Where does your band play when you can’t find any Christian venues?
We want to get out there and bring people closer to Jesus, so what can we do?
The first step is to make sure your band is focused on ministry.
An easy to understand definition of ministry is actions that have the motivation of bringing people closer to God. Ministry can be done in a million different ways using a multitude of tools. Music as a tool is an important distinction—bringing a person closer to God is the goal, ministry is the method, and music is the tool.
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There are many good things that should be done to increase the quality of our music ministry. But we often refocus from ministry to music and lose sight of the real treasure of our ministry—people. Some Christian bands end up focusing on the tasks of creating great music, getting the next recording done, playing for larger audiences at better shows, booking more gigs, having an awesome website, etc. People often get trampled upon in the pressure to accomplish the tasks. It is good to do good things with excellence and integrity. It is Godly to do good things motivated by love for people. So, check your hearts—are you willing to do anything to minister to people? Even if it does not advance your music career? Even if it is inconvenient and costs you reputation or money? How far will you go to love someone to Jesus?
If your band is focused on ministry you can redefine the word venue.
What if venue meant anywhere that people can hear about Jesus through your music? What if venue had more to do with the hearts of people than location? What if venue had nothing to do with getting paid, having a stage, or the band’s name on a poster? If we redefine venue, our avenues for ministry greatly increase. We need to go beyond church buildings and concert halls—go to wherever the people are.
Think about places like:
● Your local city park. It is probably full of people on the weekends. The park may also have pavilions with electricity which can be rented very inexpensively or reserved for free. Call the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to find out. You don’t have to do a huge concert; have a picnic and play some music to passers by afterwards. Stop and talk—enjoy the day.
● Nursing homes. We all know screamo bands can’t play nursing homes. But if you can play old hymns on the piano or acoustic guitar, you can minister at a nursing home. Call and ask. Bring the whole band even if everyone is not playing. You don’t have to preach or hold a church service; just give hugs, listen to old stories, play cards, and sing a few songs. The smiles you’ll get back are amazing!
● Special event fundraisers. Donations are down for all nonprofits, budgets at fundraisers are tight. This leaves an opening for Christian bands that are willing to play for free without preaching. Check you local city calendar for march-a-thons and walks, dinners with a cause, etc. Call the event organizers and ask if they would like some free entertainment—volunteer your time to help their good cause.
● Busking (street performing for donations) is encouraged in some cities, tolerated in others, and against the law in a few. Check with your Chamber of Commerce for local rules. Busking is really cool because you can stop and talk to people at any time, plus you make tips.
● Jails and prisons. Ask your pastor for the phone number of the person in charge of the local jail ministry. Call them to make sure they have enough musicians for their services. Opportunities to minister vary widely, so it’s best just to ask what the needs are and figure out how to meet them. There are so many Christian musicians available that no jail ministry should have their music needs unmet.
● County and city fairs. Many local fairs have room for unpaid local performers, but you will probably not be allowed to preach unless there is a specific Gospel tent or area. Booking is typically done for these events in late fall or early winter for the following summer. Getting in at the last minute is rare, so call ahead. The local Chamber of Commerce will probably know all the local events and who to contact for each event.
● Homeless missions. Almost every city has a homeless shelter. Why not ask if they would like a free evening’s entertainment? These same shelters usually host fundraising events—perhaps they could use some free entertainment. Many shelters are Christian based and would like testimonies as well as music. Shelters vary widely, so it’s best to call and tell them you are a band willing to volunteer your time. They will probably have suggestions for how to best to fit in to their needs.
One key to being able to afford to play these kinds of shows is to reduce travel expenses by playing as locally as possible. Playing at these kinds of venues generally does not pay; it does not increase the band’s career opportunities. There will be many times the band will have to scale way back to acoustic sets or even solo performances. Often the band will have to set up and tear down to play only 2 or 3 songs. Most of the time the sound system will be bad, if it exists at all. The audiences will be small and merchandise sales may be small too. Other bands will think of your band as “less than” theirs because you play too many small, free shows. It’s not glamorous. A lot of times it’s more exhausting than fun. But what if you had the opportunity to talk to one person about Jesus after the show? What if someone was willing to stay to hear your music because you treated them like a human being while setting up? What if one heart was a little more open to Jesus’ healing love because you showed up? How far are you willing to go to love one person to Jesus?
This article is an excerpt from the Christian Band Handbook.
has a Chapter called Booking Great Gigs.
This book will help your band create a press kit and book shows.
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