20 Questions To Ask If The Audience Won’t Get With Your Praise Team

I’ve seen and even written about the subject of unresponsive audiences in regard to praise & worship or even just selections from the choir. If you’ve ever done any research on the subject, chances are your search led you to articles that list some of the common reasons audiences are unresponsive to the praise and worship music going forth. I think they are important things to consider when you’re trying to figure out why your audience is unresponsive, so I’m going to list some of the most common questions you should ask if you find this situation.

But then I want to get into another aspect of unresponsive audiences that I don’t see covered very often at all. More about that a little later in the article. First though, let’s look at 20 possible reasons why your congregation may not be responding

 Song Selection

It’s important you know your audience well and what they respond to. This can sometimes be harder than it looks, because honestly most of us choose songs based not on whether or not we think our audience will be blessed by them, but by how much we like them ourselves. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the musical arrangement or the beat that we don’t pay as much attention to the message as we should. Sometimes it’s the style that’s losing your audience.

1.  Is it too contemporary?
2. Too dated or”old school?”
3. Too much of one or the other?
4. Are you doing too much new material (it’s hard for your audience to participate if you’re never doing anything they know)?
5. Are songs easy to catch on and sing?
6. Are the songs really praise and worship songs?

Musicianship

7. Is the music being played with a level of competence?
8. Can the audience recognize the song?
9. Is the volume too loud or too soft? (ok it’s never too soft, lol!)

Vocals

10. Is the harmony right?
11. Are the group members well-versed and learned on the material (do they know the song?)
12.Are you putting competent leaders up to lead songs?
13. Are your leaders and/or group members screaming?

Sound

14. Are the microphones too loud?
15. Are they feeding back?
16. Are the house speakers too loud?

Leadership

17. Is the leader actively exalting and leading the audience?
18. Is the leader reprimanding or scolding the audience for not participating? (don’t ever do this!)
19. Is the leader moving quickly between songs with little to no dead time?
20. Is the leader being led by the spirit and allowing for unscripted, organic worship and praise? (real praise and worship can’t always be scripted)

All of these issues and more are very common issues that audiences find very off-putting and distracting. It is very difficult for the audience to overcome those things and concentrate on praising and worshiping when these things are not being addressed regularly. And while it may seem almost unfair to some people that really haven’t fully grasped the importance of perfecting music ministry, the truth is it can be any one thing. Everything can be perfect, for example, and the microphones are way too loud or feeding back. Or everything is sounding great but the music was way too loud. Or the group sounded great but the leader didn’t really have the skill that the song required.

But let’s flip this coin for a minute and talk about something almost nobody touches on. Because you see, if we’re all being honest here, there are times when absolutely everything is the best it can be. The band is on point. the song selection is perfect. The group/choir sounds great. The leader is bringing it. And the audience is STILL unresponsive.

There are just days when despite your best efforts, the audience simply won’t be with you. Who knows what it is from one day to the next, but it does happen. It is on those days that worship leaders and song leaders make the worst mistake they can make. I touched on it in question number 18 but it’s important enough to elaborate on more here.

I’m speaking of the tendency many leaders have start reprimanding the audience to get them to participate. Understand what I’m referring to here. I’m not talking about the act of encouraging the audience to open up and feel free to worship. Encouraging them to lift their hands, stand, or sing along.

I’m talking about those who actually, in a sense, scold the audience for not being more engaged or participating more. Listen, nobody understands how frustrating an unresponsive audience is than I do. But scolding them will only cause them to resent you. which will only make them close off even more. Only now it may very well extend past the musical selections to the Pastor and the word of God itself.

That is why when you worship and praise God in song, your worship must be for real. It has to be about God, and NOT about the audience. I wrote in an article a while ago that it’s not a good idea to sing your entire selection with your eyes closed. That’s absolutely true. But much more importantly than that, you must never allow your worship or praise experience to depend on or be affected by the reactions of the audience.

