For Immediate Release:
Dear Christian Record Labels,
A couple things have been heavy on my mind as of late. I was debating on whether or not to write this, but my conscience is quite strong and made me voice these feelings.
First, let me state that I have only really been immersed in the ‘Christian’ music scene for about two years now. Before that, I was considered by most of you as a ‘Secular’ or ‘Mainstream’ artist. To me, to label anyone a ‘Christian’ or ‘Secular’ artist is completely unnecessary in the first place. Who are we to label someone? Since day one, I have always had a message of hope in my music. However, because I often performed in venues other than churches and every song I made was not necessarily ‘praise’ music, most would not consider my music ‘Christian’ music. To me, this is an huge issue.
What is Christian music? If it is sung by someone perfect from the inside out than you can surely count me out, because I am far from it. However, if it is music written and performed by someone with a heart full of Jesus Christ than my music is as Christian as it gets.
The problem is that all to often as sinners we simply embrace the opportunity to judge people without even realizing it. It is our sinful nature, and seems makes us feel powerful or think better about ourselves. Placing a label on someone at all is simply placing them in a hypothetical box. A box with walls they shouldn’t break out of because in our minds that is where they belong.
Calling someone a ‘Christian’ artist is basically telling them to stay within the safe walls of the church with who they are and what they do, because the world won’t except what they have to say. On the contrary, calling someone a ‘Secular’ artist is really telling them they are not welcome in our Christian world. In generalizes everyone, and starts a territory battle.
Let me make clear that I have been dwelling in this in between zone for quite some time now and it is not a good place. When you don’t have one of the silly labels distinctly on you and declare yourself one way or another you are a musical nomad.
It is so extremely sad to me. I have come across countless great people and amazing musical talent my whole career who feel the exact same way but for some reason we remain in silence.
When we think about Jesus, we reflect on how he did not stay within the walls of the church by any means. He went and befriended sinners, the sick and people outcast by the hypocritical church. Some of his best friends we’re far from perfect. By living among them, but not of them he was able to be an example and spread the kingdom of God in a world altering way. He did not judge or label anyone, he left that up to God the Father – so it amazes me why we do.
This is where my message to Christian Record Labels comes in. As I said, I am actually fairly new to the actual ‘Christian’ music scene. Why am I new though? As a kid, almost all Christian music sounded so incredibly wack to me. It wasn’t fun to listen to nor did it sound good. Unfortunately, today I really feel the same way about the majority of it. Life is by no means a fairly tale and those who act like it is and present it as so are phonies to me.
I was a PK (Pastor’s Kid), my mom was a Lutheran School music teacher and I needless to say knew all the hymns in both the green and red hymnal. Those we’re cool to me! But modern Christian music wasn’t. I loved hip-hop like Naughty By Nature, rock like Nirvana and everything you can imagine. I liked it all. The cards on the table were set for me to love modern Christian music as well, but I didn’t.
Let me ask you this – Why does the ‘Mainstream’ music world do such a great job marketing, promoting and getting their music heard? One could use money as the big argument. That’s great, but is that the only thing? Is money really the only reason why ‘Mainstream’ music has such control of the music world? The answer to me is a loud and clear NO!
Christians have the best message in the history of the world to share with the people of the world but have a hard time sharing it and having it accepted to the masses through music. A message of faith, hope and love. I would like to argue that the reason why ‘Mainstream’ music is so successful is because they are far less judgmental of people that we are as Christians. Shocking to say, because it should obviously be the complete opposite.
Mainstream Record Labels bank off of people yearning to connect. Everybody knows about Lady Gaga and her song ‘Born This Way’. It was one of the fastest and best selling songs in the world. iTunes was overloaded with downloads, but why? People that continue to be judged and deemed not good enough by us Christians connected to the song in a very real way. It gave them hope and a sense of belonging. Mainstream Record Labels understand this.
My point is this – countless artists with amazing talent simply do not get the chance to work with 99.9% of Christian Record Labels for shallow reasons.
I have seen first hand how silly things like tattoos, hair highlights, style and so many other insignificant things cause Christian Record Labels to glance over people with hearts of gold and mind-blowing musical talent. Talent that could change the world if awarded the chance. How ironic that the majority of a music world preaching a message of faith, hope and love seems to care more about these silly things rather than the things that truly matter.
This is a recipe for failure. As Christians, we should obviously always hold ourselves to a higher standard. However, when these standards are taken out of context and we start looking for perfect people to represent our message to the world, it is unreasonable and people cannot relate to it. We are not perfect and can connect to people who are far from it. This is why the mainstream music world thrives. It is filled with talented, far from perfect people who are given a chance to shine by labels who believe in them.
Why should the ‘Christian’ music scene be any different? If you ask me it shouldn’t be. We have the single best message in the history of the universe to deliver to our world. Is it a responsibility to do so? You better believe it is. It is what we we’re put on this Earth to do. However, we need to stop looking for perfect people to deliver that message. It just isn’t realistic and will not get us anywhere. We need to look at the heart and the talent, that is all.
My brothers at Reach Records do this in the most amazing way. What a year for Lecrae! Who would have thought he could reach the people he has reached as of late. I bet 99.9% of record labels would have passed him by because he doesn’t fit the mold. Instead, because he doesn’t fit the mold he is reaching the world in a major way. I personally have not seen this done any more efficiently anywhere else than with these boys at Reach. For the very first time, they make me so incredibly proud to do what I do. It is by no means a coincidence that they are able to sell out arenas and do things at the scale they are currently. They are presenting the best message in the world in a real way to a world that yearns to hear how important they are and how much they are loved.
In my eyes, their success comes from being real. As I have said over and over, all to often Christian Record Labels want perfect people. These guys are the first to admit they are far from perfect and guess what – it works. People can relate to that.
The fact remains, we have an extreme shortage of superstars in the Christian music world and it is our own fault. Trust me when I say these people are out there and given the right opportunity they can thrive. They may not look the way you’d like, dress the way you’d imagine or sound like you would prefer, but believe me when I say they are out there and there are people yearning to hear what they have to say.
Let me finish by recommending to all Christian Record Labels out there to stop being so judgmental. It is bad business plan and terrible look. Go out on a limb and give people the chance to hear about God’s love for them from people just like them – sinners. You can search and search, but you will not find anyone perfect and it is time we start being real. People relate to struggle, to heartache and the real world around them. Providing them with musicians they can relate to is your responsibility, make it happen.
I’ll finish with one of my favorite bible verses ever. A verse I would like you all to think about when searching for someone with anything other than a heart full of Christ and the musical talent to inspire.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.