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Telling My Own Story

Aug 9, 2005

It never seemed very important to me to tell how I got started in this musical hobby of mine, or why I chose the internet rather than conventional methods of distribution. However, over the past year or so I’ve noticed that to fill the void caused by my reluctance to tell my own story, a few others have ventured to do it for me, and as Emma Woodhouse said, they do it very ill.

So for you faithful friends who suffer through the ramblings on this blog, here’s the scoop from beginning to end. This will be long. You may want to bail right now.

The first song I ever wrote was horrendous. It was a love-hate ballad aimed at a boyfriend and even my uncritical mother couldn’t find much good to say about it. I seemed to sense some hesitation in her “Um… very nice, dear,” and destroyed it forthwith. So the boyfriend never got to hear it. Pity.

Over the next few years I dabbled in writing, but always with the curious intention of becoming a rock star. When I wrote a song as a high school senior and a few months later John Denver released a new single with the same melody, I think I began to realize that rock and pop might not be my forte.

Several years later, I began to write again. I had married, had two children, and grown in my love for the gospel, my Heavenly Father and my Savior. These things found their way into lyrics and I began setting them to music.

My first “real” song was “It Was for Me.” A friend encouraged me to “send it in.” “Send it in where?” was my ungrammatical response. She provided me with an LDS publisher’s name and address. The publisher accepted the song, had it typeset, sent it to me for approval, and then… sat on it. It was hard to understand why at the time, but from my later perspective I can see that he was inspired. Eventually I requested that my copyright be returned to me, and the publisher was very kind and accommodating.

Several years went by, and I continued to write. I enjoy the process. Composing is, for me, a combination of therapy, testimony, relaxation, creativity and recreation. I felt no driving need to share these compositions with the rest of the world, only to write them and occasionally sing them for my mom (usually over the phone). I feel closer to the Lord while writing songs in His praise than at any other time, and that was enough. I was content.

I entered a few Church music competitions and that was fun. Friends and acquaintances seemed to like the music, so a few copies were in circulation, but not many. Imagine my surprise then, when out of the blue one of my musical heroes called to tell me in no uncertain terms that I should and must publish. He had asked a publisher friend to contact me, which subsequently happened. I sent several things to him, and… waited. I heard nothing for what I felt was a very long time. (He tells me that, for publishers, it was not a long time. I still disagree. 🙂 ) Meanwhile, another publisher had also contacted me (they must have some sort of ESP network or something) and offered to publish the material as well.

So, my dilemma was this: one publisher, it seemed, didn’t want the material; I didn’t feel right about the other; and yet I had been given direction that the music should and must be published. What to do?

The answer came in the form of the infant “internet.” There wasn’t a lot on this newly-public platform, and the brand-spankin-new-blazing-fast 14.4K modem was still too pricey for me. Still, it turned out to be surprisingly easy. The hard part was putting the music into a format that was readable by all internet users. I searched high and low for others who were distributing music online, but I searched in vain, and eventually had to conclude that this was uncharted territory. PDF seemed the most likely, so I experimented with converting the music to that format. (A frustrating experience… Adobe’s help desk wondered why in the world anyone would want to do that, and Personal Composer, though intrigued and as helpful as could be, had no clue.)

Eventually it clicked. I posted my original web site to a freebie server. The idea was to give it a try at no expense and see if the idea would fly. It flew. Within a couple of weeks, I had exchanged e-mail with people from all over the world, helped a couple of others set up similar sites, and felt an overwhelming confirmation that this was the right avenue to follow. It was gratifying to be able to share so easily, and to provide for many choirs and musicians music they were otherwise unable to afford.

My only regrets came a short time later. Publisher #1 called to say he wanted the material I had sent him. I gave him my URL. He visited it even as we spoke on the phone, and his comment was “Oh, we can’t have that.” So here was a decision for me. I could pull down my site and go with the commercial publisher, or abandon the commercial route and continue to distribute online. Well, you know how that decision went. I regretted wasting his time, I regretted disappointing him (he really was very kind through it all), I regretted not being willing or able to give in to his further entreaties over the next month or two, but I have never regretted my decision to do it this way.

Now. Let me clear up a few misconceptions. First, I do not feel that all musicians everywhere should be doing what I do. I fill a need. They fill other needs. This was simply the right method for me, and there’s no need to inflict it on anyone else, or to make comparisons. Second, I do not intend to pull a bait and switch on anyone. I have heard it rumored that I intend to make this music available free now, but charge for later materials. Nothing could be further from my mind. If some tragedy struck my family such that extra income was necessary, I would have to reconsider. However, in my current blessed circumstances, the Lord expects me to share, so share I will.

This musical/technological journey has been a great blessing to me and my family. I am so thankful for the wonderful friends I have found through our love of the Lord and music that praises Him. I am grateful that my Heavenly Father has provided me the means to contribute in some small way to His great work.

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