Thursday, 19 November 2009

Self Promotion: Good, Bad or Ugly?

I've done it. Many times. Advertised and publicised things I'm doing or records I've made or talks I've given etc....

But I know one thing:

I have always felt like an idiot doing it - I've never been comfortable with any aspect of it. Whether that is a personality thing or that I have a sense of it being 'wrong' or 'disobedient' in anyway, I'm not sure. I don't know.

So I've either not done it at all or done it a way I don't like or done it in a way that undermines itself with overly depreciative tones

Though it seems now to be a normal part of having a 21st Century ministry - websites, facebook fan pages, MySpace, street teams, publicity, tours etc. etc. etc.

Whatever I've not been able to reconcile, a lot of other people seem totally OK with.

I know I'm an idealist - I'd greatly prefer others to lift me up; advocates who will believe in me and what I do - and for word of mouth to do any 'promotional' work that needs doing.

And because I see everyone else running ahead and promoting their stuff left, right and centre, I often feel a little left behind - because what I'm doing is not packaged and presented and publicised in the very intentional way others are doing it - my stuff certainly doesn't reach everyone it could - but does it reach everyone that it 'should'? That is the question I cannot answer.

I don't think my problem is a lack of confidence or self confidence, in fact if anything the opposite is the problem - it is more likely pride than an absence of self belief. (I pretty much believe my songs to be as good as anyone else's - no existential angst here!).

Also my problem isn't that I am so very humble that I don't promote myself - I guess true humility wouldn't think about it all, and certainly wouldn't be writing this blog post.

My problem is that I don't like promoting myself, not one bit.

In thinking and wrestling this I've found two verses that have really helped
He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
So I want your help and thoughts. Self promotion, do you think it is:

Good - a normal, natural thing. Highlighting the good things God has given us and offering them up to the wider Church in order that it may be blessed.

Bad - an unnatural, ungodly approach. Full of pride, self interest and ultimately harmful for the Church and an unhealthy distraction - even as far as creating idols of people and their gifts.

Ugly - there is nothing 'wrong' with it but it is a little tasteless and crass.

all your comments are greatly appreciated - I'd love to have a good discussion on this issue...



david's myth said...

interesting. i know what you mean, especially with the stuff that i record i want people to hear so i will direct people to my facebook page... and i know what you mean about having a kind of discordant feeling inside, like theres something not quite right about saying "listen to me". its a hard one, because how else do you get people to listen to your music, because i would be lying if i said i didn't want people to hear what ive been doing. thats natural i think with anything creative, and anyone who has the confidence and pride in what theyve achieved and produced. and of course theres nothing wrong with taking pride in it.
i guess to know you're own integrity when you promote such things and to know why you do it is important, not to big yourself up but simply to show people what you're creating.
i think i'd rather be someone who was confident in doing such a thing than someone who kept everything under wraps.

Neil Bennetts said...

Don't want to clog your blog have responded on mine. read it here:

Andy Rogers said...

David I think any 'self promotion' is transactional and if whatever you're doing gives more value to the recipient than you ask them to invest (e.g. time, energy, hard earned cash etc) then it can be good.

If you have made it worth their while then you have added something of value to the overall scheme of things.

A few years ago I remember going to a worship conference in a cynical state of mind. Walked into the foyer and faced an overload of worship related merchandise and thought to myself this is just another cash driven industry.

Whilst that may have been partly true one of the speakers in a seminar mentioned in a throw away comment that Jubal the very first musician recorded in Gen 4 did what he did for a living. That statement itself helped me clarify that it's ok to be paid for what we do but, like everything else we do in life, it boils down to a motivation/obedience issue.

When it comes to the specifics of worship & music I have chosen not to go looking for a label deal where the promotion side of things goes into someone else's hands.

You can often inject more creativity and potentially more integrity in your 'promotion' by retaining control of that yourself.

I've even found that by giving people the choice of what they want to pay for my music that folks are generally very generous.

I've also found that by giving away the songs that people want thousands of people have now joined my mailing list and entered an ongoing dialogue/relationship.

Something you or I wouldn't have in a business relationship with a traditional record label. BTW I'm not against creatively partnering in ways that mutually help the vision.

Any form of communication, songs, talks or 'self promotion' are value based transactions and the ideal scenario should always be win-win.

Anyway's that's a few of my random thoughts!

David Gate said...

great thoughts everyone...

Neil, do you think all promotion is inappropriate then or are there natural and obedient ways of promotion? And what do they look like? And is the appropriateness related to the slice of £60m you are getting?

Andy, what do you recommend for those who are not very good or natural or comfortable with the PR aspects of worship music?


Neil Bennetts said...

What I think I am saying is probably that because of the way the 'system' is set up, any self promotion can be perceived as a means for personal gain - particularly financial.

