Monday, February 04, 2013

The Quality Issue

Darkhorse Recording
I'm sure many of you have been in the position of deciding on paying for something out the ying-yang that's REALLY good, versus saving money to accomplish something similar, just maybe without the bells and whistles, and usually not the same result.

A while back, the family truckster was getting old, so I decided to buy a new family truckster. I really wanted the new Caravan with the fold down seats. I mean, that's cool. They call it Stow and Go. But it also meant a huge price difference in the vehicle.

I elected for the Manual Stow and Go: That means Eric wrestles the seats out of the van and "Stows" them in the garage.

For that kind of thing, you take the lumps that come from living without the "cool, ultimate feature". I mean, is it really worth thousands of dollars for that?

(OK, let's get off this example before I go trade my van in again).

However, in the world of approaching your music work and/or ministry, and doing the best you can do, I think you have to be a little more choosy, and move with a little more purpose.

For many of you, your music or artistic talents are your chosen profession, a serious pursuit, or at least, a full-time hobby. You lay awake at night thinking about what God wants you to do, how much you love it, and how can you live (or live more fully) doing what you love. I know you do, cause I do it too.

So you spend time, money, and effort on making sure you take the right road at every step.

However, many times you are presented with two options: The expensive and hard work road, that may lead to real success, or the cheaper alternative, which will cost less in time and money, but still get you more than you have now.

But remember the saying, "If you keep doing things the way you always have, you'll end up with the same results you always have?"

Don't you hate that saying? Don't you hate that it's true?

When I worked as a worship leader, I knew that if we just threw the service together, it would come out OK, and even fine. People would be blessed. The service would end and everyone would go home happy, free to live a life of religious fulfillment.

But did we give our best? Probably not. Putting in that extra practice, especially when you have to do this work every week, seems ridiculous. "We threw it together last week and it worked out OK," you'll hear a voice say.

But doesn't God deserve our best quality work? Shouldn't we feel a bit guilty that it's easier just to slap it together and throw it out there because we can?

The same holds for our work in professional music ministry pursuits.

To be honest, it's scary how much you can spend on recording a new album or EP project. There are more costs than you can imagine. Yeah it's cool that there is lots of opportunities and music companies here in Nashville, but the problem is they all charge money!

Charges to pay studios, charges to pay musicians, charges to pay people to carry musicians equipment, charges to pay engineers, charges to pay second engineers, charges for photos, design, mixing, mastering, duplicating. The list goes on.

Now, in the old days  before we moved our company here, we could get by with putting a decent album together for folks outside Nashville. Clients would pay half what they do here, but the CD would be just fine. They would go out and sell to their church crowd, and their friends, and their moms and dads. And the clients would be pleased.

Kind of.

See, the truth is, what they really wanted is for the world to notice. Not the "secular" world per se, but at least the "people who love the music they made, and oh yeah, music industry people too."

The truth is, my clients wanted to live more fully, and that meant getting real exposure.

Well, God isn't sitting up there (or wherever He sits) thinking, "I don't want him/her living more fully so I'll hold them back."

I think we hold ourselves back. We sit quietly in mediocrity, because quality is expensive! "Why pay alot to possibly have some real success that I really want, when I can be assured of having something cheaper that will be OK?"

The answer is, “Good is not good enough”, especially if we are doing a work for the Lord. C’mon, you know the difference between a CD you made at a friend’s house and the newest cool Christian CD by that artist you love.

And moreover these days, the audience knows. And the Internet knows. And the industry folks know.

But most importantly, YOU know. And if you know you aren't giving the absolute best quality product you can to do this work for the Lord, will you be sold enough to take it out proudly to the world and work it?

Think about it.

EC
--
Eric Copeland is president of Creative Soul, a music ministry support company in Association with Word Entertainment in Nashville, TN. They sit around all day helping artists and songwriters find better ways to reach the world for Christ. Need more info? Check out http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com

9 comments:

Mike Callan said...

I fully understand what you're saying about quality Eric. The problem is that most of us out there in Christian songwriting circles don't have the extra money lying around to make our music sound like we recorded it at the Sound Kitchen in Franklin, TN. Most of us don't have labels like Word Records behind us to fund the album. I've written around 100 songs since 2008 and I've recorded most of them in my home studio. Some songs turned out better than others. I've also recorded in a professional studio and I've had studio work done for me. Success wise, I've had some of my music played on independent Christian radio and internet Christian radio but I'm more concerned about what God thinks than what people think. I will say that I like it when people compliment my song or want to buy or download it. I have a worship leader friend at church that has the lyrics, musician skills, and voice which could easily put his songs on Klove or any other Christian radio station. He has really good recordings but doesn't have anywhere near the money to spend for high quality professional studio work. Does his work count? I say it does because God has blessed him with incredible gifts. I also believe God has blessed and called me to write Christian songs, not to be concerned about being on main stream Christian radio, which by the way, seems extremely fickle when it comes to playing independent artists like myself. Anyway, we might try to record my friend's next album in my home studio, which is equipped with pretty good equipment, room acoustics and software (Pro Tools). However, his songs will still probably not have that popular Klove sound. I believe God wants us to be successful at everything He has called us to do but I don't think super high quality songs is what he wants from me or my friend. If He does, He will provide the funds, without having to worry about going in debt, which is what most people probably do. Like I said above, I've written and recorded lots and lots of songs. I think my lyrics are probably better than a lot of my recordings and I'm ok with that. I don't earn my living with Christian music but it is a serious undertaking for me since God called me to take up the guitar and write for Him. As long as God is pleased with that success, I'm pleased to. By the way, thanks for your dedication to songwriting Eric, people like me really do appreciate it!

