Impoverishment is the default condition of most theatre artists, including playwrights, composers and lyricists. Very few make a living from their art and many struggle to make ends meet and lack health insurance. This sad state of affairs was well aired in 2010 by the book Outrageous Fortune which documented how the economics of theatre disadvantage writers.
One phenomenon that has not helped matters is the easy availability on the Internet of sheet music for musical theatre songs. As destructive and unfair to composers, lyricists and publishers as the illegal photocopying of sheet music has been over the years, the spread of free sheet music sites on the Internet is doing even more harm.
Essentially the Internet abets the theft of sheet music, depriving its creators – the composers and lyricists – of revenue that they often desperately need. Income from sales of sheet music can be the difference between an artist making rent next month or not. Also, the free sheet music sites are now threatening the very existence of professional music publishing.
In response to this threat, the Dramatists Guild - the national organization representing playwrights, composers and lyricists - recently released a two-and-a-half-minute animated song, titled “Someone Wrote That Song,” that was created by some of America’s finest musical theatre talents. This is a laudable effort to address this serious problem in a lighthearted and non-adversarial manner. Education, not indictment, is the goal.
Even if you have nothing to do with this issue, “Someone Wrote That Song” is a kick to watch. Upbeat puppets sing and dance while explaining why taking sheet music off the Internet is a no-no. Alan Menken composed the music and Craig Carnelia wrote the lyrics. Doing the vocals are Nick Blaemire, Kait Kerrigan, Benj Pasek and none other than Stephen Schwartz.