As a music artist, facing criticism is inevitable. Even the most successful, most talented artists will see “dislikes” on their videos and be met with less than stellar feedback from record execs, peers, fans and music critics at almost every point in their career. I’ve read surprisingly negative reviews of classic Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson albums, and critics have mercilessly panned songs in recent years which have gone on to be huge hits. Now, you may be expecting a “criticism is good, embrace it” sort of message here, but in my experience as an artist and producer, I find that to be far too simplistic an explanation.
There are many potential reasons for and motivations behind harsh critique and negative feedback, and all critique is not necessarily valuable or beneficial to an artist. I believe there are at least 3 basic categories into which criticism falls, and failing to differentiate between these categories or levels of criticism could result in an artist taking poor advice, becoming confused, shutting down, or missing an opportunity altogether.
The first kind of criticism is criticism that SHOULD be taken into consideration and applied if possible. How would one identify such criticism? There are a few things to look for. We should keep in mind that as artists, we are much closer to our work than anyone else. For this reason, we sometimes are unable to look at our work with the sort of objectivity necessary to improve upon it. It is therefore important that we be open-minded when we first receive feedback on our work. Here are a few clues that might indicate we should listen carefully to a review or criticism and learn from it:
1. Is the feedback coming from more than one independent source? If the advice is coming from multiple people who likely have not had time to confer with one another, that is a good indicator that what’s being said about your work is based solely in the quality of the work itself rather than in any personal feelings toward you or individual expectations. Unfortunately for artists who see themselves as innovators, we live in a society where herd mentality abounds and people are often afraid to be ridiculed for holding opinions that are not popular even when it comes to musical preferences, so understand that if a lot of people are saying the same thing, there is a very high likelihood that many of those individuals have simply hopped on the bandwagon after waiting to hear what the crowd is chanting. That’s why I say numbers are only good evidence when you have several INDEPENDENT sources expressing similar opinions on some aspect of your work. Might be a good idea to have a group of people you trust who you can show your work to before it is released and share your music with each of them individually and privately.
2. Does the source of the criticism understand you as an artist? If I’m a jazz musician, and the source of the criticism only really likes metal and wishes you did metal and complains about the lack of face-melting electric guitar solos and keeps suggesting you listen to some Avenged Sevenfold, then you are encountering the 2nd kind of criticism. This is criticism based on personal preference rather than what is best for YOU as an artist. They are imposing things on a song that do not naturally flow from the song based on what they like to listen to. These sources of criticism are probably well-meaning, they don’t mean you any harm, but adjusting your music and style based on their critique will require you to impersonate some other artist, more specifically, their favorite artist. If their ear WANTS to hear Drake, but you’re not intending to create the kind of music Drake makes, you’ll have to take what they’re telling you with a grain of salt and remember that your goals are not the same as theirs. You need criticism from peers, experts and mentors who, one, understand what you’re going for and accept your vision for what it is, and two, want to see YOUR songs reach their greatest potential based on that vision. That does not require them to like your songs more than their own preferred style or genre of music. They are looking just at what your songs are trying to communicate both musically and lyrically and then giving suggestions on how to enhance the clarity and presentation of those unique songs without trying to turn your songs into something they simply aren’t based on personal taste.
Now… am I saying that if you suspect someone’s criticism of your work falls into this 2nd category that you should ignore everything they say? No way! Perhaps you’ll be surprised and find something in the music they like that speaks to you or inspires you, maybe just not in the way they intended. The key is understanding WHY they are giving you the feedback that they are giving you and not assuming your music is lacking something simply because it doesn’t fit into their playlist.
3. Does the source of the criticism have your best interest at heart? Do they stand to gain something from speaking negatively of your work? Did they pass up a chance to provide you with this feedback at a more opportune time like, say, before the music was released for example? The third category of criticism is criticism for the sake of criticism. Negative feedback seems to be significantly more entertaining to most audiences than positive or constructive commentary. There is a reason Simon Cowell HAD to be a part of the original American Idol panel. Be honest, were most of us tuning in to hear the two other judges point out the positive aspects of the performances and find the coolest, friendliest, nicest way to tell hopefuls they would not be advancing to the next round? Yeah, that’s gonna be a “no” from me, dawg. We were waiting to see how Cowell would rip them to shreds and how harsh his criticism would be. The fact is, critics have fans too, and negativity almost always draws more attention. Followers of a particular critic’s YouTube channel or magazine column tend to get most excited about the reviews and articles where the critic strongly disliked the song or movie or show etc. The audience wants their favorite critics to be as “savage” and “unfiltered” as possible, and as a result, critics will often generate negative reviews to appease their fan base or, at the very least, exaggerate the degree to which they disliked something. Take a look at the Rolling Stone article about past reviews that… didn’t stand the test of time to say the least. In this article, Andy Greene highlights examples of albums, now considered classics, some of which actually have a 5-star rating in Rolling Stone magazine, that received SCATCHING, and in hindsight, SHOCKINGLY negative reviews upon their release from, you guessed it, the very same Rolling Stone magazine. Negative reviews usually have more jokes in them, and for some it is more exciting to see how much somebody dislikes something than to see how much they like something. Those looking for attention stand to gain more of what they are looking for by writing a negative review than they do writing a positive one about something they thought was just great.
It is also unfortunately true that many may respond negatively to your art because of their own insecurities or jealously or competitive nature. Not everyone you encounter will necessarily want to see you succeed. Christ commands us to show love to those who mistreat us, and we mustn’t harbor bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts. Even this third kind of criticism can be an opportunity, just maybe not one that has anything to do with music. With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s strive to show understanding and compassion to those who present us with this third category of criticism. Perhaps the things they have gone through and the criticisms they have received hurt them in a way you or I couldn’t even imagine, and hurling insults back at them accomplishes nothing. If we slap back, we play right into our enemy’s hands, but if we turn the other cheek, we may see something far greater than a positive review in a magazine. You may not be able to change minds, but the love of Christ is known to change hearts.
