With the proliferation of social networking websites hitting the world wide web the past few years, a fever of epidemic proportions has hit independent artists worldwide. The fever is sparked by a ravenous desire by artists to be better known. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it is important for independent artists to increase their fan base, reach more people with their music and cultivate real relationships with fans and other artists. What I have seen lately is artists spending more and more time in front of their computers increasing their friends count, and less and less time writing songs, performing live and living life.
I notice artists who get excited when they hit 10,000 friends on a mainstream social networking website that 99.9% of Christian artists are a part of. Are these 10,000 friends really interested in what the artist is doing? Most times, I think not. What I see occurring on these websites are artists becoming “friends” in order to place their banners and canned comments on their “friends” profiles. Is this networking? I don’t think so. I personally think it’s tacky to leave the same banner and comment on multiple profiles. To call this networking is erroneous. This isn’t networking, it is advertising. This isn’t about making friends, it’s about SSP.
My concern with all of this SSP, or “Shameless Self Promotion” is that it is what it is. The root of this activity is based on self. Go on, call me an idiot, tell me I don’t get it, email me and tell me I’m judgmental. I’ve had artists in the past bust me a new one and tell me the reason why I felt this way is because I’m jealous that my Indieheaven.com website isn’t as large. To that I say, Thank God! I could not imagine having a website with several hundred million accounts where the majority of the activity was based on self promotion and provided a platform for all kinds of seedy activity. It’s not only the website I am concerned about; I am also concerned about the heart of the artist.
I’ll admit it; there was a time with my Indieheaven website when I longed to have a huge organization with thousands of artists, millions of surfers and tons of hits. I had a “bigger was better” mindset. I wanted to see how big I could grow my mission. I loved numbers and wanted a MEGA anything. I would get irritated when we did not grow as fast as I thought we should, and get upset when one of our members would leave our organization. I would blame others for not getting it, not engaging my content, and not supporting what I felt God was calling me to accomplish. I would work at my website 18 hours a day, for years to try and make it grow. And, it did grow, but not very fast, and not the way I wanted it to. I was pretty miserable. How many of you reading this can relate to my experience? I bet many of you have gone through this, or may be going through it right now.
What I didn’t realize was that I had given into a lie straight from hell. Bigger is better is one of the enemy’s tricks that he uses to frustrate us to the point of stopping our mission. Look to the Word for a prime example of the temptation that bigger is better. Matthew 4:8-11 states, “Again, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” My interpretation of this passage is Satan tried to distract Jesus from His mission by tempting him with worldwide recognition. Jesus told Satan, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” I believe the enemy continues to whisper this lie and many artistic types give into it because the focus of their mission is serving self. It all boils down to self and the motives of the heart.
If it were not for some interesting situations I found myself in a few years ago, I would more than likely continue to have the same bigger is better mindset, because I am a seriously driven individual and my pride was fed by numbers. Fortunately, I realized that the issue wasn’t about how big I could grow my numbers; it was how I could make my content better! I reached a point where I told the enemy to go to hell and stopped believing the lie! And lately, I have an overwhelming desire to do everything possible to improve my content. Content meaning EVERYTHING in my life. It is through making my content better that the bigger will come, if it be God’s will. All I can do is put 100% work and 100% faith into what I am offering the world. I must trust that God knows what is best for me and my life.
Focusing my energy on the better and not the bigger has been freeing! I am no longer consumed with getting more members for my organization. No longer am I frustrated when members leave us, or when people don’t get it. And the strangest thing has happened. My Indieheaven organization has grown faster, with more members who are interested and engaged in what I am doing. However, pursuing better comes with a price, and it takes concerted effort to improve ones content. No pain, no gain is the truth. I have invested copious resources into the infrastructure of Indieheaven, and also invested into myself by not working 18 hours each day, and taking more time to feed my mind and spirit. I have concentrated on getting better, and I have seen results! I still have quite a ways to go, but I believe I am headed in the right direction.
To wrap up this column, I see too many independent artists who create online profiles, add their mediocre content, add “friends,” and think they will be the next big thing. I see them spend too much time telling the world how good they think they are, with little results. What they don’t realize is people are not drawn to mediocrity. Mediocre content pushes people away. If they would concentrate on the better and leave the bigger up to the Lord they will find much better results. The Lord is faithful and will bring an increase if we decrease the amount of SSP we are dishing out. Great content finds a way; mediocre content may be consumed once, but never again and certainly never shared with others. And that is the key to growth. Give them something to talk about!
So, take some time away from the computer and write a song, learn to play or sing better, study the Word so you can communicate your faith. Read books, learn your language, and take time to feed your mind and soul. Resist the temptation to be bigger, to be famous. Fame is fleeting. Improving one’s craft and life lasts forever. And, if I offended any of you, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me have it!
Until next time, may your field of dreams be lined with work down first and faith down third.