Thinking Out Loud

May 1, 2015

Connecting People and Resources

I’ve written before about the common thread in all the different ministry ventures I’ve worked with. With radio, I got to introduce people to new songs and new artists. With worship leading, I got to connect people to vehicles that could be part of their personal expression of praise to God. As a book and music reviewer, the motivation was more obvious. As a blogger, I get to share information about other voices online. As a link list curator for Leadership Journal, I was able, by the news and opinion pieces I noted, to be influential in the lives of Christian leaders.

radio-towerI guess I like facilitating a whole load of networking.

But let’s return to radio for a minute. If I were to return to it — and I did look into various avenues — I would no longer get to choose the songs being played unless I brokered the airtime and picked the playlist myself. Radio stations either use consultants or have their own formula for choosing what goes into the rotation. Even the morning show guys, when they’re done with their banter, simply play the next song on the list.

You could solve this, I suppose by being the consultant or music director, but there are only so many openings, and even in small-to-medium markets, it’s often just one guy who controls a number of regional stations.

With worship leading, similar formulas apply. There’s often a tacit understanding that if a new song was introduced by last week’s team, you’re expected to continue with that song over the next three weeks. In demographically wide churches, you draw from different sources representing different ages and tastes to create an eclectic music set.

Music reviews largely don’t exist. Unless you write for Relevant Magazine, you’re about 500 times more likely to receive books in the mail to review than a CD. (We’ve reviewed several here, but it’s the exception, not the rule.) Bloggers tend not to be excited about specific books as they were five years ago; as Christian publishing faces challenges there are fewer and fewer new writers stepping onto the scene; and there appears not to be the push by publishers to utilize social media.

With my role at PARSE now ended, I look for new ways to share the passion of sharing. The one role that never ends is my two days a week at the Christian bookstore. There, I still have some influence, though there is always the suspicion on the part of some that I’m wearing my shopkeeper hat, and not my role as friend, counselor, or helper. Where ministry and retail converge, it’s not always an ideal fit.

My observation there is always the same: The greatest connector for people and products is the local church pastor, but for that to work, the pastors first need to know about the book in question, and most don’t have the interest, the time, or both.

But trust me, from YouTube to the Christian blogosphere to the world of Christian music and publishing, there are a ton of resources out there.

Finding and utilize them will enrich your life, and the lives of family members, extended family, neighbors, co-workers and others in your circle.

April 30, 2015

How to Get Royalties for Songs in the Public Domain

treble clefThe first time I heard a bridge added to a traditional hymn was the addition of Wonderful Cross to When I Survey. I don’t know if I took to it the very first day, but I certainly grew to like it quickly, and as a worship leader, I’ve since used the Wonderful Cross section with the hymn Lead Me To Calvary, where it also works well.

Modern worship music has been greatly influenced by popular songs. Whereas a hymn generally just has either stanzas, or follows a verse-and-chorus format; modern worship will use introductions, bridges, codas, etc., and is often more prone to key changes.

Amazing Grace is another example. My Chains are Gone is certainly a suitable addition, I don’t challenge the musical or lyrical integrity of it by itself, or its fit with the time-honored verses that precede it.

To make the bridge stand out — or I prefer to say break out — musically, some of the chord changes in When I Survey or Amazing Grace are made more minimalist so that the declaration in the bridge introduces a powerful, triumphant transition. “Oh, the Wonderful Cross!” “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!”

If I had a similar idea a few years ago, I would have positioned my finished work as a medley, not a new arrangement, but the chord changes necessitate the piece to be considered a re-write. And the original composers aren’t around to protest.

So it was only a couple years back when someone more cynical than me — yes, it’s possible — suggested that perhaps the motivation for doing this was financial. Then it was more than one person. Freshly re-minted songs that were formerly public domain can be performed with mechanical royalties (album and print music sales) and performance royalties (concerts, radio, television and even CCLI playlists your church submits) flowing to the composer. Nice work if you can get it.

I remembered something from years ago when I was working in Christian television. Unlike radio which used random station logs as representative samples, TV royalties were based on all logs from all stations all the time. When the ministry organization in question received some rather meager royalty checks for some tunes they had written, a situation emerged where (and this is a fairly direct quote from someone close to the process), “People who had never written a song in their entire lives suddenly found songs pouring out of them on a regular basis.” He was highly skeptical.

