7 Ways to Make Money as a Christian Musician
You can make money as a Christian musician; at least enough to support your family. I’m not talking about getting rich, but if your goal is to get rich then I hope you don’t play Christian music anyway.
The first thing that all of us as artists have to do is define what “success” is. For some of us “success” is simply being able to get in front of a crowd and share our music and our message. That’s great! For some of us, success means selling 1,000 CDs. That’s a good goal, too.
My family has set the goal (with my band Boochie Shepherd) of making enough money so that my wife can stay home and so that we can personally sponsor 2 full-time missionaries. Once we reach that goal, I will feel that I have succeeded.
When you play Christian music, it can be really easy to fall into the mindset that because you are ministering to people you should be playing for free or for very little; and it’s even easier for churches to fall into that mindset. But I want you to consider carefully the following passage from 1 Timothy 5:18:
Paul is specifically talking about the fact that ministers deserve to be taken care of. If you believe that your music is a ministry, then you fall into that category as well. Consider that the next time a church tries to low-ball you. Don’t be rude by any means, but help them to see that you do have expenses and that you are using the talents that God has blessed you with to meet those expenses.
The problem is that a lot of churches have small budgets, especially if you are playing for the youth group. So how do you supplement your live performance fee (honorarium)? Here are a couple of quick suggestions:
1. Be sure you have at least one product to sell. As a general rule, if it’s for sale, people will buy it. And live shows sell more CDs than you’ll probably ever sell through any distribution channel. So go out tomorrow and get t-shirts, hats, stickers… something!
2. Consider working for other bands or artists in your area. Do you have a level of expertise in some particular aspect of the music business (booking, web design, promotion, etc…) that would allow you to charge a small fee to other artists in exchange for your services? Take advantage of that!
4. Don’t give away anything! Even your momma has to pay for a CD. If she’s not gonna buy it, who is? Your family and friends should be supporting you even when no one else is.
5. Ask the venue to take care of your expenses. I know that sounds elementary, but some people (especially less experienced artists) never even think about this. If you are playing for churches, taking care of your expenses is usually a very easy thing for them to do. Ask them to provide meals and lodging for the band. If you’re not too good to eat a pot-luck and stay at somebody’s house instead of a hotel, you can save some cash. This can also give you more room to be flexible with your honorarium.
6. Dedicate yourself to your craft. This is a no-brainer. You should be working every day to become a better musician, singer, speaker, songwriter… whatever it is that you are doing. Dedicate a portion of your day everyday to getting better at what it is that you do. Becoming a better musician will pay dividends in the long run.
7. Above all, seek God’s guidance. If you believe that God has blessed you with the talent to play music, by all means, do it. But be sure to seek his guidance. We probably all know people that are using “God wants me to do this” as an excuse to be able to do what it is that they want to do. Be honest with yourself and seek God’s will for your life.
With my band, Boochie Shepherd, we have tried to implement all of these things and have seen enough profit that I can set some realistic goals of having my wife stay home and of us being able to support missionaries with our income. I hope that you can take some of the ideas that Boochie has used (however simple they may be) and put them to work for you!