It's a great day!
Way back in 2012, Universal and other major companies were caught in a scandal buying billions of fake streams for their YouTube accounts. It was only discovered when YouTube changed their algorithm to curb the 'black-hat' technique of paying for fake plays. Even after Universal was caught with their hand in the cookie jar, news media, like Clevver, still covered for them with reports claiming that Universal was 'only moving their videos to their VEVO platform', and YouTube was simply doing 'housekeeping'.
Well it looks like the needle has been moved a little bit further. Because now it seems that Spotify is following Youtube in the pursuit of Bot-blasting. According to Rolling Stone, Spotify, Amazon, Sony, Warner, Universal and other major players in the music business are joining forces to battle the evil empire of Stream Manipulation. Once they Implement their new changes, people who have been gaming the system by buying likes and plays will no longer be able to benefit from these practices. So while we may witness the further clamping down of Big Business over Spotify, blocking out the little man once again, we may also get to witness a great purge of click-farms, bot-merchants, playlister curators and other kinds of cheaters who game the system with dubious streaming practices.
Maybe this is a great day for who simply want to build true relationships with their music will have a fighting chance here. I've watched media companies blow up with ridiculous engagement and numbers, but always walked away scratching my head wondering how they were able to make such an impact with little money and in such a short amount of time. Call me skeptical, but I'm pretty sure a lot of the people that I've seen rocketing into the stratosphere are about to slow their progress significantly once it's exposed that they were buying plays and likes the whole time. They will no longer be able to rely on stream manipulation strategies to make their money, and further raise their profiles.
I think it'll be a good thing to see plays and engagement brought back down to a reasonable level. It may even drive the value of music streams upward. I think that it will definitely help build artists' confidence in their abilities once they see that they can make a living by pulling realistic numbers, instead of comparing themselves to their competitors with ridiculously inflated numbers. I'm sure that it sounds like I'm glad to see the world burn, but it's quite the opposite. I want to see the playing field leveled so that fair remains fair.
I want to see justice for the artist.
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!!