So, you want to be a CCM artist? Awesome! There is nothing more gratifying than creating and performing music and seeing people’s lives changed. I think it’s great to aspire to inspire, but you better get ready to perspire and keep the fire! Ask anyone who has a music ministry and they will tell you it is hard work, and that 99% of the time you are working to create material and secure engagements. 1% of the time, you are on stage doing that thing you love to do!
Since 1997, I have worked with literally thousands of emerging artists in their music mission, founding and operating Indieheaven.com. Most of the artists I come in contact with are hobbyists, who enjoy getting out there every so often to crank up the band, or share a song. Nothing wrong with that! Some are more serious artists who are doing it full time. I have the utmost respect for artists who are full timers, because it is incredibly hard to get to that point and sustain a full time music ministry, especially these days!
It has never been more difficult to make it happen in a Christian music ministry. In the old days, the cost of doing business, er…I mean ministry was far less expensive, with the exception of creating quality music. These days, a savvy musician with chops and technical skills can produce great sounding music with a MacBook pro and Logic. I know, because that is what I use in my studio! On the flip side, gas just hit $4 bucks a gallon (I wonder where it will be when you read this article?) and diesel is at $5. My good friends from the indie band “Bread of Stone” have a wonderful Prevost tour bus that has a 200 gallon tank and gets 7 miles per gallon. Do the math! These guys are out there doing it regardless of the costs, and the Lord continues to provide! Now that is work and faith my friends!
I asked members of Indieheaven (www.indieheaven.com) if the cost of doing their music mission has impacted them and how they were overcoming this obstacle.
“We did lose a gig because of gas prices. They knew we were coming from two hours away, but the second I asked for gas reimbursement, they couldn’t get rid of us fast enough! I was even willing to negotiate a little, but their attitude was like, “Ok, we can’t accommodate you, thanks for your interest–bye!” LOL. Guess we’ll just stick closer to home for a while.”
“Yes, the guys in my band have started asking from more money to cover gas expenses….ouch. That means that I am having to charge more at the venue or pray harder that God will provide more….as He always has and as He always will.”
“It impacts the number of musicians and the scope of what I’ll do to some degree, but by and large I just realize that the ministry will take in a little less cash from the gigs and the honorarium will basically go towards paying the other players who support me. All CD sales go to the ministry and a percentage of the honorarium. If folks can’t go, I don’t necessarily say no, I go acoustic and change up the setlist, but not the point. The other thing I do is try to get a full weekend booked. That way one event pays for the expenses, the other helps support the ministry.”
You can see these artists have a balanced outlook on the costs of accomplishing their mission and have a plan in place to deal with it. And that is good! It is important to count the costs before striking out on a mission. Starting out in a music mission these days should not be taken lightly. Count the costs my friends. It is far less expensive to do your ministry local, instead of traveling far distances. It’s also the way an emerging artist can create a local base of fans and supporters. I see too many artists who spend too much time on the internet trying to influence people on the other side of the world, and neglect their own communities. Act local, think global. I am a big proponent of impacting people who are in your immediate sphere of influence and let them talk about you to others, instead of you spending time on the www tooting your own horn to people called “friends.” This is a subject for another article!
Do yourself a favor, make a list of what you think it will cost you to accomplish your music mission, and then multiply it by 10 and that will be the real cost. It’s not for the faint of wallet. For those who are smart and seek council from others who have been there and done that, they will learn to maximize their investment and see the most return. For those who fail to plan, their plan will probably fail. Be smart, be wise, and most of all, be realistic about what you can invest and keep your expectations in line. It will help you to not be discouraged when things don’t happen as fast or the way you thought they would happen.
God provides for our needs if we are earnestly seeking Him and doing His will. Be sure to take the time to find out what His will is for your life. It is the most important investment you can make, because if you are pursuing a music ministry without the Lord’s blessing and endorsement, there will be a high cost to pay. Make sure you are not going after something that is based on blind ambition and vain conceit. I see this out there every now and then, and it breaks my heart because I know there will struggles, trials, disillusionment, disappointment, bitterness, and eventually burn out coming down the road.
Remember, seek God first and keep Him first in your music mission. Make service the keystone of your ministry. Work hard at it and pray hard for it, and do not settle for mediocrity. In everything you do, do it with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your ability.
Until next time, may your field of dreams be lined with work down first and faith down third.
Keith is president of Indieheaven.com, a resource for independent Christian musicians, bands, worship leaders, songwriters and more!