Yes it is possible to make a good and even great living as a Christian musician without being discovered by a big label. The answer is building a community of your super fans.
There has always been some businesses that are slow to evolve and seem to remain stuck in history and many times only progress when they simply have no choice but to update their methods or business practices. At times I believe it is very intentional, and resisted because the ones in control of the business understand that they will lose power or worse yet, their income source will be either drastically diminished or gone completely.
The Christian Music Industry
What I just described is the music business as a whole, and especially the Christian music business. Sure social media and streaming has been a big change for the industry, but in the end it is all about selling music, and the way you do this is playing the numbers game, (ie.more exposure.) In the past it was radio play and touring, and the way you could do both of those at any scale was by signing with a label. No label signing = no success.
But now we have streaming, social media and Youtube that gives artists more exposure than ever, right? And remember, more exposure = more $$, correct? According to August 2018 Rolling Stone magazine, musicians make only 12% of the money in the music industry. The RIAA tells us that revenue in the music industry as a whole was up double digits for the third consecutive year in a row for 2018 . So what is wrong with this picture?
It is obvious who or what still has a firm grip on the money coming into the industry and is doing all they can to keep that hold. It is common for an artist to get signed to a label, get radio play, do the big tour, sell lots of merchandise, get lots of streams and in the end, still owe the label money that was fronted to them when they signed. What kind of pressure does that put on Christian artists? Is it likely to affect decisions they make including family time, time off, seeking the Lord’s guidance for their music and ministry? No doubt it can, and does. So what to do?
It’s those (bleeping) streaming companies!
Many artists are convinced that the music streaming companies are being unfair with their payouts to artists. That may be true but keep in mind that Spotify has yet to make any profit, even with their low payouts to artists, and in fact are taking huge losses every year. Even when artists do get hundreds of thousands, and even millions of streams, what they make is pitiful. Obviously bigger payouts from streaming is not the answer.
Go big or go to the business side of music?
Is there any hope for artists to make a good living, other than getting so big that they are able to get sponsorships, endorsements, or be able to charge huge sums for shows, etc., or are artists destined to constantly be pressured to create new music, tour, create videos, and push merch to keep money coming in? Have you ever noticed how many artists eventually get into the business side of music? Eventually they realize that everyone around the artist are the ones making the money and that is their best shot for a good living.
There is an answer and the good news is that many artists are already doing this on some scale, and even if they are not, it is very easy to implement. It is a completely different way of thinking for the Christian music industry and one that is by no means whatsoever dependent on being discovered, or signing a deal with a big label. I and other futurists believe this is the way of the future for the music industry and will be a complete game-changer for the artist. It is so simple it is ridiculous, but a complete flip-flop of focus for the artist. Imagine being able to create, tour and promote at your own pace. Being able to take the time to be led by the Holy Spirit as to what you write, where you tour, what you sell, and so on. True God-led ministry!
The answer is community, and not the kind the labels tell you to create. This community is different in its focus and can make a $100,000 annual salary very attainable for the Christian musician. We are GiveJam and if you would like to learn more join our email list, follow us on facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
So as a Christian musician, ask yourself why you do what you do for your music business. Is the bottom line for more exposure? Time to change your thinking! Tis isn't 1985 anymore. Developing a community of Super Fans is the future of music. No label and no "discovery" required.