How To Protect Your Church’s Music Department Against Copyright Infringement (part 1 of 6)

“Today I’m happy to introduce a new guest blogger. Her name is Susan Fontaine , Founder and President Christian Copyright Solutions  Susan is an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 28 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management.

Today’s post is the first of a 6-part series Susan will be doing for us on copyright laws your church music ministry needs to know about.  Don’t forget to download the free report at the bottom of the post for a chance to win one of 3 I-pad Minis.

Take it away Susan!

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The July 4th holiday is always a good time to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. The First Amendment, which includes freedom of religion, is particularly precious in its guarantee that we can practice our faith without fear of persecution. But just as the Second Amendment doesn’t cover everything a church might want to do (e.g. trespass into a farmer’s vineyard and trample his crop for freshly-squeezed Communion juice) the Religious Services Exemption to U.S. copyright law doesn’t cover every instance of musical performance a church might have.

The religious service exemption applies only to actual religious services. All other performances—the youth events, social gatherings, retreat sing-a-long, even the music played over the loudspeakers at fall festival—require a performance license. Unless the performance is in the context of services, churches have the same copyright responsibilities as a restaurant, business, or stadium, whether you’re singing live or just playing a recording for a group of people.

It might seem funny to call the background music played during your event or the on-hold music for the office phone a “performance,” but just because you’re not standing on a stage and charging admission doesn’t mean it’s not a performance. The legal definition, in this case, is: an instance of music being performed “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”

Most uses of music in a church context fit those criteria, being open to the public and/or a substantial gathering beyond a nuclear family and its guests. (Churches may talk about themselves as a family, but the U.S. government doesn’t see it that way!) So when you seek to be a 7-days-a-week church, growing disciples through teaching and fellowship, and reaching out through community events, remember that freedom often comes with boundaries, and that is the case with church music performance.

Want to know more about copyright myths that put your church at risk? Watch this helpful video from Christian Copyright Solutions and download their free downloadable resource to worship ministers – 6 Myths About Copyrights That Put Your Church at Risk.

CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners.

How To Deal With Music Ministry Burn-out And Discouragement

WorriedIf you’re a regular reader of my blog you know they go out every Monday and Thursday. And, as life would have it, I usually end up getting around to writing it the night before. Thursday’s blog is particularly challenging for me because I’m usually coming home late after a rehearsal. Such was the case last night, when I found myself driving home at almost 11:00 wondering what in the world I would write about for today’s blog. As I continued to turn thoughts over in my mind, I thought about the task of writing the blog itself.

I thought about how, if I didn’t have this meeting to choose songs for the up-coming annual Family & Friends musical I wouldn’t be getting home so late. Then I started thinking about all the work that lay ahead of not only me, but the entire music department as we begin preparations for this annual event. Six songs to learn in about 2 weeks, and we don’t even have them all yet. And that’s just what we have to do to be prepared for the rehearsals themselves. So of course, one thought leads to another when you start allowing yourself to mentally go down that road, and before I knew it my mind was all over the place. The sheer volume of it all swirling in my head just made me tired. It was around then, as I was pulling up to my place after the 30 minute commute from my church, that God reminded me of a scripture: “Don’t grow weary in well doing”, I heard in my head. I knew there was more to the scripture, but that part is what stuck with me. I knew then what God wanted me to write about.

Because you see, even though I’m this big time “music ministry coach” now, with readers and followers from all over the country and even in other countries- and even though I coach and encourage and teach and train people from all walks of life and all nationalities- the fact is, I get weary sometimes. I get tired. I get discouraged. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I love music ministry with all my heart and soul. I know with everything that is in me, that it’s what I was placed here to do. But it’s a job, isn’t it? And we do get tired. And we do feel burned out.

This scripture- Galations 6:9 – comes to mind often, though I don’t think I realized until just now how often it does. And when I think about scriptures like this; scriptures that tell us not do do something : don’t get weary, don’t fret, don’t worry, don’t be afraid- I often reflect on how often I hear people referring to them as a “command”. In other words what they’re trying to say is that because the bible tells us so clearly not to do these things, if we do we’re committing a sin.

