If you have ever recorded a worship song, it is an exhilarating experience, but also a lot of work. First there is the writing, wrestling with the words to make them work with the music and rhyme, and say what God has put on your heart to say. There is capturing the right melodies, and putting them together.
If you are making a studio recording, there is the process of lining up a producer, players or your band, and the preparation of the tracks if used. Then there is the recording, sometimes over multiple sessions. You and the producer sifting through the mixes, finding the right ones. Adding the effects, mixing, mastering.
Then there is the distribution, preparing the masters, uploading them for the CD or digital distribution process, tagging the MP3s, registering with CCLI, creating cover art, social media, etc, etc. For a quality recording, it can be months of effort.
Then, you release. If you are doing well you will get a few weeks worth of notice. Then, if you are like many artists or churches, your song may not get many opportunities to be used outside of your own ministry or church, and maybe a few close to it. A worship leader friend told me once that, there are probably 12-15 opportunities for new songs to be introduced in his church in a year, max. Out of those, 8-10 will go to a known ‘big’ artist. Leaving you, at most, 2 or 3 opportunities to get a song used in an average church.
Most artists do the following two things – they release a CD, maybe a lyric video, and they post chord charts on their web site. Then they wait for their songs to be found, and maybe do some social media marketing.
If this sounds challenging, it is. There is an industry out there, and it depends on getting churches to sing it’s songs. But this should not dissuade you from singing a new song, and giving your songs their best possible voice. A good song is like gold, with lasting value and great beauty. The resources you create will certainly bless your church. But, if you want to share them more widely, there are a few things you, as an artist, can do to help. Most of them are easy, yet few artists do them to any great extent. If you really want all those months of effort to benefit other churches, and to give your songs a chance to be used more widely, there is more you can do.
Do what the industry does
On the day a new ‘big worship’ release, here is what industry does:
Their chord charts, and sometimes orchestrations are released on platforms like PraiseCharts and CCLI SongSelect
Their multitrack stems are released on Multitracks.com and LoopCommunity.com
They have a giveaway of a song plus a chord chart available
The have interviews, reviews, and write-ups all ready to roll
They submit resources to song curators like Worship Leader Magazine SongDiscovery
Some of this is marketing, and just helps to get your music out there. To distribute your music more widely, you can do giveaways on platforms like Noisetrade, Worship Backing Band or Worshipsong. Some sites like PraiseCharts will give away your music to help. You can find sites that will do independent worship music reviews. If your music is strong, they will do some reviews for you.
Worship Backing Band are also really happy to give your song away as their free track of the month. You can also make it available free-of-charge at Worshipsong.com. You’d need to provide the original WAVs in a suitable format (the process is the same for both sites) and it helps users to provide a free chord chart too.
Many of these steps are also intended to help churches make use of the new songs immediately. A large number of churches use CCLI SongSelect or PraiseCharts almost exclusively to get their resources. The chord charts on these platforms work in common software apps like Onsong, ProPresenter and Planning Center Online. It goes without saying that, for the big artists, the chord charts are correct and consistent (or should be).
Having multitracks available means churches that use these backing track technology to use the songs immediately. Many churches will use these resources to be able to quickly incorporate a new song, because they usually allow elements of the recording to be incorporated, while the most common instrumentation and live vocals can be provided by the worship team. These platforms can also be great for rehearsal and training. Be aware, however, that there are no opportunities to give away resources on the major track app platforms (Loop Community and MultiTracks.com) Churches will be forced to pay upwards of $30 for your multitracks on these larger sites but opportunities for you to have your music listed by them are limited (and even if listed sales are unlikely if people have not first heard the track elsewhere). If you want to be able to give away these resources to get your tracks out there, do not sign up for exclusive terms that will prevent you from doing so.
Whether for chord charts, orchestration, or multitracks, most of these platforms are accessible, even to independent artists and church recording ministries. It takes some extra effort to create chord charts in the right format, to create Ableton projects, to create click tracks, identify section markers, and to prepare and/or upload your resources. For the songs you think other churches are most likely to adopt, the effort may well be worthwhile.
Take the long view
Worship music can definitely take time to make its way to where it can be best used. In order for your music to continuing to spread and make impact beyond the couple of months after it is released, you need to take the long view. Keep socializing your music, looking for ways to point people who are interested to the resources you have made available. Sometimes a song giveaway opportunity may arise a year or two after you release. Submit your song anyway. You may also come across competitions for worship song writers. If there are artists who might use your songs, enable them to do so. Give them a break on royalties or help them get resources in their hands, like CDs they can sell. Use your recording investment creatively. Ensure you register your music with CCLI (this will drive some royalties to you when the song is used) and, if you expect radio airplay, BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, MCPS etc. Just having your music in these platforms will help it to appear serious, and therefore be taken seriously.
In order to help your music be usable by churches and have staying power, give out more than a song and a chord chart. Make your resources accessible on the most commonly used platforms like Bandcamp. Create an account with Tunecore to enable distribution on all the major streaming and online download sites like iTunes and Spotify. Then, when people are interested in your music, point them to all your resources, wherever they are. Keep doing so. Just because your song was written a year or two ago does not make it any less relevant today. I’ve songs I wrote 8 years ago still getting exposure.
Written by Mark Snyder (with some editing and additions by Marie Page). Mark is a partner at Worshipsong.com and developer of the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Player. He is also a worship songwriter with over 20 songs recorded by various artists.
When he is not developing software for churches, Mark works as a software engineer in the aerospace industry designing cockpit displays, digital moving maps, and simulation systems, a career he has pursued for over 30 years. He is a proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a Communications/Computer Systems Officer at various U.S. installations including Cheyenne Mountain – made famous by the movie “WarGames”.
Mark has been married for 35 years to his wife Roseanne, and has two grown children.