The Music vs. The Ministry
As if the music industry was not difficult enough to navigate through as an independent artist, Gospel musicians have the added responsibility of respecting the ministry aspect of their artwork. The Music vs. The Ministry is a very real conflict that often arises for Gospel artists, but it is very seldom discussed. From my perspective as the manager of Gospel artists, I feel that there is a fine line between the two that the manager has to walk in order to properly fulfill each proponent of a Gospel musician’s career.
As a Gospel artist, it is often said that ministry should come first. I believe this is true. What sets Gospel music apart is the message of Christianity and the belief in Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. Just the mere word “Gospel” means “Good News,” which in religious terms refers to the good news of Jesus. So, when making Gospel music, the core message has to be rooted in Christianity. The problem, however, arises when artists become so focused on the ministry of their artwork that they neglect the business side of operations in the music industry. The music industry is not just about having a great product (i.e. good music). The music industry, including Gospel music, is a business and it has to be treated as such.
For the artist, the balance comes in surrounding yourself with people who are business-minded. By having business personnel such as a manager, publicist and street team members whose job is to be focused on the marketing and business side of the music, it leaves the artist with the freedom of creating music that is ministry-driven. Also, by having a strong team that handles all the business aspects of a Gospel musician’s career, the artist doesn’t have the “burden” of dealing with unpleasant sides of business, including the culture of the church. For example, as a manager, I’ve run into many instances where people ask Gospel artists to render their services for free under the expectancy that they will because it is a Christian event or because ministry is about serving people rather than themselves. And yes, while the essence of ministry is about helping and serving others, that is not the essence of the music business. And therein lies the paradox for the Gospel artist.
I always tell my artists to let me be “The Bad Guy.” Meaning, allow me to handle the “business” of your career, which includes price negotiations, settlements, contracts, public relations and all other uncomfortable ventures. By relinquishing the artist from the burden of delivering unfavorable news, it helps boost their persona of being likable, genuine and kind. It is always better to have the manager be looked upon as tough, rather than the artist.
It is also noteworthy that just like any other genre of music, Gospel music has to be marketed and promoted as well. It has been argued too that Gospel artists focus more on the music rather than putting together proper marketing and industry standard products. Yes, a Gospel artist’s song may be anointed, but if no one knows the song exists or if the presentation of the song is wrong, then no one will hear the amazing song that the artist attempted to bless the world with. Attorney James Walker wrote an article about why Gospel artists struggle in the music industry. While the article is facetious in some points, he makes valid points that echo what I’ve been saying about the importance of balancing your music with your ministry.