I created Totshabbat.com in 2002 as a free listening library of Jewish music for kids. My goals were to:
- Help Jewish families with young children learn the songs they hear at synagogue and religious school
- Provide music teachers and Tot Shabbat songleaders with access to recordings and sheet music
- Shine a spotlight on new artists and new Jewish music
- Direct visitors to online retailers where Jewish music is available for purchase
- Distribute demo recordings of new Jewish music including those by amateur composers
- Respect copyright law by posting with artists’ permission or by linking to audio on their websites
In 2002, if I wanted to purchase a particular song, my only option was to order a CD or sheet music and wait for the package to arrive by snail mail. Can you imagine???
For amateur composers, sharing demo recordings online was also a challenge. Youtube, Facebook, MySpace, and Mixcloud did not yet exist. While some professional musicians had websites, most amateurs did not. Sending a cassette tape by US mail was the easiest method to send music to one or a few friends.
Social networking was going strong though. The Hava Nashira Jewish songleaders’ community fostered group discussion via an email-based listserv, and members posted messages each day. The listserv allowed text only, and members could not send audio or sheet music as attachments to the whole group. I was so frustrated!
We could send links to files posted online though. But how to get the materials posted to the web? Very few of us had the technical know-how to post audio recordings or sheet music on a website.
So I set up Totshabbat.com and learned how to rip tracks and post music and sheet music online.
But in the years between 2002 and 2015, and the world of online music has undergone unimaginable changes.
Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora provide access to huge libraries of recorded music at prices ranging from free to a few dollars per month. Youtube, MySpace, Mixcloud and Bandcamp provide venues for amateur musicians to post new music including basement demo recordings.
So, it’s time to re-imagine Totshabbat.com and consider how the site can better serve the Jewish community. It’s not longer needed as an online file repository. But what should it be instead?
I imagine it as a community website for Tot Shabbat songleaders to share music ideas, and as a source of music suggestions for Jewish families with young children. Can you help me make this vision a reality?
In coming months I will rebuild a new Totshabbat.com, and then direct the website to this WordPress blog page. Watch this space!