Whether you are an artist or songwriter if you are reading this, you have probably been working towards a very pointed and exact target: Christian music. So when we work on our music we tend to write specifically in this genre. We work very hard to follow the rules, to write what we have heard, and to do it very well. The problem is that we sometimes write a very similar message and style over and over again. Perhaps the problem is not what we are trying to do, maybe it’s that we are aiming for too small of a target.
What I mean by this is that we write for the very tiny, tiny genre of contemporary Christian music, or gospel music and maybe we are painting ourselves, our music, and even our ministries into a box. Maybe we are not using our full skill set and growing to the best of our abilities because we are trying to write only for the small target of what is or would be popular in the Christian market.
The Fallacy of Christian Radio
Despite the fact that Christian radio is very hard to compete in anyway, most Christian songwriters and artists think that this is the pantheon of success. And so they write songs to compete with the other worship and Christian pop songs that are on the charts right now. The funny thing is not many people can or will work towards the quality it takes for radio. More so, they don’t write the kinds of songs Christian radio is even looking for.
The other big problem with Christian radio is that it really doesn’t reach the lost – only the believers. So is your goal just to write songs that will be enjoyed by other believers? I mean there’s nothing wrong with that I guess. But again, it’s a very small market. Can you do more?
Are You Really Going to Tour?
For years we have operated with every artist that they can tour to reach the lost, and to sell CDs and make back their album budget.
The truth is that it’s very hard to book yourself into events, especially if you are not doing it full time. So the act of contacting churches (which really don’t need more music) is quite mystifying and downright scary.
The Scary Low Digital Return
Anyone who has released music to digital sources like CDBaby, Spotify, and iTunes can tell you, you won’t be making rent payments with that money. Sure these numbers change when you have major radio play and touring, but as we outlined above that’s just not in the cards for most.
So what do we do? Maybe it’s time to consider some new options, and it might be time to make our music more accessible. I’m not saying lose your faith folks, but I am saying we need to be smarter on what we are writing, who our audience is, and our real goals of reaching the world.
The Dreaded Crossover
If you remember back in the 90s it was the time with Amy Grant and Michael W Smith were crossing over into pop (some would say secular) music. At the time, there were detractors and supporters on both sides. But no one can argue that Amy Grant widened her audience.
After all, reaching the lost is really our main mandate. The Great Commission does not say go where Christians are and play music that they will be comfortable with. So maybe writing some of our music that can be played outside the church isn’t such a bad idea.
Now, secular radio is even harder than Christian to try and get traction, but I’m not talking about radio necessarily.
The Hard Share
How many times have you wished you could share your music with your friends only to realize if you did it would be a hard conversation or perhaps uncomfortable situation you were not ready for. I’m not saying God did not call us to have hard conversations, but sharing with people at work, or family, or strangers is very difficult when you don’t know their where they stand as a believer.
Writing something and creating something that is more than just Christianese gives you the ability to reach a much wider audience with your message. Sometimes that can mean we have to be a little stealthy. But that allows us to get in doors that we could never get in with our normal message, which can sometimes offend ears that aren’t ready to hear it.
Reaching a Bigger Audience (And a Bigger Return)
Another area that is hard to get into and reach for Christian artists is the world of the film, TV, commercials, etc. Since most of this business is done in Los Angeles, it’s a hard sell to get a Christian song or even a song by a blatant Christian artist through the process that will get their music into a project. This is another reason to think outside the box when you are writing your songs.
This is another reason to think of a new way to say a message of faith, or love. Maybe a way that could be construed by a Christian audience as Christian, or by secular audience as just more positive faith and love.
Now I understand many of you may see this as being disingenuous, or even a cop out. But if the point is to make this a career (read: make income) and to really reach the world for God, then maybe we have to open up our box just a little bit.
Maybe your next song you can use ‘you’ instead of ‘Jesus’. Give the song a chance to reach a wider target of listeners. Believe me, God will not get His feelings hurt if you don’t use His exact name in all songs (besides those are our words not His.)
Just some food for thought. Would love to hear your comments below.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is president of Creative Soul, a company that helps Christian artists and songwriters move to the next level in their careers. For more information on how to get started with us, click here.