Saturday, May 02, 2009

This Issue of Piracy

If you've been paying close attention lately, or if you're in my inner circle or happen to have been at one of my recent master classes, you'll know a little bit about my latest soapbox issue.

A few months ago I was catching up with a friend who is currently a college student, and he was excited to share with me how popular my music was becoming at his school. "And it's not just here," he said, opening his computer. "You wouldn't believe how many people are talking about your music online." And then he proudly showed me a website where people were requesting copies of my sheet music online. I was flattered. Awww... how nice to be popular. And then he showed me the list of people who were offering to TRADE copies of my sheet music. On this website, to which you had to be a member, people were posting things like "I have a copy of ALPHABET CITY CYCLE I will trade for .... [whatever]" or "Anyone got the sheet music to BIG WINGS? I have much to trade!"

I was no longer flattered, but I let it go.

Within the next few weeks, probably because I was now paying attention, I starting noticing when google alerts mentioned websites where people could download my music for free. And then my manager wrote me a note that said "I hate that it's so easy to get your music online. Check out this website: [blah blah blah]." I looked, and within two minutes had downloaded to my own hard-drive a copy of a piece of music I had never released to the public. And now I was really getting angry.

I'll stop telling the story for just a minute to explain why I was getting angry. For starters, selling or trading copyrighted material to which you do not own the copyright is illegal. So we can start there. But further, selling or trading copyrighted material which I own and sell as part of how I make my living is totally invasive, violating, and well, illegal. If someone distributes a piece of music that I could otherwise have sold, that distributor has stolen directly from me -- taken money out of my pocket. And if that music is published (in my case by Hal Leonard), then you're stealing from them, too. When you're talking about one piece of music, $8 here or there, I suppose it's not a huge deal. But once you open up your sheet music files to the world wide web, we're talking about thousands of dollars at stake, and suddenly it matters.

Back to the story. Annoyed and miffed, I decided to write the offending website a cease and desist letter.

On Apr 9, 2009, at 2:56 PM, georgiastitt sent a message using the
contact form at

Hi. I joined this website because I am a composer and it has come to my attention that my copyrighted material, which I sell as part of my income, is being traded on this website for free. No one in this web community, or ANY web community, has my permission to sell, copy, distribute, or trade any of my sheet music and by doing so is subject to legal action from my attorney. I am sending a copy of this message to both my lawyer and my manager. It is imperative that any music written by me or in any way bearing my name be removed from your site immediately. Trading copyrighted material is illegal. Thank you for your immediate attention in this matter. Georgia Stitt (

And then, because that had felt like a more or less futile exercise, I wrote a letter to all my fellow composers and lyricists in New York and Los Angeles, our agents, managers, lawyers, music licensors and publishers, and explained that we had a problem. The letter went out to over 100 of the most prominent players in the musical theater industry, and the response I got was overwhelming.

"You have my support."
"What can I do?"
"This has been plaguing me forever."
"I thought we were the only ones who cared about this."

Lots of conversation has emerged, and responses came from the Dramatists Guild, MTI, Warner-Chappell, The National Music Publishers' Association, The Songwriters Guild, Jeff Marx, John Bucchino, Lucy Simon, Marsha Norman, Charles Strouse, David Shire, David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Mark Shaiman, young composers, rock stars, etc., etc., etc. One lyricist mentioned that she estimated she had lost nearly $50,000 due to illegal downloads of her sheet music (all of which is published and commercially available). A young composer whose music is performed every single time I give a master class at a college told me he could barely pay his rent.

I'll cut ahead to tell you that having identified the problem (music piracy is rampant and musical theater songwriters, among others, are suffering from it), the resolution seems to be two-fold.

1. Many of the people who are trading or even selling sheet music do not know that they are doing anything wrong. It is our job to educate our fans, the people WHO LOVE THE SONGS WE CREATE, about why it is important to purchase the sheet music they sing.

