Publishing and Promoting Your Songs

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

Craig Dunnagan, VP, Music Publishing and Church
Resources, Integrity Music

Are you so foolish? After beginning in the Spirit, are you trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:3 (NIV)

We start pursuing God with no thought of gain or increased influence; we simply want to give our lives for Him and make our love for Him known in our songs. It’s amazing how things get complicated as we get “older.” God is the One who imparts gifts into our lives, but when we attain some level of accomplishment with those gifts, we often start trying to“figure out” the next steps of ministry and impact.

These tendencies are almost unavoidable in our culture, but God calls us to a higher place. The key is not to elevate the gifts by spending our energies hoping our efforts get noticed, but to spend them making sure God gets noticed through the gifts. We say worship is “all about Jesus,” but our lives don’t always reflect that. We’re all (music publishers and record companies included) sometimes guilty of this loss of correct focus.

With that spiritual focus in mind, let’s talk about getting your songs “published.” First: “published” is often equated with signing your song to a music publisher. However, technically, a song is “published” when it has been duplicated beyond personal copies (copies for worship team or bulletin), performed in a public setting (worship service), displayed publicly (overhead projector), etc. Therefore, many writers have been published and don’t realize it.

The role of publishers and record companies is to expand the access of songs. There’s a common misconception that publishers and record companies create popular songs and worship leaders/artists. The truth is, we don’t create momentum for ministry, but build a platform under already vibrant and active ministries. We don’t create moves of God, we document them. A greater truth is that God doesn’t need music publishers to spread His songs across the earth; He chooses them, like any other human vessel. If your music is impacting your city, region, denomination, etc. then it’s likely we’ll hear about it. That sounds like a simplistic answer to an evasive quest: publishing and recording. However, I can’t tell you how often I hear about a person or a song from different places at the same time. It’s like God is saying, ‘Paul is ready for his songs to be heard by more people.’ If God isn’t your promoter, you’re fighting a major uphill battle. He promotes the humble, sold-out servants who, like the psalmist David, would be just as satisfied singing their songs to Him on a hillside as they would in front of thousands of people.

1. Share your songs within your current sphere of influence. Opportunities start with relationships. If you’re part of a denomination, share the songs that are really “working” in your congregation with your state music committee. If they love them, they’ll likely share them with others and the song will take on a life outside your home church. Create a fellowship of local worship leaders where you can share ideas and songs. Come with simple demos and chord charts or sheet music. If fellow worship leaders like your song, they’ll try it in their churches. If it works there, where there’s no personal incentive for the congregation to like it, then that song can work well in other churches.

2. Record and distribute a recording of your original songs. I tend to pay more attention to a well packaged recording from a local church than from an individual’s demo. If the pastors and congrega•tion believe in your ministry and songs enough to fund a recording, that speaks of endorsement from them and faithfulness from you. We’ve even asked for a letter of recommendation from the pastor or a staff minister. Once you have a respectable recording, send it to outlets such as Grassroots Music Distribution, WorshipMusic.com or Song Discovery. All of these gladly receive and review independent recordings and, in some cases, make the songs or products available to their constituents.

3. Attend Worship Conferences and Music Conferences. These are the best places to meet and develop relationships with nationally known worship leaders and songwriters. There may be song-sharing opportunities or contests where songs are submitted, judged and awarded. Examples: International Worship Institute, Purpose Driven Worship Conference, Seminars 4 Worship (Integrity Music) and others.

4. Engage in limited itinerant ministry. If God has given you excellent songs for the church, then share them in other congregations. This is assuming you have “presentational” skills that do the songs justice. When you’re ready to do this, don’t leave your home church. Stay anchored where your gifts were nurtured and encouraged in the first place. Stay near the well where your source of life and inspiration comes from. However, with the blessing of your leadership, pursue and accept invitations from other churches. This increases the opportunity for someone influential to hear about your songs and share your name or music with those who can give you a broader platform.

There are multitudes of ways your songs can be heard and sung. However, the above four are by far the best first steps that, from my experience, lead to songs gaining a wider platform.

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