Juliet Fletcher argues that making gospel music is not just a spiritual exercise, and artists should plug themselves properly into the music business so that they generate the funds needed to fund their ministries
It’s one of those questions that people demand an answer from Christians in music: Are you in it for the love or for money? And, of course, the expected answer is: for the love! I’ve never met anyone who has been bold (even as a joke) to answer: solely for the money. But there are some who will answer for the love and money!
I can hear the choir-chorus of cynics: “Oh, really?”, “You can’t do both, can you?”, “Is that view based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24 saying, ‘You can’t serve God and Mammon’?”
My answer is it must be both. The key is: ‘THEONE’ must be LORD over the other! After all, Jesus did use money – and He paid His tax bills, too (Matthew17:27)! We need to have a healthy emphasis and balanced approach, otherwise it will continue to either hinder our achievements or mar our characters.
When we say, “God called me to be a gospel singer/promoter…whatever”, He knows that your music making or promoting is only ONE ASPECT of your whole life, and that probably over 90% of what it takes to fulfil your mission may require money!
Plugging into the music business
Performers, songwriters and composers in gospel have a great opportunity – in this time of advance technology – to place their creative works on multiple media platforms across geographical territories.
In truth, the music industry has done this for us: created that central system, reinforced by the laws – or more specifically rights – which cover the use of creative works. The problem is that many of our gospel creatives are either not plugged in at all, OR do not know enough to take advantage of the systems.
Artists, like The London Community Gospel Choir and record label Zoe Gospel, are experiencing greater income from their music by assigning someone on their team to look into royalty payments, licensing, and ensuring their music is registered wherever they go. A small example is, when you perform at a public venue that has paidPRSto operate a live music licence, as an artist, submitting your performance list toPRS(orPPL) should give you a payback. If you are performing week in week out in live music venues, you should be aware of this.
Where the effective use of ‘exploiting’ creative works is executed, the flow of finances increases. It makes for less stress about money, and more focus on being creative, on excelling in our craft, and pushing our music out into new territories and the marketplace.
When love leads money
Kingsway Music, the UK’s most successful Christian independent record label, is no more. From the 1st October 2012 they ceased to exist. Their parent company DC Cook, which also owns Integrity Music, merged the two companies under the Integrity name, although Kingsway distribution remains.
The company, which started in the 70s, has had numerous gospel acts, like Noel Robinson, Mark Beswick & Power Praise and GreenJade in their music stable. Kingsway’s music business know-how, to create products and carry the vision with the local church, has spawned global success for many of its artists, which include Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend and Matt Redman, and blessing to the less fortunate.
In the press release that brought the news about Kingsway’s takeover, Jonathan Brown (Managing Director) says, “Kingsway has always been about songs of substance that strengthen faith; serve the local church, and see lives transformed. We continue to stay committed to this calling.”
They worked out that love for God, music and the Church could be linked to business in a way that works for everyone: to worship God in song; enrich believers; enable songwriters and worship leaders to earn, so they can be totally devoted in delivering songs again and again, and transform lives for all eternity. As a result, they have helped to contribute to causes other than music. This is a good example of LOVE leading MONEY.
I’ve mentioned Kingsway, because I would like to encourage our churches and the gospel sector to take it as an example of how we could work together for the future.
Can you imagine church leaders working more closely with independent gospel labels? I’m predicting that out of necessity it will happen. After all, and this is a statement of fact: Gospel music is at the forefront of the missional Black Church Movement in the UK. And, although it may not be acknowledged from the pulpit, it’s been that way for more than thirty years.
Changes in the music industry, and on the Christian and gospel scene, make for exciting times ahead. This is not only good news for young artists, but also for those who have stayed the course over the years in gospel. Let us increase in our LOVE for God and in the music we are blessed with, but also let us be wise to know what investment into legitimate enterprise could do.
Juliet Fletcher runs Greentree, a gospel music development company. For more details, phone 07535 964442 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org