Don’t allow this negativity to distract you either. We can’t allow ourselves to rise and fall with the praise or criticism of others. As difficult as it may be for us as artists who are very attached to and passionate about our work, we have to examine all these forms of criticism without emotion in order to best interpret, categorize, and if necessary, apply it. Emotion can cloud our judgment and keep us from completing any of these tasks. Criticism has its place in the journey of any great artist, but not all criticism belongs in the SAME place.
I was born in the 80's. I grew up watching some of what I consider, the best cartoons ever made. Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., Thunder Cats and of course, G.I. Joe. A phrase that seemed to stick with me was always found at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe. There would be some life lesson that a kid had to learn and one of the characters would say "Knowing is half the battle." As a kid I would often repeat that in the deepest voice I could and I thought it made me sound smart (don't judge me), I never really thought much about the phrase, I just thought it was cool. One day when I was reading the book of James the phrase popped back into my mind. I laughed at first but then it hit me. James is literally stating that knowing is only half the battle and that applying that knowledge is the other half. James chapter 1 verses 22-25 states; "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
It is one thing to read the word, hear the word and know the word, it's another thing to apply that which you are reading, hearing and know. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser (by the grace of God go I), I feel that G.I. Joe sort of let us down or if anything, left the quote incomplete causing us children to fill in the blanks based on the application of the end scene. I think the quote should have been "Knowing is half the battle, the other half is applying that knowledge." Now, that doesn't sound nearly as cool as the original and even in the most manly of voices it might come off as nerdy but it is no less true. This is often how we go about life though. In this day and age we have access to so much information and we are constantly bombarded with things seeking our attention.
I was at a mens retreat not to long ago and there was a quote shared by the speaker that leveled me. He said that he was talking to a Pastor of a church overseas and that Pastor's observation of the western church was that when it comes to knowledge we "are 3 years ahead of our obedience." It was as if the air was sucked out of the room. This caused me to immediately begin an introspective examination of my life. God used that moment to slow me down. I realized that I was on a quest for knowledge much more than I was on a quest for obedience. My Bible study method changed exponentially, I began simply meditating on one passage or one verse at a time and not moving on until I felt that I understood the verse(s) and have been actively seeking to apply what was being taught in my life. God is good at revealing what you need to deal with, what needs to go and areas where you walking in out right rebellion. James stated that if we hear the word but don't do what it says we are disillusion. The example he uses of the man looking at himself in the mirror, walking away and forgetting what kind of person he was is pretty powerful. The NLT translates this section by saying you look at yourself in the mirror and forget what you look like. The word of God is like a mirror in that when we read it, it is going to show us who we are. It is going to reveal to us that we are in desperate need of Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 states "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
God's word is going to draw out those areas that are wrong in our life, those things that need correcting. We have a choice, we can either simply know that they need to be dealt with and leave it at that or we can know and deal with them. May we be a people that dig into God's word not simply for knowledge but asking Him to draw the sin in our life out, to transform, shape and mold us. May we not simply be hearers of the word who delude ourselves but be effectual doers. May we look into the mirror of God's word and not forget what we have seen.
We are very much in this together. If you would like to chat more about this or have any thoughts you would like to add, please leave a comment. If you are struggling with something and you aren't comfortable sharing it publicly you can certainly email us at email@example.com (please note that we will likely direct you to your local church Pastor/body but we will reply and begin a dialogue as well as pray.
As always, thank you for taking the time! God bless!
We were blessed to have the opportunity to connect with the lead singer and founder of the up and coming Christian rock band Adelaide, Laura [aka Adelaide]. It has been amazing to watch the band grow over the last couple of years and their latest album "Strong + Brave" is nothing short of incredible!
Those of you who have been supporting Tentmaker over the last year or so know, we like to keep the main thing the main thing and so as always... Laura, when did you come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
For as long as I can remember, I have gone to church. God became very real to me at a young age through some hard seasons of my childhood. I was 6 years old when I gave my life to Christ.
Wow, praise God, that's amazing! It is beautiful when a young person comes to know Christ and He starts doing His thing! That's what's up!
How long have you been making music & why did you get started?
I have been writing lyrics since I was twelve. At 14, I joined my worship team at my church at the time under the leadership of my Aunt. I sang backing vocals and played strings on the piano. Believe it or not, I've always been a very shy person. Hanging out in the background was my comfort zone. My upbringing wasn't ideal and with it came a lot of hardships. Music took me to another place and to me it was an empty gift unless there was a receiver. Feeling completely reliant on God, it only made sense to sing to and for Him and make that the depth of the lyrical content. That is when my music began to mold itself and find it's purpose in my life.
Love it! It is our hope and desire that more of us live in what you stated towards the end there; "Feeling completely reliant on God, it only made sense to sing to and for Him and make that the depth of the lyrical content." That is inspirational.
What are some of your short term/long term goals?
I kind of take life as it comes. In the beginning of all of this, I honestly didn't know what to expect. I had written all of these songs and I had no idea what to do with them. I was fine selling the songs and having someone else sing them. Obviously, God had other plans...including pushing me way out of my comfort zone. So long as I am able to successfully balance my life as a wife, a mother and ministry, I'm succeeding. I do push myself in everything I do but, I'll never stop making music.
Nothing wrong with that! Our Father is in the business of stretching us and pushing us out of our comfort zone, praise God for your willingness to be obedient to Him. With what y'all have been creating as of late we are thankful that you have responded to the call!
Who are some of your favorite musicians (artist or band), and who have been rocking to lately?
Wolves at the Gate, Skillet, Fireflight, Evanescence, The Cranberries, Tenth Avenue North, Citizens and Saints
Y'all just released a new album, can you briefly share a bit about the inspiration behind the album as a whole?
