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Music Publishing - Do It Yourself

DIY Music Publishing: NewMusicalTheatre.com

By William Squier

Posted August, 2012

Kerrigan and Lowdermilk"The kinds of stories that we're interested in telling – that we have an understanding of -- are younger ones," says Kait Kerrigan, half of the musical theatre writing duo Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, who also happen to be the founders of the sheet music sales and distribution website NewMusicalTheatre.com (link opens a new browser window).

Photo: Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan

Among the musicals the team has written are Henry and Mudge (based on the children's book series by Cynthia Rylant), Tales from the Bad Years and The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown – shows that focus on the 20-years-and-under crowd. And that makes their scores particularly attractive to young performers.

"We got very lucky that the kind of people we were trying to reach out to were the kind we could reach out to," Kerrigan continues. "One that understands the new technology." So, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk launched NewMusicalTheatre.com in 2010 to provide their fans with a convenient and legal means of getting copies of their songs for use at auditions and in concert performances.

The team had originally been selling their sheet music through their personal website for a number of years prior to setting up the new site. Business had been so brisk, however, that they were looking for a way to automate the process. So, Brian Lowdermilk worked with a programmer to develop scalable software that would not only allow them to add to their online catalogue, but also be able to offer the service to other musical theater writers who found themselves with the same needs.

Kerrigan says that, along with helping to publicize their musicals and generate some income, she and Lowdermilk saw NewMusicalTheatre.com as an effective means of combating sheet music piracy. "Most people want to do the easy thing, even if it costs them a little more money," she feels. "So, they'll take advantage of a legal alternative if they're offered one." To that end, the team designed the site so that it's easy to purchase and either directly print or download the sheet music for their songs. But they added security features, such as password protection and an individualized watermark that identifies the purchaser, to discourage unauthorized file sharing.

NewMusicalTheatre.com has grown rapidly since it debuted two years ago. The six additional writers originally represented on the site, including Nick Blaemire (Glory Days), Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days), Joe Iconis (The Black Suits) Ryan Scott Oliver (Mrs. Sharp) Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight), have been joined by a host of other familiar artists such as John Bucchino (A Catered Affair), Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre), Brad Ross (Little by Little) and Georgia Stitt (The Water). "We started small with people that we knew would trust us," Karrigan recalls. "If we screwed up at first, they would understand that we had the right intentions. Fortunately, we didn't screw up!"

Almost 200 of the songs that are offered on NewMusicalWriter.com are arranged for solo performance – a few with backup vocals. More than 30 duets are offered and a few songs have been arranged for quartets or larger groups. Though most of the music is drawn from new musical theater scores, it's also a home for popular specialty material like Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler's "Taylor, the Latte Boy." As you might expect, the numbers tend heavily toward ballads, but the site also features a mix of comedic, patter and story songs. There are even "Best of NMT" collections comprised of eight songs in each that are geared toward expanding a performer's audition repertoire.

Though Kerrigan predicts that NewMusicalWriters.com will continue to take on writers, she says that they've slowed the growth of the site so that they can develop an equally scalable means of dealing with the accounting end of the business. "There's a lot more to it than emailing files back and forth," she explains. "Adding each writer involves a whole new set of bookkeeping. So, we're adding them very slowly."

Kerrigan emphasizes, however, that anyone can ask to have musical theater material considered for sale and distribution on the site. Interested writers simply need to log onto the website's "Contact Us' page and fill in their name, email address, telephone number and make note of their request in the comment section. The information will be placed in a database for future consideration.

"We get requests from people who have had Broadway shows and those that are up-and-coming," Kerrigan says. "Long term, we have to figure out what the financial threshold is for people to be on the site." They are hoping to have a board of advisors in place in the next year or two to help make those decisions.

In the meantime, a prime motivator for including songs on NewMusicalTheatre.com is sure to be the prevention of piracy. "One of the things that we've been trying to do is to get established writers to put their cut songs onto our website," Kerrigan reports. "A lot of them don't even know that they're being traded on the Internet. We showed Stephen Flaherty (Once On this Island, Seussical) how many copies of the cut version of "The Night That Goldman Spoke In Union Square" (from the musical Ragtime) were out there. He was absolutely flabbergasted."

To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com


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