Posts Tagged music industry

How might Kingdom values reshape the music marketplace?

Musicians who are in the Kingdom of God are faced with two choices:

A) Make your living off of the benevolent patronage of other Christians (churches and other non-profit arts ministries)

B) Make your living off of the secular marketplace of music consumers (gigs, recordings, jingles, scoring, etc)

I would place the CCM, modern gospel music, and even the “worship” industry into category B. These musicians, even those who are making “worship” recordings, are vocationally producing a product that is designed to compete with other products in the secular market place. I’m not saying that it’s somehow “evil” or “sinful” to sell you product in the market. I am saying that the market place is not the church nor is it the Kingdom. The Kingdom can inhabit (become incarnate) in the market place, but the true worship of God, the fellowship of his people, and the restoration of creation is not achieved by floating in the current of the secular culture that has established the laws of market. This is true of any industry or vocation. We are not just citizens of this world who happen to prefer Jesus to other religious ideas (like I might prefer Star Wars to Star Trek). We are citizens of the Kingdom of God who happen to live and work in this world. Our citizenship in the Kingdom should determine everything else about how we live.

Instead of mastering the laws of the secular market in order to produce a competitive product, what would it look like for Kingdom musicians to actually reform the marketplace by offering an alternate set of laws?  Kingdom musicians could change the nature of how music is produced and consumed in order to restore the relationship of musicians and their communities. 

The church is one of the last places in our society where large groups of people meet together to sing songs. Despite trying to contextualize for the cultures we are trying to reach, we are still meeting together to sing songs which is one of the most bizarre, antiquated and irrelevant things we could be doing. If we wanted to be contextual in our culture, we should have done away with singing-church in favor of something like shopping-church or gaming-church. Aren’t those the activities practiced in our culture on a daily basis? (Shopping and gaming are cool. Don’t stress.)

Despite the push to be relevant, we haven’t let go of the practice of singing together because it’s a music expression that reflects the values of the Kingdom: healed relationships, shared abundance, and equal access to power. However, instead of taking these values into the marketplace in order to restore the creation, musicians of the Kingdom are often bringing the values of the secular marketplace into our worship spaces (or the “A” category of Christian music patronage).

So what should musicians of the Kingdom be working toward? A couple of changes off the top of my head would be:

Participation vs. elitism  – The Kingdom gives power and meaning to the whole community and not just the elite. This means the pyramid hierarchy of the music industry would be deconstructed in favor of more community and educational based music experiences that encourage as many people as possible to become music making participants.

Creation vs. consumption – Along the same lines, our relationship to music changes from being consumers to creators. We need a D.I.Y. revolution in music to come out of the application of Kingdom vlaues. Composers, educators, and performers should not be aiming at creating products for mass consumption but products for mass creation.

These ideas could start to shake the power structures that make music participation, creation and dissemination only available to the privileged and resourced communities.  New tech has already opened the doors to these changes but instead of embracing these new technologies, the music industry has been fighting them “tooth and nail.” They see these tech developments as a threat to their consolidated power.

More practical jumping off points:

  • New means of sharing and supporting music that are localized and community based
  • New performance venues that support participation and creation
  • Kingdom based paradigms for intellectual property
  • Educational practices that emphasis lifetime music participation and relationships

Share any thoughts you might have in the comments on how  Kingdom values might re-shape the music marketplace?

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