The Free Hymn Project Mission

The goal of the Free Hymn Project is to make available, to the body of Christ, a large body of musical works which are accessible to the modern public in a variety of styles. Before the Free Hymn Project, most of the songs which were readily available were from more than 100 years ago and are in a musical style that is not culturally relevant to 21st century people.

We want distribution of this body of music to happen as widely and quickly as possible. For this reason we welcome any and all forms of use that are consistent with the usage requirements. This includes allowing unfettered commercial use of the music. We hope that the Free Hymn Project songs are picked up by praise songbook and hymnal publishers so that these modern “hymns” get the maximum and quickest exposure possible. We welcome popular artists to include recordings of these pieces. We welcome the use of the music in software, CDs, and printed form. Requiring monetary compensation to the authors will only slow this process down, and may even prevent it from happening.

We want it to be easy for people to make use of the music. Consider the amateur band that wants to make a CD and give it away at a youth conference, or a choir who wants to make a CD and use the proceeds to buy new choir robes, or someone who wants to make a CD so that the proceeds go to missions work. What these individuals have to do is first track down the copyright holders of the pieces they want to record. This alone can be anywhere from difficult to impossible for many reasons. For instance, they may be recording their arrangement of a piece they heard somewhere in the past, but do not know the author, copyright holder, date of the piece, or even the name under which the piece is copyrighted. Faced with these uncertainties, a person either risks breaking the law or just gives up and skips that piece. Even if the original copyright holder is known, it is entirely possible that the copyright has been sold to someone else – in which case you must spend money and/or time trying to track it down. Then, once you have the copyright holder identified, you must contact them for permission. Most songs are owned by corporations, not the composers, who really don't care what you do with the song as long as you pay them for it. Even though you don't personally make profit from the use of the song, you are going to have to pay the company. Now, imagine having to do all of the above for each piece you want to put on your CD. Oh yes, you'd better hire an attorney to make sure you don't run afoul of any contractual or other legal issues. We know people who wanted to do a CD of popular Christian pieces to sell, at cost, at a youth conference. But they found that the royalties alone placed the cost of each CD beyond what they thought could sell it for. They opted not to do it at all. We see that and think “yes, that's capitalism at its best”, and “isn't it sad that it proved to be a barrier to someone trying to serve the Lord?“. There are those of use who believe that we have been freely given, and take joy in freely giving to our spiritual family.

Finally, we want to maintain the artistic integrity of the music. That is why it is required that the words remain unchanged without permission from the copyright holder. For the same reason, we require that the author of each song be properly credited in a copyright notice with any use of the music.