2. We have to make the sheet music that we write more readily available to the people who want to sing it. Just this week at a master class in Texas the students told me that they would be willing to pay $10 for a piece of sheet music written by a favorite composer but they just didn't know where to find it. If we're not reaching our fans, many of whom think it's COOL to have a brand new piece of sheet music that no one else has, they will find it elsewhere. It has been suggested that we might want to create an iTunes-like store for sheet music where everything is available in one place, composers young and old are represented, and fans know where to look to find it. I am encouraging the young people I meet to use the internet as a research tool, finding the websites of the composers they love and asking them how best to procure the music they so desire. But in this world of instant gratification, awaiting a response from a busy composer is less satisfying that pushing a few buttons and having music on your desktop. Several websites that already exist (, and seem to have the technology in place but are not yet representing the youngest, unpublished composers who are trying diligently to sell their music on their own websites.

These issues are complicated and large, and I am now on a committee at the Dramatists Guild to figure out how to proceed. But I wanted very much to open the discussion to you readers of this blog. Now go ahead. Tell me what you think.


Dylan R. Hauck said...


Thank you for bringing this issue into the light. I think one of the biggest factors in this issue is that many young performers do not understand the full effect of piracy. I have been guilty in the past of procuring songs through less than legal means, but since reading your posts on this issue, I have changed my stance and attitude on the topic.

I think we all have to keep educating those around us about who feels the impact of piracy. It's artist vs. artist crime in a field where we should all be working together.

I am sharing this blog with all of my friends and contacts in the field. I truly believe this is an issue that must be heard.

Steve Woolf said...

Piracy is a huge problem. The general public tends to think of mainstream movies, tv shows, and pop artists when it comes to piracy, but artists in all areas of entertainment are hurt by it. Your article brings a lot of information to light about what is happening in the musical theater world, and it's definitely troubling.

In my line of work, I look at methods of digital distribution to open up availability and offer an affordable alternative to pirating materials, but in the arena of music publishing I'm wondering if any mechanism like that even exists yet -- ?

One thing we know is that the tools that make sharing these materials so easy aren't going to go away. And we also know that pursuing everyone with lawsuits is expensive and futile. What kinds of changes, either to the music publishing business model or the distribution model, need to happen in order to shrink the pool of pirates and offer an affordable (or perhaps free, if a sponsor model exists) alternative to young artists who want to obtain your work?

Anonymous said...

Dear Georgia,
I completely support and agree with your thoughts. I will admit to being a member. I joined about eight months ago, because I found it was the only place that I could find a very small list of songs which I had exhausted other methods of obtaining. I do not trade songs that are available for purchase because I feel that obsurdly disrespectful and wrong. I'm very happy to see Alphabet City Cycle will soon be available for purchase. I plan to buy it right away when it is. I feel that your "itunes" idea is an excellent one. I think there are many reasons that people use these trading websites and this would eliminate many of the legit ones. Sadly there will still be thoughtless people who simply don't want to pay, but I think if the songs are more openly available for purchase many people like myself will jump at the chance to support talented composers who can then write more beautiful songs. I hope also that the composers of unpublished songs and scores would jump aboard of an idea such as this. In the end the composers and singers would both win.

Anonymous said...

Nothing you can do... if the RIAA and Hollywood can't...

Steve Woolf said...

I wonder if this tool could be a solution. Recently launched as a kind of iTunes for published work. I don't see a music section, yet:

Steve Woolf said...

Correction, here is sheet music:

Anonymous said...

I also agree with what you have written. Young performers love to sing these new, well written songs. Sometimes they do not realize that using any way possilbe to get a hold of the music is not always the best idea. I think the reason a website like pianofiles gets away with being "out there" is because they do not provide a "download" link to the music. They simply provide a place for people to list sheet music that they own, which is not illegal at all. The illegal act is the people who actually do trade, and on the bad side, that is 99.9 percent of people involved with that website. I'm not sure if there is any way to shut down a website like pianofiles because i dont know if what they provide is in any way illegal

Andi said...

