Use all your talents to create income
Here’s the video transcript:
Making a living in the music ministry is not easy; there is no guarantee that you will ever be able to support yourself or your family from money you make with your ministry or your music. The way most Christians picture the Christian musician star, as a person who lives an upper-middle class lifestyle funded by the profits of their music ministry, is simply not reality for almost all Christian musicians. So, before you begin the journey, count the cost. Take the time to learn about the financial aspects of music ministry, the amount of work involved, and how the ministry will impact you spiritually and emotionally. Gather all the information you can about the how-to’s for being a successful Christian musician, but more importantly learn about the personal experience of living the life of a Christian music minster.
Ideally, everyone who is thinking about becoming a Christian musician should work and travel with a Christian musician or band for a short time before committing to your own personal journey. Is there a Christian band or musician in your area who would let you could volunteer as a roadie? Could you attend a band practice? Do whatever they will let you help them do. The band does not have to be famous to help you get a better picture of what you are about to attempt; they simply have to be a little farther along in the journey than you. Your greatest chance of longevity and success in music ministry is to be as realistic as possible about what to expect. Then you can create a plan to minimize the hardships and maximize the fun!
The most important things I can say to anyone who is considering music ministry or is already in the ministry is this: first, make sure music ministry is your calling, and second, plan ahead so you can sustain your ministry.
Aspiring artists need to know what those of us who have been around the block a few times learned the hard way (usually after quite a bit of pain and suffering):
● Most musicians do not make much money, except for top tier artists. There is little to no respect for music ministers except for top tier artists. Music is not seen as a legitimate career or ministry choice until you become a top tier artist.
● Top tier artists are not created overnight. Artists do not magically get discovered by a well connected person from Nashville or walk into an open position in a top tier band and become famous in a week. Most artists work for years on the local and regional level and only a very few ever make it to the top.
● To, the most successful music ministers are in it for the long haul and often struggle financially for years.
● You are a minister regardless of the level of success you or your band has attained or where you perform. You are expected to behave like a representative of the Gospel, an ambassador for Christ, even when you are personally hurting and have to pay from your own pocket to do your ministry.
Music ministry is tough. Getting famous is the “easy” part. (Easy is in quotes because we all know that becoming famous is not at all easy.) Doing the work of loving people closer to Jesus, regardless of what is going on in your life or your music career, is much more difficult. During this process, it is prudent to protect your heart from being wounded and then becoming bitter over the difficulties of ministry. A wounded heart and bitterness are your enemy’s tools for diminishing your ministry and eventually wearing you down to the point that you quit. Since your enemy has a plan to destroy your ministry, you should have a plan to succeed.
The most common problems Christian bands and individual music ministers experience come from being away from family for extended periods of time, struggling to get along with band mates, and pressure from lack of money. Relationship issues will be something you need to deal with consistently. Financial planning will go a long way toward easing the burden of ministry on you and your family (and future family). Part of staying strong to consistently do the work of your ministry is to plan ahead financially.
How do you survive financially in a ministry that is so difficult? Count the cost before you start. If having a lot of stuff or the best stuff matters to you—don’t plan on a full time career as a Christian musician. You can make quite a bit more money consistently working a more normal job and playing music on the side. Examine your heart carefully. A high security need based on a steady paycheck and a desire to live the typical American lifestyle can be clues that you may not be called to be a full time Christian musician.
Music Ministry is Tough
● Count the Cost
● Get Good Information
● Plan Ahead
● Work the Plan
Can you thrive with serving God full time through music while not being famous or receiving a large paycheck? Remember that saying “no” is not wrong—it is an honest heart assessment that will help you determine where music fits into your life. There are many places to use your gift of music that allow you to work a normal job as well: church worship teams and bands that are hobbies are the most common examples. This ‘part time’ service does not make you less of a music minister. It simply means that you do not do the work full time because, like so many who have gone before you including the apostle Paul at times, you have chosen to be a tentmaker.
If you do decide to pursue a career as a full time Christian music minister, plan ahead and do this (and if you are already doing full time music ministry start doing this NOW):
Create Income in Addition to Your Income from Music
Creating additional income will make the difference between sustaining a long term ministry and quitting because of the pressure and guilt from financial stress on you and your family.
Receiving income from several different places is called multiple streams of income. The term is very common in the financial world and is recommended for everyone as a buffer from unexpected financial crisis. The principle is particularly important for Christian musicians to apply, because we do not receive paychecks in consistent dollar amounts or at consistent times. multiple streams of income is actually a Biblical principle:
“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.”