It's been amazing to see these songs come together and in a way, compliment each other. Our message to The Church is pretty loud throughout the record. We address unity in Strong + Brave, motives in Masquerade, materialism in Chasing Echoes, forgiveness in Reminiscing, the battle that rages inside of us in Restore Me and the need for a Savior in Pick Up the Pieces. By the end of the album, we hope you have been challenged to see what your heart reflects as a person. Who are you? How are you fitting into the story God is writing for your life? How does God fit into your life? Or are you writing your own? Each one of us are so priceless to our Creator, yet we waste so much precious time on pointless things. We hope it shows a perspective of encouragement to The Church in that we're in this together - each unique with different stories and callings.
Fantastic! Music with purpose that takes you on a journey, love that! Personally, we think the message within each song and the album as a whole is clear and powerful. One of our staff (Fisher), is all about the song Deep Waters, he is currently working on an album and has that song on his "album inspiration playlist". He was real excited about us having the opportunity to chat with y'all.
What is your favorite board game or video game and why? (we like to have some elements of fun sprinkled in, we want people to get to know artists and see they are real people too).
As a band, we like to play Quiplash which is a load of fun. The way the band plays involves a lot of inside jokes - mostly between the guys since they grew up together, and references to The Office. Honestly, most of the games played by the band are in the van and totally made up!
Okay, so having never heard of Quiplash, I looked it up, haha, that sounds like it would be a blast with the right group of people! Sounds like y'all have a lot of fun, that is both awesome and I am sure needed while you are out grinding!
If you were to name a Playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
I'd have to call it, "Strong+Brave" and 3 songs would be Fighting My Battles by For King and Country, Unbreakable by Fireflight and The Resistance by Skillet.
Do you have a particular life verse and favorite book of the Bible?
Romans 15:13 (you guessed it, Romans is my favorite book).
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
That is a wonderful verse, such a fantastic truth!
Do you have any practical advice you would like to share with aspiring Christian artists?
It would be to truly question your motives as an artist. What is your true heart's desire? If it is to make a name for yourself, be an artist that is a Christian. If it is to make Christ's name the primary focus and share the gospel, then be a Christian artist. It has been very disheartening to see artists confuse these ambitions because the heart truly reflects backstage. Be a minister wherever you are - to the sound techs, hosts, bands, those serving you lunches or driving you around - we all need to see the love of Christ and enjoy each other's fellowship. Never lose sight of the heart of Christ and servanthood: to love God and love people.
Thank you for this, we have been sharing very similar thoughts with people. Our first podcast was centered around the Christian artist verses artist who is a Christian conversation and I think you hit the nail on the head.
Huge shout out to Laura from Adelaide for taking the time to answer our questions, such a blessing! We want to thank those of you who took the time to read this and we really want to encourage you to check Adelaide out, you will be thankful you did!
Check out Adelaide's new single Strong + Brave off their new album "Strong + Brave" and if you are digging it, be sure to follow the links and give the whole album a go!
Thanks again, God bless!
We first encountered BRM last year and we knew pretty quickly that God was using this cat, and that he had some great things ahead of him. Since then BRM has signed to Rapture Ready Productions and has quickly found himself on many peoples "you have to listen to this" list. BRM is raw, and has no problem sharing his faith in Jesus and the journey God has him on. Recently BRM entered into the Get It Done Records rap contest and he took 1st place (you can listen to his entry below, it's fire!).
You may be asking yourself "why is Tentmaker covering this?", you may not be asking that, but either way, we are covering it because it is important. We believe that we should celebrate the success of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be encouraging each other and building each other up. The way we see things here at Tentmaker is that we are in this together and we know how hard it can be. We know what it's like to sometimes feel like you are on an island or when things go well it is nice to rejoice with others and know that they are truly on your team.
BRM isn't just about BRM, that is clear in the way he handles himself, he supports us just as much as we support him, and in our opinion, that is how it should be. The mission, share the gospel, set the stage so that others will hear the word of God and come to know Him. "So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ." Romans 10:17.
We just wanted to give a shout out to the homie BRM and congratulate him on his victory!!
Listen to the entry, check him out on YouTube and be sure to hmu via social media!
Finding a healthy balance is never easy.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
When I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God has a pretty clear order of how things should look in our life and we as fallen creatures sure do a good job of muddying the waters. All of us are guilty at times of having our priorities out of wack. We can get so caught up in different things that other important parts of our lives get lost in the shuffle and this can have detrimental consequences. We are all too familiar with the grind between work, family, our hobbies, our goals, our hopes to provide a better life for us and our family, etc... None of those things in and of themselves is bad, but how we manage them is where it can get tricky and sometimes turn a good thing into a bad thing quickly.
As believers in Jesus we know in our minds that we are to put Christ first always, He is to be the reason we do what we do. So many of us believe that we are called to certain things and so we pursue those things with great vigor, sometimes we pursue them so intensely that other things that God has directly called us to, suffer. I was very specific in naming this article as most who will read it are aspiring Christian artists. We can feel so deeply that God has called us to make music that we tend to rearrange the order of our life. I am going to be real honest here... Not everyone who makes music and thinks they are called to make music for Jesus are in fact called, and even if you are, it doesn't mean you are destined for the big stage. (Check out the article "You May Be Highly Successful and Not Even Know It." ) I feel very much called to make music for Jesus but I also know that my calling in that is not to be a CHH star, I am okay with that, in fact it is very welcomed. Do I strive to make the best possible music I can for Jesus, yes, you bet I do! Do I want people to listen to the music I make, absolutely! Am I going to sacrifice the other things God has called me to do in my life for the sake of the music I believe He has called me to, 1000% NO! I have seen it happen, and if I am honest, I have seen it happen in my own life, where people (myself included) get so caught up in one thing, that other vital pieces to their life/calling take a back seat. I have watched marriages falter because people are so wrapped in their musical calling that their spouse feels neglected and it causes nothing but problems.
My hope in writing this is to help.
