This is the third in a six-week Easter season series on celebration and social media.
We all know that music is an integral part of celebration. Most congregations include some form of song in their worship. We also know that social media has reshaped how music is marketed, packaged, and distributed. Read the laments of record companies, and you’ll understand how file sharing, streaming, YouTube, and a host of other social media developments have changed the recording business forever.
Artists feel the effects as well. On the downside, with so many people sharing their favorite music for free, social media makes it harder for musicians to protect the integrity of their work and receive fair compensation. On the upside, social media has created a new marketplace for music that is open to more and more artists. On balance, there’s a lot about social media to celebrate, particularly for music in worship.
What specifically should we celebrate?
First, social media has opened up our access to music from around the globe and closer to home. When I first began leading and helping to design worship 15 years ago, our selections of music were limited to what we could buy from established producers and publishers. Now, independent worship artists are producing and distributing music all the time. The marketplace is flooded with options, some better than others, making the ability to discern quality an important skill.
Second, social media is helping to build community among congregations and worship artists who traditionally have functioned in fairly insular environments. Most of us go to our own places of worship each week and rarely have the opportunity to visit other congregations to discover what they are doing with their songs of celebration. Social media is giving us new opportunities for discovery. Recently, Studio Ninety-Six, a newly forming community for worship arts and design based in Indianapolis, Indiana, posted a call for art connected to the theme of risk in faith. Through Facebook and other social media connections, we began receiving music and visual art submissions from around the city representing a range of musical styles and perspectives. The diversity has been wonderful and has helped us create relationships with folks we might not otherwise encounter. It has also made me think about how much richer our experiences of celebration will be when we give ourselves permission to hear and sing along with a wider variety of voices, particularly those of our brothers and sisters in our own city.
Third, social media’s new marketplace for music offers interesting opportunities for congregations that support the creation of new music. As an example, after my daughter, who is now in sixth grade, was born, I decided to write a song for her baptism. It was a bucket-list challenge. If the song was terrible, nobody would have to hear it. It turned out to be ok, and I actually sang it in worship with 700+ people listening. I’ve been writing songs for worship ever since and credit that opening my church gave me to sing an original work as critical in my formation and eventual call to full-time, ordained ministry.
When I wrote that first song, there were few inexpensive options for distributing the song. Established worship-music producers and publishers were out of my league and not worth the effort, particularly given the narrow theological perspectives and topics they preferred. Besides, I’d witnessed plenty of friends with more talent than me try to access those channels without success. Our only option was to pay the expense of a professional recording to create and distribute CDs. Social media has changed this. Now with YouTube and Facebook, churches can easily post new music and videos from their worship on the Internet. Though nice to have, we don’t need expensive equipment to record and share live performances making it possible for faith communities of all sizes to become platforms for new music that expresses their particular theological perspectives and values.
Yes, social media has changed the landscape for distributing and sharing music for worship and will continue to impact our worship and celebrations. We have much to celebrate indeed.
Interested in hearing more from some indie worship artists? Here are a few sites to check out:
Brenda Freije is ordained in the United Methodist tradition, a worship leader, and singer/songwriter. She co-directs Studio Ninety-Six, a new worship arts and design community based in Indianapolis. Brenda is also an attorney-consultant who enjoys working with nonprofits and philanthropic organizations.
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