When Gospel artistes sing in church and at church concerts, are they evangelising or plying their trade? Should they demand to be paid or render their services for free as ministering for God? SAMUEL ABULUDE seeks answers to the raging issue, in this piece.
Music is the soul of life, they say, so anyone armed with a good voice and has gone ahead to hone it stands a good chance to make money from it. This is talent and an industry awaits such a person. The Gospel genre of music brims with talents, potentials and opportunities but many of them are often ignored. The Church from time immemorial, has been the place where talents are discovered and made. Many secular artistes, like the Gospel artistes, discovered their gift in church, where they learnt how to sing and play musical instruments from being members of the church choir. Since church musicians or gospel artistes sing or minister for or to God, the argument has always been, whether they should be paid for the services rendered. This has sharply divided clerics and artistes. While a great number of clerics believe that Gospel artistes should not charge fees since it is the work of God that they are doing, Gospel musicians argue that a lot of time goes into composing songs and rehearsals for performances to be perfected and like pastors who are paid to preach in some climes, they deserve to be paid commensurately, as well.
More often than not, the Gospel singer feels belittled by his or her first constituency- the church and unappreciated compared to his counterpart in the secular world. With the secular artistes benefiting from the various opportunities to make money – shows, live concerts, recordings, music tours, royalties and brand endorsement – only few Nigerian Gospel artistes like Sammie Okposo, have been able to explore all these opportunities. A music reporter of over 35 years and Gospel music reporter of 22 years, Isaac Daniel, said that the problem of Gospel artistes in this clime is that they do not invest in the industry despite making money. He noted that generically, Gospel artistes are not in the industry for commercial purpose but for evangelism but added that a lot of opportunities are open to those who are into Gospel music full time but they are not exploring it.
Daniel, popularly referred to as Mr Gospel, said, “how many Gospel artistes really promote their work? How many see the media and PR as a medium of promotion? Many don’t understand music, they don’t put their interest in music and where they can multiply their talent; a lot of Gospel hits are not managed. I have been telling some of them for years to start their own marketing channels and invest in people but it is this same disposition that it is God’s work and He will (come down to) promote his work, forgetting that music, like other disciplines, also has a business part to it.”
Many a Gospel singer, be it a church musician who sustains the church by providing musical services or a Gospel artiste who supplies outdoor entertainment, need not focus his income-generating revenue on churches which rely on donations from members when they can make money elsewhere.
Veteran Gospel artiste, Broda Martyns of the ‘Mushin Olosha’ fame in an earlier interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, supported the need to pay Gospel artistes and instrumentalists in programmes, churches inclusive. He said, “I am of the view that churches should pay their artistes. I pay my musicians because they work with me here and they are dedicated. Don’t forget that music and instrumentation are specialised fields and artistes spend their lifetime developing their skills and talents. They are not like ushers in the church who could be bankers or medical doctors. I don’t know about other churches but I pay my artistes and I am of the opinion that if these artistes work full time, they should be paid.”
Gospel musicians should create different streams of income
Award winning music producer, Wole Oni lays it bare, urging Gospel artistes and church musicians to diversify.
He said, “as I meet and talk with church musicians from all backgrounds, our conversations inevitably turn to some of the difficulties of working in the church. And we usually agree that the root of those problems is less of a musical one than one that is spiritual. The church musician must first understand that our work is also a form of worship. Secondly, we should develop the mental discipline to concentrate on our job per time, and listen to the sermon during service. Our major role is to set the tone for an atmosphere of praise and worship in God’s presence each time, which is probably one of the most spiritually challenging jobs anyone can have. Church musicians should be appreciated or encouraged which boils down to being paid or not. However, they should not be dependent on the church for survival. They should be creative, versatile and diverse in many ways that money can flow to them. Being paid is relative and should be an individual’s decision, if your spiritual life is strong and your faith in God is such that you absolutely depend on His sustenance, then being paid in a church should be a personal decision.”
