Over the past 16 years of interacting with independent Christian artists, I hear from many who lament that they ‘can not’ do what they want to do. Well, welcome to the real world, where most of us are not doing or getting what we want:) For some odd reason, it appears that Christians think that because they believe in Christ, that they should get everything they want, and that to them, Jesus is their magic genie inside a bottle ready to grant whatever 3 wishes they come up with. Ummm.. newsflash.. It doesn’t work that way. Sorry to be so harsh, but that’s me:)
For example, I had a very interesting convo with an artist who emailed me and many other “industry” people CC (never CC a group of people an email because they can all see who you emailed and it looks very unprofessional) their mp3 unsolicited (never do this btw, as it will do more harm than good for you) looking for a “show.” (hate the word “show”) We knew right away this artist was throwing his bait out into the deep abyss looking to land a big one. So of course, I had to reply to point out the error of his ways and show him the light. (I know, it’s a bad habit I have:)
Here’s how it went… oh, and the good news is that we both learned a few things about one another in the process and what God wants for our lives.
Keith: It is not wise to send an mp3 file unless first requested. Many people check email on their phone and if they have a data plan, it could cause them to be charged for the data transfer. Just a word of advice to you.
Artist: You are off our list; indie bands never get help by the way
Keith: We help indie bands all time. What kind of help do you need? My note was to help you not irritate industry people, so I’ve already helped you.
Artist: Been doing the band thing for 12 years, played many large shows with many touring bands, it’s all about the money. Exposure for the band, get our stuff our there, get connections is all we need.
Keith: So, why do you pursue Christian music?
Artist: Its a tough market, you have to be just about in the top 40 to make any money in Christian, that’s why our friends from *** went country. **** is touring with *** right now, not sure what they got planned now with that going on. Anyhow I do Christian because I am a Christian, we do write a lot of relationship songs not really Christian now, I guess we are positive alternative rock. Not sure where this is going? If u can get us in some killer venues is what I’m currently pursuing.
Keith: So why are you emailing 82 people in the Christian music industry?
Artist: just trying to get us out there man take care
Keith: I get that. But to me, you appear to be confused as to the who, what, where, when, why and how concerning your band and the purpose. What criteria make for a “killer venue”? Hope you don’t mind me asking questions. I’m trying to figure out how to help you.
Artist: I appreciate the help, I’ve just been screwed over by so many indie folk in the so-called music biz, and in the long run they want a dollar from a sucker indie band. So I have my guard up, it was a generic email from my personal email contacts you where in my contacts from years ago I’m sure. The vocalist and me have been in this band for 6 years together he used to be the drummer. I’m the guitarist, we went thru many vocalists some awesome singers couldn’t find that good singer to stay or work out. So the former drummer took up the front man spot he is a killer front man he is a so so vocalist. We have awesome musicians in the group now, the band has went thru many changes over the years, but we still feel this is a calling to reach people for Jesus, at the same time we write stuff about everyday life. It has always been our dream to play, music for a living, always, my whole 33 years of life; I’m married with 2 kids and work in a factory that I hate. We all dislike our jobs we know we could really do something in this world if given a opportunity, I’m just tired of trying, book good shows have fun and make the most of it, is my attitude now.
Keith: Ahh, thanks for sharing that with me. Helps me to see where the issues are with your band.
Artist: I think this conversation is a waste of time. Take care
Keith: Really nice. I think I see why your band doesn’t have opportunities. What I have found is that when things are not happening the way we want them to happen, it could be for a variety of reasons, it’s not God’s will, or the timing is not right, to even having sin in your camp.
Artist: dude I never asked for advice, your giving it to me, I’m not 18 I’ve been doing music many years recorded many albums, came very close to several record deals, and shared the stage with many “A” level acts. I don’t know who you are and why you would remotely take interest in guiding us. I thought for a moment you wanted to somehow help. My advice to you know whom you are giving advice to and make sure they want it. No hard feelings, I will take in account after this not to send out random emails, and check your camp for sin, we have all fallen and none are perfect.
Keith: So sorry for sharing my thoughts with you to help in any way, and taking my time to encourage you. Sounds like to me you are burnt out and a bit angry. I totally get where you are coming from. I’ve been there myself.
You are looking for paying gigs to make enough money to go at this full time. You told me your band needed $250,000 per year to keep their current standard of living, right? Yet, you have an issue with people who work with Indies making money from their time. Do you see the inconsistency in this mindset? Industry people need money just like you do. Imagine working at your job for a possible percentage of income you may make, when its not 100% dependent upon you to deliver the goods. I’ve done artist management that way and spent tons of hours with indie bands getting them ready, for them to flake out on me and quit because they needed to drive 6 hours to a show. So I don’t do artist management anymore.
