Songwriters can get bogged down so quickly by publishing, copyright and legal technicalities which take away from the pure joy of creating, collaborating and sharing songs with other people. I’ve been writing songs for a bunch of years and really focusing on co-writing for the last few, with people from my church, from across Canada and with other writers in Nashville.
Add to that the fact that I’m in Canada and copyright law has some pretty significant distinctions here than in the USA.
Time after time I’ve been asked about publishing, copyright, royalties and how all of those play into songwriting and co-writing especially within a church environment. So many sticky situations but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Publishing and copyright are not imaginary things which can be ignored just because you don’t want to deal with them. Sticking your head in the sand is not an option.
2. Relationships over royalties. This applies to your connection with other songwriters as well as with your pastor/church. The friendship and relationship with them is much more valuable than points and percentages.
3. Discussions about all of this are much easier before the cheques start coming. Think copyright conversations are awkward now? Just wait until there’s a royalty cheque that needs to be paid out! If you haven’t yet had the conversation the difficulty will increase significantly.
I can’t tell you how to do things in your situation but here are some resources which have been incredibly helpful for me as I’ve thought about how we are approaching publishing and copyright with songwriters here at C4.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and not offering this as any kind of legal advice.
Check out these two webinars with Steve McPherson, the managing director of publishing at Hillsong:
Invites and postcards were printed for distribution by our church and in our community.
Rather than creating a series bumper video like we’d normally have we put together this video leading in to the sermon. This was shot by a videographer in our church and the concept developed by an artist in our church who you see in this video. It was shot on our stage and came together as a really great element for our services.
It seems like creativity will always have this push and pull between spontaneous and planned. How many times have I heard an artist (including myself!) say, “We’ll just figure it out in the moment!” For some reason we have allowed the power of creative spontaneity to overshadow the power of creative planning.
Whether or not you’re a fan of her music, if you were one of the 118 million people who watched Katy Perry’s halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl you likely came away impressed. The scale of the sets and props, the use of pyro and lighting, the quick changes in staging all helped to create an incredible performance.
Watching that show, it is clear to see that nothing was left to change. Every shot, every cue, every move of every participant is scripted down to the last detail. And the overall result? An incredible performance that wowed the whole world and set a new standard for global entertainment.
Think Katy told her people that she really wasn’t sure what she’d do to transition those two songs but that she’d figure it out in the moment? Think she had a rough idea of how she was going to enter the stadium but needed to feel the crowd to really go with the flow? Not a chance. That performance was planned, scripted, rehearsed, critiqued, edited, rehearsed again, over and over until the best possible outcome was produced.
The day after the Super Bowl one of the companies involved in the production released a bunch of renderings they had done to help design the event. Check out the rendering of Katy entering the stadium on this giant mechanical puppet lion (by the way.. one of the coolest moments in live production ever!) with a photo from that same moment happening during the halftime show:
Think that took some planning ahead? Of course it did. For bonus points, check the date in the bottom right hand corner of that rendering – 11.02.14. November 2, 2014. 91 days before the Super Bowl happened. How long before that November 2 do you think this team started working on the puppet lion idea? I guarantee that this was not a spontaneous idea that came up a few moments before it needed to happen.
So what do we do with this? Churches are not the Super Bowl. (If you email or comment about this fact, I’m just going to refer you back to this line.) Of course church services are not a halftime show. Worship leaders, you are not Katy Perry. (Maybe one day Katy Perry will be a worship leader!) We don’t have NFL resources or global audience or thousands of volunteers to help make this happen. And please don’t ever let your pastor convince you that he should enter on Sunday morning riding a giant mechanical puppet lion!
But what do we have?
We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.
So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing? I promise you I don’t have all the answers but here are three strong factors that I think are keeping you from creating your best work:
Do the work. Sometimes it comes down to lack of effort and an unwillingness to do the hard task of putting our creative work through the paces of preparation, drafts, critique, editing, repeat. For some of you, creative success has come easily since you were a kid and you’ve been riding the coattails of prodigy recognition for so long that you would rather let your first effort be your best effort. The reality is that your first effort is pretty darn good and you’re quite happy with that.