When we sing, we should always sing to the glory and honor of God. As one speaker once told us at a choir banquet, we are to minister to Him, and He in turn ministers through us to His people. If you’re always looking for the audience’s reaction when you sing, you could find yourself very discouraged when you don’t get what you expected

It’s really not our job in music ministry to “make” the audience do anything. Any number of things could be the cause of unresponsiveness. I’ve seen times when, heck the people are just tired! The church has been in revival all week, or we’ve had back-to-back services, or a Saturday night service of some kind so everyone is kind of tired Sunday morning.

So yes, it is extremely important that we do everything we can to perfect, enhance, hone and polish every aspect of our music ministries. But at the end of the day every single minute we spend on any of that has to be for one reason and one reason only. That God be glorified. And when we stand before His people knowing that we’ve done everything we can to prepare ourselves to minister in excellence, even when they’re not responding we can then just worship Him from a pure, honest, deeply sincere place that has nothing to do with how many people stood up while we were singing. Or how many didn’t. For more praise team training check out my new e-book Praise Team 101

 

3 simple ways to instantly connect deeper with your audience when you sing

While this should be true of any singer singing any style of music, Gospel/Christian singers really should be striving to connect with their audience on a much deeper, more personal level. I wrote an article  a while back about the word “perform” and how it’s often seen as a bad word in Gospel music. A big part of that has to do with the audience’s perceived lack of any real feeling or true ministry taking place when the singer is going forth. As I’ve touched on before, there are some very common things many singers do that causes this feeling of disconnect between the audience and the singer.

If you”ve chosen a great song with a powerful, relevant message, then most of your audience should feel at some point that you are delivering a word straight from God directly and specifically for them. Today we’ll discuss 3 things you can do to instantly start connecting deeper with your audience.

1. Open Your Eyes!

I actually wrote a 2-part blog on this subject a while back called “Why You Should Never Sing Entire Songs With Your Eyes Closed”. But the short version is this. Every song you sing is like a conversation with the audience. It’s like a mini-sermon or a direct message from God. Imagine then, if you heard that your friend was going through a terrible time and you wanted to encourage them. Would you look at the wall behind them or your feet or simply spend the whole conversation talking to them with your eyes closed? Or would you look right at them and deliver the words that God placed on your heart to give them?

That is why it’s important you look into the eyes of people in the audience when you sing. If your eyes are closed the entire time your audience feels disconnected personally. Even if they’re enjoying the performance they’re not likely to feel that deep personal sense of connection if they’re watching someone who seems to be in their own world, completely oblivious that they’re even in the room. While there will always be moments in the song you’ll close your eyes briefly, every singer should endeavor to make eye contact with members in the congregation while you sing. Keep your eyes moving from one person to the other. Move from one side to the other and front to back, briefly making eye contact with someone in each section as you sing a certain line or make a certain point lyrically. This makes the person you’re looking at feel like God is speaking directly to them through you.

2. Make your facial expressions match what you’re singing!

Facial expressions are seldom given much thought at all when we sing, but they are very important. Going back to the point I made earlier about how singing performances are like conversations with your audience, you can imagine how irritating and/or just plain weird it would be to be having a conversation with someone where their facial expressions are serious and stoic even though the subject matter is funny. Seems obvious when you relate it to having a regular speaking conversation. Yet quite often you see singers-Gospel singers especially- singing songs about joy or happiness but never smiling.

Make sure you really spend time with the lyrics of your song and understand the central message. Get in touch with the emotion that you feel when you read the lyrics in the verses, for example. Then make sure that when you sing them, your facial expressions show those emotions. This has a powerful effect on the audience when you combine it with eye to eye contact. Remember in order to connect deeper with the audience you have to draw them into a personal conversation with you. You can’t have a conversation about anything you have any feeling at all about without showing facial expressions that match what you’re feeling. The same should be true when you’re singing.

