Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Commercialization of worship

It's been done for decades in the secular industry, that of marketing and selling emotions. But it's relatively a new phenomenon within the Church to have a worship industry. Marketing and selling praise for the Holy One.

I'm thinking about this a lot these days because I play in a worship band. Every member of this band is so jaded with the worship industry, and the commerce taking place in our worship. We're sick of it. We want no part of it.

We're now in 2009, and half of the band is struggling to get by because of the economy. One of the members hasn't had a real job in about six months. Every once in a while we get an honorarium from the congregations we lead worship at and this has been helping these brothers of mine to pay their bills.

When one of my closest friends (and brother by law) is facing the reality of losing his home, the temptations of monetizing the worship we perform for the Lord becomes very real. I don't know if it would cheapen the worship for God, but it would certainly injure the consciences of each band member to be payed to pray.

We are working on a worship album though (an EP really). We wanted to record a few songs we perform which are original (by us) or written by friends of ours (most people know them as ours). We wanted to give credit where credit is due and at the same time offer a CD for these congregations so they can also get to know these wonderful songs.

So are we commercializing worship? Are we the biggest hypocrites in the Church? Maybe. I know I'm a hypocrite. They say, "You hate what you are," and that's probably why everything I write about and I'm passionate about is the opposite of what I am really like.

But we're not in it to make money. And I suppose this is the same answer Chris Tomlin or some other "worship artist" would give. We're spending our own money to records songs, and most of the money we receive will go to the writers of the songs, not to us, the performers of these songs. We're giving these writers the option to have their portion go to a different purpose so they don't have to profit from their songs either.

And this is an expensive process. We're looking in the thousands of dollars range. We don't make much off of honorariums, so it could take a couple years to earn back what we're spending here.

I don't know why I'm making this into a moral dilemma. Usually I write on the blog to get a mostly-processed idea out of my system after it's brewed for a while. This is still brewing, I'm just opening myself up at this point.


The Pike Family said...

Hmm. I think there is a big difference between cashing in on Jesus, and then doing something like this.

I think it is all intent, and where your heart is. I would think of it the same as selling any other CD, like if you were in any other band. It isn't like you are slapping a sticker on it that says "Now with 100% more Christianity, if you really loved Jesus you would support this band!"

Now, if you are reaming "customers" just because you know they will put out because you sing about Jesus...

I know I never make sense, but I hope you understood what I was trying to say. Maybe it was the long winded way to say "pray about it" HA.

Tabitha said...

I think that's definitely a tough subject to grapple with, especially when you're right in the middle of it. I guess (maybe? I'm still mulling this over, too) I consider phrases like "Christian band" or "Christian radio" to be sort of missing the point. That is, the word "Christian" is at its purest, a noun, not an adjective. I've thought about this more in relation to the whole "is this band Christian even though they don't sing about Jesus?" idea, versus marketing praise music, but I think it's kind of along the same lines. Or something.

Let's see if I can make sense of my own thoughts here. I think, like Katie (or Jeremy?) commented, it's more about the motive. If you start writing "worship songs" based on how you think a broad audience will react to them and how much money they will pay to listen to it, your motives aren't very commendable. But...if the music comes out of a real sense of worship, or a desire to glorify God, and at the end of the day everything you're doing is geared toward giving back to HIM (whether that's recognition or glory or money), that's something worth doing.

And of course, I'm sure that a majority of "Christian music artists" who are making their livings this way at least STARTED with those sort of motives, and many of them seem to still be focused on bringing glory to God, not G's to their wallets. It's a fine line, I'm sure...and a tempting one.

All this to say...I think it's awesome that you guys consider these kinds of issues rather than just hastily jump into a very marketable genre to try to snag your little piece of the goods. But if you do end up, somewhere down the road, making a living off of it, I (personally) wouldn't call that a sell-out...assuming you're still doing it to reach people for the Lord.

Bah. I'm way too verbose.

Steven Kippel said...

In other news, we haven't sold very many of these discs above cost.