There is no shortage of articles on the Internet giving advice on how to become a Christian recording artist.
One article mentions “hiring a managing agent” which would actually be a paradox of sorts in the music business, being that managers and agents are two different individuals with completely different responsibilities (a manager is essentially the “CEO” of a recording artist’s career, whereas an agent merely books gigs). Additionally, you can’t just “hire” an agent (at least anyone that is reputable) unless your have an established fan base. At that point, they typically come to you.
To be fair, there are some decent articles out there on the net regarding this subject (Brant Christopher’s comes to mind). However, you need to be discerning when it comes to any author’s knowledge and credibility.
That being said, if you are really looking to be a Christian recording artist, let’s look at some hot topics to be considered before you jump in.
Understand that this is not meant to be the final word, but rather a guide to help you become more aware of the realities that encompass this position.
Warning: this is where humility and pride can often collide!
1. Is this truly your calling?
Yes, this seems obvious, but is it really? There are many great singers and musicians at church. But this does not necessarily equate to a full-time music ministry. Being a Christian artist is not a glamorous lifestyle and not everyone can be Chris Tomlin. The main thing that sustains you, should be Christ, not fame. If you are not sure, ask! If this is truly your purpose, God will intervene.
2. Do you have the gifting?
Having “the gift” is not the same as musical competence, although both go hand in hand. Gifting is anointing. It is the spiritual presence ignited within you when performing or leading worship and the outflow of The Holy Spirit. This is not something you can learn, or gain competence in. This is truly a gift of God!
Typically, there is a direct correlation between musicians who have the gift and musical adeptness. However, this is does not always hold true if you flip those two elements around. There are many great musicians that identify with Christian music, but don’t necessarily have the anointing to lead people to Christ through their music. Big difference!
Seekgod.org reminds us that anointing is the river of life that flows from the throne through your heart and penetrates other people’s hearts.
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light (Psalms 36:7-9).
3) How is your musical proficiency?
We’ve all seen those crazy auditions for American Idol. Ever wonder why some of those contestants think they can sing and then get irate when Simon tells them they sound like an amateur karaoke singer? Let’s face it. Are you really that good? And not just good…but GREAT. Musical ability is a requirement if you want to advance as a Christian recording artist.
This concept may seem obvious to some, but merely being able to get up and sing at your local church does not necessarily mean you are ready to become a recording artist.
Do you find yourself “sliding” up or down to find your pitch? Are you able to hear harmonies? What is your tone like? Can the audience identify with it? Do you have proper microphone technique?
Conversely, if you play an instrument, can you properly execute the songs within your given style? Do you listen to the entire band and create color or do you just overplay as an individual? If you are a drummer, are you more concerned with the fills you play rather than establishing a solid groove? If you are a bassist, are you listening to the drummer and working together as a unit to establish the rhythm? Drummers and bassists are probably the most important part of any band.
4) Do you have songwriting skills?
If you are serious about being a Christian recording artist, then it is in your best interest to know how to write songs, and good ones, at that! This is not something that happens overnight.
Songwriting is a craft. Sure, the inspiration may come from God, however you need to know how to weave that inspiration into a workable song that is arranged and structured with chord progressions, lyrics and a melody line.
After the foundation of the song is written, it is then time to write and properly arrange instrument parts, such as guitar, bass, drums and keys to enhance the song; developing it into a workable composition that you can both perform and record.
Writing great songs takes time and being a proficient musician doesn’t automatically mean one is a great songwriter. Many of the best songwriters are limited at best to their musical abilities. Diane Warren, who is probably one of the best songwriters of all time, was diagnosed as being tone-deaf and is known as a mediocre piano player but has had over 80 top 10 hits worldwide. Educate yourself and write, write write!
Confidence is equally as important as musical skill. It is your ability to deliver with conviction. Without it, your ability to execute will be considerably muted. In performance, confidence is the opposite of awkwardness. This is not about being arrogant, but rather being sure of yourself in what you are conveying to your audience. Remember, confidence is contagious.
The first step in being confident comes with being prepared. If you are prepared, you will not have to worry about concentrating on the next chord change, or lyric. When you are prepared, you are more able to relax, giving you the ability to think more clearly and go with the flow. Not only will you appear more professional, you will also play better.
Think of an important NFL or college football game when both teams go out on the field, all wound up. What happens? They typically are plagued with penalties such as offside, pass interference and face mask. It affects their performance. When the players finally settle down and get into their groove, they become more effective.
6) Gain Knowledge about The Business of Music
If you are not familiar with the music business, you need to be. If you want to be in the business, you need to have an understanding of it, if you want the edge.
There are plenty of books and blogs that cater to the the music business. Dan Passman’s All You Need to Know About The Music Business comes highly recommended by most industry insiders. The Artist’s Guide to Christian Music by Patrick Garrett is yet another gem to get you started. For you DIY’s (which should be all of you) get the Indie Band Survival Guide by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan.
7) Are you willing to put forth the effort that is involved?
Forget big recording contracts and major league record companies for now. Would you go knocking on Arthur Blank’s door and ask to play for the Atlanta Falcons? As ridiculous as this seems, why would you think this could be done at major record companies such as Interscope or Sony?
NFL scouts are continually watching to see who is coming up in the ranks of high school and college ball. Likewise, music industry scouts (called A&R) are on the lookout for up and coming artists that are making a splash in their regional markets. To get noticed, you have to create a considerable fan base who buys your recordings and attends your concerts and events. This is why you need to think independent. You have to make it happen, first. Starting out, expect to wear all the hats including booking, promotion, recording you name it. Are you up for the challenge?
8) Can you hang?
When things don’t go your way, do you give up, or keep going? Are you able to keep the big picture in view at all times and not throw in the towel just because something set you back? Reality is, you will get discouraged, but you cannot let this deter you from your calling. Understand that It often takes years to establish yourself regionally, as a recording artist on an independent level.
Remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6).
If you feel in your heart that you have what it takes, then congratulations! Step forward towards your calling and get started! Perhaps you feel that this might be for you, but you have doubts. Sometimes those doubts may just be fear in disguise. Remember,”God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Timothy 1:7 ).
Your purpose is often interlaced within the things you do best. If you find that you excel at music and this has been something that you are continually passionate about, then you very well may be called to becoming a Christian artist.