Unfortunately because multiple streams of income is a financial term, most of us feel it is best left to people who actually have money to invest. However, most Christian musicians already use the principle; we simply do not apply it well. For example, we deliver pizzas in between tours—this demonstrates two different streams of income. The part we do not do well is that both tour income and pizza delivery make only small amounts of money, and both require large time investments. Hopefully your band is also using multiple streams of income. Merchandise sales profits, performance fees, and receiving donations are three of the most common streams.
Where the income comes from is an important ingredient to success. Ideally, Christian musicians should have multiple streams of income from a variety of sources.
Examples of income from a variety of sources:
● Making and selling merchandise at the band’s merchandise table.
● Purchasing a duplex instead of a single family home or condo and then rent out one side while living in the other.
● Working as a freelancer online, designing websites or formatting e-books, for example, which can be done in any location while the band is travelling. UpWork is a great resource to find online work.
● Working as an employee for an employer who gives you time off whenever the band is on the road. Pizza delivery is a good example.
None of these sources of income are reliant upon any other in order for you to be able to do the work. So, if the band is not touring and the merchandise you make is not selling, you still have three other sources of income. But, if your only income was from items you make and sell on the bands table plus extra pay from the band to be their manager, you would have had two streams of income that could both dry up when the band is not gigging.
How much time you have to spend creating the income is also important. Two more financial terms you need to know are: passive income and active income. Passive income is money that you get without applying your time, such as interest on a bank account. Active income occurs when you exchange your time for money, such as being an employee in any company. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all live exclusively off of passive income? Then we could spend our time doing whatever we want! Most people wait until retirement when they can collect their pension and social security to have that kind of freedom.
Smart musicians recognize that even a little passive income will make their lives easier now. We usually think of passive income as investments that require large amounts of cash to start. Of course, if you are good at investing and you have the money to do so, you should do it. But if you are good at investing, you are probably already doing it. There is another kind of income for those of us who are not so financially savvy and who are broke: active income that converts to passive income. We invest our time (and sometimes a little money) to create something and then automate its sales. You are already familiar with one example of this: digital sales of music. Your band spent a little money (compared to other financial investments) and a lot of time writing and recording. Then the band sells downloads of that music with almost no extra time invested. This concept is not limited to music. Anything you can create digitally can be sold almost passively once it has been created and your sales channels are set up. E-books are another very common example of this type of income. (A word or warning: do not get caught up in the get rich quick schemes—there are so many online these days. Be careful and do your work with integrity.)
The key to surviving financially as a Christian music minister is to create multiple streams of income from multiple sources and a combination of passive income, active income, and active income that converts to passive income.
The combination of income streams and sources will vary according to each person’s gifts and abilities. No two people will create the same income streams. Have you ever wondered why God has given you other interests and gifts in addition to music? Carefully look at all your talents and consider which ones could be utilized to help you stabilize the inconsistent income you will probably receive from music.
Multiple streams of income do not happen overnight. It takes creativity and time to build each of them up and a little maintenance after that to keep them going. But these additional streams of income can stabilize your cash flow (the amount of money you have coming in and going out each month). You also gain some peace of mind by knowing that you can pay the bills. This peace of mind makes it much easier and less stressful to do the work of your music ministry.
The Last Piece of Personal Financial Advice: Do Not Go Into Debt!
Live very conservatively. Musicians who have sporadic income cannot commit to making monthly payments. Multiple monthly payments will leave you choosing which ones to pay during the lean months. Hint: pay your utility bills and do not create credit card bills in the first place. Do not buy a more expensive car than you absolutely need and do not take on a larger amount of rent or mortgage payment than you absolutely have to have. Do not charge equipment and instruments on a credit card. If you don’t have the money for it, don’t buy it. I know, it is much easier said than done. This type of financial planning buys freedom, which allows more time to do ministry. However, this crazy lifestyle is not easy, and it is definitely not for most people. Be honest with yourself; if you cannot live this way, you might be called to part time music ministry. If you are going to pursue full time music ministry, be prepared for the sacrifice.
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Finally: This is sound financial advice for anyone. Christian musicians need to especially pay attention and apply these principles. But, I am not a financial adviser, accountant, or attorney. This is my best advice from my own experience; it is up to you to apply it to your own situation or not.
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