Several years ago I realized that I had become addicted to the adrenaline rush of pulling off good work at the last minute. I had subconsciously (consciously, sometimes) been sabotaging my own best work by chasing the rush rather than results. I craved the adrenaline I felt by cutting as close to deadlines as possible so I would intentionally procrastinate to force myself into a situation where I had to pull a rabbit out of the hat. I’m now learning to create early and often, getting a rush from producing better work.
This is not new but if you are an artist and you haven’t dealt with your own fear or insecurity you are either the best or the worst artist I have ever met. Nobody makes it out of here alive. We all have to wade through our own water of despair and sometimes we let fear win. If you are a Christian, you need to dig deep into the Psalms, into community and maybe into counselling to help you navigate these waters. A great book called “The War of Art” should also be in your bedside table. Read it often.
What can you do today or this week to take a step in the direction of creativity and putting your best work forward? How can you overcome laziness, procrastination, fear or The War of Art’s Resistance to give the world the gift of your best art?
Don’t buy the lie that creativity and spontaneity must go hand-in-hand. You are more than your best moment of creativity! Dig in to the work God has called you to do and be brave enough to share your best with the world. We need it!
This question comes across my twitter feed multiple times a week. Not always directed at me but lots of worship leaders are looking for places to find new songs.
I understand. I get it. I really do. We want to look past the famous and familiar to find the songs that churches are singing below the radar. Where are the songs that are saying something of substance and giving a voice to an aspect of our worship expression that isn’t necessarily communicated by the Toml-Redm-Hills-Pass-ethel’s of the world?
So let me come at this a few different ways. Let’s talk about our dislike for hit songs, let’s talk about some songs that I’ve found recently that may not be getting the attention they deserve and then let’s talk about how I go about finding new songs.
First of all, let’s agree together that songwriting is a skill. The art (and it is an art) of crafting lyric, melody, emotion, tone and rhythm together to form a song that people are not only able but willing to sing is one that must be appreciated.
Good songs generally come from good songwriters. Good songwriters generally come from writing lots and lots and lots of songs, many of them which are not good but lead to better ones.
Good songwriters shouldn’t be cast to the side and disregarded simply because the songs they write are very good, very popular and very common in churches around the world. They should be celebrated because of this fact! The reason that songs become popular and are sung around the world is that there are very talented songwriters who understand the craft of songwriting and have put together these various elements in a way that allows people of every musical skill level to sing as an expression of their worship to Jesus.
Great songwriters are an incredible gift to the church and are worthy of honour. Eyes get rolled at the new album from any of the well known songwriters, worship leaders or churches because the assumption that these are somehow cookie cutter or assembly line creations by songwriters who are just looking to make a quick buck.
The only reason these songwriters, worship leaders and churches have become well known to the point that their new songs and albums come with a level of anticipation is that they have been able to consistently deliver great songs for a number of years! If people are paying attention, they’re doing something right!
So don’t discard or discredit new songs from the Toml-Redm-Hills-Pass-ethel camp just because “every church is going to sing those songs!” That’s an incredibly relevant reason to join in with the global chorus of voices and sing them, too!
This weekend I had the real privilege of leading my church in worship today. Obviously part of the preparation is just learning the songs we’re going to play. There are other aspects to being prepared as a worship leader (prayer, conversations with your pastor, thinking through transitions, etc) but don’t neglect the work of actually spending time with the songs you are leading.
Remember that practice is not the same as rehearsal.
Practice is time for me to learn to play the songs.
Rehearsal is time for the band to learn to play the songs together.
As someone replied on instagram: Practice is personal, rehearsal is relational.
Vertical Church Band (web|facebook|twitter) from Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago is releasing their new album, Church Songs, this week. I’ve been listening for a couple of weeks and I’m excited for you to hear these songs! They are strong, Jesus-centred, Jesus-exalting, lyrically rich songs of worship for churches around the world.
Led by Andi Rozier, Harvest’s worship pastor, Vertical Church Band has been writing and recording songs for several years and I’m pretty sure there is no local church producing more songs that I love to sing than Harvest Bible Chapel and Vertical Church Band.
Church Songs features great new songs written by Andi Rozier, Meredith Andrews, Jacob Sooter and other great Harvest songwriters plus collaborators including Mia Fieldes and Jason Ingram.
Check out this webcast from Vertical Church Band to hear a bunch of the songs performed live, some of the stories behind the songs as well as some of the heart of the worship ministry at Harvest and how God is working in their church.
