The Culture Joint

The balance between ministry and industry

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In the book of Mark 12:17, the good books tell believers, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.” which loosely translates to the quote we keep hearing, “Do as the Romans do when you go to Rome.”

The world over, every institution has its own set of rules, framework, and known or accepted norms. As such, any individual that ventures into such institutions must employ the laid-down tactics if they want to maneuver that institution or space.

The music industry is no different, and as such, regardless of the genre you make, you will have to follow some procedures and tactics if you aim to exploit your music.

It is this writer’s belief that, just like their contemporaries making hip-hop, highlife, reggae, or afrobeats, artists who make gospel music need to also start employing the needed tactics if they want to not only exploit their music but also spread their gospel.

I have seen young creatives within the gospel industry strive to push their craft and the gospel to the best of their abilities. Artists like Nana Yaw Ofori-Attah (Oneman1000) and his Oasis Collective, Kyei Mensah TeamEternity, Edem the Evangelist, and a host of others have been doing their best. Their collaborations with other gospel creatives in fashion, content creation, and dance are building a community that, if given the right investment and push, will do the gospel space some good. 

This article is aimed at pointing out some areas that gospel artists, creatives, and people within that space can tackle in hopes of amplifying not only the gospel but also earning from their craft. Gospel music must position itself in a way that maximizes its chances of commercial success and sustainable opportunities while expanding its reach for both music and message.

Unlike most genres, gospel music always comes under a more strict lens of scrutiny, where the creators are criticized through a religious lens and that of the creative industry itself. They are often caught between satisfying the tenants of the gospel and giving up commercial success, or vice versa.

However, based on the experiences of several creatives within the church, it has been proven that satisfying the church while enjoying commercial success can both be achieved.

On the global scale, acts like Don Meon, Kirk Franklin, Hilsong, Maverick City, and Mary Mary, just to name a few, continue to enjoy success while spreading the message of the Lord. In the Ghanaian and African space, we have seen the likes of Daughters of Glorious Jesus, Ohemaa Mercy, Kweku Gyasi, Esther Smith, Nacee, and more recently, Joe Mettle, Sonnie Badu, and Diana Hamilton, among many others, enjoy success while pushing the Jesus Christ agenda through their music and craft. 

At its core, gospel music is a collection of messages of hope, love, salvation, faith, life experiences, culture, and Christian beliefs, just to name a few. It is these key ingredients that are slapped on beats and instruments to give us the gospel songs we hear around the world. The attention to details, be it in writing, singing arrangements, or instruments, that comes with making gospel music has been the foundation of many artists the world over who have said that they began their music careers in the church.

Even at the church level, it was not far-fetched to see some churches be strict about how creatives exhibited their craft, be it singing, dancing, or theater. However, in recent times, we have seen a lot of churches adopt an open approach to their creative departments while investing in them, as seen by Altar Music, a Christian record label under the ICGC Church. It is evident that it has grown on these church leaders how instrumental the creative department is in the amplification of the gospel. 

Despite the success of some gospel acts, there are still a larger number of creatives within the gospel industry who are still uncertain about their future as creatives because they feel they are limited, which is not entirely the case.

These creatives often feel they need to leave their faith behind before they can achieve something with their craft. However, education, research, and planning would easily remedy a lot of these misconceptions.

In other cases too, some believers are so caught up in their spirituality that they forget that for things they pray for in the spiritual to happen, they need to put in the physical work.

In fact, this may sound controversial, but there are things that many have proven can be achieved without even being spiritual. However, this article is not about things of the spirit, so we will stick to the physical. 

For a better perspective, we can look at the career paths of artists like Sonnie Badu, Sinach, Joe Mettle, and Diana Hamilton, who have all understood some of the principles of the music business, such as branding, media exploitation, promotions, and marketing, among other tactics in the amplification of their music.

This has resulted in them enjoying continuous commercial success, which has trickled from the church into the “world” with God’s message.

They have not been solely dependent on the church or Christian audiences. Their growth has made them attractive to the media, investors, labels, and corporate institutions, and they have expanded their booking market. 

They have proven that if you employ the right tactics and pray (as Christians believe), you will enjoy the harvest of your sowing. For any gospel artist or creative in the gospel space, building your profile and increasing your visibility and social currency is a great start to achieving not only commercial success but also larger platforms to spread your message. This sets the stage for your music and your message. 

The popularity of social media platforms has seen diverse people jump on the platform to amplify their works, including people within the gospel space. The question I would like to ask is: if you can jump on TikTok and all the other social media platforms to market yourself and your message, why stop there? What is stopping you from going a step further to learn about the other tools and models of marketing your music as a Christian creative or gospel artist? 

The truth is, not everyone will be able to hit the heights of Joe Mettle or Sonnie Badu. But putting the right steps in place increases your odds of becoming a more successful artist than just sitting back and limiting yourself to just the church. After all, did Jesus not say in Mark 2:17 that he came for the unsaved and in Matthew 28:19–20 that you should go into the world and spread his word? So if you are truly aiming to spread the gospel through your craft, would it not be better to increase your audience by expanding your marketing base? 

While this writer agrees that it would not be an easy journey to navigate the music business, it would not be any easier without it either. Instead of losing creatives to the “world,” as people in the church put it, why not create a system where these creatives can thrive and stay in the church and the gospel industry? 

One of the ways we can do that is through education and the acquisition of skills. Like every other industry, there has to be a conscious effort to acquire the needed knowledge and skills in the marketing and exploitation of music. Even as a church, people go through some training before being assigned roles.

As such, gospel artists need to ensure that the people they allow into their teams have an understanding of the music business. It is not enough to just be prayerful. In  Joshua 1:8, the Bible tells believers to continuously study the word of God, and they shall become successful. The same can be applied to the craft. It is not enough to say you have a team. Your team needs to constantly evolve with the knowledge of the business so the skill of the game does not depart from them. 

Another thing that should be looked at is structure and infrastructure. In places like the US or Nigeria, there are a number of structures and infrastructures that have been put together to help the gospel space. While there is an increase in the Christian event space, there is also more room for more and larger events to amplify the space as a whole.

While “Detty December” has been a huge success for people in the “world” who took advantage of the Year of Return and Beyond the Return initiatives, it seems the Gospel industry has not taken advantage of said initiatives to introduce their own mega Christian festival outside individual and church events like Oasis Gathering, Explosion of Joy, Adom Praise, Harvest Praise, and Christmas with Joe Mettle, among others.

The availability of great studios for sound recording, platforms in the media that support Christian creatives, mega events, music business seminars, and masterclasses, among many others, need to be in play. The marriage of message, music, and business has created a path of success for gospel artists in other parts of the world, and Ghana should not be left out. 

One other key area is investment. The need for financial investments cannot be overstated. The old church would not have spread the gospel all over the world without investments. There is a need for financial investment in the industry by sponsors, corporate bodies, and individuals, especially Kingdom financiers. The onus is on practitioners within the gospel music industry to attract the interest and funds of Kingdom financiers.

They need to first understand that the gospel industry is also an extension of the ministry as well as a great investment venture. The establishment of record labels and marketing agencies, among others, will unearth and promote talent and creative individuals who will push the message even further through their creative exploits.

The gospel industry in Ghana has great potential for greater exploits. As such, it is high time gospel artists and their industry experts stop playing victim and pursue an understanding of the music business and start navigating it. They must find the balance between ministry and industry by employing skills, procedures, and techniques that will aid in the growth of the space.

Written by: Nana Kojo Mula

The Culture Joint