3. Use body language!

It’s quite common when you’re engaged in a conversation with someone to be animated. We all use head gestures, hands, body language and the like to help us visually express what we’re saying. Every singer should do the same thing during a performance. If you’re talking about going higher, or singing about Heaven, why not point towards the sky? If you’re singing about uncertainty or not knowing, shrug your shoulders. If you’re saying to the audience “He will”, then declare it by looking directly into someone’s eyes, pointing at them and emphatically nodding your head up and down. If you’re saying “I know for myself” then pat your chest and let your audience see that.

These are all very simple things we all do in every day conversation. Things that make face to face conversation such a powerful way of expressing a point. There are things you want to say to someone that you don’t want to say over the phone. Why? Because of the visual power of face-to-face conversation. It stands to reason then that taking these elements into your singing performances will draw your audience into your message and speak directly to them. And that’s when a song moves from a “performance” to ministry.

Image courtesy of Stuart MilesFreeDigitalPhotos.net

True or false: A music ministry should never “perform”

I haven’t heard anyone debating this lately, but among many church circles it is often said that Christian musical entities should never “perform”. I’ll say right off the bat here that I do understand the heart of the people that say it. But I think all the fear, disdain and general rejection of the notion of performing (as opposed to ministering) is based largely on a mis-understanding or misinterpretation of the meaning of the word itself. So in this blog I want to do two things.

First, I want to give you a very clear, definitive answer of not only the word “perform” but the word “performance”. Once we have that we’ll take a closer look at the whole “performance” thing, how it relates to music ministry and why I think the whole thing is really much ado about nothing. First, let’s get the definitions out of the way.

per·form

 [per-fawrm]

verb (used with object)

1. to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.
2. to go through or execute in the proper, customary, or established manner: to perform the ceremony.
3. to carry into effect; fulfill: Perform what you promise.
4. to act (a play, part, etc.), as on the stage, in movies, or on television.
5. to render (music), as by playing or singing.
6. to accomplish (any action involving skill or ability), as before an audience: to perform a juggling act.
7. to complete.

per·for·mance

 [per-fawr-muh ns]

noun

1. a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.
2. the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.
3. the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.
4. a particular action, deed, or proceeding.
5. an action or proceeding of an unusual or spectacular kind: His temper tantrum was quite a performance.

 

If you take a closer look at the definitions for the word “performance” you start to get clues of where all the hoopla about the word came from. In the first definition you see another word mentioned that we don’t like; “entertainment”. You see, somewhere way back in history someone decided Christians should never be entertained or find anything entertaining. So for many people who dislike the word perform being associated with music ministry, there is this notion that if you say you’re going to perform, you are suggesting that your offering will somehow be fake, or less sincere…for “entertainment” and not ministry.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I really do believe people who say this have their heart in the right place. However, when you take a look at the definition for the word “perform” you really start to understand that there’s nothing sinister about the word nor the notion of “performing”.  Stripped of all the extra implications and other stuff, to “perform” is, quite simply, the act of getting up and doing something in front of a bunch of people. It’s that simple. There is nothing sinful or fake about it. Even if it happens to actually make someone smile or laugh.

Here’s the one truth I want you to take away from this. Absolutely everything we do in the delivery of the word of God through music is part of what makes it a “ministry”. That is why everything we do needs to be done at the highest level we can aspire to. If ministry really is the goal, we must understand that the presentation, or”performance” of it is a critical part of effective ministry.  Often a message is only going to be as powerful as it’s messenger’s delivery of it. You’ve seen enough outstanding preachers AND bad preachers to verify that is true.

It is for that reason that we leave our homes and families, drive across town to church in the middle of the week and practice these songs. Learn musical arrangements. Memorize lyrics and harmonies. If we are never to perform, then why would we even need to do all this? Why not just show up Sunday morning and make it all up? Why should we spend all this time learning and perfecting these songs if it’s really true that we should never “perform”?  Because if we did it would most likely be a chaotic, disorganized mess, that’s why. So, just as the dynamic preacher studies and prepares himself for his message Sunday morning we prepare and rehearse and perfect our songs so the “performance” of them will minister to God’s people in a powerful way.