January 20 the album will be available in iTunes but I’ve got 3 copies of Church Songs from Vertical Church Band to give away! The giveaway is open NOW and I’ll announce three winners tomorrow.
Not only that but one of those three winners will win a copy of Church Songs PLUS the two previous albums from Vertical Church Band, Live Worship from Vertical Church and The Rock Won’t Move. These albums are full of great songs that you will want to sing at your church.
One more preview. Here’s a song session of one of my favourites on the album, “Lamb of God”
Good luck! All of the instructions on how to enter the contest are below. Winners will be announced after the contest closes on Tuesday, January 20 at 3pm eastern. Thanks again to Vertical Church Band and Essential Worship for providing the CDs!
Vertical Church Band "Church Songs" Giveaway
Music is at its most powerful when inhabited by God as His people are gathered. The core purpose of worship music is the church. When God's people come together to lift the name of Jesus, anything is possible.
The heartbeat of Vertical Church Band is the local church. Their third recording "Church Songs" was designed with that one end in mind: to serve local church worshippers with singable and accessible songs.
Excellence has moved from lofty goal to buzzword to expected performance level when it comes to our times of gathered worship in the church. Of course we want quality and we want focus and we want cool lights (admit it!) and we want people to meet Jesus. Of course.
Last week I was spending some time writing an article on excellence in worship and how to attract, expect and develop excellence. I became pretty convicted over my own definition and expectation of excellence:
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
We make no apologies for high skill and high integrity. When it comes to people serving and leading in our worship ministry we care about heart and hands, character and capability.
And yet we can’t take that desire for excellence all the way that we expect perfection. Excellence and perfection are different things and as leaders we need to decide how much of a gap between those two we will allow. We will never get perfection from ourselves or from anyone on our teams, so where you place the expectation bar will be somewhere below that. The only question is how low.
Powerful quote. Remember that your expectation for excellence from your team is not equated to their own personal holiness. Don’t apologize for excellence, don’t pretend you’ll get perfect, pray that God will give you much grace.
Wake Up The Wonder is the new worship album from Elevation Church based in Charlotte, NC. This collection of new songs recorded live at Time Warner Cable Arena by Elevation Worship is one more step forward for this church, these worship leaders and their vision to see people far from God raised to life in Christ.
Wake Up The Wonder from Elevation Church will be available on Tuesday, November 25 but I’m happy to say I’ve got THREE copies of this album to give away! Enter now and make sure you share the giveaway with friends to get extra entries. Winners will be announced the morning of Tuesday, November 25.
“Wake Up The Wonder is a prayer believing for revival”, explains Elevation Worship. “It’s the stunned and speechless shift from darkness into light, from unconscious into conscious, from spark into fire.
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to this album for the last week or so. The lyrics are strong, the focus is on Jesus and the voices are loud. There are some familiar themes here and also some new ideas. I keep coming back to “The King Is Among Us” and really think there is just something special about this song:
Elevation Worship "Wake Up The Wonder"
This is one of many stirring declarations of praise to our Creator from the latest Elevation Worship project, Wake Up The Wonder. The new live album was recorded on August 1st in front of an electrifying crowd of 16,000 worshippers at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. The energy of that night, along with the powerful creative expression of each song make this an album full of congregational anthems for churches around the world.
Based on Genesis 28 and the story of Jacob waking up to realize he is in the presence of God, Wake Up The Wonder calls the modern church to do the same. This album seeks to encourage listeners to rediscover the wonder and "Wow Moments" of God in the midst of their everyday lives. Through intricate songwriting and passionate delivery, Elevation hopes to inspire listeners to view their lives as a series of God moments where all things are possible. With upbeat songs centered around freedom and celebration (Look How He Lifted Me, Already Won, Unstoppable God) as well as powerful moments of reflection and gratefulness in the midst of difficulty (Jesus I Come, The King Is Among Us) Wake Up The Wonder is a must have soundtrack to celebrate a risen, living, active God.
I’ve been sharing songs we are singing at C4 Church on social media (twitter|instagram|facebook) for a while and people were asking me how I was putting these graphics together. I thought I’d record this quick video to show you how you can use free apps to make great looking graphics to share with your community what’s happening at your church.
PS How much do I love that I can record videos right off my iPhone with Yosemite/iOS 8?? Crazy.