Monday, February 27, 2017

Funding Your Music Ministry

We’re moving towards something new this year. Something big, and so I have been carefully charting a course to get us there.

So far this year, I have presented the “The State of the Music Ministry Business”, a report from interviews with people in the Christian music industry as well as artists out there trying to make ministry work. Also, I explored “The Forgotten Why” of why we minister with our gifts.

Of course at some point, the thing everyone is trying to discover (in an age when any music you make is worthless as far as it’s intrinsic value to the consumer) is where do you find money to pursue your music?

The Label Way of Funding

It used to be if someone wanted to be a Christian recording artist in the late 20th century, and they wanted to get out and minister to a large audience, that person had to be signed to a large record company. The labels were the only ones who had all the networks. They had the radio networks, the distribution networks, the touring networks, and the marketing networks. They also had all the top producers and were about the only way to record a quality album. Moreover, they had the MONEY to make it all happen. And to some extent they still do.

But being discovered, even with Star Search in the 1980s, to American Idol, Youtube, and The Voice in recent years, has never been easy. Still only 1% or much less ever get signed, and even less than that have successful, lasting music ministry careers.

The Indie Way of Funding

The other answer, especially over the last 15 or so years, was for artists to fund their own expenses and do everything themselves. That means finding a reputable producer, spending or gathering the funds to pay all the expenses of making a new recording, finding all sorts of people from photographers to designers, and a way to make CDs.

Then it became about selling your music to recoup your money, and hopefully make a profit. This is exactly what record labels do. They make records they think are great and then hope to make money from that music.

Up until a few years ago, there were actually online ways to make money with music, even if downloads brought in less than CDs. The problem now of course is that streaming has decreased online sales to a trickle (mainly thanks to the labels…yep they have that network sewn up too!) So the only way to make any income off music is to go out and play. But planning a tour, or even knowing who to call also takes time, and also funds for travel, pay to play, and other things.

Which now brings up the penultimate question, how do you spend money making music if you can’t make the money back? I’ve written blog posts before that stated we shouldn’t be ministering with the constant goal of making money. But the reality is that it does take funds to make this whole thing work from contacting anyone to help you get started, to making music, to getting the music ministry out there.

We have really struggled with this through the years. Being a studio based operation it was always easy to charge for finite services like recording, or mixing. Even the production of a full music product can be done in a service format. There is a product at the end, and you could hold in hand something tangible that your money paid for.

But consulting, or marketing, or managing, these are things that are not very tangible. Anybody who has hired a publicist or a radio promoter (which neither promise anything other than they will try) know how intangible these services can be. So it’s hard to charge for the services, and it’s easy for people to say “Oh, you shouldn’t spend your money on that!” But then offer you no other way to move forward.

A Future Way of Funding?

I think the answer to finding these funds is similar to the way a lot of you have probably already tried, with some degree of success. You’ve seen it in people who do Kickstarter, IndieGogo, or other campaigns, raising support for a project or event from people they know and don’t know.

Support from benefactors is not only the future for artists no matter what your specific creative talent, but it has been the past as well. Fund raising has been at the root of classical music, church activities, and other artistic genres like jazz for centuries. Even with the record industry machine that developed in the 20th Century, fundraising, support, or whatever you want to call it has been behind the scenes helping art survive for a very long time.

Now if you’re thinking that fund raising is just one more thing you’re going to have to add to your arsenal of music and ministry duties, well you might be right. But your other options are hope to win the lottery, or pay for it yourself. And if you have read this far you likely have not had much luck with either of those options.

To this end we are trying some new things this year, first we are introducing a new company called Creative Heart Ministries. Think of this as a way for you to get started and dip your toe into the world of fund raising.

We have partnered with a company called Artists in Christian Testimony International, based in Brentwood, Tennessee. This is a company I have worked with throughout my career helping music ministries, as A.C.T. Int’l helps music ministries take donations that are tax-deductible.

You can find out more about what we are doing at our website

Through this website you can find supporters to give tax-free donations towards beginning your ministry. We also have a scholarship fund that you can either join or donate to that will help people who need to speak with someone and work with someone they can trust, but don’t have the funds yet to get started.

As it is every year, it’s a struggle and a job to keep up with the best way to help music ministries move forward in the current world that we live in. So we are going to appeal to the better nature of the people who support us, offer them a tax free way to donate to ministries, and see if we can start something wholly new in the music ministry business.

We would welcome your thoughts in the comments below on how you think this might work, your concerns, and your ideas.

Have a great week!