I know this is well after you posted this blog, but I just read it and had to comment. I am so 100% behind you on this, and have to be one more voice that says if I knew where to purchase music that is more obscure legally, I would HAPPILY fork over the $10, or pay a membership fee or whatever. What I find happens is I will be searching for something (and I have been using and for years) for some time, knowing it is out there because I hear other people using it and getting more and more frustrated until I just steal it from someone. I have often said in my head, please, Mr. or Ms. Composer/Lyicist, take my danged money! I hope there is a solution in the near future. Would you like my $10 donation? :-)

Anonymous said... is being investigated by the lawyers of, Hal Leonard, Music Sales and Alfred Publishing. What they do is illegal and once they shut down this site and files criminal charges it would not be wise to be found on their server's database.

First up is to get them removed from Facebook, Twitter etc. and then too to get their advertisers to drop them.

Piano files is blatantly trading in illegal copyright sheet music and has to be shut down. They were actually shut down in the UK and now reopened in the Netherlands. The owners have been identified and it's only a matter of time before they find themselves in front of a judge. Hope they are making big money because they are going to need it for lawyer fees just to stay out of jail.

There are legal places to download sheet music. is one of them... and a new site opening up this week called is another.

Anonymous said...

As one creative professional to another, I ask that you please be careful.

Selling copyrighted material is perfectly legal, ask you used book or CD store if you have doubts.

Copyright infringement is a crime in itself, it is not the same as theft.

tinman11201 said...

I am all for purchasing sheet music directly from the composers and an iTunes like site where you can download them sounds like a great idea. I know I would definitely use it as I already use sites like to purchase individual pieces of music.

Anonymous said...

you and your friend really believe that $50,000 was lost from trades of that music? really? i was a conservatory music student once upon a time. we didn't buy music. ever. you copied it from the library/your teacher/fellow student. now it's just done via online files and with a wider audience. i'm not talking morality here at all - i'm talking reality. as an artist, you're going to need to find a better way to monetize your product. it's out there, it's going to stay out there....until comcast takes control of the internet and all we have access to is networks they own. but until then, this is the world you live in, which isn't really any different than the world before. it just happens faster.

Unknown said...

How did they get the unpublished music? Did someone scan something you had distributed?

Thanks for this well-written article.

Georgia Stitt said...

Hi, all -- how interesting that this post, well over a year old, has gotten so much attention. Gotta assume it's because of Jason Robert Brown's post this week. (


@tecknow Thanks for the clarification. You are correct. Semantics, but it's important to be accurate.

@tinman Check out Not a huge site yet, but certainly a step in the right direction. I am interested in feedback about the price point. If one legally downloads a piece of sheet music, how much $$ feels fair; how much is too much?

@anonymous (oh brave anonymous commentor)
You are, in fact, talking morality. But you are also talking law. Just because everyone is doing it does not make it right, or even legal. When the law changes to agree with you I will give up my rant. Until then, consider also the law of supply and demand. If demand for a product disappears, said product will cease to exist. If no one wants to buy music, how will anyone ever be able to afford to make music? There has been lots of talk about "giving it away for free" or that "information wants to be free." When you can convince my copyists, musicians, actors, directors, orchestrators, record producers, graphic designers, photographers, managers, lawyers and music publishers to work for free, let me know. Until then, it takes money to run my business because I have to hire people to participate in generating the product.

It's galling that the raping of this industry comes directly from the people who claim to love it most.

Finally, @Helene, yes, I think in many cases the music is scanned in manually by people who wish to trade it online. I have published music out in the world (thank you Hal Leonard), but also music that is distributed in rehearsals, workshops, recording sessions, coachings, etc. All of it is marked with @Geocate Music (ASCAP) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm thrilled that so many people are talking about this super important issue.

The Confused One said...

Hi there,
I'm a British teenager who fully supports what you're doing for the industry right now, however, I'm a little disheartened at how this whole debate seems to be stereotyping all young people - I myself ALWAYS buy my sheet music and albums legally, and am equally appalled at what things have come to. You should be aware there are young people out there who DO respect the system....even in Britain where we sometimes have to wait a little longer for things to reach us!

For those people who say it gains you more recognition - that's crazy! I came across the work of both you and your husband through singing lessons and exams, and through events such as the Notes from New York series which is popular in London. I'turn introduced many to your work through legal performances or by directing them to your site.
If I want a new book or recording, I earn it or save up for it. Why can't people understand anything else is just wrong and unfair?!?!