Take Care,

Mike

Eric Copeland said...

Great comments Mike. And I agree with you. Whether we like it or not it all does come down to money, and reaching a larger audience takes it.

Any song on KLove like has WAY more budget behind it, both in production and marketing, than our clients will ever have.

My point is more that in order to get to the level of what is out there (if that is your wish, and what you feel God is calling you to do), AND you feel that is something that can help your ministry and music flourish, then it is the best course.

I have also been a musician, songwriter, and artist and have found that the more quality I put into a project, even if it costs me more, always helps in the next steps of marketing.

This article doesn't really speak to songwriters making demos to show publishers, although I have seen that really help as well.

EC

PrincessDi said...

I certainly agree with you Eric about wanting to give God the best quality possible. But again I disagree with the concept that Nashville is the Promised Land and if you don't have your music produced in Nashville, then it is not the best quality and you won't make it commercially. There are studios in other parts of the country that put forth high quality music too. I have high standards for myself and I plan on putting forth the best possible project I can afford, eve if it isn't done by Nashville.

Ilene Lashomb said...

What would you say I should do. I've been singing since I could hold myself up and grew up with worship leader parents. I had piano lessons as a child but after people telling me that I was vain and that God would never use my voice for His glory I put my dreams and what I felt VERY strongly what the Lord had/has called me to do, on the back burner. I started writing music at the age of 5 and I am always writing: songs, poems, stories, etc. But I never did anything with my music because I never believed God would use me. Not like that anyways. I became a worship leader at my church and I would do special songs but never any of my own music. It literally wasn't until last month (my family moved churches about a year ago) and I had a meeting with my pastor. I had every intention of finally killing the dream deep in my heart and I opened up to him thinking he would tell me no it's not God (because he's known me since I was a little girl) but he didn't. He told me to go for it and pursue music and that he was releasing me in to ministry and within 3 weeks I performed my first original song for church. So here I am completely unsure of my next step. I don't have a bunch of musician friends. I'm not good at writing out sheet music. I write lyrics and melodies. What do you think my next step would be or how do I even get started. I know that I am moving in the direction of recording my music and getting out there sharing the love of Christ. People are dying while our hands are in our pockets and I have wasted enough of my life believing a lie that I was not made to do big things for God. That's my heart... to do big things... great things for God and leave a legacy!

Eric Copeland said...

Ilene, we'd be happy to help. We've worked with many, many folks in exactly the place you are in.

Contact us through email at creativesoulrecords@gmail.com

EC

Eric Copeland said...

PrincessDi, I once worked and lived and made what I felt were quality recordings outside of Nashville. I had what I felt were great folks there too. But eventually I reached a ceiling on the quality I could produce there.

There is just a major difference of what 25 years veterans of the Christian music offer.

You're right, you certainly don't have to come to Nashville to record. You can make a useful project wherever you are with decent people.

But you are fooling yourself if you don't think the best Christian players, engineers, songwriters, and producers that exist in the world live here.

EC

CoreyLeon said...

BLESS!

Well said Eric

The challenge we in the small island developing states like Barbados have is that what we may perceive as quality here may not be accepted as quality there in the international market.

Value and quality will always come with a cost but some people charge high but have no history or track record or accomplishments to support their high charges.

I cannot determine someones prices but if they do put a cost on their work, i believe it should be accompanied by experience and good product.

We at all times must recognize that our product is heard and seen by Christ first and as a result it must always be our best. If we were invited to send a song or perform a song for the Queen of England, or the Sultan of Brunai or the President of the United States or to open the Olympics, we would make sure that we produce and give more than our best.

None of these individuals have given us life or gifts or talents and as a result, our quest for quality and excellence should be fueled by our desire to honor and please Christ.

I am looking forward to working with Creative Soul. I believe the creativity, quality, advice and mentoring i am looking for is with this team.

Keep up the good work Eric

Alice4God said...

Ilene, I don't know if you've reached out to Creative Soul yet but I recommend it! They really can help you figure out what's next and start doing "SOMETHING"!

Ilene Lashomb said...

Alice4God,

Thank you so much! I haven't but I am going too! God is stirring the waters of my heart and I cannot hold it in anymore! I have to sing! I have to glorify God! I have to share the love of Christ with the world! I'm not content living the "normal" life. I want to do something great for God!