If you believe you are called to music ministry, praise God, what you do with that calling and how you handle the other areas of your life that are equally (if not more) important (i.e. your wife, & kids is you have them), is vital. If you are married than your spouse is your number one priority. We can say this all day but is it reflected in how we live our lives? We can say we love our wife/husband all day but our actions are going to be what they see and hear. Those of us who are married need to be vigilant in this area, we must genuinely put our spouse first, always (Note: Your relationship with God should be first and if we are putting Him first we will take seriously the call to put our spouses first in the area of human relations). Read Ephesians 5. The next layer of this is if you have a child or children, they are next in line before anyone or anything else. I have learned all of this the hard way as I continue to wrestle with my own selfishness. I have seen my selfishness have such a negative impact on my family to the point where it was so clear that I was doing it wrong. This is why I take this so seriously, there is much at stake and the way we live matters. Love God, Love your Spouse, Love your Children.
The other piece to this puzzle is our work, our job, that which pays the bills. I am going to guess if you are reading this you have to work a job alongside making music in order to put food on the table. Praise God that if you have that job He has provided for you! So often we don't like what we do for work and we view it as a temporary situation until our music career picks up. This can be a super dangerous thought process. Here is the reality, it very well could be a temporary job that you are using to pay your bills until things pop off or a better opportunity comes along, that in and of itself is not a bad thing, but like anything else, how you handle this is crucial. A lot of times because the job we are working isn't and area of passion we begin to become bitter about it, we start to find everything wrong that we can and often we fantasize about when things are going to be different. What if things never change? Are you going to willingly be miserable? The Scriptures make it clear that we are to work unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23-25). How you work at a job you hate actually matters to God. Remember this is the provision He has given you whether that is temporary or not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself or find a better job that more aligns with your passions, as a matter of fact I suggest that. With that though, no matter what you are doing, do it unto the Lord and don't allow bitterness to rule you. I am very blessed to be doing what I love but it wasn't always that way and I learned Colossians 3:23-25 the hard way (God smacked me in my face with just how wrong I was doing things). We can even allow work to get in the way of our family life, we get so caught up in it that we barely spend time with the family we are trying to provide for. I work in a ministry based job and I have had to learn to balance work in the midst of everything else and learn when to say "No" and focus on my family.
My point in all of this is that we need to keep things in their proper order even if we believe that God has called us to certain things. Just because you are passionate about something doesn't mean you are called to it and so make sure that other people recognize that calling in your life as well. God will make things clear to those around you that you are truly doing what God has called you to do. If you are married and have kids they are your priority calling, no if's, and's or but's. Work hard, in all that you do as you work for the Lord and not men. Live above reproach and show people Jesus even if the job is temporary and you don't like it so much. If you feel called to make music for the Lord than do just that, just keep it in it's proper place as until music is your work and puts food on the table it is simply a hobby that you hope some day becomes what you do for a living. It is important that we learn proper priorities now because if God does call you to that big stage you better well know how to love your family in the midst of it.
This article is a call for us to examine our lives according to the Scripture. To take an honest look at our lives and see what needs to go or what needs to be adjusted. We are called to live in such away that brings glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) so may we be a people that put God first and seek to glorify Him with our lives.
I would love to chat more about this so please feel free to leave a comment or a question. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, God bless!!
We see it all the time, an underground artists is looking to make it in the industry so they save up a bunch of money and buy a feature that they think is going to provide the break they need to make it. Sadly, this is very rarely how it plays out.
There is no shortage of big named artists that are more than willing to do a feature for you it you can meet their price point. You are banking on their name carrying you into the next level so you pay the fee. Now please note, I am speaking in generalities, there are always exceptions, some people aren't chasing fame and think that having a song with their favorite artist would be dope so they invest in that. Mainly though, the artists that is paying for a big name, is hoping that the big name will get peoples attention and pave the way or at least create a large gap for them to gain more fans and traction.
There is a lot to unpack here but there is one thing in particular that is the focus of this article and that is the idea that the big name will carry you. The reality is, it won't. You might gain a few more fans in the short term (and you may keep some for the long hall depending on your skill, and your consistency) but there is something that is keeping you from maximizing the benefit of the purchased feature and that is the big name themselves. See the things is, you only have a certain amount of reach, the only people that are likely to hear your song are the people in your sphere that are engaged in what you are doing. Now, social media sharing does open up a larger window and people may listen to your song if they like the particular featured artist but this doesn't generally create the wave you are hoping for (it can, it just usually doesn't).
There are 2 key factors that need to be considered when looking at paying for big name features.
First, the timing must be right.
John Maxwell states "The right decision at the wrong time, is the wrong decision." I believe this statement to be very true. The awesome thing is that when it comes to timing we can be wise, well planned out, calculated. So when might be the right time to pull the trigger and move on a big name feature? I suggest it is after you have put in the work to generate a medium to large sized following of engaged and devoted fans. This is really the hard part on the end of the artists, especially when the mindset is that the big name is going to help you here or catapult you into a situation where you have more fans (bigger numbers). The thing is, if you can put in the work and generate a solid fan base that is engaged with what you are doing, your are 1000 times more likely to have a larger impact if you do a song with a big name. First, if they are engaged in what you are doing they are more likely to share the song and encourage their friends to listen. That is good news for you as an artist because the window opens larger, and their friends have probably already heard your name and so they may be shocked to here you have a song with (insert artist) and start to take their friends request seriously. Secondly, labels are looking for engagement, not numbers. Large numbers don't always translate to engagement or devoted fans. Someone might like your page on a whim and never give you a second thought, others like your page because they are behind you and want to support you. People who are engaged, share more, start conversations, buy more (remember it is a business) and are involved in the artists work. This is what labels and (believe it or not) other people (listeners) are looking for.
Second, the big name artist needs to be behind you and also sharing/promoting the song.