I'm an aspiring composer and hope that if I can finally make it on the theatre scene one day, you guys have already succeeded in making it a fairer place for me and my fellow writers. A huge thanks.

Rob Fawcett said...

You are absolutely right in identifying availability as a crucial issue: not just with regard to sheet music from new composers but with regard to out-of-print sheets and deleted audio recordings. There's quite a list of things I've frankly rejoiced to eventually find illegitimately after a long fruitless search through legitimate means. Some of these items have later become commercially available and I've bought them. However, I must note my strong suspicion that these items were often only made commercially available after vigourous illegitimate traffic finally brought the asset to the wandering attention and bland commercial imagination of the publisher.

Finally, I'd like to add a note of caution to the lyricist's quoted figure of '$50,000' loss. Estimated losses have to be calculated in a sophisticated way: a teenage pirate may download hundreds of sheets, songs or software packages on the off-chance of using a few of them later on. Nobody would buy all of those items at full market rate on the same basis, and the teenager couldn't possibly afford to do so in any event. Thus, whilst the pirate has a contemptible attitude, you can't calculate the financial losses in the same manner you could if someone looted a warehouse (I'm not suggesting that the losses are acceptable or insignificant, just that 'number of downloads' multiplied by 'royalty per retail sale' would be an unrealistic method to estimate loss).

Anonymous said...

A few comments:

1) If unpublished work is being distributed, you have bigger problems that copyright infringement, maybe breach of contract.

2) Every illegal copy does not translate to a lost sale. Assume that there was no technical way to make a free copies. If you have resources insufficient to get a copy, then you just don't get a copy period! The resources don't magically appear just because you can no longer get a free copy. Even if you have the resources, that does not mean that you would 'waste' them on a luxury when there are so many other things which may be more necessary.

Eliminating copyright infringement would just reduce the number of copies in circulation, depending upon the work, etc.. maybe 10% of the Eliminated infringement might be turned into sales, maybe as high as 50% though I doubt very much it would go higher.

Many infringers are probably just collecting and will never do anything with the copies they collect. They are collecting them just to have a copy, and they would only spend the money if they didn't have anything else that that they wanted more.

3) Note, nothing above makes it right but I do hate when it's called theft since, it's not 'taking' the original is just where it started.

The Solution/Answer is not an easy one and I doubt it exists. Before I stumbled upon this incident I didn't know your name, but then sheet music isn't my thing. I suspect that you would like your music to reach everyone who would have an interest in it and that you would like to collect royalties from everyone that collects it. The real question is does the free availability of your music help you reach more people who then pay for it (and would not otherwise know of it without the free availability), or does it reduce the number of sales that would occur where it not freely available? I can not answer that, maybe you can but it's not as straight forward as it might seem.

Thank you for raising the awareness,

Anonymous said...

Pirate's cant and wont be stoped.
Piracy is human nature.

Anonymous said...

Hi Georgia.

The challenge here is one of the wagon builder and the car builder. When it became clear that cars were better than horse & wagon, the folks who made wagons were suddenly out of business. Not because they didn't make a good product, but because they made a product no one wanted anymore.

What the public no longer wants, is physical media. What they do want is digital media. Anyone who can provide it, including illegal sites, is going to prevail over those who cannot.

Your distributors must learn this. More than that, they must embrace it. Offering up digital media piecemeal will not cut it. The illegal sites offer all of it up at once. Nothing we do in legislation or in education will change that people prefer easy access to "what's right".

Encourage your distributors to offer an online "all you can eat" service for a set fee. Once these services are set up, and offered at a reasonable price, illegal downloading will finally start to see the end of days.

Good luck.

Jenny Colvin said...

Studio teachers and professors can go a long way by requiring the students working on a piece to own it. That's how I grew up, and encourage the faculty at my institution to do the same. The Music Library Association is committed to educating about copyright, with the goal of targeting all undergraduates (see Standard 5). Of course being informed or being encouraged to be ethical will not always beat out the concept of "free."