Heck, call it something else if it makes you feel better. Some people say “render” selections, for example. At the end of the day though, it’s really no more than getting up in front of an audience and “delivering/rendering/espousing/ pontificating (lol, whatever) the word of God in song.  You can even say “minister in song” if it sounds better. But even if you say that you’re talking about the performing of those songs in front of an audience. The two really can’t be separated.

So the whole ” a choir should never perform” thing  didn’t make sense to me the very first time I heard it. But I didn’t bother to debate it or argue  about it. And I don’t suggest you do either. Just know in your heart of hearts that it’s not about what you call it, it’s about why you’re doing it.

Image courtesy of “Stuart Miles”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

 

Basic microphone technique for Gospel singers

Mic CheckToday’s blog is a video! I don’t do these often, but I knew the best way to talk about today’s blog topic would be to do it via video. Good microphone technique is something that’s seldom discussed but much needed. So I thought I’d do a training video on the subject. This runs a little over 10 minutes, so sit back with your favorite beverage or snack and push play!

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The “5 second rule” of music ministry; Use this to quickly move past any negative emotion

As Time Goes ByIf you’ve spent any time at all serving in music ministry, you know that you’re not always excited about everything you have to do. You don’t love every song you have to sing. You’re not thrilled about every engagement. Sometimes you’re not even all that happy about certain people and what they do, say, sing, etc. Let me give you a personal example.

When I first came to the front in my music ministry, it was as a choir director. I didn’t ask for the position, I was sort of “drafted”. But even at that young age of around 15 or so, God had already placed such a love of music in my heart I was happy to serve in any capacity. Over the years though, I started doing many other tasks with the choir, and other gifted directors came up behind me.

To make a long story short, I seldom direct anymore, because I have other roles and responsibilities. My main roles now in my music department are that of voice instructor and keyboard player. Still though, there are times when I’m called upon to direct. To be honest, when I am it always irritates me a little. It’s easier for me to deal with if my director simply can’t be there and needs me to have his back. But it’s really irritating to me if he IS in fact there and just not prepared or doesn’t know the song we’re about to sing for some reason.

In both situations, the source of the irritation for me is the same. It’s not that I don’t enjoy directing the choir anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to help out. I love my music ministry and I believe the sole reason I have any musical gift that I have is so it can be used to help the ministry. What I don’t like about it though, is that any time I have to direct it pulls me away from the keyboard. That’s frustrating for me because I’ve prepared myself to play the piece. The band has prepared for the piece as a unit. What I have NOT done is prepare myself to direct the song. So I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, the band is at a bit of a disadvantage because we all depend on each other, and it’s just a mild irritation all around.

This is one small issue that kind of bothers me, but it could be any number of things for any member of any music department- or any ministry for that matter. In music ministry, often it’s something as simple as not caring for the song we’ve chosen to sing that morning. Whatever it is that you find personally irritating at any given time though, has to be very quickly dealt with. You must have a way to quickly-often within seconds- deal with your personal issue with the song that’s been chosen, or the fact that you’re being asked to lead it again for the 100th time, or the fact that you PREPARED to lead but the song selection had to be changed and now you’re not singing after all that practice….I could go on and on here, but you get the idea.

We need something for those negative emotions that pop-up seconds before we’re about to stand before God’s people. I don’t think many of us really understand how even things as small as facial expressions have a profound impact on the effectiveness of our ministry. If you allow negative emotions, feelings, dissension, irritation or disappointment to remain in your spirit while you’re up ministering to God’s people, then the truth is you’re not ministering at all. You are, at that moment, completely in self.