So economics can indeed be a wonderful motivator. I’m sure that the person who decides to modify an existing hymn or do a fresh arrangement takes time to study the lyrics and I’m not saying that some of these people don’t do this prayerfully, both before and after the process.

But honestly, sometimes these new hymn versions can be the gift that keeps on giving. If the revenue is being plowed back into ministry, that’s great. Scripture tells us that we shouldn’t “judge the servant of another,” though honestly, I now find the cynicism was, in my case, somewhat contagious. But I’ll continue to “believe the best” that the starting place for adding a bridge or changing the chord structure of a song isn’t motivated by economics.

I hope you’ll do the same.

HCSB Prov 16:2 All a man’s ways seem right to him,
but the Lord evaluates the motives.

 

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Gospel Van

Photo: Drew Dyck

A fresh crop of October links! Mind you, they’re all dated September. But they’re new to you.

Yes! The links are still also at Parse, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read there!

For our closing graphic we return to TwentyOneHundred Productions’ Facebook page, the gift that keeps on giving. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  (We poached another one from them for tomorrow…I feel like I should make a donation to my local IVCF chapter…) Click the image to link, or follow them at this page.

Books of the Bible

September 3, 2014

Wednesday Link List

The cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, which sadly isn’t being updated. The lower one appeared here about five years ago, and was from Pundit Kitchen.

They call it Labor Day because on Tuesday we all had to work twice as hard to catch up. Take a few minutes to pause and do some clicking:

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available for private investigations if there’s a link in your life that’s gone missing.  Or, for free, you can read his blog, Thinking Out Loud.

church and state from pundit kitchen

March 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Random screenshot from this week's Phil Vischer Podcast because, honestly, we didn't have a picture this week. Left to right: Phil, Christian Taylor and Skye Jethani

Random screenshot from this week’s Phil Vischer Podcast even though there’s no reference to it in the link list, because, honestly, we didn’t have a picture this week. Left to right: Phil, Christian Taylor and Skye Jethani (Click image to watch)

Each installment of the link list takes on a different flavor, and this one is no exception. No, that’s not right, it is an exception, that’s what makes it different. (Maybe I should have gone with the “no two snowflakes are the same” intro.) 

Clicking anything below will take to PARSE, who own the link list, then click the items there you wish to view.

Like I said, no time for picture shopping this week, so Mrs. W. suggested we mine the vault for classics:

Purpose Driven Parodies

January 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

When is a bargain not a bargain

I spent a lot of the week listening to Christian radio stations from around the world on DeliCast.com; so the temptation was to make the entire list this week simply links to all the wonderful stations I found. However, reason prevailed…  Each of the following will lead you back to Out of Ur, a division of Christianity Today, where you may then click through to the stories.

Paul Wilkinson writes from Canada (Motto: Home of the Polar Vortex) and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and edits Christianity 201, a daily devotional.

 

January 11, 2014

Travel the World by Internet Radio

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:38 am

Delicast sample page

I have nothing to write today. I am lost in the world of Internet radio and may not come up for air for several weeks.

I love radio. I’ve always loved the medium. I got to do some work briefly in radio a few times, and despite the slick, formatted medium it has become, I really miss it. The more “live” the better.

So you can imagine my surprise a few days ago when I discovered DeliCast.com, a well-maintained working portal to radio stations in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, as well as Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.  For each country, you can sort alphabetically, by popularity, by city of origin, and by format.

The format sorting is especially interesting: News, talk, electronic music, alternative rock, house music, classical, music of the ’70s (why?), and of course various stations tagged as religion, gospel, and Christian.  I’m currently listening to a worship stream — not true radio mind you since nobody’s introducing the songs — from Life in New Zealand. For each station listing there’s a link to their website which is how I got this one started. However, I listened to some ’60s music this week, there’s even a few religious stations that broadcast high church liturgical music.

And then there’s television. I can finally watch Cornerstone TV from Pennsylvania, and Thursday night I watched a concert at UCB Television in the UK, at what was for them the middle of the night. If you’ve got someone in your extended family who grew up where they speak a different language, this might offer them a well-appreciated taste of home. The world just got smaller.