I think you're onto something with the iTunes-like idea, though. iTunes caught on post-Napster because even though people had to pay, it was so easy to do it! Just like people will recycle when it is easy but not so often when they have to make an extra effort. Easy is key.

Unknown said...

I don't agree with your position on piracy. It fails to take into account the role of rapid changes in technology and how this affects people's norms.

I could care less about sheet music, music itself holds no interest to me. Technology does, and the way it is used. There was a time when printed sheet music was hard to produce and come by, and the costs of sheet music accurately reflected the model of this economy.

But sheet music can be produced these days at a cost approaching zero. This does not account for the work that goes into producing the score, but does account for the costs of printing and materials. You and I both know artists do not receive a representative amount of the cost of sheet music, and that the distributors are basically middle men who do nothing but reap profits from putting the music out there.

Before getting upset about people distributing sheet music online, consider the fact that no one enjoys dealing with middle men and give people credit for understanding and objecting to this model. If you really want to cling to outdated business models, go ahead, but realize that you are participating in a model with a limited shelf life and the very practices you object to are evidence that this is not going to last.

If you really want to do something about the problem, stop blaming people for downloading your music (that is freely available) and put pressure on distributors to engage in more innovative business practices to protect your interests. That is what they are supposed to be doing and there are numerous alternative models that can be used in place of written sheets of music.

Imagine, for instance, if people could download your music for a nominal fee, and it would include sample tracks to guide the performer in understanding the composition. This would create an incentive with some fans to engage in a paid model, as there is a value add that goes beyond what they could easily download. Put it behind some sort of a paywall and in a form that cannot be easily redistributed and you have a modern model for sharing music. Put it in an iPad application and you have something that is going to last for a while.

It always disturbs me to hear artists complaining about people using technology to distribute artistic works without compensation to the artist. This is EXACTLY what the music industry has done for years, yet artists are the last to hold publishers and producers responsible for providing a business model people want to engage in. Let's face it, you get a pittance of the actual revenue generated from the sales of your works.

Basic economics are at play here, and it's worth your time to actually think through the issues and avoid demonizing people who enjoy your works. It's not like the internet came along and people suddenly started copying works - the xerox machine has been around a lot longer than personal computers.


Unknown said...

I don't agree with your position on piracy. It fails to take into account the role of rapid changes in technology and how this affects people's norms.

I could care less about sheet music, music itself holds no interest to me. Technology does, and the way it is used. There was a time when printed sheet music was hard to produce and come by, and the costs of sheet music accurately reflected the model of this economy.

But sheet music can be produced these days at a cost approaching zero. This does not account for the work that goes into producing the score, but does account for the costs of printing and materials. You and I both know artists do not receive a representative amount of the revenue generated from creative works in general, and that the distributors are basically middle men who do nothing but reap profits from putting the music out there.

Before getting upset about people distributing sheet music online, consider the fact that no one enjoys dealing with middle men and give people credit for understanding and objecting to this model. If you really want to cling to outdated business models, go ahead, but it's not like complaining about people's behaviors is going to roll back the clock to the 1980s.

If you really want to do something about the problem, stop blaming people for downloading your music and put pressure on distributors to engage in business practices that provide recognized value to consumers. That is EXACTLY what they are supposed to be doing. Basic economics are at play here, and demonizing your target market is not going to change the situation.

Will said...

Many people talk about copyright and how it's killing the record industry, cutting jobs at corporations, etc. As a wise person once said, "copyright doesn't exist to protect your job." That person then went on to discuss the reason why copyright came into existence in the first place (which is, perhaps, not the reason for which it is being used today) and made the point that copyright was intended to protect the ability of creative types to make a living and produce more works.

What people don't hear about is people like Georgia Stitt, JRB, etc. What they do hear about are massive lawsuits by major corporations who are far removed from the artists who produce the work they rely on. That removal (whether real or imagined) is, I believe, a big part of why people justify piracy to themselves. Maybe hearing from more artists will change a few minds. Just don't equate one pirated copy with one lost sale. That's just silly.

To be honest, I'm conflicted about copyright law. I'm not conflicted about paying artists.