Nothing matters about what’s going on at that moment except you, your emotions and how you feel about whatever is happening at that moment. That’s something that can’t be hidden from the audience or from God. As someone who is always out front; whether it’s in front of the entire congregation or simply in front of my own choir at rehearsal, I knew I needed a way to deal with something like this quickly. So I developed my own music ministry “5 second rule”.

You may or may not be familiar with the 5 second rule regarding food. But there’s a running joke here in the United States that says if you drop a piece of food on the floor and it’s there for less than 5 seconds, it’s ok for you to pick it up and eat it (lol). Well, as I kept being asked to direct the choir-usually with virtually no notice, I had to find a way to deal with the irritation I felt, and do it in the few seconds it took me to rise from the keyboard and walk over to the director’s spot. That little mental routine became what I now call my 5 second rule.

I had the opportunity to work with a choir a few years ago for about 2 months. The choir was simply paralyzed and unable to move forward with their ministry because it’s ranks were full of people who were simply refusing to do things that they could in fact do that would help the ministry move forward. There were people who could direct that wouldn’t. There was one who could play that wouldn’t. People were singing in the wrong sections for their vocal range because they didn’t like the section they belonged in.

God impressed upon me to share with them the way I deal with directing when I don’t want to, so I began to explain my 5 second rule to them this way;.

“There will always be things you don’t want to do. Songs you don’t want to sing, whatever. We’re only human. But you have to remember that the music ministry is NOT about you. And when it’s time to sing, you must set aside everything you’re feeling that IS about you, and focus on ministering to God’s people. You can’t allow any kind of negativity in your spirit when you’re up in front of God’s people.

Now, I wouldn’t dare stand here and tell you not to feel it. We’re all human and I’m not sure we could avoid it if we wanted to. But here’s what I do when I’m asked to direct and I don’t want to. I give myself 5 seconds to feel whatever I feel. Acknowledge it, pout about it, say it ain’t fair, whatever. From the time I’m told until the time I raise my hands in front of the choir is all the time I’m allowed to let it be about me. Once I get to that director’s spot, that’s over. I take a deep breath, blow it out and say to myself, “ok this is not about me anymore.”And it isn’t. It’s not about us, what we feel or even our right to feel it. Not at that moment.

It’s about God and it’s about ministry. So from that second I raise my hands I’m committed to giving God everything I have in that song. In fact many members of my choir would be shocked to find that I ever feel anything but complete joy about directing. Because that’s all they see when I’m in front of them. The same is true when I’m teaching a song at rehearsal, whether it’s my favorite song or one I really don’t care for at all. They’ll never know how I feel about it based on my outward emotions, facial expressions or lack of enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter how I feel about the song, or directing, or anything else at that point. Because none of it is about how I feel. So from now on, that’s what I want you to do. Whatever it is you don’t like, you have 5 seconds to feel it. Once it’s time to minister though, it’s not about you anymore. Remind yourself of that every time you feel a negative emotion right before you’re about to minister in song. Just say “5 seconds”. Then get over it and give God your best.”

 

 

Why it’s better to sing in unison than with bad harmony

Schola Cantorum de Caracas (Venezuela) led by Maria GuinandDown through the more than 30 years I’ve been teaching vocal harmony for various choirs and groups I’ve developed a reputation as a “perfectionist”. Unfortunately I don’t think everyone who says this about me means it in the most positive way. In fact I’ve been accused of nothing short of dictatorship, although not in so many words. I suspect the same is true for many choir directors, music ministers and musicians around the world who are charged with teaching the songs their various choirs and praise teams bring before the congregation week after week.