This point is actually where the rubber meets the road. It's one thing to have a song with a big name, it's another thing if that artist is showing their support of you and getting behind the song. Sadly, the reality is, the big name you are featuring doesn't generally get involved after they have recorded their part. It's very seldom does that artist talk about, share, or help promote the song. If the big named artist isn't promoting the song then don't expect that tidal wave you were hoping for. Again, you only have so much reach and so much pull in terms of getting your song in front of people and having them become true fans. However, if the big name artist is behind you and the song, then your credibility and legitimacy jumps up 100 fold. When the big name artist promotes you or the song people are 100 times more likely to listen to it and they are more likely to check out the rest of your music. This is the real win and without it, you are simply paying for a feature that will gain you limited attention and in the end not be a wise investment.
The second point is the most tricky and less likely to occur, and this is why point number one is so crucial because it is the element that is the most likely to help you gain traction and help your investment pay off. Take the time to develop your fan base, put in the long hours, learn legit strategies that will help you gain engaging and devote fans. Be a student of your craft and don't simply seek a "get rich" quick approach. There is no way around it, the odds aren't in your favor but if you are willing to put in the work they for sure increase.
I will be writing a follow up blog that will center around "the calling" from God to be a Christian musician for His sake and how that applies to the grind that must take place.
I would love to hear your thoughts, do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment and let us know!
Till next time, God Bless!
We are very excited to have had the opportunity to catch up with Elohin and hear a little bit about his journey and how God is moving in his life.
At Tentmaker we like to keep the main thing the main thing and so we always lead with this question, could you please share a little bit of your testimony with us?
I have been following Jesus for about 12 years now. I grew up in a single parent home raised by my mom, aunt and late grandmother. My home wasn't a Christian home. I was taught to believe that God existed and I was given a kids bible but it really didn't mean anything to me especially as I got older. I had no relationship with Jesus and I honestly didn't want one. As long as I felt I was a good person then everything was all good.
Not having a father around didn't help either. It left a very negative impression on me. My mom did her best to raise me the right way but I really struggled with identity and trying to fit in with the people that I hung out with. When I discovered hip hop it gave me an identity and a sense of belonging. I often tell people that hip-hop was a gift and a curse for me. It kept me from going too far with many of my bad choices because I was really focused on the music. On the flip side it hindered me from ever pursuing a relationship with God because hip hop was something that I wasn't willing to give up and walk away from.
After a relationship heartbreak and me beginning to reap the many consequences of my bad choices, I began to consider the possibility of getting closer to God. Shortly after that I started working a new job and I was fully introduced to the saving truth of the gospel by one of the supervisors who was a Christian and a rapper as well. We became good friends and I started attending a Pentecostal holiness church with him and eventually asked God to forgive my sins, gave my heart to Christ and was later baptized.
Thank you for sharing, that is fantastic, praise God!!
You started to share a bit of this in your testimony but can you elaborate more on how long & why you started making music?
I've been making music since I was 13 years old. I started writing because I wanted to be creative but more importantly I needed an outlet to express myself and my feelings. The problem is I was not good at it lol. After I wrote my first song I made a promise to myself to never write again because I felt it was so bad lol. I eventually broke that promise and started writing again. I continued to get better and grow as an artist which led me to start pursuing hip hop as a career. Once I became a Christian I stopped rapping for about a year. When I started back my message was different because my heart was different. Now, writing is just second nature and I do it consistently. My music obviously comes from a Christian perspective because of my faith but I write songs and make music for everyone no matter what beliefs they have or don't have.
Awesome! What are some of your goals concerning music and life?
On the mic I find myself on stages of all kind from performance venues, festivals, churches, prisons, detention centers etc... One of my goals is to continue putting out new music every year or sooner and to ink a national distribution deal to expand my reach and impact. I talk a lot about personal struggles, social issues and faith in my music and I find that those who are in their 20's and 30's and even those in their 40's are my biggest listeners. When people appreciate your gift and are impacted by your songs it really keeps your passion burning especially on those difficult days.
Off the mic I want to continue learning and becoming a better father to my two boys and a better husband to my wife. Family is everything and I deeply value them. I also want to raise 100% of my ministry budget and continue to impact the public school youth here in metro Detroit and throughout the entire state of Michigan through a ministry that I'm involved in called Michigan Youth Alive. We bring a positive non religious message to youth in public schools during school hours and we partner with churches in the community of those schools to bring a gospel driven night event at the school after hours.
That is great that you are getting into the opportunity to go into schools like that, praise God! We will be praying that God do a mighty work in and through you and those involved!!
Who is your favorite musician of all time and who have been rocking to lately?
I don't really have a favorite artist/ band of all time. I like a wide variety of artist and groups. I'm the type of guy that will listen to Lauryn Hill, Da T.R.U.T.H., Tasha Cobbs, Aaron Cole, Phill Collins, William Matthews and Michael Jackson all in one day lol. I'm a melting pot when it comes to listening to music. But I will say that lately I've been really feeling 1K Phew, Da T.R.U.T.H. and William Matthews. All three of these artist make great music.
There is nothing wrong with listening to a diverse group of artists, there is so much amazing music out there! It's awesome that you can go through your day listening to that many different people, keeps things interesting!
Fun question, what is your ideal sandwich?
Man why did you have to bring up food. Now you're making me hungry lol. I would say that an ideal sandwich for me would definitely be a 1/2 lbs bacon cheese burger with chopped smoked beef brisket, a few chopped white onions and BBQ sauce on a toasted bun #Facts
Umm, yea, as a resident pudgy man that just made my mouth water!!
If you were to name a Playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
No questions about it I would name the playlist "The Construction Zone" and it would feature my song On My Knees, 1K Phew - Long Way and Andy Mineo - You Can't Stop Me. My life is always under construction by the Holy Spirit so that title would be very fitting for me.
Sweet! Love that! Praise God that He sees His work through to completion!
Do you have a life verse and/or a favorite book of the Bible?
Job 19:25-27 would hands down be my life verses. Through everything that this world can throw my way, though it may be painful, I am reminded that it is only temporary. In the end I know that I will meet God face to face. Every sorrow will be removed and every tear will be wiped away. I stand on that promise and I deeply anticipate that day.
