Over the past few years, I’ve had the extreme blessing of connecting with, reviewing, encouraging and even participating with many new Christian music artists thanks mostly to my participation in various music related ministries and podcasts, Christian radio and personal experience as an artist myself.
Here are some quick tips for any new artists starting to try to get noticed in the ever expanding pool of “indie” music and the long climb through the recognition ranks of fellow artists and labels.
Tips for New Christian Music Artists
1. Always start with God – before ever going down the road of Christian music or business, make sure you are grounded in the Word and have time dedicated to prayer. Being called to music or worship leading doesn’t mean you’re called to full time professional music. Travel, media, entertainment aspects, promotion and public demands take a toll on a person. If you don’t have a good foundation, you can reach a frustration point, be quickly disillusioned and think the world is against you. This is not the case, but discerning the hard realities of the business world of the music industry early will protect your heart and mind from perceived failures. Having a foundation of faith that exists whether one person likes your music or not is crucial. Christianity is a narrow road. Living it publicly WILL be bumpy.
2. Start with accountability – Make sure you establish mentors or an accountability network first. Don’t start down any career path or endeavor in Christian music without those who can speak into your life honestly. This goes for pastors, ministry leaders, teachers, musicians, producers, etc…anyone dealing with people as a Christian should have someone to honestly share with and be rebuked by.
3. You cannot create a following, it must be earned – This is done only through hard work. When starting out, don’t expect to hit the top 10 on iTunes, count on Spotify stream revenue or even any more CD sales than your friends, family and church can purchase. The reality is, reputation is earned through slow, steady, consistent engagement.
4. Share your music honestly – Recording your music professionally is not mandatory (or even necessary) to share your music. I know many singers and artists who got noticed simply recording cover songs on Youtube using a webcam, microphone and an acoustic guitar.
5. Be social media savvy, not intrusive – Facebook, Twitter etc…are great tools and resources for engaging with the music community, making connections and becoming more recognized. There are good and bad ways to communicate though. Be sure when sending friend requests or following and getting followed on Twitter to respect the connection. Resist the urge to bombard your new connection with notes, updates and “please hear my music” requests veiled under the pretense of wanting “feedback”. These communications can seem patronizing, annoying and if your name sits in their notifications constantly, you will be blocked or removed. Be respectful. Patience is key.
6. Give it away – If you’ve spent money recording your best tune you’re extremely proud of, give it away. Yes, you heard me right! Give it away. Sites such as Noisetrade offer a free gateway to an audience far greater than you could ever build alone. If you’ve decided to spend money, crowd source or extend a call to family to fund your passion, don’t expect people to automatically want to buy it. Sure, still publish it to the paid sites – you will achieve some sales, but if you offer it for free at the beginning (either a single or EP) to build your following, this is extremely valuable. This is where new fans, relationships and followers are built.
7. Focus on your purpose – If you’re a Christian artist (which is my target audience for this blog), you probably have a ministry element to your music. Making this paramount in any communications and backed up by your actions will go a long way to securing your reputation. Much like any ministry leader in a church setting; consistent, open and honest participation in any ministry will allow people to see that you are in fact ministering about Jesus, not about you.
8. Request feedback – As hard as it is to face it, a lot of your songs are probably awful. I’m not exempt from that fact. Every artist I’ve had the opportunity to speak with has said for every song they’ve been willing to share publicly, they’ve had dozens of songs they’d never share. Whether there is no lyrical hook, theology is incorrect, no strong chorus or the second verse sounds like the first, the reality is – without honest feedback, you may be promoting a dud. Although all your songs can and will have significance to you and your walk with the Lord, request gentle but honest feedback on what should be sent to the masses.
9. Start slowly but put yourself out there – If you are planning to be a touring artist, get started as soon as you have enough mateial to fill a set. Cover songs or worship tunes also help build that all important set list. The next step to ensure you can have a consistent and fruitful schedule is to be willing to work for cost or cost-plus. This is exposure time – you are relatively unknown so recognition and reputation take time. If you have CD’s or swag, sell them but allow your presence and participation in churches and events be at cost or donation. As you build a following and a reputation – which comes through your music AND testimony, you will be asked to more events at a profitable price.
10. Partner with other artists or tours – Having a successful concert or event takes time, resources and money. Consider working with more established artists or tours (buy-in to notable tours if possible) to get your name on the roster. Consider the audience for each one specifically since a folk singer would not necessarily bode well at a hard rock event. Aligning yourself with other artists builds friendships, helps consumers of music to be exposed to you and helps build that repertoire and resume for the future. Another consideration is a Gospel Music Association or Songwriters group. These are relatively inexpensive and allow for further networking options. It also shows your dedication to your craft.
11. Partner with a charity – Organizations such as World Vision and Compassion do a great job of partnering with artists, bands, shows, tours, speakers and special events. Contact them and request to help get their message out. This is a great way of expanding their reach, but also yours. Donating your efforts to partner with these organizations has lasting rewards for all involved and keeps you focused on the calling of your faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. These partnerships can open your world view, allow you to travel and reach people and ground your faith.
12. Be true to your music – The industry is not hard to stay connected to if you’re talented and put your best foot forward. Even better when you can talk the talk and be honest about your faith. Unfortunately, there are times when artists are so self focused that the message is lost in the constant barrage of promotional materials or negative option social media event requests. Be sure to not tune out your audience with surface contact. Share your faith through your website, video, music, newsletters and concerts. As a Christian, your testimony about your faith should always precede any product or promotion.
Well, there you have it. My list of tips for Christians getting into the music business. I don’t claim to know everything about this or think that this is an exhaustive list like a rule book. These are suggestions based on feedback and experience I’ve had over the past 17 years participating in the industry in some way.
Can you add to this list? Do you have the desire to pursue a music career as a Christian but don’t know how to get started? Hopefully these tips will help you in some way.
Originally posted on www.danthomson.ca – re-posted with permission from the author.