|By Ron Barnett
Don Chapman has found the key to success and happiness.
Give your best stuff away.
From a spare room in his Mauldin apartment, Chapman creates and
gives away music around the world via the Internet. And the world is
beating a path to his door.
"You read in the paper all the time about record companies suing
people who are downloading music, and basically that's how I'm
making my living, by letting people download my music for free," he
More than 60,000 churches subscribe to his free newsletter for
contemporary Christian musicians called WorshipIdeas.com, he said.
There, they can get all kinds of ideas about how to make praise
bands sound better and to improve the worship experience in
churches, complete with plenty of free high-tech goodies.
They can go to another of his sites, PraiseSongStore.com, and
download free MP3's of songs he has written.
If they like the music, they can come back and buy sheet music
from the site. That's where Chapman makes his living.
"This has just gone berserk," the 39-year-old Mauldin native
said, laughing. "It's really done well financially, and I have all
these toys and stuff to play with."
Even before the Internet came along, Chapman had figured out that
there were better ways to get your music out than dealing with the
A 1989 Bob Jones University graduate in church music, he left his
fundamentalist roots to branch out into contemporary Christian music
and went to Nashville to pursue his career.
"Everywhere I looked, it was people starving and frustrated -- I
mean people really high up, producing," he said. "They were just
being yanked around by the industry. So I thought, 'Well, maybe I'll
try it on my own.'"
He started making his own CDs and sold 20,000 copies in Christian
But shipping all those packages was a chore.
Then came the Internet.
"Now, instead of shipping stuff it's all downloading. And it's
automated too," he said.
Chapman is offering music and information no one else has, but
he's not alone in the burgeoning business of using the Web to offer
Greg Atkinson, a 30-year-old Greer native, is now part-owner of a
Dallas-based organization called WorshipHouse Media, which sells
video backgrounds, graphics and photos via the Internet for use in
"It's definitely a growing area, and not necessarily just
contemporary churches," he said.
He met Chapman at a conference where both were speaking.
"Don has a great resources," Atkinson said. "I've told a lot of
people about him and what he's doing."
Jeff Lutz, music director of Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown,
Ky., says Chapman's products have helped him add variety to his
praise band's repertoire and improve the quality of his program.
"I use it quite a bit, articles and ideas to help along the way,"
said Lutz, who leads a band with about 20 instrumentalists at a
church of 950 members.
"I've never talked to him -- just e-mailed back and forth," Lutz
said. "He's a super nice guy. He's been very helpful."
Not only are Chapman's customers all over the world, but his
collaborators are, too.
He wrote a Christmas song with a singer in England that was
downloaded 8,000 times during December.
"People will send me (a link) on the Internet where their church
has done this song, and I can watch it," Chapman said. "It's really
amazing that this song is going out and being sung as much as if it
were on a record label."
He can create all the sounds of an orchestra and a pop music band
from his keyboard. After recording the music, he e-mails it to
singers in Nashville or to his friend in England, who record their
parts and e-mail the song back to him.
Lately, Chapman's fame in praise-band circles had drawn him into
the conference circuit.
"You proclaim you're an expert and suddenly you become one," he
said. "It's funny."
David Red, music director for the Southern Baptist Conference of
New Mexico, which sponsored a conference Chapman spoke at last week,
said churches across that state use Chapman's contemporary
arrangements of traditional hymns.
"We use a lot of Don's material off his Web site for blending
music and worship and giving music a flow during the worship
service," he said. "It's certainly a needed tool."
Chapman has a special Web site for his hymn arrangements, and
another one called WorshipFlow.com that helps musicians learn to
"I never can sleep at night, I get so excited just playing with
this stuff," he said. "It's like being a little kid."