What I find in the indie scene is the majority of acts are nowhere near ready for the big stage. Or for that matter any stage. But they all have a sincere desire to go out there as fast as possible and with little practice and do it. But they go at it not with the intention of serving people and ministering and getting better at their craft. They go at it with hopes someone from the industry will discover them and save them from Indie hell. Most cases, it doesn’t work that way. The payoff just isn’t there like it used to be. They get focused on the industry behind the stage and neglect those in front of the stage. The people. They look at people like fishermen look at fish. Something to be caught and sold. Not good. It’s not about what you get.
Artist: I took offense to the sin in the camp thing, I’m sorry for that. Really really bad night at work. I was ticked off before I even read the email. I’ve been doing the band thing since 1999, toured up and down the east, lived in the van done all those things you talked about. Music is a business; I try to take a business approach to it now. Bands make’s money off of merch, I have a vision to take it much farther and give back to the homeless and the in need. It is next to impossible for an indie band to get on stages such as creation fest PA Atlanta Fest, Cornerstone, to ever get real exposure. Sure some places offer Indie competitions for a spot on a side stage, usually have to pay $100 of more to even enter these things. Nothing but a money racket. So if you can advise me on this would be awesome. I need help booking us, I’m out of contacts and resources, I really wish we had a booking agency that would work with our work schedule and help us get some decent gigs. For now I am working 2nd shift 3:00pm to 11:30pm so weekdays would not work, hope to be back on dayshift soon, we would be good for just about any Saturday and Sunday. Who should I contact that you may know?
Keith: Sounds like you are pretty restricted when and where you can conduct concerts. Hard to go full time with those limitations. Here’s the deal about booking agencies. You probably know this… they seldom make cold outbound calls. They take hot incoming calls from churches and promoters who know about the act and who want to book them. The booking agent coordinates the acts schedule with the act manager and they route tours. The problem for your band is since you do not have hot incoming calls, a professional agent wont be able to book you, since most do not know about you guys. You are your best booking agent. Every member of your band should be sniffing out opportunities that are within a day drive from your base. How do you find opportunities? Easy… look at other band calendars. Most have their shows on their profiles along with contact info.
I know you have been pursuing your music for years. And it may seem like you may not realize your dream. I think the Lord wants to know if you are OK if you don’t ever get on the big stage. If you don’t ever have thousands of eyeballs on your at shows, and millions of ears on the radio. The Lord simply wants to know are we OK with His portion for our life? Remember what He did to the Israelites after he freed them from slavery in Egypt and led them into the desert on the way to their promised land?? The people started complaining about the portion of manna he was providing them, and the Lord did not like that. They were not humble, they were not grateful. They were not OK with the portion.
So, the Lord turned their 40-day hike into a 40-year journey. They went around and around in that hot, dry desert. They finally made it. But their leader, Moses never did. Why? Because He did not obey the Lord. Even after all Moses did for the Lord. Oh, that was another issue, you see, Moses and us as believers, we do not do anything FOR the Lord. The Lord doesn’t need us to do anything FOR Him. The Lord does His thing through us, and we become a part of His- Story. History. This life is not our story. We are a chapter of His Story.
Artist: Seems like you and Jesus have been hanging out lately. Thanks for the encouragement. I feel like I have learned a few things.
Keith: Same here, God bless you!
<--- End of discussion --->
Such an interesting exchange, I can totally see this artist’s points and concerns. It’s not easy to be a full time Christian band. Not easy at all. I say you must be 100% ready, 100% willing, and most importantly 100% able to really make a go of it if you want to be a full time touring artist. Even though we may want to be full time, tour the country, and play “shows” it may not be the Lord’s portion for your life. There is nothing wrong with a “want” in your life, as long as it does not consume you. Unbridled wants give way to all sorts of sin, which as I stated above can stop you dead in your tracks.
I asked a few of my Facebook friends what came to mind concerning the first line of the chorus to that Stone’s song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Brandon Bee wrote: Your dreams and God’s dream for your life are different. The trick is to pray that God will be in your dreams so that they are one in the same. Laying down your desires for God’s perfect desire.
Sam Bowen shared: Whoever said you were supposed to get what you want?
Diana Stimmler Winkler penned: Be careful what you wish for. Many times there is a steep price for what you “want”.
Chris Sandoval wrote: Sometimes I think the problem is we do get what we want, not necessarily what we need. And since sometimes what we want is self-serving, it leads a lot of the time to an unfruitful endeavor. The trick is recognizing this:-)
Mike Westendorf: Recognizing the difference between a need and a want is important though.
Michael Muilenberg summed it up with this provoking thought: God promises eternal life in heaven to those who surrender to Christ, he does not guarantee happiness while living on earth.
To sum up this article:
…But if you try sometimes… well you just might find… you get what you need.
Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.