Chicago Music Promotions said...

I personally am a music promoter and i deal with Unsigned and Independent Musicians and Bands and i come across this issue all the time (not with sheet music) however with songs and downloads. I am all for letting the talent get heard and allowing free downloads on my music sites, however when people come to my site and try to trick the system (they cant) and try to download the mp3 when its only streaming only i tend to block there ip address and ban them from the network.

You see its not just the consumers problem its the internet in general it has not been regulated or controlled for some time, it was just free and open and everyone could use P2P programs for some time and trade files back and fourth so now that everyone pretty much has a P2P program i guess the sheet music is also in the mix getting traded as well.

Sure you can file lawsuits all day long against consumers, websites and other places but how effective are you being? Are you loosing potential fans? Are you going to spend more then you make? Are you going to loose the current buzz or hype people got towards you? There is many other factors involved when it comes to music piracy as well its not just someone going and stealing a song.

I make sure all the artists and bands have at least 1 free song download or 2 depending on how many songs they have created and or have in there collection. Now as for the sheet music there is a place you can check out called i think they have a sheet music site as well where you can sell your sheet music.

My site is
Chicago Music Promotions

I hope you are able to get your affairs taken care of and i hope you are able to make revenue off your sheet music but i would be very careful on cutting people off it might have good and bad impacts. Look what happened to the record label industry with there lawsuits against people for 5 or 6 songs and so fourth.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know your reaction to Gerd Leonhard's position that you cannot own the content, only the context.

Anonymous said...

How much of an issue is the price point? Haven't iTunes demonstrated that if the price point is right, people don't mind paying?

(I'm not saying that it will eliminate piracy, just dent it)

Leslie said...

It seems like the issue of piracy would be halted pretty drastically if originals were required at auditions. I was very happy to see that at the Boston NATS auditions, accompanists are required to play from originals. Although it can be cumbersome to bring big books with you, it prevents illegal photocopying.

One of my students did perform an out of print piece, and I was able to get a letter of permission from the composer. It wasn't that hard.

I think part of the problem is that in the MT industry, people are constantly photocopying (both for their own use, and illegally), and it's become part of the culture, and is accepted in educational settings. Maybe if that weren't the case the lines wouldn't seem as blurry to young performers.

Reading your blog, and JRB's blog really opened my eyes to this. I will be much more careful in the future.

Anonymous said...

Horst ♫ ♪ ♫ in


Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Re: JIM CHAPPELL MUSIC SHEETS Oct 24, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] so long my friend - Yaani Apr 1, 2010
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Looking for Sheet music Adiemus from Karl Jenkins. 1 Aug 31, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Request for "Largo" by Handel Jun 9, 2010 F
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] REQ: Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma - Melanie 1 Oct 13, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] U2 Request 1 hmoser62 Oct 9, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Drum tab 2 hmoser62 Jul 24, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] all for one 2 hmoser62 Mar 16, 2010
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Greased Lightnin' - Grease Movie Sep 2, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Request Canticle Of the Sun Mar 1, 2010
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] west side story - one hand, one heart Aug 31, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Blues by Memphis Slim Sep 20, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] God Bless Us Everyone Dec 8, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Req: Privilege to pee (Urinetown) Oct 23, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] request / Working Man / Rita McNeil Jul 19, 2009
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] REQ: 3 Tommy Dorsey Songs Jul 2, 2010
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Looking For These Sheets. [1 Attachment] Apr 15, 2010
Re: [Sheet_Muzic_For_All] Miss You

and thousand, thousands, for years

stop this guy!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Geogia!
I totally agree with your position on this. However, I will admit to being a Pianofiles member, as the music I want (band parts for broadway shows) you cannot buy. If they were made avalible I would buy them, however you cannot and it is for that reason I use the site.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points ! I have always been violently opposed to piracy on recorded music and film....just ask my children how I react when I hear they have just seen the latest unreleased video at a friend's house !!!
However.....I've have just discovered and used pianofiles for the first time and am forced to confront my motives. I have to say I don't feel quite the same way - The reason....after seriously exhaustive search I still could not find the music to some songs I really wanted my students to use for an exam. I have in the past always used musicroom or sheetmusic etc and have frequently emailed composers directly to buy their music and believe it is absolutely right that I should pay for downloads.