As we discussed in another blog, some of the hardest, most frustrating rehearsals in fact have been those where the harmony didn’t come together quite so easily, but I continued to push until we got it right. In fact sometimes we didn’t get it right, and we decided to simply come back to it in another rehearsal rather than perform it before we had it perfected. And it’s times like these when people really wonder why it’s such a big deal to have everything so “perfect”. It’s most frustrating too, when it’s a really small thing that we just can’t get our heads around, you know what I mean? Like one note in one section that is being sung a half-step off, making this really unpleasant clashing of  harmony between the musicians and the singers. Often it’s hard for the choir members and praise team members to understand why it’s such a must that things like that be fixed.
Well, I can really sum it up for you with one sentence. it’s something God dropped in my spirit when I was very young, and it’s been one of the driving forces behind my style of teaching and ministry. He said this:

“The harmony is right when it’ becomes transparent.”

Looking back I think I knew everything that sentence meant the minute it came to me. And I knew that if I could help my choir understand this it would change the way they felt about the work involved with perfecting the harmony. Instead of resenting it they would come to embrace, understand it’s necessity and even prefer it. So God started to not only reveal this to me, but to admonish me to teach it to others so they really had a whole new understanding of why it’s so important to do this work.

So to explain it in a nutshell, God showed me that when harmony is right, nobody is paying attention to it. They’re only paying attention to the message. Beautiful harmony just makes the message that much more powerful. But when it’s right, the harmony is NOT the main attraction. The message is. Ironic, isn’t it? That we put so much work into the sound for the express reason of getting it to the point where nobody pays attention to it? But that’s the real reason we do it. The reason we MUST do it.

Because you see, when it’s wrong, everybody’s paying attention to it. But nobody for the right reason. When someone or some section is off-key, even if everything is going great up until that point, it will immediately draw everybody- and I mean every member of the group AND every member of the audience- OUT of worship and praise and focused solely on trying to figure out what’s wrong; “something doesn’t sound right”. Choir or praise team members start looking around at each other, the musicians, the director- ANYBODY that can help them find where they’re supposed to be. So again; NOBODY’s thinking about the message. There is no praise or worship going on at this point. Just uncertainty, confusion, embarrassment. Now everybody’s out of the Spirit and in self. So the negative effects are even worse on the choir or praise team than they are on the audience.

Case in point.

Our choir was doing a particular song one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful, powerful worship song. As we began to move through it the Holy Spirit started to move through the members and the audience as well. People were starting to lift their hands and just worship God through the song. But then we came to a place in the song where there has always been some uncertainty. It was a rather complicated movement, and not everyone really understood what was happening there.

The minute we reached that part in the song, it was as the Holy Spirit hit a brick wall. We immediately came out of worship as the members realized they didn’t know what part to do or where to do it. We didn’t understand it. We hadn’t perfected it until we really, really knew it. We went on and struggled through the whole movement to end the song. The embarrassment and utter disappointment was palpable enough to cut with a knife. Not having been the original teacher of the song, I vowed then that we wouldn’t sing it again until I could make every member understand exactly what was happening in this movement, to the point where it was almost instinctive.

And that is the most clear illustration I can give you for why song teachers, choir directors and music ministers all over the country drive and push their music ministries to excellence. I know what it looks like. But it’s really not about us at all. It’s about removing all distractions, hindrances and uncertainty that would take the focus away from our true mission; to deliver the word of God in song, and to do it in such a way that it’s effective and reaching the hearts of His people.

For that reason alone it is almost better to just sing in unison than to sing with bad harmony. But I feel the need to also make sure everyone understands that it isn’t about harmony. You don’t have to have harmony at all to have a powerful, anointed performance. A group of people singing in unison has the same effect as a group of people singing in perfect harmony. The sound becomes transparent vessel that delivers the message without distraction. Hezekiah Walker’s “I Need You To Survive” is a great example of a very powerful choir song that has no harmony.

The real point is to never allow yourself to be ok with putting something before God’s people that doesn’t sound good and you know it doesn’t. Not, at least, when He’s blessed you with the talent and resources to give Him better. There is a reason why the most disciplined, hard-working choirs and praise teams are usually the most anointed. God honors your music ministry when you’re giving Him your best. Once you really understand that you’ll slowly see your attitude go from “why does it have to be so perfect, we ain’t no professionals!!”- to ” can we go over our part one more time?” And that’s when God takes your ministry to another level.

