Worship of Heaven: Making Money through Praise and Worship Music

What Will You Pay Me?

I cross paths with musicians who are new to me almost every week. This is good, because I'm always on the lookout for additional volunteer musicians to join the Christian ministry outreach worship team of which I am a part. I reason to myself that this would result in "demand" meeting "supply". However, it seems as if many of these musicians won't play without pay. And, they seem to feel that "that's the way it's supposed to be."

Given this money-centric attitude that seems to practically own so many musicians today, we felt we should "pull the covers off" of the mainstream Music Industry, in regards to how much it actually pays Song Writers and bands for their original Songs. The numbers in this article are accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of this writing (late 2011). These numbers come from our research, much of which is based upon the book cited at the end of this article.

Mainstream vs. Independents

Before going into detail, let us remember that the "Indie" marketplace operates differently than the mainstream Music Industry. In the independent arena, each Song Writer is like a cowboy or cowgirl from the olden days of the Wild West, making it on their own, blazing their own trails, and (hopefully) keeping a larger percentage of the final sales price of their work.

But we're not talking about Indie deals here, but mainstream deals, which almost always end up going through a Music Publisher. Besides, how many Indie bands can you name who really "made it big"? That's the biggest problem with Indie labels, and that's why so many bands would prefer to "get signed" by a mainstream Publisher, due of the increased chance for hitting the jackpot through them.

Sign Here, Please

So, after finding yourself a Music Publisher (there are zillions from which to choose), the first thing you'll need to do is to sign the Publisher's contract. It's almost guaranteed that they're going to demand that you sign-over your ownership of your songs to them, lock, stock and barrel. Now, once you do that, you'll no longer be the Copyright owner of those songs. You'll always be the Author of your own Songs, but you'll no longer be their Owner.

From that point on, any money you make on those songs will be entirely dependent upon the legal agreement that you have just signed with that Publisher and how many copies of your Song(s) you can sell. In most cases, you'll have little or no room for renegotiation with anybody about anything, ever again, in regards to your beloved Songs.

OK, so let's see what kind of financial return you might be able to expect from the new "signing" which you just participated in.

Who Invited the Government into the Recording Studio?

For starters, understand that somehow, a strange and mysterious partnership has come forth between the US Government and the Music Industry. I have yet to see an official name for this partnership, but its "fruit" is right in everyone's face.

Specifically, these two have establshed that which is the equivalent to "universal industry-standard pricing" for the royalties paid to musical artists for their recorded Songs. They call this the "Statutory Rate" for royalty payments. These rates are set by "Copyright Judges", which are specialized US judges. (I told you this was strange and mysterious.) The rates get increased every few years to keep up with inflation and so forth.

Supposedly, the existence of a Statutory Rate "keeps the playing field level" between Publishers, similar to the way cities sometimes set the rates for Taxi Service within their city limits so as to "protect the little guy".

Certainly, not everyone likes this price-fixed, collusion-like business environment that's been foisted upon the world by this Government-Industry alliance. (Does this sound like organized crime to you?) However, this is in fact how money is doled out to Artists in the real Music Industy. If you don't like this arrangement (and I don't), you might want to look for an alternative to Music Publishing.

You Said How Much?

Now, since we want to see how much money your Song will pull in from the "real" Music Industry, let's look at the "real" numbers. The current industry standard is this: the theoretical maximum royalty which can be paid for a single song is 9.1 cents per copy sold. However, the Song Writer can only make 1/2 of that; the Publisher keeps the other half. (And that should explain why there are so many Publishers vying for "good" Songs.)

Half of 9.1 cents is 4.55 cents.  So, you'll keep 4.55 cents per copy sold, right? Possibly, if you're an established gold-record-selling artist. But if you're a "regular guy or gal" the Publisher will almost alway resort to beating your rate down. Typically, they'll offer you 75% of the theoretical maximum.

So, 75% of 4.55 cents comes out to 3.4125 cents. That's a more realistic rate which you can expect. You see, the Statutory Rate of the Music Industry is really more of a price ceiling for your work than it is a "guanteed minimum wage".

Do you think you can sell 10,000 copies of your best Song? That's actually a lot more than most "Indies" ever sell of their best Song. But, let's say you're able to pull it off. Your royalty payment for that Song would then amount to a whopping $341.25. (That's three hundred forty one dollars and twenty five cents.) Exciting, isn't it?   Remember, too, that it might take a while before all those copies actually sell; don't expect it all to happen at your release party.

But What About That "Signing" Money?

It seems as if bands get so excited when they "ink a deal" with a Publisher or a "Record Label". It's as if the good times have started to roll. If the Publisher thinks you're really "hot", they may offer to give you some up-front money so as to entice you to "sign up today". Let me suggest to you: if you understood the terms and conditions that come with this up-front payment, you probably wouldn't be any more excited than the person who gets a "Payday Loan" in exchange for his truck's title deed document.