In the case of the score I downloaded this week, less than 25%and then only the 'popular' and therefore I assume more commercially viable numbers were available print. A more difficult duet was nowhere to be found.I would happily have approached the composer had there been an easily found website to do so, but I certainly couldn't find one. It seems a shame that piracy should be claimed when actually there does appear to be an element of simply not printing publicly the numbers that won't sell so well in a popular-ish show? The entire score IS available in print but
approaching rights holders, Weinberger,Samuel French et al is frequently met by a less than helpful response unless you are applying for full show rights...It can be impossible to tell if the unhelpfulness is due to restrictions on the songs or simply that it is too much like hard work for them to produce one number.
I think the users of such download sites break down into two types.....pirates with no regard for the copyright issue and are simply attempting to save money, and those who are more than happy to purchase the music but have simply exhausted other means.

The itunes/sheet music formatt would be an excellent idea. I fully understand when a composer really doesn't want something out there in the public domain yet and it pops up unexpectedly. That is quite simply wrong.

However, if music is in print but simply seems to be un-purchasable it is no surprise that such sites will proliferate.
I know I sound a litle harsh here, I don't mean to, but perhaps composers themselves need to acknowledge that the internet has moved the distribution of music on hugely and rather than complaining about piracy, attempt to make their printed music available to a point where they can quite rightly prosecute and say...... "it was there, accesible, readily available for you to buy, but you chose to steal it from elsewhere!"

Meanwhile I will continue to explore every other avenue as I normal before looking at pianofiles.....

Anonymous said...

Looks like people predominantly download illegally when a legal download is not available.

Couldn't everyone get behind and elevate it to itunes-like awareness? Could theatre websites, such as backstage, playbill,, BWW, and the Stage for UK, do pieces on it to make it well-known? It could become much bigger and include the ability to sample before purchasing, etc a la

Price wise, I am a recent graduate on a starving actor budget. I'd pay $5 for sheet music happily. Deals and incentives work well on me and would encourage me to bulk-buy. I would pay $9.99 (current price of most songs on but it feels like a lot to me, so I'd only invest in songs I really wanted.

Being able to download digitally and quick is a big factor too, if you need to print a song for use that day. Making digital "songbooks" might be a cost effective way to encourage multiple buys. As much as I love books I rarely invest in hardcopies of things anymore.

Maybe composers could get together and write a "war is over" style song on stopping piracy! there will always be those who do it illegally anyway because they can't afford not to or want to cheat the system. But you can greatly reduce it.

Albert Ahlf said...

The other issue though is that musicians like myself can just play by ear and don't need to buy sheet music. I believe if I buy an artists cd or album. I'm entitled to the sheet music. I'm not rich and can't afford $4 for every song I wanna learn. There is beauty in sharing. Sharing is what promotes you guys in the first place. I as a musician who composes himself find it kida selfish to want that much money. Music is an energy and when you make it all about money, it becomes bastardized. Sheet music is simply an unreliable source of income. Mainly because people can play by ear. Is THAT copyright infringement too????? I would be honored to know someone liked my music enough to wanna download it. It makes me sick when all musicians care about is money money money... Most musicians get most of their income from public performances anyway.

Theatre teacher jdreiling said...

I've been looking for and buying sheet music since before the internet. I was always upset that I had to buy a $40 book for the one song I needed. Now, I can find singles of sheet music on paid sites as long as it's popular enough. Like others posting here, sometimes I need the rarities and b-sides. I need the in-between song, the one that is not the breakaway pop hit. I always look to pay for it first, but I end up going to pianofiles because someone probably has it.
Make it easier to get your music, and I mean ALL of it: orchestration, you name it, and I would gladly pay. If it's not available online legitimately, any artist should not be surprised to find it on pianofiles.

Anonymous said...

