At age 22, Tami Simon started Sounds True with a dream, a tape recorder, and a $50,000 inheritance she received upon the death of her father. Though she had no business experience and only a vague idea of what she wanted the company to be, Tami had her guiding principle strongly in place: to "disseminate spiritual wisdom." In the early days, Tami began by recording conferences and interviews with teachers like Ram Dass and Stephen Levine. She broadcasted portions of these recordings on a radio show that she hosted on Boulder County Public Radio, and then made the cassettes of the entire recordings available for purchase. She also began to connect with the Boulder music scene by offering cassette duplication service to local artists.
Tami Simon joined forces with direct marketing catalog expert Devon Christensen. During the next years, they developed the Sounds True catalog—which would become the primary engine for connecting the company directly to customers in the decade to come. Tami concentrated on editing the conference recordings for better quality, while Devon, who became a 20-percent owner through sweat equity, solidified the identity of the packaging and direct mail catalog.
Sounds True published its first breakout audio title: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. This program was unusual in that it began as an original audio program, and later became a bestselling book. This was the first program that put Sounds True "on the map" for a larger audience. This title also marked a shift away from conference recordings to audio programs recorded in a studio setting. Tami realized that in the studio, an author could speak directly with the listener, creating a more intimate experience than recording a lecture given to a large audience. This approach also allowed Sounds True to design and craft the audio learning experience with the listener in mind. This led to the evolution of Sound True's signature style—unscripted recordings that capture the charisma, energetic transmission, and "living wisdom" of the teacher.
Also this year, Tami brought the first dog to the Sounds True offices. This set a precedent that would be cherished by dog-owning employees and their four-legged companions for years to come.
Sounds True developed its first bookstore-friendly packaging for audio programs and expanded into bookstores, marking the company's first foray from catalog-only sales into retail distribution.
Sounds True created its first audio learning courses—Soul Life with Thomas Moore and The Present Moment with Thich Nhat Hanh. This new format, featuring longer audio teaching sessions for more in-depth learning, was designed to provide the equivalent teaching of a college course or a continuing education class.
Tami moved her home from one Boulder apartment to another, and in the process of the move, she threw two boxes of old cassette teaching programs into the dumpster. At this moment, she became convinced that someone else could have benefited from these cassettes and that Sounds True needed to find a way to make recycling of old audio programs easy for its customers.
From this inspiration arose Sounds True's partnership with the Prison Library Project, which has become one of the company's most unusual and successful donation programs. Since then, Sounds True has received countless letters from prisoners who have been exposed to authentic spiritual teachings for the first time through this program and who are moved to make positive changes in their lives. Today, Sounds True's donation project also includes libraries, low-income hospices, and more.
In 1995, Sounds True also appeared on Inc. magazine's list of the nation's 500 fastest-growing privately-held companies. The company was selected for this list again in 1996.
Sounds True released Energy Anatomy by Caroline Myss. This was the first audio learning course to sell more than 100,000 copies, and has become one of the bestselling titles in Sounds True's history.
Also during this year, Sounds True made its first venture into publishing music with traditional Celtic songs from Nóirín Ní Riain and the Tibetan flute music of Nawang Khechog.
At this point in the company's history, Sounds True became strongly focused on the importance of spiritual practice, and getting people to actually engage in regular spiritual practice in whatever way possible. In the service of this idea, Sounds True releases its first video, Meditation for Beginners with Jack Kornfield, and its first correspondence course, Insight Meditation with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein.
Sounds True had outgrown its offices, and decided to design and construct its first new building in the Colorado Technology Center in Louisville, Colorado. The office is 13,100 square feet and features its own digital recording studio.
Sounds True introduced an ESOP plan—a program that gives ownership to long-term employees of the company.
Also this year, Sounds True embarked upon a partnership with the Andrew Weil Newsletter, and published Breathing with Dr. Andrew Weil. This program remains Sounds True's all-time bestseller.
After 14 years, Devon Christensen left the company, selling his 20-percent ownership share to be redistributed in the company's ESOP plan.
The first Sounds True listening stations arrived in retail stores, including booksellers, spas, and gift shops. This project began with 50 listening stations—by 2006, there were more than 700 in stores including Wild Oats, Whole Foods, and independent bookstores.
Sounds True launched its book division with a line of integrated books with CDs. These titles combine the written word and audio instruction on CD for an enhanced learning experience. The flagship authors for this project were Stephen LaBerge with Lucid Dreaming, Sandra Ingerman with Shamanic Journeying, and Jack Kornfield with Meditation for Beginners.
Sounds True entered the world of conventional book publishing with the release of David Deida's The Way of the Superior Man and the company's first two original hardcover books, Gangaji's The Diamond In Your Pocket and Angeles Arrien's The Second Half of Life.
In July of 2005, Sounds True completed construction of a 15,000 square foot warehouse building, adjacent to its corporate offices.
Sounds True launched its downloadable media store, offering an ever-expanding library of its titles available for digital delivery. The store features complete audio programs and music albums including classic recordings no longer available in traditional media, as well as the iMeditate" series of short, inexpensive guided sessions led by popular teachers.
To accommodate our growth, Sounds True completed construction on a new wing to its publishing building, adding 28 new offices.
Sounds True hosted its first Webstream Live event, featuring a series of live west-coast events with Eckhart Tolle, webcasted around the world. Listeners from 40 different countries tuned in to see and hear more than 10 hours of original material from Eckhart. The complete archives are now available for purchase.
Sounds True launched our free weekly Podcast, "Insights at the Edge." In this series, Tami Simon interviews leading teachers such as Michael Bernard Beckwith, David Whyte, and Geneen Roth—delving deep into their beliefs, teachings, and personal experiences on their own journeys.
2009 also saw the debut of Withinsight.com, Sounds True's free online resource. With guides for meditation, life purpose, energy healing, and intuitive development, Withinsight.com provides in-depth information and guided practices for anyone seeking to explore these branches of the spiritual path.
These offerings have given Sounds True the opportunity to fulfill our mission of disseminating spiritual wisdom by providing valuable content that is freely available to anyone with access to the Internet.
In the Fall of 2009, Sounds True launched a new series of online courses and events, each featuring live interactive meetings with sought-after teachers and authors. Our first online course with continuing education credits was Mindfulness and the Brain with Jack Kornfield and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel.
Sounds True entered into an exclusive distribution partnership with The Relaxation Company, with over 100 music and audio titles in the field of relaxation, sound healing, sleep, yoga, and meditation.
In the Summer of 2011, we launched our Sounds True Radio service, offering two free streaming channels—one for music from the Sounds True library for healing, relaxation, and celebration, and the other for interviews with top authors, teachers, and spiritual luminaries. We also introduced our Direct Access membership program, with three levels of participation for special discounts and free offerings.
Expanding into new territories on the digital frontier, Sounds True launched our first mobile apps, providing access to timeless wisdom in a new interactive format.
This year marks an exciting new chapter in the history of Sounds True with the launch of the Wake Up Festival: A 5-Day Experience of Transformation. Scheduled for August 2012 in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, the Wake Up Festival gathers more than 25 authors, teachers, and artists in a celebration of the limitless possibilities of the spiritual journey.