Genesis is my favorite book of the bible overall. God's original plan for mankind and God's redemptive plan for mankind is laid out. Many of the questions and issues that we argue about today are answered right there in Genesis. It's an amazing book.
It's awesome to hear you say Genesis, it's not often that people mention that as a favorite book but you aren't kidding, it is an amazing book indeed!
Can you share with us a synopsis of your latest release and what was the motivation behind putting the mixtape together?
It's really funny because "Boom Bap Soul" which is the name of the mixtape, wasn't even originally apart of my marketing plan or budget. I was still promoting my 2nd album "R 2.0 Let's Continue" and I had began writing and recording songs for a 3rd album when Aretha Franklin passed away. Even though her music wasn't apart of my generation, I was still impacted by her legacy as an artist and as a Detroiter. The next day after her passing I went in the studio and recorded a freestyle called "No Way" over a jazzy boom bap beat that sampled some of Aretha's vocals. It turned out super hot so I immediately put it out on Soundcloud for free download. Eventually I made it an officially single releasing it on Spotify, ITunes ect... I don't know, it just really sparked something in me so I recorded another song "On My Knees" which was also well received. By that time the idea for a boom bap mixtape was birthed.
The whole concept for "Boom Bap Soul" is to take soulful boom bap beats and bring back lyrics, barz, and unique concepts that is not commonly found in a lot of the more popular trap music and mumble rap. Not throwing shade at anybody because I like trap music and mumble rap too. I just wanted to shake things up and do something different and something raw that still had a commercial appeal. I have never really done a mixtape so I decided to drop one and go against the grain in the process. Even though it's a mixtape, it honestly flows cohesively just like an album. It doesn't have that unfinished sound that mixtapes commonly have. I decided to make two versions of "Boom Bap Soul". A free download version that has 16 songs and a shorter commercial version with 12 songs. It's honestly a great project. The free download version is available on Datpiff.com at http://piff.me/62544fd and the commercial version is available on all digital outlets (http://smarturl.it/boombapsoul).
Love it when God changes our direction and something awesome is birthed, pretty rad story!
Do you have any practical advice you would like to share with aspiring CHH artists?
The best advice that I can give anyone pursuing music is to 1) Be comfortable in the lane that God has you in. Comparing yourself to others will ultimately hurt you and create discontentment in your heart. Learn to be faithful in front of a crowd of 20 people and if it's God's will to give you a crowd of 2,000 people or 20,000 people you will have proven your ability to handle the small things first. 2) Don't be lazy with your gift and your craft. Regardless of your genre you should be writing/ practicing everyday and setting goals for yourself. Last year I set a goal to write 3 songs a month which is almost 40 songs written within a year. Even if I didn't use the songs I still wrote them so I can get better at my craft. There is a difference between a person who likes the idea of doing music and a person who actually wants to do music. You have to discipline yourself if you are truly committed to doing music as a career or as a ministry. You never get better by accident. It's only with consistent practice and constructive criticism that you become better and that's with anything not just music.
That is great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! It was great to get to know you a bit, sounds like God is doing some amazing things!
Want to keep up to date on what is happening with Elohin?
You can follow him on Social Media!
Check out "On My Knees" off of "Boom Bap Soul" on Spotify!
Struggles, this EP is about all sorts of struggles.
"Neon Signs" gets off to a fast and intense start with "We Are Under Attack". W.A.U.A. is speaking directly about how backwards things are in our world and how we are in the midst of a battle of epic proportions whether we know it or not. The song speaks to the fact that people think following Jesus is insane but AJ points out that the true insanity is in not following Jesus.
W.A.U.A. is followed up by "Identity". "Identity" deals with AJ's life pre-Christ as he was sorting a lot of life out and also wrestling with depression, suicidal thoughts and worthlessness. By the end of the song we come to understand that we can only walk in our true Identity by believing in and following Christ. "SwitchPoint" immediately follows and is about the struggles we can encounter as a believer as we wrestle with our flesh/sin. As believers we have a tendency to walk in our old identity, our old self, rather than our new identity, our new self. It is easy to find yourself lost in a cycle and begin to feel overwhelmed, defeated, depressed and confused. The great thing about this EP is that thematically AJ takes us from one place to the next as "SwitchPoint" is followed up "Take The Exit" which is related to 1 Cor 10:13, which states that God is faithful to provide us an exit so that we may endure the temptation we are facing. The thing is, we need to take the exit and flee from the temptation... This is where the battle is most intense... Praise God that we have an advocate in Christ Jesus, and that if we don't take the exit and fail, praise God for His grace that we are in desperate need of. The call here is purity, we are not to cheapen the grace of God but rather strive for holiness, and strive for Christ-likeness.
"Dimensions, Ep 2" is the second part of the saga which got it's start on A.K.A. Fisher's album "Otherworldly Weapons" (if you haven't heard that album you are greatly missing out and need to go check it out immediately... www.tentmakermusic.com/akafisher). Dimensions is following the life of a young man named Ulysses as he is bent on vengeance but God has placed people in his life that are pointing him to a greater end and that is Jesus. After the skit ends we are launched back into the music, AJ comes back in with "From The Dead" which features The Legend of Xero and is hard hitting both in lyrical content but also in beat and style. "From The Dead" makes the gospel clear and challenges people that don't know Jesus to make the decision to follow Him and to not wait as now is the time. This brings us to the final song on the EP "Each Passing Day" which features Jon Payne. "Each Passing Day" picks up right where "From The Dead" Leaves off and is a plea for people to turn from sin and turn to Jesus. "Each Passing Day" shares the reality that each day that passes brings us closer to death and that we need to make a decision about Jesus, that we need to not sleep on Christ but rather examine the claims and pray we see the signs that are all around us. Jon Payne reminds us that we are not to far gone and that we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done, that we don't need to clean up first but rather we can come as we are scars and all. The EP ends with a powerful call to choose Jesus and to choose Him now.
