Monday, November 05, 2012

The Hard Reality of Booking

No matter how you slice it, look at it, prepare for it, or think about it, if you are in this for true music ministry, you are going to have to get out in front of people and minister.

This means you are going to have to figure out how to book yourself for events, or (even harder) find someone to do it for you.

Now, this is NOT a blog that will tell you definitively how to book yourself. But maybe we can help you at least get to thinking about how you will get yourself on the road to, uh, getting on the road.

As music creators we all enjoy the creative parts of being a musician, composer, or artist. But what happens after we have that shiny new product? What do we do with the hundreds of CDs sitting in our living room or garage? What happened to our fire that was so evident as we were in the creative process?

Well, probably nothing. Marketing the product is just a completely different muscle than making it. AND, there's a big difference between the excitement of writing new music, recording new music, or even taking pictures or getting the CDs in, versus the very cold, stark, gripping fear of picking up the phone and calling a church about coming to sing.

In fact, churches, the very thing that Christian artists have had in their hip pockets forever is actually getting to be a tougher gig to book than ever! Churches just don't have the budgets they once did, Or, more depressingly, they just don't NEED special music.

Heck they have special music every weekend (and twice on Sunday!). It used to be a special thing to take your band, or even a recording of your tracks to a church. Now churches and congregations yawn and say, "Yeah, we hear that every week."

So what do you do?

1. Play to your audience. This may sound obvious, but instead of just calling or emailing random churches, it might be a better idea to target your perfect audience first, then approach those churches, seminars, conferences, etc first.

For example, does your music speak mainly to youth? Then start targeting youth events. Camps, youth retreats, youth conferences, etc. Look for EXACTLY who would want you. Maybe you speak to women's issues? Then look for church women's events, conferences, etc.

2. Think like a pastor. Churches have budgets every year. Do you think they have a budget line for "a cool band or artist to come on a Sunday night"? Maybe not, but they DO have a budget for youth events, women's events, men's events, church celebrations, Christmas, Easter, etc. If your ministry speaks to any of these, focus on contacting churches about those events with special programs for that audience.

3. Build Your Own Event. This is the secret weapon. Looking to get more bookings, AND make more? This is where you take the core of your ministry and build an event that is more than a concert. It's a multi-section, and sometimes multi-day event that you can offer to a church. Suddenly, it's not about who YOU are and what YOU can bring musically only, but the pastor sees a whole event that you are bringing to his grow his flock. (And for you folks playing at home, that's usually what Pastors are truly most interested in. Growing and feeding flock: Yes. Music events at church that are cool: No.)

Here's an example. My studio session players group Player A has something we call The Creative Weekend. We take this to a church and it starts Saturday morning as we meet with the church band and worship leader (who is often the host/featured artists for the weekend as well). We speak about creativity and how to grow creatively, and then break for lunch. Immediately after, we watch the band run through a set and let each player and singer do his/her thing. Then, we split up into small groups for drums, bass, guitars, and keys/singers/instrumentalists. We talk about what we heard and what they might do to improve  We talk about tech, technique, tools, and practice ideas. We talk about problems, and try to come up with answers for burning questions that church band members may have for Nashville pros.

Then, that evening, the worship bands and Player A put on a coffeehouse concert for the church complete with coffee and snacks, the perfect Saturday date night event for couples after dinner. The worship leader may even do some numbers as well. The next day on Sunday, we all lead worship together.

See what has happened here? It's more than just a concert for Player A that the church has to decide yea or nay on. It's a whole win-win event for the worship team/worship leader/church body AND Player A.

Maybe your event is focused in other areas; a seminar; an activity with youth; a sewing circle or some other event for women. The possibilities are only limited by what you can come up with. But this kind of thing is much easier for pastors to comprehend, budget for, and want to bring to their church rather than just a one-dimensional artist concert.

Whatever and however you choose to book yourself, you'll need to be inventive. You'll need to relentless.

Welcome to the rest of your life, you Artist you.

Have a great week!

Eric Copeland is a producer and president of Creative Soul Records, helping Christian artists build full productive careers, but he also is one of you. He has been a Christian artist doing bookings since the early 1990s. He knows your pain. For more info on Creative Soul check out and


BeckyWrightSongs said...

This is so true, Eric! I figured out a few years ago there was a reason God to give me song about adoption and orphans ... this was where he was calling me! I've also figured out that although churches and specifically conferences don't have a budget for music per se, they will have a budget for speakers and training. Obviously the subject of my songs is the subject of my speaking topics. The music is just icing on the cake! I will also say that the conferences I spoken at all so loved the music immensely! Music as a power to sway in touch people like nothing else. Of course musicians and songwriters realize that:)) as a conference speaker I've had incredible results by adding music to the conference... attendees don't usually get that added blessing in a conference. Not to mention the best CD sales I've had to date were at a conference where I spoke and sang!

Thanks for your continual encouragement and wisdom, Eric!

Jen Haugland said...

I believe having something else to offer besides music is important, too. I am working right now to put together a framework of topics that I can speak to at an event. I know the music will just solidify the message and minister to the hearts. But this does require a lot more work and intentionality. But isn't this what we are to be about, anyway?

SangSyl said...

This is a great article, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Alice4God said...

I agree, great article. But what if you're just not really a "speaker"?

Eric Copeland said...

It's not about being a "speaker", it's about sharing with people. Just talking, sharing music, and relating. I don't think you need to worry about standing on a stage and doing an hour long speech.

Ted said...

Good advice, brother.

Yes, we are not just "musicians" or "artists" in this calling. We are first and foremost "ministers" of the Good News!

Our music/art should be for glorifying Him and serving His people. If our songs aren't serving that purpose, then we should probably drop all pretense of being relevant to a church or christian event.

So we need to find how our particular ministry can serve the Body at large and focus on that, with the music being only a vehicle to get us there.

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