In almost every case, any money which gets paid to you up-front from a Publisher is actually just a "draw" on your future royalty receipts! In other words, it is legally nothing more than a loan which you must pay back. So, if the Publisher paid you $5,000 so as to "seal the deal" with them, you'd have to sell about 146,000 copies of your new "hit song" just to break even with the "loan" which the Publisher extended to you. So, of course, you'll see no royalty revenue for yourself until all of those copies have been sold and accounted for, and the Publisher has actually banked the $5,000 which he'd fronted to you.

The Expenses Seem Endless

Unfortunately, the news gets even worse with this situation. And please realize, these are actual, real-world numbers; this is literally what you're going to be facing in the glamorous and highly-sought-after Music Industry of the western world.

This other news is this: often times, Publishers will insist on recouping their various costs which they incurred when promoting your name and your music. This could likely include:

  • Recording Studio expenses.
  • Session Musician expenses.
  • Live Stage Musician expenses (These may be your faithful friends who've been with you from your "Day One"; remember, they have to be paid, too, right?)
  • Cover Art expenses.
  • Manufacturing expenses (for creating and duplicating your CD's, etc.)
  • Advertising & Promotion expenses.
  • Legal expenses.
  • Tour expenses (Transportation, Hotels, Meals, etc., if you'll be touring).
  • Venue expenses (If a venue for your live show doesn't sell enough tickets, there may be remaining debt to pay off on the lease of that venue).

Do you realize what this means? This means that it is likely that your Publisher will charge you for these expenses. How so? It should all be in your contract. But be careful: it's wording may be cloaked in "legalese", and you may not realize what it really meant until you're informed that you owe it.

Typically, your Publisher will reimburse himself/herself/itself for all of these expenses by garnishing your royalty payments. They can pull that off because normally your royalty checks come directly to them, and then they give you your cut.

Fortunately, You've Got More Than 1 Hit Song, Right?

The calculations we did were for 1 Hit Song of yours. Fortunately, if you've got multiple ones, you can multiply the numbers out. Or, if you've got a whole album of originals - let's say there are 10 of them on the album - if you're able to actually sell 146,000 copies of that entire CD (very few artists pull that off, but it's possible), you can multiply your royalty payment by 10, so you'd pull in $50,000 before expenses.

But look at that expense list again. Do you think $50K would even cover it?

Lastly, please understand that, depending on your contract agreement, you could be held personally liable to your Publisher if, for example, your royalty receipts didn't even cover your allocated expenses over a 5 year time period. In that case, you'd have to reimburse your Publisher out of your own private resources, lest he file a law suit against you so as to try to extract from you the balance you owe him. And of course, he'd probably sue you for even more than you owe him so as to cover his own legal expenses.

Any Alternatives Out There?

Before you commit yourself to this scary real-life scenario, why not consider whether you've got any good alternatives? We've already mentioned the "Indie" route. Maybe there's something there for you, but we've got no further comment on Indies.

Fortunately, there is a another, terrific Alternative: Jesus Christ. Seriously. We're talking about selling out to Jesus Christ, first and foremost, and then letting the chips fall like they will. (Hey, musicians practially "sell their souls" to their record labels all the time, and most of them go nowhere.) Is there a guarantee that this "Jesus-approach" will pay the bills? Nope, not at all. But is there a guarantee that the traditional Music Industry approach will pay the bills? (Please write us with details if you've found a guarantee somewhere.)

Should Worship Music Equate to Money?

If you can honestly place your destiny into the mighty, loving hands of Jesus Christ, then it's a reasonable approach to go with Worship of Heaven as your vehicle to penetrate the world with your music. Worship of Heaven, then, would become an alternative to the Music Publishing world for you. Worship of Heaven, itself, does not (at this time) generate revenue for anyone, but our proposal to you is that money is not what you really need!

Granted "money" is what you might think you need, especially if you're deep in debt. If you are in serious debt, and you're adamant about using your musical skills so as to dig yourself out, then granted, Worship of Heaven's "solution" may not interest you. However, if your financial situation is that unstable, the mainstream Music Industry, itself, is a very risky proposal for fixing your problems, because it can take a long time to even break even!

Worship of Heaven's solution entails your giving your very best for God Almighty and the body of Christ, and trusting God to open to you doors which don't even yet exist! He can do it. But like everything in God's kingdom, you'll have to sow before you can reap, and that takes faith. Faith requires that you "do it" even when there's no guarantee of any kind of success.

The rest of this web site provides a lot more detail as to what the ministry offers and why. Worship of Heaven is similar to an Alternative Music Publisher, without being such. There are several extremely important differences between the way Worship of Heaven works and the way that almost every Music Publisher - even Alternative Music Publishers - work. See the article Alternative to Music Publishing for more details on this.

Where Did These Numbers Come From?

I want to be transparent with you and admit up-front that the facts presented in this article are primarily due to my research on the topic of Music Publishing, and not due to my first-hand experience. For further details, I would recommend the book from which a good portion of my facts come from: "Music Money and Success", by Brabec & Brabec, published by Schirmer Trade Books. This is one of the "bibles" on the subject of finances in the Music Industry.