It’s no news to anyone how difficult it is to make a living making music these days. It’s never been easy, but today’s environment is especially puzzling. If you need proof, consider Seth Godin’s post written two years ago using the failings of the music biz as examples of how not to do business in the current age. Want more? In Money.com’s Best Jobs in America list, “Music Ministry Director” was so off the list that it landed as #5 on another: “Stressful Jobs That Pay Badly.” And yesterday’s Tennessean had a front-page story on the dismal performance of the music industry in the last decade. Thank you very much. I’ll have another.
The problem is not the music creators, nor the music consumers. It’s a broken system and an outdated model. In an earlier era, music (especially recorded music) was a scarce entity. Consumers would spend $15-$20 for a CD that cost about $1 to manufacture, because it was the only way to get a song that they wanted to hear. But in today’s digital era, music is no longer scarce, but easily duplicated and distributed free of charge and without a distinguishable loss of quality. Therefore, we must now concentrate on what is scarce and use our music as marketing tools for those goods and services. In today’s post from Seth Godin, he contrasts two different lemonade stand operators. One sells lemonade, the other really sells something else. We in the music industry need to move beyond selling lemonade to selling something else.
The good news for worship leaders is that we already do this. We may write songs and sell CDs, but our principle value is derived within a live setting. Corporate worship is an experience. I want to be careful here. The true worship leader doesn’t create the experience (I hope), but his ability to lead that experience has value and that leadership ability is the scarce resource. Sell this ability. The music is just an example of it. There. Now this business should be much, much easier. … Right?