"Neon Signs" is for sure a journey. Average Joe wants us all to be reminded and to know that there is a God and that through the death and resurrection of Christ we can walk in new life, we can walk in the victory that is only found in Jesus and experience true life. In the words of William Wallace "Every man dies, not every man really lives." True life is only found in Christ.
"Neon Signs" drops February, 26th and will be available on all major digital outlets.
If you’ve ever set out to do something special, something you believe God called you to do, and been disappointed when the result of your efforts fails to meet your expectations, the problem may be with your definition of “success.” This is quite common among Christians, especially Christian artists and ministers, in part because we’ve so often failed to define the word “good” correctly. Because we consider success to be something good, failure to properly define “good” can lead to a confusing conversation. So, let’s go back… back to the beginning…
(insert “flashback” harp here).
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “good” according to the book of Genesis, perhaps we should have paid closer attention. The step-by-step account of the creation of matter and energy and space and animals and plants and humans described in chapter 1 is so fascinating that the seemingly minor detail of how God defines the word “good” is often overlooked. God, being the all-knowing, omnipresent designer and creator of the universe, would be the only one qualified to say for sure what is most beneficial for creation, so what could be more important for someone who seeks to honor and please God to know than what God considers good.
This is where I think we as Christians so often mess up and create for ourselves sources of disappointment unnecessarily. We take words like “useful” or “convenient” or “prosperous” or “popular” or “celebrated” and we treat these words as synonymous with “good.” And I understand that it is normal to use the word good very loosely in regular conversation. The food is “good,” my day was “good,” that TV show is “good,” that song was “good,” so on and so forth, and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you are doing anything sinful by using this word in that way. The problem, however, arises when we forget that this “good’ is not identical to God’s standard of or definition for “good” and begin confusing the two. You see, just because something is “useful” for a given purpose does not mean that the omniscient God, the God who created you and knows you better than you know you, considers that thing to be beneficial to you. It all starts with our motivation. Are we serving God’s purposes, or our own?
When God calls his creation “good,” this suggests that there is no part of the world at this point that is inherently “not good.” Nothing in this universe God has just created is bad in and of itself. This would mean that even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is right where it is supposed to be. This tree is “good,” but just like the snakes and bats God created which were likewise good, that didn’t mean it was good to eat, even if all three of those things are edible. When we step outside of God’s purpose, we step outside of what is good for us, and things which are not in and of themselves bad, such as money or a well-paying job or new opportunities, become bad things whether they appear to be on the surface or not simply because they are being misused or used by someone they were not meant for. Eve ate of the tree in Genesis chapter 3 not because she knew she should, but because on the surface the fruit looked “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable to eat.” Clearly, looks are deceiving. And the thing is, it technically was good for food IF your only concern is satisfying physical hunger, and it was pleasing to the eye IF you’re not looking at the consequences that come along with it, and it was desirable to eat IF you desire something tasty more than you desire to live. Would we say the words “desirable,” “pleasing,” and “good” here are synonymous with God’s definition of “good?” If we say “good,” in order to know if we mean that word the way God means it, we must ask, “good for what?”
In speaking with my good friend and Tentmaker Music collaborator Xero, I realized something about the nature of goodness. He reminded me of a film called In Time starring Justin Timberlake. The film is set in a dystopian future where nobody ages past 25 and years of life are used as currency. Run out of this money, and you run out of time and die. When Timberlake’s character is given a huge sum of this money/time, making him incredibly wealthy, he gives a portion of it to his friend Borel. Sounds good right? Money is good. Being given a bunch of money is good… right? Well, as it turns out, being given that much money at one time was simply too much for that friend to handle. This friend gives into temptation, goes on a bender and ends up drinking himself to death, something he would not have even had the opportunity to do if he hadn’t been in possession of so much money at once. This brings us back around to the idea of success. Would we be right to base Borel’s success on his bank account or regard the gift he received as a blessing? Was having a ton of money good? Again, we must ask, “good for what?” For tempting him, yes. For buying excessive amounts of alcohol, yes. But we don’t judge Timberlake too harshly because, he had GOOD intentions, right? He was trying to be helpful, and he couldn’t have possibly known how badly it would turn out for that friend, but God in His omniscience would have known exactly how bad it was for Borel.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “succeed” as “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.” By “well” we mean the end result is good, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about the “end” God has in mind for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In other words, God’s version of success means we follow His plan, and because God can never fail to do anything, that plan inevitably results in the end HE has in mind for us, and that end HE calls “good.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we have followed His plan, no matter how things may look, the final product will be good as God defines “good,” and that means we have been successful. I want to really emphasize this point because I think that our tendency when things don’t turn out the way we expected is to assume we have not been successful and question whether or not it was really God’s plan we were following. We question whether or not we really heard from God, and on a sea of doubt, like Peter we begin sinking. But hold on a minute… How do you know you weren’t successful? Whose definition of success are you using?
Allow me to explain. Sometimes in our excitement about something God is doing in our lives, we begin to imagine and dream and fantasize about what the end result will be of the wonderful new thing God has started. And along the way, we sometimes make the mistake of mixing up what God ACTUALLY said, with what we IMAGINED was going to happen as a result. Now, all these words and ideas have become tangled together, almost inseparable in our flawed minds. 10 years into ministry when we still aren’t seeing what we imagined, we start to believe that we must not have really heard from God in the first place, or that we failed Him, or WORSE… that God has somehow failed. So, we’ve got to take it back to the start, just the facts… What did God ACTUALLY say? He called you to music ministry? Cool. Did HE say you’d be the music minister at a mega church, or is that how you imagined it would work out? Did HE say you’d go platinum and have a record deal and rock stages in sold-out arenas, or did seeing the experiences of others in music ministry lead you to believe that God had the same in mind for you? If you had all those things happen to you, would it make your purpose in life more important or more meaningful than the one God has for you simply because it would appear bigger and more noticeable to others?