But to me, these are not “commands” as much as they are loving advice from a loving Father. I have two sons that I spend time with and talk to all the time. I love them and I want to teach them how to live life as easily as possible. How to be happy and avoid struggle, anger, bitterness and depression. Often in these conversations I tell them to avoid certain things or not to do certain things. If they don’t follow my advice, they won’t be punished by me. They’ll simply experience things that they didn’t have to experience.

Just in the process of gathering my own thoughts before writing this blog I knew that God wanted me to just speak a word of encouragement to you today, even as I encourage myself.

I believe scriptures like Galatians 6:9 come to us from a father who loves His child and simply wants to encourage us. It’s not a “command” that you’ll go to hell if you don’t do. It’s loving advice from a Father who loves you and doesn’t want to see you hurt. I can almost hear Him saying to me in a loving voice “I know this gets hard sometimes, Ron. I know you get tired. I know it gets frustrating. But don’t get weary in your well doing. If you hang in there, He’s saying, it’s going to get better. In due season you’ll reap a harvest of blessings if you don’t give up.

That’s what I’m saying to you today. I don’t know the state of your ministry or how you feel today about it. But I’ve been working in music ministry long enough to know that nobody escapes feeling this way eventually. God placed it on my heart to encourage you today. You hang in there, ok? God knows and He cares. It’s going to get better, even if He has to move you. But if you ever do move, make sure HE’s the one moving you. Not frustration or discouragement or burn-out or anything else. Because the hard truth is, none of those things are any indication you’re not exactly where you’re supposed to be.

 

Why you should NEVER sing entire songs with your eyes closed (part 2)

Welcome Back!

So in part one I discussed the fact that singing with your eyes closed disconnects you from your audience and basically makes them an outsider looking in on your “private” conversation with God.

But let’s face it. Keeping your eyes open comes with it’s own challenges. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but one of the biggest “disadvantages” of singing with your eyes open is that you can SEE everybody. LOL! Yes, this is not always the greatest thing. Because the honest truth is, no matter how good or anointed a person is, there will be people in the audience that are just not with you. For whatever reason. They might not like the song. They may be distracted. Heck, sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned hatin’. It can be somewhat discouraging when you see that from up on stage.
The other challenge is where to look. I already said in part 1 that simply staring at one spot in the room or up at the ceiling isn’t any better than having your eyes closed. You’re just as disconnected from the audience that way as with your eyes closed.

So what do you do??

I teach my students a very simple performance tip called the “Four Square” method. It’s a very easy to implement method of connecting with your audience in a genuine, effective way. It will also keep you from staring at one fixed spot in the room. It works like this:

As you stand in front of a room, mentally divide it into four large squares. As you sing, simply move your eyes from square to square, each time focusing just briefly on one person sitting in that area. Simply continue to do that throughout the song. Go to square one; look at the person in the front row. Move your eyes to square 2. Make eye contact with the person in the middle. And so on, you get the idea.

This keeps your eyes moving and keeps you connected with the audience in a much deeper way. More importantly though, it allows God to speak directly to people with the message in the song, through YOU.

So what about those people who aren’t looking very nice? Not enjoying you for whatever reason? There will always be some. That’s just reality. But the great thing is, unless you really need to come see me (smile) there will usually be a lot more people who ARE enjoying you and being blessed. As you continue to rotate through the four squares, simply keep coming back to those people who are being blessed. Clearly that’s who you’re there to sing to anyway.

 

Why you should NEVER sing entire songs with your eyes closed (part 1)

It’s a very common thing to see Gospel singers do their entire selection with their eyes closed. And honestly, most have very good reason for doing so.  After all, Gospel music is ministry. As such, many well-meaning singers simply want to completely lose themselves in the song and it’s meaning. Their thinking is if they close their eyes and focus completely on God and the message, God will use them to bless the audience. Some others though, close their eyes simply out of fear, nerves or stage fright.