Probably everyone who puts video clips of their songs on their web site, puts up an iPhone ap of their achievements for sale, or goes on a tour would probably say they are just doing it for the glory of God, being obedient, being natural.

But anyone looking in on it all may easily come to a very different conclusion because they know of the riches that could be (are) involved.

The thing is...that when I think about 'worship' I think of something unique, special, generous...Holy...almost in a unique sort of way - different to books, or films, or acting, or even preaching and teaching (ok, close to heresy there). There is something deep inside that makes me feel that, with worship, we need to be 'extra specially careful', almost as though 'different standards apply'.

And when so much money changes hands just because some people want to sing someone's song in church on a Sunday to help them meet with God it just feel plain wrong.

David Gate said...

that is my 'feeling' as well.... it feels wrong and uncomfortable and perhaps unnecessary - but I'm trying to get to grips with the whys and wherefores of that feeling....

should people receive no money then?
or should there be a cap?
who determines what that is?

we can say it is a matter of personal integrity or it is between the individual and God - but seemingly our views on personal integrity differ greatly with others... many of whom I greatly admire and have enormous respect for.... so i still don't know where we stand....

Andy said...

Hi David,

Good post here. I've thought about this issue too recently. I'm slightly hypocritical but recently a few people on facebook sent out their own message suggesting I become a fan of them! This was a tad self indulgent, let people make up their own mind if they're a fan or not!!

I like Andy Rogers and what he does. He doesn't want a label deal so is independent so has little choice to enter the self promotion world, but I know him and he's a great guy who has integrity and he doesn't really do anything which alarms my heart. He is gifted and people should have a chance to hear what he does, he also needs to make a living so he's in a different boat from a lot of folks.

What alarms my heart is when people seem so ambitious that their own personalities seem to be more important than their worship to God. They preach themselves more than heartfelt worship to the Lord. I can't quantify this it's more of a feeling I get more with some people than with others.

I'm entering these murky waters myself. As you know I'm starting to work with vineyard records these days and what I like about them is firstly the non profit element, they take risks with unknown artists and they let me use local musicians, which costs more in the studio becuase we're not pro session players but our songs retain more integrity. Vineyard also only sign songs/albums/church projects, not artists, so I'll never have to promote an 'Andy Young' album or be forced to have my ugly mug airbrushed up on the front of an album cover. All I have to do is write good songs and record them, I don't have to do so many live events a year or public gatherings as some people do and this suits me fine. I love God, my church and I love worshipping him, and if with what talent I have I write a few songs that get published, and others sing them then great. I'll earn very little money from that unless the songs go into the top 100 of the CCLI which is my final point.

I think the reason why so many people write bland worship songs, is becuase they know that in appealing to the lowest common denominator and by writing easy listenining non threatening worship music, this will have a better chance of being sung around the globe! Thereby giving the artist huge amounts of cash for being in the top end of the CCLI charts. A song in the top 10 of the CCLI will earn you a 6 figure sum of money. This is grossly unfair and rewards the top few percent giving very little to the overall spread of songs and therefore not supporting songwriters and diminishing the quality of worship music in general.

Having not really answered your question but blabbed on, I now will:

Promotion of worship music, as Neil says should be treated carefully and it can be very wrong in some cases, especially where ambitious egocentric personalities are concerned. Some self promotion can be good (Andy Rogers) but always be cautious.

Lastly if God has given you a talent to write songs, don't be shy, people need to hear them and be blessed by them in their worship of God. Just don't promote the persoanlity of the artist above the worship.

I shall now be quiet, hoorah.

Andy Y

Neil Bennetts said...


here are some suggestions.

Firstly, since probably all CCLI money is raised from churches and their congregations and so is effectively a 'tax' on their income, why not vastly reduce the overall sums involved so churches can spend more on mission and less on license money.

Secondly, why not skew the formula (which, funny enough, doesn't seem to be published anywhere) more in favour of less used songs, so that the newer/younger/up-and-coming writers get proportionately more than they do at the moment. This would not only encourage the younger writers, but mean that record companies would need to be less focussed on regurgitating the same old songs from the same old writers again and again in yet another 'concept', and more focussed on finding new songs and new talent.

The combination of both of these things would far reduce the high bucks rolling around in the industry. It would become less and less financially beneficial to tour and market songs to a still wider audience because the 'added value' of a top 25 placing in outer-mongolia would not make much of a difference to your income - it would just mean more people get to sing your songs...which is the point, surely? Possibly the other result would be that less people feel called to ministry in the US and so stop the drain this puts on worship in other countries.

Of course, what this won't stop some of the blatant self-promotion of some worship leaders as they seek to get validation for their ministry, but it will at least remove some of the perceived conflicts of interest.

Just some Late -Tuesday thoughts.

Chris said...

