the world, and they're being sung by people, and that's unbelievable."

In the Heights Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda said of the event, "This is the beginning of a conversation that's been happening informally — thanks to social media — for some time between composers and people who enjoy our music and the people who have no idea they're taking money out of our pocket by going to one of the sites where you can get anything we ever wrote for free. We're not going to see [songwriters like] Justin Bieber in this room. We make our living off of sheet music. We make our living off of digital music…and a lot of what this event is about is saying, 'There are ways to enjoy our music and download our music and purchase our music that supports the artists you love so much.'

"You're seeing four different generations of composers in this room. You've got Schwartz and Flaherty, and Nathan Tysen is over there… Everyone is here, and we're doing it together, and I think that's great."

Also in attendance were Dramatist Guild committee chair Craig Carnelia, Scott Wittman, David Shire, Adam Gwon, Michael Kooman, Amanda Green, Joe Iconis, Sean Patrick Flahaven, Julia Jordan, Nancy Ford and Mark Hollmann.

Many of the attendees, including contemporary songwriters Gwon, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Iconis, Kooman and Tysen, were featured in Playbill.com's Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know. Read Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

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