Some personalities also bared their minds on this thorny issue written by Priscillia, in the online gospel radio station, PraiseWorld Radio. US-based Gospel artiste, Blessing Alli wrote, “some musicians are into this field full time of which they get their source of living from, while others do it for the love and passion they have while getting paid from outside jobs. So,should musicians be paid? Absolutely yes, but it is still dependent on what category they fall in, full time or for the passion. If you read Numbers 8: 1-23, you will get more insights to this view that the music ministers or Levites were instructed by God not to work but fully render service/minister to God in the Tent.”
Celebrated singer in the Gospel genre currently rocking listeners with his Mo ri ire hit song, Mike Abdul also bared his mind in support of artistes being paid by churches.
He said, “the place of the musician in church is vital and needs no ‘wracking’ the head over as worship is to a large extent, music driven. Good music is directly proportional to good congregational worship experience. Music is the musician’s trade; he definitely should be paid when he renders his service except he chooses to render his service for free. Whether the musician should be paid is not something to think about, why would anyone not pay for service rendered? Free service is the choice of the labourer, anyone who is forced to render free service is under slavery in the hands of a wicked person or system! When a musician requires a change of system from the hands of a master who refuses to pay, that musician will simply be perceived as rebellious. SHIKENA.”
Adeolu Ogunubi, former FECA president however differed. according to him, “I think it should be primarily based on the financial capacity of the local assembly. Gospel musicians who are on full time obviously would need to be paid enough to make them at least comfortable. But I disagree with Gospel musicians who insist and are motivated by financial rewards alone, before they serve God with their God given talent. The first motivation is in using your skill to serve God and bring glory to His name and whatever financial incentives that come naturally with it, should be accepted with thanksgiving without complaining or grumbling. Money must never be our motivation as believers. Pleasing Him should be the first thing on our minds and Gospel musicians are no exceptions.”
Also contributing, Pastor Francis Madojemu, coordinator of The Bridge Network, Ibadan, puts his answer in two fronts. The author of Roadmap and Rich Pastor Poor Pastor posited, “about the income of musicians, I think we may be taking a simplistic approach to the challenges they face as well as the churches they serve in. We must realise that one of the greatest challenges we face is poverty and it drives most people to places they don’t want to go normally, like corruption, stealing and even armed robbery.”
Speaking further the architect said, “musicians need to be looked after, it’s their profession, the question is how? By limiting ourselves to simply putting a burden on churches for payment and as you know many churches struggle even to balance their budget, we have shut down other doors. If you have ever read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad where he tells the story as a boy and was given a job in a store by his ‘Rich Dad’ together with Rich Dads actual son, it was only when he agreed to work for free that he saw possibilities.
“A job is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Most people have only one problem in mind and it’s short term. It’s the bills at the end of the month, the tar baby. Money now runs their lives. Or should I say the fear and ignorance about money? So they do as their parents did, get up every day and go work for money, not having the time to say, ‘is there another way?’ Their emotions now control their thinking, not their heads. Keep using your brain, work for free and soon, your mind will show you ways of making money far beyond what I could ever pay you. You will see things that other people never see; opportunities right in front of their noses. Most people never see these opportunities because they’re looking for money and security, so that’s all they get. The moment you see one opportunity, you will see them for the rest of your life.
Back to the musicians now, there are other ways to make money, for example, teaching people to play instruments for a fee, producing their own music for sale, becoming sales representatives for the areas of their specialisation or the equipment they love for a commission… I could go on and on and I am sure if we put our minds to it, other opportunities would become feasible.
“However, the churches where these musicians serve should support and create platforms that empower them. Transportation costs and other considerations can be looked at but again, I must say these are just simplistic at the moment. I think both sides need to listen to each other’s needs and aspirations and work together to bridge the gap and find a solution. It’s a problem that can be solved when we look at things from a win-win scenario, instead of us against them approach, as we are in this together.”