The delivery is crisp and clear.  I live an hour from Toronto, but trying to watch the CBC National News without glitches, lags and crashes is impossible most nights. Yet I can listen to radio and watch television on DeliCast flawlessly.

If you find yourself stuck at home this weekend wishing you could be somewhere else, I can’t offer you airline tickets, but if you are willing to let your imagine run wild, you can let internet radio transport you around the world.

Do you listen to Christian radio online? Got a favorite station? Leave a comment.

December 16, 2013

Christian Radio Stations and the True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas Banner 2

Because I spend part of my week in a Christian retail environment, I hear a lot from customers about their frustration trying to buy Christmas cards that contain anything even remotely resembling the Biblical Christmas story, and as I mentioned here a few days ago, the birth narrative from Matthew or Luke is just the beginning of what we, as Christ-followers, would want to convey.  Fortunately, the Christian bookstores — and their online equivalents — are able to offer products that aren’t about Rudolph, or Frosty, or one-horse open sleighs.

So now that we’re into the final countdown to Christmas, I’m at a total loss to understand how it is that the customers who so decry the secularization of Christmas can handle what Christian radio is offering during the final weeks of December. Biblical narrative? Idea that Jesus came to save us? Concept of God incarnate? Some songs, yes; but in many others that are sucking up valuable Christian radio airtime, it’s just not there to be heard.

Now let me say at the outset there are two realities present here.

The first is that successful Christian music artists either feel compelled or are compelled contractually to make a Christmas album. This provides them with extra visibility, extra radio airplay and extra revenue. And I’m sure that these artists really do have deep personal memories of song of these songs from their own childhood years.

Secondly, I realize that for Christian radio stations, they are most likely to attract new listeners at this time of year with a playlist that is more recognizable to the average listener. Maybe some of those new listeners will stick around in January, and hear the Good News in a way they’ve never heard it before. One of my favorite radio ministries is 96five in Brisbane, Australia. They play a mix of Christian and secular family-friendly songs that has earned them top ratings in their market.

Despite both of these realities, I believe there is an expectancy on the part of regular listeners, who are also in many cases financial supporters that the station will take the opportunity to communicate the message of the Gospel at this time of year. Furthermore, I think the broader community feels that in many ways they own lyrics like “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” in a way that they don’t relate to “How great is our God,” and are therefore quite content to stop tuning across the radio spectrum and allow their car radios to stop at any station that’s playing the traditional carol.

I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning names of artists or song titles here, but the one which grates on me (and others) most this year is a recording of a new song called “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Sorry, but there are so many better uses for that three minutes. I realize the song goes into what we might call vertical ‘worship-inclined’ lyrics — lyrics that can be taken two ways — but that isn’t clear to listeners in the context — and title — of the larger song.

There is also an argument for the radio formula where only one song in three is a Christmas song, and listeners traveling to the mall or to family events get to hear the kind of Christian radio that is broadcast the rest of the year, instead of re-branded “Christmas” format that disappears on December 26th. That strategy, is something my Christmas card customers would support. Right now they’re just bewildered.

What’s your relationship to the whole Christian Christmas-album genre?

July 5, 2013

Saturate Your Home With Christian Media

Since my 72% US audience are all off celebrating the time they told England to get lost in 1776, here’s a repeat item from a year ago about which I am still very passionate…

I’ve previously written here about how we’re big fans of sermon audio when we travel, and as someone who works in the Christian bookstore environment, it’s a given that I’m a huge booster of Christian books and music.

But today I want to approach this from a slightly different perspective. Over the past few days I’ve written about the battle that goes on for our thought life, and how this takes place on a moment by moment basis. Back in June, I posted a great analysis of the types of thoughts, that are going on in our heads at any given point in time.

I don’t spend a lot of time commuting, but I am increasingly aware of the contrast that exists between the mental processes that take place when I omit to turn on the radio — which is mostly presets for Christian stations — and the times I have worship songs playing. This is a giant contrast, not a mild difference.