Eric Copeland is president and lead producer for Creative Soul, a Christian music ministry development company in Nashville, TN. Our goal is to build amazing ministries, and get them out and working in the world. Interested? Read more about us on this site. Or contact us now with questions!

We also invite you to check out our new non-profit side, where you can work with us via donations made in your name. Go to

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What We See Out There

In a few weeks to open the year, we will be doing our “State of the Christian Music Industry” blog and PDF eBook. This will be a report in a way of what we have heard from the major labels, mid-level labels, and others throughout the Christian music industry. Some of those interviews are still going on.

But before I do, I wanted to share some preliminary things we are seeing in the industry from our side, especially in the strange year of change called 2016.
The More Things Change

“Things do not change; we change.” – Henry David Thoreau

What I am starting to see is despite the move from CDs, to downloads, to now streaming, nothing has really changed. Well, except sales. It used to be people had to buy a record, tape, then CD to hear music (other than the radio, and that’s the next topic). The surprising stat is that people are consuming music as much or maybe even more than they ever have. It’s everywhere. It’s not worthless, but we may have to think of it another way.

Moreover, live music being performed for people has never been more popular. This is not a change, from like….ever. Music has always been consumed en masse in live settings.

Even though there has been a whole century of recorded music that has seen an industry rise, stumble, and now get back on somewhat even footing, there has always been live performance. Every artist still judges their success not by how much they sell, but how busy they are. They are informed by how much demand there is for them as an artist.

So things have never really changed, even in the 20th century from the phonograph all the way through streaming in the 21st century. It still comes down to how much people come to see you.
Radio Rules

Yes, I can’t believe it either. But traditional, terrestrial radio is still THE thing that labels seem to invest in the most for the promotion of their artists. When you think about it, it’s not that hard to understand. I have a 2016 vehicle that still defaults to the radio, even if my fancy Bluetooth or USB cable is interfacing with my phone. So many times, if the station I have as default is playing what I like, I’ll leave it on.

And I’m a music person, who cares every second what my ears are hearing. Moms taking kids to soccer, or folks going to work who don’t “live” music like the rest of us are just happy to have something on. They don’t care what it is. So, when the new Lauren Daigle song comes on, then sure they are happy to give it a listen.

Since the labels are so focused on the Top 30 radio stations and networks, fighting over it against themselves, there is no room for indies. We still lose out on that game in the major radio audience. But there may be a market and way to reach other smaller radio stations. It just costs money and is very hard to know what you’re getting for your money. And it may not matter without touring and…

Publicity and Marketing

These are also areas of the industry that have changed…but not changed. Sure, there is Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and YouTube, and they have changed the way we get the word out there. But are they really any different than TV commercials, junk mail, or ads in newspapers? All the social media tools are just current delivery systems. One day even they will be replaced by holograms, virtual reality, or some other thing.

The thing that never changes is there still must be a story. There must be something unique to tell about the music.
Less is More

One change we are seeing is the trend that in this new culture of streaming and less sales, artists are choosing to do singles and smaller projects like 5 song EPs more. We have noticed this trend at Creative Soul and are trying to serve it.

Now, it may still make perfect sense for traveling or busy artists to do full projects with 10 songs. They simply sell better at your table than EPs or singles.

Well, that’s enough for this post. But we have more info coming. Stay tuned. Follow this blog to the right, or join our mailing list for more current info and opportunities.

Have a great week!


Eric Copeland is president and lead info hound at Creative Soul, a consulting, production and marketing company devoted to building and supporting Christian music ministries for over 25 years. Find out more about us at

Monday, October 31, 2016

Why a Web Site Matters

If you are a musician, artist, songwriter, or doing any kind of business in music and ministry, you probably know you need a web site. It’s one of the first questions I ask any artist/songwriter that comes to meet with us, mainly because it’s a good indication of how serious they have been with their music to this point.

Your web site is your home base. Even if you have a Facebook Fan Page, dedicated music Twitter account, or Instagram, your web site trumps all of them. It’s how the world finds you.

“On the Web we all become small-town visitors lost in the big city.” – Alison Gopnik

After we finish a project for any artists, one of the first things we do is get to work on the web site. We use the same graphics from the album, and we configure for some basic pages.

Home Page

This should be a one stop page for anything someone may need to know about your music and ministry. It doesn’t need a hundred options, and shouldn’t have that many. It will have your graphic identity that you’re presenting with your music (your CD art, or art for online distribution). It will also have quick links to social media accounts, a brief bit of text announcing who you are, and a menu for the following.

Bio Page

This is the story of your music and ministry. Many people just want to know who you are and where you came from. What was the impetus for you to start making music, and why should they listen to you? This is where your story takes center stage and why we work so hard from day one to help you craft that narrative.

