Erin Hirschtick

By Nick Escobar

Janelle Sorenson is good at three things: “dating assholes, dating guys named Michael and falling in love with said assholes named Michael.”

That’s how Sorenson begins her post on, a Web site devoted to sharing personal stories about music ruined by failed relationships, awkward memories of the high school talent shows or even the death of a child.

Mary Phillips-Sandy, 29, and Bryan Bruchman, 26, a New York City couple, came up with the idea for the site during a Thai lunch one afternoon. Phillips-Sandy was telling Bruchman about how she could no longer listen to “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel.

“We started joking about how much we would have to delete from our iTunes if we broke up,” Phillips-Sandy said.

After lunch, the couple hit the Web looking for a site with stories about ruined songs, but to their surprise, couldn’t find one. So they took it upon themselves and registered the domain name, ruinedmusic, that day.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Phillips-Sandy says the couple never expected a big response to the Web site, which began in April of 2006. By summer, attention from media and site traffic picked up.

“We publish stories everyone can relate to. They’re well written, sometimes funny,” she says.

Phillips-Sandy and Bruchman made sure early on that the site wouldn’t be the stop for angst-ridden 16-year-olds despondent over high school relationships, who found solace in the latest Fall Out Boy single, by choosing what stories make it on the site.

Soon the site attracted media coverage. It was listed as a Web site to watch in Marie Claire, which is how the now 23-year-old Sorenson from St. Paul, Minn., found out about it.

After reading about the site, she bounded over to her computer to read through the entries. After perusing the site and identifying with it, she decided to submit her own tale of heartache.

Presenting the CliffsNotes version of Sorenson’s heartbreak:

21-year old girl falls in love with 29-year-old musician.

Boy and girl go on date, fall for one another.

On second date, boy tells girl that he has pregnant girlfriend.

After two months, boy dumps pregnant girlfriend for girl. Girl rationalizes.

Relationship allegorizes self in debut album “Details” by Frou Frou.

Baby is born, boy stops coming around. Girl ends it.

Girl learns boy was living and sleeping with ex.

Girl goes to therapy. Boy goes on diaper run.

Boy and girl see each other months later at friend’s wedding, don’t speak. Boy having second child. Girl doing better. Girl fine now, just can’t listen to “Details,” which reminds her of when they would lie in bed together and listen to the songs.

“Music is a constant in people’s lives,” she says. “I thought I had something funny people could identify with. Everyone’s had traumatic relationships.”

Sorenson has received e-mails from people in London, Germany and other spots across the globe that have told her that her story has touched them.

“It’s a confidence boost for my writing that people would be interested,” she says. “It created a good memory from a bad one.”

Writing is what it’s all about for the one-apartment workforce that keeps the site active.

“We get a lot of essays from non-professional writers, but who are good at writing,” Phillips-Sandy says. “Some of the best pieces we have come from computer technicians or from people in marketing.”

Phillips-Sandy edits and reads through all of the submissions, of which she says they get about 10 to 15 a week. Bruchman handles the web design and maintenance of the site. This is fitting since they are a freelance writer and editor and a freelance graphic designer and web designer, respectively.

Since starting the site and subjecting themselves to look at stories of loss and heartbreak weekly, Bruchman says it’s actually been beneficial to the relationship.

“We’ve learned to deal with each other in ways other couples don’t,” he says adding, “Mary’s standing here smiling.”

For Valentine’s Day, the couple that wrangles the Internet’s broken hearts will be sharing “a lovely dinner” with their roommate Gabe and his cats.

“I think Thai takeout and Scrabble are on the agenda,” Phillips-Sandy said in an e-mail. “And we always give each other handmade cards.”

As for Sorenson, she plans to deck herself out in high heels and hit the town with a few close girlfriends.

“You don’t need a date to be fabulous … right?”