Either way though, singing with your eyes closed the entire time is something every singer should avoid. Ironically the very reason many singers close their eyes is the most important reason they should STOP doing it. Have you ever been in a social setting with two or more people who are having this intense conversation and not involving or addressing you at all? It’s as if you’re not there!
Singing with your eyes closed has a similar effect on your audience. Even though every sincere Gospel singer wants to have a powerful, effective ministry that really speaks to people, closing your eyes cuts your audience out of that conversation and makes it a private conversation between just you and God. The audience, even though many may be enjoying the performance, is robbed of a much deeper connection with you because you’ve made them an outsider “looking in”.

But when you sing with your eyes open- and sorry guys, starring at the ceiling or the clock on the back wall doesn’t count either- I’m talking about making eye contact with members of the audience- people feel a much deeper spiritual connection with not only you but the message you’re portraying in the song. Imagine for a moment that you’re in the audience watching a performer sing. He’s great, and clearly fully invested emotionally and spiritually in the song he’s rendering. His eyes are closed the whole time. You hear him sing “sometimes you have to encourage yourself”, and you nod in agreement as you sway back in forth.

NOW: Imagine the same artist is doing the same song. He sounds great and the spirit is high. He’s engaging and looking at members of the audience as he sings. Just as he comes to the line “no matter how you feel, speak a Word and you will be healed”, his eyes make contact with yours and he points at you. This time tears begin to flow because you KNOW God is delivering a Word directly to you through this artist.

That’s the difference. When you engage with the audience while you’re singing, your message is much more powerful because you allow God to speak directly to them through you. And that’s the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

Now let me just clarify something really quickly. When I say you shouldn’t sing with your eyes closed, I mean just what I said above; that is, not for the entire song. There are moments in a song where it’s perfectly normal to close your eyes for a moment during a high energy or emotionally charged point in the message. Worship songs are also a bit of an exception to this rule of thumb. Typically when you’re singing a worship song it’s being done in an atmosphere or time of corporate worship. As such, most of the audience will also have their eyes closed…..in a perfect world. But we all know that’s not often the case even during worship songs.

Worship songs are different in that they’re really designed to set an atmosphere for worship and communion with God. It’s a lot like the background music at a really nice restaurant. Even so, while it’s maybe more acceptable to close your eyes longer or more often in a worship song, it’s still just as important to be sure to make eye contact with members of the audience from time to time.

Ok so we’ve established that it’s not a good idea to sing entire songs (or even most of a song) with your eyes closed. But singing with your eyes open comes with its own challenges. In part 2  I’m going to share a really neat performance tip you can use to make it easier to and highly effective.

See you then!

Image courtesy of “imagerymajestic”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The 4 Stages Of Breathing Explained, Pt. 2

Welcome back! In my last blog I gave you a detailed explaination of Inhalation and Suspension, the first 2 stages of proper breathing. Now I would like to break down the last two, Phonation and the Resting Period.

We discussed how important inhalation is to a singer. On the opposite hand we have exhalation, which is the usage of the air you inhaled. In normal breathing this process is called exhalation but in the singing world it should be referred to as Phonation. Phonation is simply the process by which the vocal folds vibrate and produce sound. To the average gospel singer we naturally have the gift to sing so we really do not focus on what is actually going on in our body when we sing. I believe that it is important for a singer to know how the body affects the sound we produce.
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The 4 Stages Of Proper Breathing Explained

In my previous blog I started talking about the breathing process that a singer should go through. In that article I mentioned that there are four stages of proper breathing: Inhalation, Suspension, Phonation(exhalation) and the resting period. I thought it would be helpful to go into more detail about each one. Today I’ll cover the first two, Inhalation and Suspension.

First let’s talk about Inhalation.
During the inhalation stage of breathing it is critical for the singer to have a relaxed body so that the air can fill in where necessary. Referring back to a balloon analogy I used in the first blog , when air is blown into it the balloon expands all the way around. When inhaling air, as a singer the mid section of your body should expand just as that balloon does, freely allowing the air to fill the lungs from bottom to top. The average singer is prone to taking a shallow inhalation right before they sing. But I cannot tell you how imperative that intentional deep breath is every time you open your mouth to sing. The body should be erect in a natural stance. The shoulders are not in any way involved in the inhalation process. The only movement there should be is in the mid section of the body, from the air filling in.
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