I personally don't have any problems with Christian songwriters publicising their work - if they didn't, how would I, sat at home, get to read/hear about it. You're not making pop music to be danced to in a club, you're making music to help people worship, whether in groups or individually, at home, in the car, in cluster, etc etc.

I also don't have a problem with them making £££'s out of sales or CCLI - whether LOTS of it or just a little. Who am I to judge them for the money they earn? We have NO IDEA how they spend it. Simple.

Maybe whilst on topic, you won't mind me asking why we sing so many songs written by Neil, Dave and Jules at church? It's fantastic to be part of a church that has been blessed with three very talented worship leaders, but Neil/Dave, you're the ones choosing the songs we sing and I presume you get a little bit of money every time we sing one of yours? Maybe this could be something to discuss...

David Gate said...

Hi Chris...

Thanks for your thoughts

I know Neil spoke a lot in his post about the money - but money wasn't what I was getting it at - it was more the difficulties that come when worship leaders self promote - and how helpful that is...

In regards to why we do our own songs it is a number of things - often we find our own songs can connect better with people - they are often born out of our shared experiences and can even be prophetic in nature for our church... but the proportion of our own songs to others would be well under half and I'd be surprised if it was even a quarter.

In regards to how much money we make from singing our songs at church - we get no more money if we do a song once a year or 1000 times under the CCLI system. And we get, literally, a few pounds at most each year from CCLI for each song of our own we do it at Trinity. Again the bigger temptation is self promotion rather than money - do I do my own songs to show off or whatever?

That is more of discussion i wanting to have....

James said...

Hi everyone

Sorry, don't know much about pr and stuff but just wanted to pick up on the Trinity comment - I'd be VERY surprised if Trinity sings only a quarter of songs written by Trinity writers. A very regular comment about Trinity worship is that they do a lot of their own songs and when you invite folk along they know few of the ones we sing. Not saying it's bad, but it's definitely Trinity heavy.
Although to be fair we have had more of a selection lately over the last few weeks - but it tends to be mainly when a new/different worship leader is leading.
And i don't know what you do at the other services of course because I attend the same one each week.

David Gate said...

Hi James...

Obviously different worship leaders do things differently but I'm very conscious of how many of our songs we do in relation to others... and always have been - when I was at Soul Survivor it was the same, though that was harder because all the other churches were singing those songs as well!

Let's take the last week for example... last Thursday at HFG we did one of our songs ('Bones') and 5 or 6 others... on Sunday Jules did one of ours 'Wisdom & Thanks' and in the evening Neil did a new one of his 'Grace' - so that was 3 out of about 20 songs... and this Sunday I am doing the morning and will probably only do one of ours....

The number of Trinity songs we do is probably less than you imagine.... and anyways I'm delighted we do our own songs and that we don't just do the 30 most popular songs that every other church sings... I think God likes diversity (and our songs too I hope!)

Thanks for the comments... please comment again!


Chris said...

Hey Dave,

Thanks for your replies - I was wondering whether you'd even spot my message as I saw the thread started a few months back!

You talk a lot of sense and I'm thankful that you seem to have your feet on the ground and a willingness to talk openly and honestly.

Thanks also for clearing up the questions about CCLI. It's good to know how that works so I can now correct others, when correction is needed, or educate them accordingly.

My wife and I are from baptist church backgrounds so we do have a real love of the old and the classics (where every line of the song is different!) and do miss them, especially at Christmas-time...but then I've heard that Neil doesn't like Christmas carols :)

Big thanks for what you do and for doing it so well.

I've not taken much of an interest in your blog before but will keep more of an eye over it - especially as comments get such swift responses.

Munch said...

Hi all

I see this is an old post, but it's an interesting one. I guess with more and more people being 'employed as worship leaders' and not 'people with other jobs just writing the occasional hymn' this question had to arise at somepoint. I'm kind of under the impression that if a hymn is going to be used by God across the country then it promotes itself, it has a way of becoming known and staying known. Out of the hundreds of hymns composed there will always be the classics from the Amazing Grace's through to the My Jesus, My Saviour's and the Blessed Be Your Name's. I think these promote themselves because they're not only unique in the expression of the sentiment that they bring but thye're often written out of such pain or awe that God uses that writer, in that situation, to bless the rest of us with a song that just touches the heart. If you write a song/hymn that is going to be big, I think it'll just get that way on it's own (well, fueled by the man upstairs I mean!). And you can spot them - as part of a congregation you can feel when a song is really touching people and when a song is just going through the motions but with nothing really new or unique about it. Of course you can worship to either, but there's a feeling that goes through you when you sing a song with words that just tap into an emotion so deeply that you can't help but mean every word and be moved by it.
By all means self promote, it's not harming anyone if you're heart's in the right place, but really great songs will always promote themselves anyway.
Thanks - that was fun!!