Music Page

Well, duh. What good would a music web site be without music? We can put either a Soundcloud player or CDBaby store widget here so people can sample the goods.

Photo Gallery

You likely spent a good amount on your photoshoot, why not show off those great shots? You could even have two galleries, one showing your studio shoot, and one featuring shots of you live and with fans.


If you are so inclined, a blog that features regular posts is really nice and keeps people coming back to your site. You can also use this part on the home page so that your site looks fresh with consistently posted content.


This is crucial just in case anyone wants to actually buy a CD or download. We also guide people to your music on Spotify or Apple Music if they are looking for streaming options.

Contact Page

This may be the most important part of a web site, a page where people can contact you and book you for gigs, or just tell you they appreciate your ministry.

There are other optional pages like video, testimonials, and perhaps a schedule page if you get busy enough. But the main point is to provide a central hub where people can google for and find you, your music, and your ministry.

You may be wondering if Facebook or Twitter is enough. I’d have to say they aren’t even close to what a good web site can mean for your music and ministry.

“Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won’t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.” – Jaron Lanier

A web site is the way to get your music out to the world. It certifies you as a legitimate music ministry business, and in this day where most people look everything up online, it’s more than crucial.

Have a great week!


Eric Copeland is the president of Creative Soul, a music consulting, production, and marketing company for Christian artists and songwriters. If you’d like more info, we happen to have just updated our web site and you can start here for how we get started with artists!

Monday, September 19, 2016

2 Easy Steps to a Long Music Career

I recently shared a warm beverage with a young man who is absolutely killing it by booking and marketing his band. He said his goals were to be doing this in twenty years. I said, “You know how you do that?” He asked how. I said, “You keep doing it for 20 years.”

Millennials like this young man are very talented, very driven, and extremely ready to get going with their career. They have been online since they were born, and have gathered information from around the world via computer their whole life. They are smart.

But sometimes they don’t understand that even though they have advanced knowledge, that doesn’t lead to having an instant career. You still have to put in the years of work like everyone else who has had a great career has done.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

When Someone Crushes Your Dream

“Don’t give up. There are too many nay-sayers out there who will try to discourage you. Don’t listen to them. The only one who can make you give up is yourself.” – Sidney Sheldon

Who has ever been glad later in their life that somebody blew up their dreams early on? The answer: Nobody.

There seems to be an overriding theory in the music industry that unless you are amazing and great (in their eyes) then there is no place for you. In fact, maybe it might be better if you just do music as a hobby, and quit muddying up the waters for everyone else. Go be a good spouse, parent, worker, and do your music in your own little world. God obviously didn’t call you to be a music professional.

Listen, if God isn’t calling you to be a music pro in the “music industry”, who the heck cares. Do what I did. If the industry says you don’t fit, build your own industry!

There’s one thing that is missing in this whole thing: a little word called ministry.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why We Must Market Our Music

There ought to be an artistic depot where the artist need only hand in his artwork in order to receive what he asks for. As things are, one must be half a business man, and how can one understand - good heavens! - that's what I really call troublesome. - Ludwig van Beethoven

It’s very simple to make music.

Even if you spend a good budget on a professional music product, with amazing photos and graphics, the “making the music part” is kind of easy. And to be honest, it’s super fun!!

But the hard part comes after you make your dream recording. You’ve got this awesome representation of your music and ministry, but how in the world do you let the world know about it? How do you get the music out to the masses?

“And then….depression set in.” – Bill Murray, Stripes

This is the one place many artists fall down, and truly where artists who you see doing well are excelling. Sure, you’d think its easy for a major label artist to be seen and heard because they have a label behind them! But the real reason they succeed is that the label puts gobs of money and huge effort in the marketing of the music, not just in the making of a product.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why I HATE Contests

"Competitions are for horses, not artists." - Bela Bartok

It seems like such a good idea doesn’t it?

A chance to see where you stand in relation to other artists and songwriters! For only a small fee! Sure, the odds are low, but what if you won? Wouldn’t that be just the thing to take your music or songwriting to the next level?

Surely God has put this contest in front of you for a reason! He wouldn’t have had you find that website, receive that email, or hear about the contest if He didn’t have a grand design in mind (well He actually might, but not the way you think when you enter! More on that below.)

Plus, you reason, even if you don’t win, think of all the valuable feedback you’ll receive! It’s a no-lose scenario!

While these all seem like great reasons to jump into the next American Idol, The Voice, or other singing or songwriting competition, here are the reasons I wish you wouldn’t.