You know who I never hear about? The guy who led Billy Graham to Christ. I don’t even know his name. I suspect that is because his ministry was nowhere NEAR as “big” as Billy Graham’s, and I doubt he was internationally known. Should we say that this man, whoever he was, was less successful than Billy Graham if both of them were simply doing what God asked them to do? Did he fail to live up to his potential then? Was the end God had in mind for both of them not equally “good?” If the ONLY reason God called this person to the ministry was so that they could lead Billy Graham to Christ (resulting in the Billy Graham crusades and thousands being saved), and this person we don’t know was obedient and did just that, he was just as “successful” as Billy Graham EVEN IF he never had a big congregation, EVEN IF he never gained any notoriety or fame as a result of his work, and EVEN IF he never lived to see the result of the Billy Graham crusades. We only fail to see this because we fail to apply God’s definition of success in determining value. We assume bigger means more successful, wealthier means more successful, more popular means more successful. We focus on all the wrong things. No wonder so many Christians so often feel inadequate. No wonder so many ministers become discouraged when everyone around them seems to be wondering why their ministry doesn’t look like so-and-so’s ministry.
Keep your focus where it needs to be, brothers and sisters, on God’s promises, not on what you thought He meant or on what others expect of you. Forget what man says about how “success” looks. You already know how things will end up for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It will turn out “well.” It will be ALL GOOD. You maybe just needed a reminder. If you are doing God’s will and following HIS plan for your ministry and not your own, however it looks, however God decides it should go, however long it is intended to continue, it is most assuredly a highly successful ministry.
We were blessed to have some time to catch up with the one and only J-Notez. At Tentmaker we have lots of interactions with beat makers and J-Notez is one that for sure stands out. His production and beat making skills are on point, there is no denying that, but it was his depth of character that really makes him stand out to us. J-Notez loves Jesus and it is evident in how he conducts himself. There is seemingly no separation between his life as a beat maker and his life as a follower of Christ, and we believe that is how it should be. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
When did you come to know Jesus and start following Him? Can you share a brief bit of your testimony?
"I’ve been following Jesus since the summer of 2010. After graduating high school (literally by the grace of God) I was invited to Church by my best friend and decided I needed to go. Previous to that God was already removing me from a life of selling marijuana along with other things and little did I know he was about to change my whole life from the ground up. The Church I went to was the same Church where I felt God calling me at 14-15 years old but decided to fight at that time to pursues life I thought I wanted. During the service I lost interest extremely quick and decided to step out to smoke a cigarette (something God delivered me from almost 8 years ago, praise Jesus!) then returned after to be unphased by the word. As the weeks went by I was continually invited back to church by my best friend and though I wasn’t interested I kept going back until one day God made it clear and I knew that it was time to trust Jesus with everything! I’ve been walking this faith walk going on 9 years and though it’s been hard I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!"
Wow, praise God! That's awesome! Thanks for sharing!
How long have you been making beats and why is that something you started doing?
"I’ve been making beats for 9 years on and off but 4 years consistently. I got into making beats because I’ve always loved music. I was always that kid in school who would knock on tables to make beats before I was introduced to how the beats on the radio where actually made. Though I never made beats before God saved me, after coming to know Him as Savior God began to stir that desire back up in me. One night while praying, I was asking God what I was to do with my life, and He made it clear that I needed to go to the garage in my moms house, that's where I found a cord I had never seen before that ended up powering my midi keyboard which came with no power source (Thanks a lot eBay )!! After that I knew exactly what I needed to do but it wouldn’t be easy!
What are some of your short term and long term goals as a beat maker or just in general?
"My short term goal is to be a part of the CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) industry as an independent artist and to be able to go full time in my music career using my beats and musical abilities to point people to Jesus. My slogan is Deeper Than Music so that’s what I live out. Also I hope to be home with my family doing music instead of being away due to a 9 to 5!
My long term goal is to use my income from my music to create a ministry to feed the homeless or something of the sort. Not sure of what the details are just yet but I’m trusting God will lead me in this when that time comes. I also hope to be the best father to my kids, husband to my wife, and be continuously leading them to Christ. I long to be the Father I wish I had growing up and Husband I never saw lived out in my parents marriage."
What is something about you that you think people might find to be odd?
"I couldn’t think of anything weird that I do so I asked my wife, probably not the best idea lol. She had to think about it but then eventually she starts roasting me saying I pace back and forth when I’m having a serious conversation on the phone and that I open and close doors, grab things to mess around with and walk in and out of rooms."
That's not to bad, I mean if that's the oddest thing she could think of than you're doing all right! Though we did find it hilarious that your wife started roasting you! Marriage is fantastic!
Who is your favorite musician (artist or band) of all time?
"It’s hard to say a certain musician, artist or band is my favorite. Different artist speak to my life in different seasons. To name a few all time favorites: Lecrae, Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, Scott Storch, Linkin Park, Hans Zimmer, 2pac, Hillsong, NF, KB and so many more."
That's a pretty eclectic list, dope!
If you were to name a Spotify playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
"My Spotify playlist name for my life would be called Hills and Valleys and 3 songs on it would be
1. Andy Mineo “Tug Of War”
2. Aaron Cole “Patient With Me”
3. Elevation Worship “Do It Again”"
What would you say is your life verse, and do you have a favorite book in the Bible?
"My life verse is Philippians 4:8 and my favorite book of the Bible is Romans!"
Last question, what is one piece of advice that you would share with an aspiring Christian beat maker?
"Keep God first. If your music is about you then your success will breed selfishness. Also, one practical piece of advice I never hear anyone say but is so crucial, is get out of debt and if your not in debt stay out of it. Then, use that money to further invest into bettering your craft and marketing yourself. So many people focused on buying other things (I’m guilty of this as well though I have improved incredibly) instead of using that money to continue to build their career."
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and I also want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this! Till the next time, God Bless!
Check out "Rebel" by J-Notes. You can listen to all his beats at jnotez.com