"God vs Mammon" or otherwise known as "foldin’ money"

08 Jun

Here goes…

I’ve started responding so many times and keep starting over. There’s so much that I want understood and I can’t figure out how to say it all without writing some kind of thesis or something.

(one other thing: I’m going to be posting a number of what look to be long blogs. 1) I’m sorry, honestly I didn’t open this can of worms, but I’d like to be very clear and honest about it. 2) You might want to save comments till after it seems I’m finished so as not to set me off on tangents which will just slow us all down. Believe me, there will be time for Q&A later.

God vs. Mammon

I feel the need to explain some things to make a clearer picture.

First, what it was like when my “playing out” was dominated by “church gigs”:

For at least 3-4 years, we were booked probably about 45 weekends out of the year and 7 or more weeks (usually 10 wks) of leading worship at camp every summer.

For at least the last couple years of that kind of schedule, I could ask for (and mostly receive) at least $500 to be at a church and/or lead worship on Sunday morning and then do an hour long concert at the church that night. Sometimes churches just paid this out of budgets, sometimes they took an offering and wrote me a check for whatever came up short to get to $500. (In the “biz” we call this a “guaranteed offering”)

We also usually did really well selling CDs, too. I had Vagabond Dancing, Fall on Me, and Trying to Climb the Wisdom Tree for sale, and would usually make a package deal for all 3 for like $25 or 2 for $20. At church concerts, I think it’s safe to say that we’d average selling at least 15-20 CDs a weekend, which translates into at least another $200. (I’m being very conservative with this, because it seems like we usually made more like $300-$400 in CD sales.)

When we’d lead worship for camps or retreats or revivals or whatever, I’d be able to clear at least $500 and many times it was more like $750-$1000. We didn’t usually sell quite as many CDs at camp, but would usually sell between 10-20 for a week. (This included telling kids that if they wanted a CD, they could take it with an envelope and send us a check after they got home. You wouldn’t believe how many checks we’d get at the start of camp season the following year when mom’s got out kids’ camp stuff and found this envelope and got the story. I just always figured if they wanted the CD, I’d rather that they had it. We never paid any attention to whether they sent us money or not. But, I digress…)

All this adds up to the fact that we were able to pull in roughly $2000-$2500 a month for “performance fees” to live on, and we usually saved CD money to help pay for the next CDs or equipment purchases or promotional spending.

Now, this is what money is like “playing out” in “secular venues”:

I play out maybe once or twice a month. I make $50 from a venue and I put out a tip jar that usually pulls in another $50. I played just last week and we were really surprised and excited to find that we’d actually sold 5 whole CDs that night. A good night would be 2 or 3 CDs sold and a normal night would be about 1 CD sold.

Once in awhile, we’ll get asked to do something special like an end-of-school teachers’ picnic that we played for a couple of weeks ago. We were very thankful to receive $300+tips+CDs+ some good food. I wish this kind of thing could happen more.

About a month ago, we (me, Holly, and James) got to open for a big-name Christian band. We didn’t get paid anything, but we sold almost 20 CDs.

That brings the grand total to an exceptionally good month of these “secular gigs” bringing in less than $500 including CD sales. Even if I were able to bump up the bookings to playing out 3 or 4 nights a month, I still don’t think it would make it past the $500 mark.

Believe me when I say that if I were mostly concerned with money, I would never have given up the “sweet-money gig” lifestlye that I was living.

Stay tuned for: “God vs. Fame”

Coming soon…

(sorry, this is just the first installment. ie: I’m not done yet.)

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Posted by on June 8, 2004 in Uncategorized


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