Listening to Bible Teaching

Yesterday we listened to sermons from North Point and Crosspoint. We tried to find another “point” but left it at those two, plus what we heard in church that morning. The day before I listened to one at Mars Hill (MI), a few days earlier it was a conference talk streaming at Elevation. You can find all these churches linked in the sidebar of this blog.

Life was not always so.

I can remember asking my parents why they had to constantly listen to more preacher programs. Their media of choice was WDCX, an FM station in Buffalo, and WHLD, a Buffalo AM outlet. Of course, my choice would have been Top 40 rock station 1050 CHUM in Toronto. I think that was the real issue.

But today, although I hunger to learn and grow and discover more about Christ through what others have learned, I also am acutely aware of what happens in the absence of Christian media in the home.

Bible teaching can come in other forms besides radio and television. There are the aforementioned sermons-on-demand and live-streaming church services on the internet, plus some teachers, like Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House often do a separate podcast. But there’s also CD audio and of course books.

Listening to Christian Music

For some Christ-followers, the dominant form of uplifting, inspirational and wholesome media is Christian music; which may consist of hymns, mass choirs, southern gospel, adult contemporary, Christian rock in all its various genres, and the current favorite, modern worship.

Again, these can be accessed in various forms. Some choose mp3 files which can be played back in the car and in the home. Many people are still buying CDs. Christian music song videos abound on video sharing sites like GodTube, Vimeo and YouTube. There is an abundance of Christian radio available online, and here in North America, most people live within range of a broadcast station that plays music, teaching or a mix of both.

But I have to say that as a worship leader, nothing compares to the songs that you experience in a worship environment with your faith family. Maybe it’s because I was playing in the band yesterday, but one particular song — an original song written by our guest musician — stuck in my head for hours yesterday, and in a good way.

For a listing of some of my favorite songs with video, visit the sidebar in the right margin at Christianity 201.

Listening to God

These varied media I find to be a positive alternative to anything else, and in fact fulfill a direct instruction from scripture:

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

What will control your thought life this week?

April 26, 2013

Theology Lite: Max Lucado on Pretzels

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

So there I was driving home and listening to one of six Christian radio stations I can now get in my car, when Max Lucado’s Upwords radio minute came on.  This is essentially a sponsorship opportunity for radio stations; a vehicle for them to sell additional advertising.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all the books Max has written and the contribution he’s made to Christian literature, in fact I’ve given a few favorable reviews here.  Furthermore, I especially like Max on video. I think the warmth and tenor of his personality comes through the camera better than through the printed page, though, I must confess, I now read his material hearing his voice in my head.

But as I listened to Upwords, I thought, “As fluffy content goes, this is more fluffy than usual.”  So I looked to see if the text was available online to share here, and it was:

Max Lucado UpWordsYears ago I was traveling with my daughter, Jenna.  When I realized she and I weren’t seated together,  I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me.  Surely he’ll understand, I thought.  He didn’t.  I was left separated from my 12 year old on a long transatlantic flight.

I began plotting how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What?  My daughter was fraternizing with the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.

I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!

That’s the full text.

Now my goal here is not to take this apart letter-by-letter, punctuation-mark by punctuation-mark. (We’ll leave that to discernment ministry bloggers.) I did make note — especially if I’m ever near him on an airplane — that Max was considering tripping this stranger, and that even in the final paragraph, he still ranks as a “questionable character.”  Of course this is the same man who recently, in his book Grace, confessed to a week of drinking beer out of a paper bag in a convenience store parking lot, and an attempt to bribe an airline official.  Truly, I’m not making that up.

No, I was just concerned that the whole broadcast was a tad light, as in lite. No Biblical text, though I suppose that’s not the goal of Upwords. No deep theology. Not even a teaser for an upcoming book.  (This story is in fact from an older book, The Great House of God.)

I guess I have no major complaint other than perhaps I’d like my sixty-seconds back.  I do think the radio airtime could be better used. I think that Max himself could use it better. Especially in view of the program’s mandate as outlined on his website:

In 1991, Max Lucado was presented the idea of developing a radio broadcast that focused solely on Jesus Christ.

Perhaps there’s a philosophy to this radio vignette; possibly Max builds a listener following and then hits the spiritual home run on Fridays, or at the end of the month.

I just think people are tuning in for something more substantive than pretzels.

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