Ministry Matters: Beyond the Building
- 2003 3 Apr
When it comes to music and ministry among worship leaders and song writers in local churches, one question is near the top of all their lists: how do I get my songs beyond the building? Rick Muchow, Pastor of Magnification at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California, offers sound advice and encouragement.
God has blessed us as worship leaders to be able to serve our specific church congregation and with the some of the songs we write, to sometimes reach beyond our congregation through other worship leaders into a larger portion of the church body.
My 13 years of songwriting at Saddleback Church have been out of necessity. For me, songwriting has never been something that I have done for an outside audience or as a first-focus business effort. My approach as a worship leader has always been to seek out songs for the pastor's particular message, whether it's a specific theme or energy level or seeker-sensitivity or whatever. I have often found it to be easier to write a song that fits my pastor's message than to find an outside song. Sometimes, those songs are given a life outside of my local congregation.
The publishing business is about a publisher making the most of their and your investment in songs. The business basically has 3 components: exploitation, protection and song inventory. Exploitation is their term for letting others know about your songs. The term "exploitation" sounds negative, but it basically means getting exposure for your songs through various vehicles including use on a CD, in a songbook, musical recordings, in films, on TV, etc. Protection has to do with securing and administering copyrights and licensing fees/royalties. Song inventory is simply their portfolio of songs to represent.
A publishing company is a business. "Generally" song royalties are split 50/50 between a publisher and a songwriter, though that is certainly negotiable on both sides. The industry makes money by placing the song; getting others to use it. A good publishing relationship can help a songwriter earn a living.
Publishers seek to match songs with an appropriate project. It's very much about finding that right song in the right place at the right time. As you pursue having your songs published, know that rejection is a part of the process. Rejection does not indicate a bad song, though it can. Most of the time, rejection means that a song does not fill a need (style, product, vibe) for that publisher at that time.
Songwriters who are getting their songs placed have a working a relationship with artists and publishers. Unsolicited submissions to artists or publishers will probably not get heard. It can happen, but it is the least effective method.
If you feel that your songs speak to a wider audience than the local church and might be a useful tool to other worship ministries, then start with a small circle and work your way out. That's basically what publishing is on a grassroots level.
Test the waters beyond your local congregation through:
1) Songwriting or Music Competitions
There are many songwriting and music competitions. Locate and figure out which ones you want to pursue. Some examples include SongWriting.net (http://www.songwriting.net) or the John Lennon Song Writing Competition (http://www.jlsc.com).
2) Music Conferences or Festivals
Conferences and festivals take place around the country throughout the year. At Saddleback Church, we are relatively close to MUSICalifornia (www.musicalifornia.com,) Spirit West Coast (www.spiritwestcoast.org,) and The Christian Guitarists Conference (http://www.heartfeltmusic.org.) I would also like to invite you to join Saddleback Church's annual Worship Conference and Festival which features a Song Seeker component (see www.purposedriven.com).
3) Worship or Music Magazines and Internet sites
Magazines and web sites like Worship Leader (www.worshipleader.com,) Christian Musician (www.christianmusician.com,) and ShareSong.org (www.sharesong.org,) often provide independent artist and songwriter editorial, special indie-friendly ad space or free resource opportunities.
4) Music or Denominational Associations
Look for music associations or denominational associations to which you can become a member and attend events.
5) Local Benefits or Live Performances
Get out and perform locally and regionally. You never know who might hear your music and what opportunities might result. I was recently part of a benefit for local schools where I shared the stage with a host of nationally recognized Jazz artists and performed my one of my songs. My songs aren't Jazz, but the experience and exposure was great from both a networking and a fun point of view.
Your Relationship Network With Artists & Publishers
Ultimately all of the above combine together to create a relationship network for you. The placement of my song "The Greatest Mystery" in the film and on the soundtrack for Left Behind II was a direct result of the relationship network I have after 13 years of ministry and song writing. Connecting with the companies and artists who will use your songs starts and ends with the personal relationships you build. Those relationships are the best way to get heard.
Rick is the Pastor of Magnification for 15,000 worshipers each weekend and a teacher and advisor on worship for over 150,000 pastors and church leaders through Purpose-Driven(r) Church Conferences. Answers to these and other ministry related questions, as well as his latest recording "Into Your Arms," are available through www.EncouragingMusic.com.