Be careful of overestimating the cost of illegal downloading. A lot of my friends are MT hobbyists, who use sheet music as the basis for arrangements for fun. If free sources were unavailable, they would just spend the extra few hours to dictate it all from a recording.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think that this is MTI's fault. Because most of their materials is not available to the public, the whole sheet music trading thing began. It just got out of hand. Maybe if they released their stuff to even libraries it would stop.

Anonymous said...

I'm just not sure how this is any different from photo-copying music from a friend, peer, teacher, etc. Also, sometimes the music isn't available to buy - depending on how obscure it is.

Chong said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

Coming a bit late to this discussion, but. . . .

I'm a composer and writer (minimal income, but some), so I'm sensitive to the rights of composers and authors. I was also---till yesterday, when my conscience finally caught up with me---a member of PianoFiles. I used the site to get an early start on music that my theatre groups would be eventually paying for in full. That doesn't make it legal, but for what it's worth, I never traded for music with the intention of completely avoiding licensing fees. I suspect that many PF members use the site in similar ways.

Without justifying illegal trading in the least, I would like to point out some other sides to the issue. First, it's not legal to photocopy music that's under copyright---but if that were enforced, it would be the end of all community bands and theatre groups, and probably quite a few professional ensembles as well. The bands I'm in do pay full performance rights when we play a piece, but without the photocopier, half of our 15 clarinetists would have no music. The law is unenforceable; the results if it were enforced would be disastrous; and some entirely new form of copyright law is needed.

A less obvious issue, but one in which established composers could wield a big stick: MTI and the other licensing agencies don't give two magic beans for their nonprofessional customers, even though, I'd guess, those customers are where the agencies make most of their money. I've been dealing with all the various agencies for 15 years or so, and it's rare even to get a return E-mail concerning a show that we're paying thousands to license. I'm currently in rehearsals for "Ragtime," and the condition of the band parts is beyond belief. MTI received the parts back, unerased and festooned with notes, taped-over sections, scribbles and rewrites, from some other group. They then PHOTOCOPIED those parts, scribbles and all, and sent us the bound photocopies. In other words, we can't even erase the markings that the previous group made; we need to repeatedly refer to the partitur and write out the original music for our players.

For another show, some years ago, we received orchestra materials compiled from two separate versions of the show. Half the parts simply had no connection with the other half.

Another example: I did "How to Succeed" early this year, and the Piano/Conductor score supplied by MTI did not match the individual parts. If I hadn't had a copy of the PC score (obtained through PianoFiles, yes) and several months to work with the music and make it consistent, I don't know how we'd have been able to put on the show.

Moral: Community theatre groups are screwed. We're charged licensing fees that many smaller groups can barely afford, and in return we frequently get unusable materials and zero customer service. Is it any wonder that people turn to PianoFiles? Even a few weeks of warning about what we'll be receiving from the licensing agency can make the difference between a good show and a dog's breakfast.

Some pressure from established authors and composers---the people that the agencies WILL listen to---might work wonders, and would certainly reduce the appeal of PianoFiles and other illegal trading sites.

Sam Y.

cylene said...

Here's the real issue. You touched on it lightly, but not nearly enough. It is practically impossible to get sheet music. I'm serious. I'm part of the small group of people who does like to buy things online. So instead, you know, I go to White House of Music. And do you know what I find there? Next to nothing. They only carry (in store) things that are exceedingly popular, most of which, if one likes it, one has probably already bought. And if it's not in the store, you have to order it. Recently, I ordered the Aladdin Intermediate Level Piano book. And you know what they told me? "I don't know if we'll be able to get it for you. It hasn't been popular since the early 2000's," And if you are a young composer, then I say best of luck to you, because you're going to need it. If the largest music selling conglomeration doesn't think that Aladdin is popular enough to keep on hand, then how on earth do you think people expect to get your music easily? And that's why they turn to piracy, not because they aren't willing to spend the money (I'd rather have the real thing any day) but because it's next to impossible for us to buy the sheet music on a commercial basis. That being said, tell me where I can buy the original piano sheets for any of Vince DiCola's items and I'll eat my hat. What needs to be done is that someone needs to intervene with the larger distributors. If you can do that, your problem will greatly lessen, and so will ours.