NEW YORK - By now, some young musical-theater fans have received an email from Stephen Schwartz asking them to stop illegally downloading sheet music from any of his shows.
The award-winning composer of "Wicked" wants people to know that it's stealing.
"You wouldn't walk into a music store and walk out with a piece of music under your arm," Schwartz told the Associated Press at an anti-piracy awareness event hosted by the Dramatists Guild. "So why would it be acceptable to do it online?"
He added, "I just went to the first of the websites that I'm going to be emailing, and I typed my name in to see how many individual pieces of sheet music that were available for free of mine - over 11,000.
"I didn't know I had that many pieces of music," an astonished Schwartz said.
The event proved to be a summit of musical-theater composers that included Jason Robert Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Amanda Green, Stephen Flaherty, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman and others. Many of them sat in a room across the hall from the organization's headquarters hunched over computers, writing letters to offenders.
The idea of reaching out to sheet-music pirates began a few years ago, when composer and Dramatists Guild member Georgia Stitt found out during a talk with students that her husband's sheet music was being illegally downloaded. Stitt is married to "Bridges of Madison County" composer Brown.
Miranda, composer of the Tony-winning "In the Heights," feels that most of the people illegally downloading music are unaware of the impact on the artist.
"Musical-theater artists, we thrive on productions and we thrive on sheet music. That's our bread and butter," he said.