Several conversations at the Forums recently (about hymn competitions, about mainstream publishers) and a few private conversations have made me want to refer everyone to this article written by Seth Godin back in 2011.
Those of us with even a moderate amount of notoriety are often sent manuscripts and recordings- “what do you think? Is it any good?” Jeffrey Tucker has told me he gets emails like that just about every day. Having a way smaller profile, I only get them about once a month or so.
What do you want us to say? “Yes it’s very good. You have my blessing to continue working.”
Mainstream publishers have the same problem- though at least, if they like something, they can do something about it.
There’s an unfortunate model of the world at work here. The model is that there are gatekeepers and there are artists. An artist’s job is to produce things, and the gatekeeper’s job is to decide which products are worthwhile. Makers and pickers.
If this wasn’t a religiously oriented blog, I would express to you precisely how I feel about this worldview. As it is, I can only say: this is no longer how it is. In fact, I’m not sure it ever was this way.
The names that fill contemporary mainstream hymnals- the folkie heroes like the SLJs or the P&W gurus like Maher- they weren’t “picked.” They didn’t mail a lead sheet into OCP every week hoping they would get selected for the next edition of Breaking Bread. They made music where they were, spread music through their professional and personal contacts, and got so popular that it would be a mistake not to include their music.
The Wesleys published their own hymns and hymn books. And the reason we have so many excellent tunes and harmonizations by Vaughn Williams is that he was the editor of The English Hymnal.
Whether you want to release your stuff open source, or retain all the rights; whether you want to give it away for free, or setup a shopping cart and charge for it; whether you want to let people download PDFs or use Lulu for print-on-demand services; whether you want to set up your own website or post things to a forum like MusicaSacra- regardless of the philosophical or business model you follow, it is time to stop expecting other people to pick your music.
Pick yourself. Only then will other people pick you.