It used to be that I would sit across from a Christian artist and I could honestly tell them that if they would just go out and sell 1000 CDs, they could make the money back from their investment in a recording project. Now, not many did this, but it was possible and quite a few have and did.
In fact, it’s still possible to make not just money back from a recording project, but a living if you can tour. But that is harder than ever, and the reports from artists on the road has been that love offerings pay better than the CD sales.
Let’s face it, physical sales are pretty much over. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) reported that in the first half of 2019, streaming accounted for 80% of sales. Downloads and CD sales accounted for about 9% each. CD sales are stronger at live events (because frankly what else can they buy and get signed?) So if physical sales of CDs are down, and there’s not much chance of recouping, what then?
Yes streaming pays, but very little. That’s because it’s pay per individual listener, which equals out to about what radio pays in the end. But unlike radio, it’s harder to get tens of thousands of listeners at a time, which is how radio pays better if a song gets played (although it also has to be reported.)
With every artist we market their music with videos, and there is always a chance a video could go somewhat viral, but making income from that is about the same as streaming.
So Now What?
So what’s left my dear Christian recording artist? Well, it’s really down to the real reason it should be, especially for faith-based artists. You should do it because it is what you are called to do.
In our workshops, one of the first questions we ask are “Do you feel Called to do this? By God?” Most people who are talking to us of course DO feel this calling, and it’s in fact why they have contacted us in the first place.
If they said, “Nah, it’s just for the money”, well we would all have a good laugh wouldn’t we?
The truth is, we all make the music inside us because we love to make the music inside us. And we feel God made us to do just that If we all had day jobs only (and we all have) we would find a way to make music any way we could. We would buy gear, or go to studios, or sing at church, or play in bands. We would find a way to do it, and we would likely spend any extra money we had to do it.
If anyone asked why we did it, we would say “it’s why God put me here.”
As many of you know I make my own albums with my piano, jazz, and other brands. I’m smart enough to know these days they won’t make me a million dollars. Heck they won’t even support me (unless I’m willing to tour, and I’m not.) But I do them anyway. I have several new projects in the works now.
But I make them because that’s who God made me. As I have said many times, I can’t “not” make the music and put it out, even if it’s just my contribution to the world and nothing else.
Many of the artists I have worked with in the past are still doing for this reason and this reason only. They know “stardom” or “fortune” is not why they make the music. It’s just who and what they are. And they keep finding ways to do it.
It’s down to this folks. We have to do the work that God gave us to do. The “physical recording = money” age is over. It lasted just over 100 years. Now it’s about making music for use at church or events, for performance in ministry, or just because you are driven to make it and put it out there.
If you are not willing to do Christian music without some promise of monetary return or chance of fame, then you may not be doing this for the right reasons.
Christian ministry (music or not) is not a lucrative career choice for 99% of those who choose it. It is a serve, a calling, and an undeniable desire to use your talents for the kingdom of God.
It’s not just that it is down to this option, it’s what should have only been the purpose for making Christian music in the first place.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is a composer, arranger, and president of Creative Soul Records, and has worked with Christian artists for over 30 years. Click around the site to learn more, or contact us here!