Internet technology, usually considered a great way to communicate with friends, and find product information, is changing the way to find, evaluate, buy, and even listen to music for praise and worship. Affordable and easy-to-use music software for creating and posting music online, along with advances in file streaming and increasing availability of high speed Internet connections allow anyone to make their music available to the world. This allows you to share your music with anyone with Internet access, and lets others share with you. Publishing companies have taken advantage of this as well. The growth of music on the Internet has been prodigious, including music for worship.
Hundreds of sites feature songs and sheet music for listening, viewing and downloading. Recent technologies allow the secure distribution of scores, giving worship leaders and church musicians more resources than ever before.
Publishing sheet music on the Internet is not a new development. For several years, church musicians have posted scores as graphic or PDF files, often with accompanying sound files. This is an effective way to distribute sheet music, but standard PDFs and graphic files are static images and can require considerable storage space. The file formats themselves are not secure — anyone can freely download and distribute them. Publishers and composers concerned about copyright protection cannot use these formats for publishing their music.
Over the last few years, music notation software and digital rights management companies have developed viewer/player formats that are interactive AND offer file security. Several different programs are freely available from companies such as Sibelius, Igor and Sunhawk. These new programs offer plug-ins that easily install in Internet browsers and offer end-users more control over music viewing and playback. For example, Sibelius’ Scorch plug-in allows the user to change playback options, browse through the score, slow down or speed up the tempo, transpose the piece to another key, change a solo instrument and print the music. Most importantly for publishers, the format is secure – the user never gets a digital copy of the score, only a print-out that is authorized by the publisher’s server.
Music publishers, distributors and retailers are now using online distribution to supplement their traditional “hard copy” sales. Publishers are finding that digital delivery is ideal for several types of music, especially guitar and vocal song sheets, handbell music, keyboard music, choral works and instrument parts. Publishers are also realizing significant economic advantages — the costs of production, storage and distribution are a fraction of traditional publishing’s costs. These savings can be handed down to the musicians and worship leaders who purchase the music.
Church musicians and publishers also benefit from expanded catalogs and increased availability of music. Once a score is created and posted it will probably never go out-of-print. Publishers can increase their offerings by publishing music online that would be too expensive (or risky) to print traditionally. Music for niche markets, special occasions and seasonal events can be instantly available anywhere in the world.
As catalogs of digitized scores and lyrics increase, publishers and distributors are making it easier and faster for worship leaders to find good music. Search engines enable anyone to locate music for any group, style or service. Music ministers can search for music according to the liturgical calendar, the requirements or skill level of a particular ensemble, a particular Biblical passage or a lyric. (For an example, see Church Music Now’s search engine on their new website, www.churchmusicnow.com.) Once a piece is located, it may be transposed to the singer’s favorite key before being purchased and printed. Or if a particular instrument is not available, another one may be instantly substituted.
Internet publishing is not just for publishers — individual church musicians and worship leaders are also taking advantage of online distribution. David McKay, a worship leader and writer in Franklin, TN, uses Internet technologies to exchange files and share scores with eleven other worship leaders at Belmont Church in Nashville. Their scores can be instantly available to one another as well as to the community at large. Several composers and arrangers post their music on their websites, send parts to other musicians and share songs for worship worldwide.
If a church or music minister does not have a web site, they can take advantage of free sites on the Internet to publish their music. Some of the most popular hosts allow anyone to create their own website and post scores to sell or give away for free. For example, Sibelius Software offers free websites at SibeliusMusic.com, where there are over 3,350 scores in the “Church and Religious” category. (www.sibeliusmusic.com/genres/church_and_religious/)
In addition to distributing scores and parts online, music ministers and worship leaders are using Internet publishing to prepare singers and musicians for services. Practice scores can be customized for instrumental parts or sections and posted on a website. Members of a choir can listen to an entire piece, or practice their section with other voices. For an example, see Worship Today’s “virtual rehearsal room” at www.worshiptoday.com/sibelius/rehearsal_select_song.asp
Online publishing is an ideal use of the Internet – it makes resources available and affordable to the greatest number of people. Church musicians are grasping this new technology, using it in innovative ways to “Sing His Praises” and spread music for worship.
For some examples of how music publishers, retailers, composers and music ministers are using Internet publishing, see:
Hal Leonard’s SheetMusicDirect http://www.sheetmusicdirect.com
EMI Christian Music Group’s WorshipTogether http://www.worshiptogether
JW Pepper’s ePrint http://www.jwpepper.com/eprint/eprint.html
International Music Net’s ChurchMusicNow http://www.churchmusicnow.com
Spirit Music Publishing http://www.spiritmusicpublishing.com
Ministry Alliance http://www.ministryalliance.com/jubilee/openwide.htm
Anglican CyberHymnal http://episcopalnet.org/Music/ACH/index.html
My Opus.com http://www.myopus.com