When It’s Not Nice to Share

May 31, 2013

It’s the night before your big audition/talent show/school presentation, and you finally came up with the PERFECT song, composed by this hot up-and-coming composer - the one song that’s sure to land you the part/make you a star/earn you an A+.  The only thing in your way is that you don’t actually have a copy of the sheet music in your collection.  Not a problem… you’re sure to find a free version online that you can download and print off.  There are tons of music-sharing sites on the internet, and that’s what they’re there for – to supply you with music you don’t yet own, right?  Except there’s one hitch.  There’s no “sharing” involved.  Not really.  It’s copying.  A digital replication is made from originals, and that’s what you download.

So what’s the hitch, you ask?  It’s a moral one.  The song you’re about to download for free is protected by copyright laws, and is an illegal copy.   That hot up-and-coming composer that you love so much created the work with his own genius, and is not willing to just give it away.  It’s what he does for part of his living, and he’s expecting to be compensated for his work, just as you expect to walk away from your work with a paycheck every week.  In fact, not only is the composer expecting to be compensated from the sale of his music, but there’s a whole team of people who expect compensation from that sheet music sale:  the lyricist, the publisher, the copyist, the arranger and the distributor to name a few.

Jason Robert Brown

Jason Robert Brown is a very popular broadway composer (The Last Five Years; Songs for a New World; 13; Parade) who, in 2010, tackled the issue of illegal music-sharing head on.  He created an account with one of the most popular music-sharing sites, and personally emailed around 400 people, explaining that no one has his permission to freely circulate his music and to please remove his publications from their accounts.  Many of them did, but one young woman in particular engaged in an email exchange with the composer, trying to explain and excuse her behaviour.  The subsequent conversation resulting in a blog entry  entitled “Fighting with Teenagers: A Copyright Story”  is enlightening (and entertaining!) and can be read in full here on Jason Robert Brown’s blog.

More recently, the Dramatists Guild formed an Anti-Piracy committee to combat the piracy of sheet music online.  They produced and released the following video called “Someone Wrote That Song” with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Craig Carnelia.


This video prompted one watcher to respond with the following tongue-in-cheek statement: “The naysayers are right, music should be free! And songwriters should feed their kids big plates of happiness that someone liked what they wrote, and heat their house with the warm fuzzy feeling of recognition!”

And it’s not only the composers themselves who are affected by this issue.  Digital music-sharing directly affects everyone in the industry from the publishers and editors to music stores such as The Leading Note.  Every piece that is unethically downloaded is a potential sale lost.

Even though our focus is primarily classical, we do have a great musical theatre section here at the store.  And, thanks to partnerships with some of the top musical theatre publishers in North America, if it’s single sheets you’re looking for, The Leading Note can legally download titles in-store, transpose if necessary, and print music for you.  Single-sided loose sheets are $7.95 + tax.  Double-sided printing, with a front and back cover and a comb-binding is $10.95 + tax.

Of course, when you purchase single titles, you miss out on the other great songs from that show.  Chances are, if you like “Still Hurting” from  JRB’s The Last Five Years you will also like “Summer in Ohio”, ”Climbing Uphill” or any of the other solos from the same show.  Instead of spending $10.95 for a single title, you could get all twelve songs from the musical’s Vocal Selections folio for $22.95.  However, if it IS just a single title that you want, you can also purchase your (legal) digital music through The Leading Note from the comfort of your own home by clicking here.

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