Announcing the Suspension of the Monthly Hymn Arrangement Club

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I mentioned yesterday that I had an announcement about the Monthly Hymn Arrangement Club and it is this: I am shutting it down in May, 2019.

I will talk about why in a second; but before I do, here are some important things to note:

  1. June, 2018 will be the last month that you can purchase the club. If you purchase in June, you will receive a full year of arrangements.
  2. Auto-renew has been turned off. From now on, no subscriptions will auto-renew. Frankly, auto-renew has been a mixed bag because some customers apparently did not realize they were signing up for an auto-renewing membership.
  3. If you have a membership ending between now and May, 2019, you are going to get the extra months free. In other words, I am not going to delete anyone whose subscription ends between now and May, 2019. If you are in the club as of right now, you will be in the club through the end even if it means your subscription technically ends next month.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about why I am making this decision. From a financial perspective, it probably does not make much sense. Writing an arrangement each month is actually quite profitable if you have people in the club. Look at it this way: at $19.95/year, I essentially get paid $1.67 for each person in the club for each arrangement. If you have 700 people in the club as this one does, that translates to $1150 per song. It takes about 4 hours to write, record, build the video and get a song onto the site. That is not bad rate per hour for any occupation.

Here is another thing that I really like about the club: it forces me to regularly write and it forces me to record. If I am not forced to write and record, I often just don’t. The club provides needed discipline for me. To be honest, I am a bit worried about losing that discipline, especially when I am in sort of a relaxed mode anyway with no planned recordings over the next year.

So why am I doing this? The biggest reason is simply that for whatever reason, those four hours feel like a burden right now. I am not enjoying it very much and very often, I feel like the club puts some additional clutter in my life at a time where I am trying to declutter.

Am I saying that I don’t like music anymore? No, of course not. Maybe I am just saying that I am tired. I have written a lot of arrangements over the past few years and it is time for a break. I think it is feasible that I may start the club up again in a few years. To be honest, I sort of want to take lessons again so that when I write new arrangements, I am writing better. I would suspect that I am going to study jazz for a while. Jazz is what unlocked a ton of doors for me when I was studying it a decade ago; and I still have a lot that I need to learn from that genre.

There is a second and third reason why I want to take a break and they are related. For one, I can’t shake the fact that I am one of maybe a few hundred piano arrangers covering public domain hymns. You can find hundreds of arrangements of every single song I arrange. I tend to question the value in that. That is one of the biggest reasons why it took me so long to start selling arrangements in the first place. Teaching improvisation is probably more in line with my general philosophy of music.

And then, I am just going to be honest: I am running out of songs to arrange. It is starting to take me a bit of time to find something suitable. Yes, there are lots of possibilities but for the monthly club in its current state, I need public domain and I need songs most people know. Those are big limiters in themselves and on top of that, not all public domain hymns are really good candidates for arranging.

If/when the club comes back, I suspect the financial model will be different, and I will be arranging copyrighted songs at least half of the time. I can’t stay in the past with the same old hundred hymns just to avoid royalties when the church is moving forward.

I know it is a bit strange to be talking about the end of something when it is still a year away but due to the nature of how people pay for the club, I need to announce it now. Remember, if you want the last (for now) year, you have to purchase in June. If you do, you will get May (the arrangement released yesterday) for free immediately.

16 thoughts on “Announcing the Suspension of the Monthly Hymn Arrangement Club

  1. LB says:

    Hi,
    How long have you been writing for the monthly club?
    Also, I want to say that even though there are multiple arrangements out there for the same songs— well, I have several different arrangements of the same songs, but I usually have a favorite. We piano players need multiple arrangements for various reasons–1. we like the sound/ favorite 2. level of difficulty 3. variety 4. length…. Even though you are writing “another arrangement”…. it could well become a favorite for somebody! My current favorite of yours is Take My Life.

  2. Michael Conley says:

    Greg,

    I believe I have been a member of the club from the start. Thank you so much for the arrangements. I use many of them for prelude music at our church. Please don’t stop arranging and I will look forward to the return of the club. I like the piano club structure so much better than buying books from publishers because you normally can’t listen to all the arrangements before purchasing a book and there may only be one or two arrangements that I like in a book so the price per arrangement is pretty high.

    • Greg Howlett says:

      Yes, I think the value of recording the demos is high and I also hear you on the point about buying a book. Thanks for the support over the years.

  3. Duke Kemp says:

    There are many different arrangements of the old classic hymns, but your “Quiet Place” arrangements are the most beautiful pieces you have created. Hope you will consider release the arrangements .

    • Greg Howlett says:

      Thank you for the compliment. I am asked for those arrangements quite a bit but they were actually improvised in the studio. I have never circled back to transcribe them.

  4. David Hill says:

    I’m sad about this too as I enjoy playing various arrangements but in particular, yours! I was even going to suggest an arrangement of Repton. Once voted the most popular hymn tune inBritain, it has a gorgeous feel to it. Over here, it accompanies Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Anyway, I look forward to you doing at least occasional arrangements when you get the inspiration… I’ll happily pay for them even if someone else has also released sheet music to it! Best wishes. David

  5. Tad Harrison says:

    I fully support your decision, based on the idea that if some part of life isn’t fun anymore, then one should set it aside for awhile (always within reason, of course). Work shouldn’t become a slog.

    With that said, I do not share your opinion about being one of so many arrangers with a dwindling pool of source material. Your music has your own style, one that is distinctive and can be readily recognized by the Greg Howlett aficionado. My wife and I play a piano/bass combo at church every week and we have hundreds of arrangements to choose from, but whenever we really want that beautiful jazz feel without too much of an edge that might draw focus away from the hymn’s message, your work is the first place we look.

  6. Karen says:

    Is there a way I can purchase the last month of the “monthly hymn club”? I enjoy playing your arrangements and would love to receive more of the hymns you write.

    • Greg Howlett says:

      If you are not a member, just join on my sheet music page and you are good for the whole year and last month as well. Thanks for the compliment 🙂

  7. Kurt Goodman says:

    You mentioned it takes you about 4 hours to write, record, build the video and get it on the site. I would really appreciate an entire post devoted to what equipment and software you use, what you have learned, maybe some pitfalls to watch out for in this whole process of producing the product. How you coordinate the music, the video, the keyboard and the notation. How that all works. I mean the nitty gritty of it. Maybe you have already done this?

  8. ys says:

    I was not a member of your monthly hymn club but I’ve bought some of your sacred solos (plus the last Christmas book). These hymns are some of my favorite pieces to play. They are very calming and soothing for church and I’ve had many compliment playing but it’s really all your credit:) I look forward to more pieces sometime in the future! Thanks!

  9. Merrilyn says:

    Hi Greg,
    I have not written to you before, but I want to say a huge “thank you” for sharing your gift . I have been a member of the hymn club for a couple of years and love your arrangements! I have always looked forward to your next arrangement.
    May God bless you – you have been a blessing to me and your arrangements have touched many hearts. Thank you.
    Warm regards, Merrilyn

  10. Keith Zimmerman says:

    I recently used two of your arrangements in a wedding: “Be Thou My Vision” and “Great is they Faithfulness.” The groom said that the latter was the “best rendition I’ve ever heard of that song.”

    Regarding your comment about running out of hymns to arrange . . . I have a humble request. Could you go back and arrange 2nd and 3rd verses for some of your previous work? “Be Thou” consists of a lovely verse and tag, whereas “Faithfulness” repeats the chorus after a single time through. I would love to have 2-3 verses of your arrangements per hymn. It takes about 2-1/2 minutes to pass the offering plates in our church. That usually needs 2-3 verses. Thanks.

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