If you listen this week, you'll have noticed that I went on something of a tirade at the beginning of the show. Not my usual form, but there's really something in the air that needs to be addressed and I believe it's up to us, the artists, to address it.
1) Jesus Music
I get a lot of music submissions from different types of bands and musicians, and a lot them get tossed because they're not actually Christian songs. Now, personally I don't have any problem with positive music, or inspirational music. I think that stuff is great. I actually make music like that myself. But the sole purpose for this particular podcast is to Showcase amazing Christian music. And there are so many people who spend their time making amazing other kinds of music.
Why does it get rejected?
It's really disappointing to me when I spend a bunch of time getting to know someone, and learning how amazing their Ministry is, only to find out that they don't even mention Christ in their music. It's even more disappointing when the music is anti-biblical in theme, but is more on the self-help Guru side of things. I feel that there's so much noise in competition that we need to be pointing people directly the Christ so that we can help his kingdom grow. So while I understand why we all make different kinds of music, I tried to prioritize the music that is strictly Christian themed.
It doesn't mean that it needs to be hymns and praise songs all the time. Although I do love that stuff. But we need more music talking about real life, but from a Christian perspective. Even if you're talking about your Christian struggles, it's much more real than anything that the self-love crowd is doing.
2) Support and Engagement
I'm all about giving everyone a fair chance. But it's true that even I look for musicians with a high engagement. it gives me much more confidence that these are musicians who will share out posts when podcast like mine give them some love. It's funny that metal bands are the most active supporters of our program right now. When you show a metal band love or give them a review or something like that, they are publicly gracious and are sure to let all their fans know. To be quite honest, our pages with the most engagement and the highest traffic are those of metal bands on our website, because they're the most active supporters of their own work.
I find that to be surprising and I think we can all learn from metal bands in this respect. I try to make it a point to share out links and posts on my other social networks whenever I'm tagged in something by a publication. Not only is it a good way to say thank you to the publication, but it's also a great way to let your fans know that their support of you matters and is making an impact. Let your friends know that they are a part of something by sharing your successes with them.
I'm no only looking to see if You are popular, and have lots of support. I'm also looking to see how well you support others.
3) ID3 Tagging
Something that studio musicians are a lot better at than live musicians, is tagging and ID3 tags. A lot of times I just forget about songs all together because it's not tagged, or it comes off of a CD as track 1 or track 2 and has never been tagged. Sometimes it may just say the name of the song something like "Song_Name_MASTER" and I often can't even remember who the name of the artist is so instead of embarrassing myself on the program I just won't play that song.
The artists who take the time to tag their music not only have their song name and artist name, but they also have a picture that helps me to recognize them when I'm trying to quickly search through my computer for the next song. This is really helpful to me, and I'm sure it's helpful to other DJs.
4) Replay Value
For most of us, music is a communal experience. It's something that brings us together. It's even something that we share with strangers. That's because music brings us to an emotional place, and moves us spiritually. At the same time, there was a lot of really good music that is brilliant lyrically, or is novel because it was a good idea that no one ever thought of, but unfortunately these songs don't have much replay value. A clever song, a good sounding song, a personal song isn't always a song that people will want to listen to as a group.
I do try to make a point to continue to replay songs throughout the weeks, but I honestly find myself gravitating toward songs that have more Community appeal. It's a difficult task to take into consideration when you choosing which single you're want to promote, and to be honest it's not even something that I've mastered myself. But I think it's a conversation we need to be having as a community.
5) Quality and Production
The final thing that helps me to prioritize music is the quality and the production value. There are quite a few songs that I like that I don't play on the show because they're just not professional recordings. At the same time, there are songs that I've mixed and mastered myself that don't meet these requirements so I don't play them on the show. I'm not trying to be bias on the program, but I do look to production quality.
If you're having a hard time, it may be something that you need to consider outsourcing. You can always submit a song to The Snack Bar Sounds Christian Music Showcase, Mondays at 8pm (on facebook live), and get a solid Christian producer to listen to your music and give helpful feedback. Often these other review sites just tell you that they don't like something for arbitrary reasons, but Mike Mills isn't like that at all. He always gives deep thoughtful advice and sometimes the hard truth.
Honest reviews and good advice are invaluable resources that help us to build a strong catalog and an even stronger community. There's no value in trying to do it by yourself when there are people who can help you who also seek to help you serve Christ in the best way.
BONUS - Genre
I wasn't going to put this one but I decided to go ahead. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people think that I just want to play all of the coolest trendiest music, when really I'm always looking for Niche, eclectic, and obscure music to share with people as well. My podcast is an exploration of today's Christian music, and I want people to know what's out there. I play contemporary Christian, hymns, traditional music, instrumentals, country, pop, hip-hop, electronic, metal, rock, dubstep, and a bunch of other stuff I probably don't even know how to identify. If it glorifies Christ, and fits the criteria above, I'm eager to play it.
So if you think you're not cool enough for the show, you're probably right. But that doesn't mean I won't play your music. I'm not looking for the coolest stuff. I'm looking to uplift my community, and help make the world a better place with music that they may not have heard before. So if you know somebody who only has a cell phone and an acoustic guitar, if they can write a good song I'll give them a shot. If you know a church group that recorded their own music, have them send it in and we'll see what they got. Again I do have to scrutinize, but that doesn't mean I'm brutal with how I select music.
I hope you find these tips helpful and I hope that we can start a conversation based on the things that I've written above. I'd love to hear more of your music, even if you sent stuff before.
Xeroforhire - Christian Musician, Producer, and Podcaster for Tentmaker Music