 

20 reasons why Performing artists don’t succeed

20 Reasons Why Performing Artists Don’t Succeed
by Loren Israel

Ever wonder why some talented local musicians never find the audience or get that elusive record deal? Or why some signed artists’ careers stall out just past the starting gate? It’s not just “bad luck.” Here are 20 common reasons why some artists never make it to the next level.

1. Poorly-defined goals. Even if they’re too modest to say so in public, successful artists have a solid answer for the question: “What are your goals in the industry?”

2. Band members with different goals. In order to succeed, you have to be on the same page. It’s tough to stay on track if some band members know what they want and others want different things or don’t know what they want at all.

3. Lack of musical focus. Creativity is good, but in the mainstream music industry, only artists with multiple past successes have leeway to gravitate toward other musical styles. Different musical genres involve different business contacts and working methods. Artists whose styles are too diverse have difficulty achieving consistent contacts and working methods…and it takes consistency to break a new artist. (Newsflash for artists who think playing a lot of different styles makes them unique: it doesn’t. We see artists with this “unique” talent all the time. In fact most artists can play or sing in more than one style but publicly focus on one they do best.)

4. Poor work ethic. The old saying that harder you work, the luckier you get is true.

5. Waiting to be discovered. People who are “discovered” make it happen instead of waiting.

6. Ineffective artist management, or not listening to good management. It sounds simplistic, but it’s where many artists go wrong. In order to be effective, your management has to know what they’re doing. If you have good, experienced management but don’t listen to their advice, they can’t help you.

7. Working with people who don’t have contacts in the industry. Ideally, the people you start with should be constantly building better skills and contacts along the way. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll need to work with people who have contacts at the next level.

8. Signing with a label with inadequate funding or poor distribution. If you want a record deal, the goal isn’t “a record deal.” The goal is the record deal with the most potential for long-term success.

9. Lack of live following. Especially in rock and country, no draw means no deal.

10. Artist “settles” too much; recording quality, image, stage presence, photos, and demo packaging, and overall presentation are all “OK.” Successful artists are more than just OK and never settle for it. Nor do their managers.

11. Poor networking skills. Successful artists constantly seek new networking methods and know how to use them.

12. Hanging onto ineffective band members. Many artists have trouble separating business and friendship, at the cost of their careers.

13. Dated musical style. (Sounding like Pearl Jam or ‘NSync probably isn’t going to cut it.)

14. Dated image. If you still dress the same way you did 5-10 years ago or have the same hair style, it’s time to freshen up. If you’re fond of the clothes, wear them on your own time–not when you want someone to invest money in your music being the hottest thing since sliced bread.

15. Lack of radio-friendly songwriting. No hit potential, no deal.

16. Bowing to peer or family pressure not to change. Doing the same thing the same way brings the same results, so in order to improve something, change has to occur; it literally can’t stay the same. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: if you put icing on a cake, the cake changes but is still the same underneath. (If it’s bad icing or you do something stupid when frosting it, the cake falls apart. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often.)

17. Drug or alcohol issues. Many artists with easy access to drugs, alcohol, and groupies at the local level have the distorted impression that they’ve “made it” and lose motivation to go any further.

18. Spouse / child obligations. Putting together an entertainment career is expensive and requires a major time commitment. The same is true of spouses and children. We’re not saying it’s impossible, but it’s definitely more difficult.

19. Impossible to work with. Being impossible to work with doesn’t necessarily mean the artist isn’t a nice person; one very nice artist has had seven managers in the past ten years. We like this artist just fine as a person, but in order for a team to become successful, it needs time to gel. With a rotating litany of band members, managers, and agents, that’s not likely to happen.

20. Not understanding how the industry works. You have to know how the game is played in order to move the right pieces.