At 22 years old, Tami Simon found herself in possession of a $50,000 inheritance, her own public radio program, and a desire for intense spiritual growth. In search of experiential learning, she had traveled through Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal. She had dropped out of college and taken up meditation. “I was interested in studying what the great mystics pointed to in their lives and teachings,” said Simon. “I thought any mystic worth their salt wouldn’t get a degree in mysticism.”
In her radio work, Simon recorded talks and interviews with spiritual teachers. She began producing tapes of her interviews and recordings of spiritual talks, selling three to four cassettes a week. This desire to “disseminate spiritual wisdom” soon evolved into Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company founded in 1985, which today sells audio learning courses, books, music, and instructional DVDs to spiritual seekers. The company aims to encourage “personal transformation and spiritual awakening,” and has certainly done so for its founder. “I’m not sure I can separate my growth and development from the growth and development of Sounds True,” she said.
In 2000, Sounds True ventured into book publishing. Simon said she realized Sounds True “held key elements to naturally progress into a book publishing company,” including “strong trade distribution channels, creative relationships with leading spiritual teachers, and a direct relationship with hundreds of thousands of customers.” Their first title, The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida, has now sold more than 175,000 copies. In 2012, about 20 percent of Sounds True’s revenue came from books, the majority of which also are available in e-book format.
For more than two decades Simon functioned behind the scenes, helping to build the brand and shape editorial content. Two and a half years ago, Simon returned to the airwaves via her weekly free podcast, “Insights at the Edge,” which features interviews with Sounds True authors and speakers and receives 100,000 downloads a month. “For me it’s going back to my roots,” Simon said. “I love interviewing and I love that we’re able to give away so much content for free, and we have a business model that supports that. We sell quite a few of our titles direct as a result [of interest developed by the podcast].”
Simon says it is important to recognize that the best methods for learning spiritual practices may differ from person to person, and Sounds True seeks to use a variety of formats to address these needs. “We’re moving into an integrated learning model,” she said. “But there’s nothing like being in person with a great teacher.” For this reason the company has developed its first-ever conference—the Wake Up Festival—which will take place Aug. 22-26 in Estes Park, Colo., and feature numerous Sounds True authors, artists, and spiritual teachers. “The idea that we will get our needs for community met online is not happening for people,” Simon said. “I want to be face to face. I want to connect in person. I want people to feel part of the Sounds True community.”