Six Reasons Why Artists Can Be Grateful in Today’s World

Despite our current challenges, there's a lot for creatives to be thankful for.

It’s natural, but it’s not healthy.

As artists dealing with the rollercoaster ride of emotions that this lifestyle can bring, it’s understandable that we sometimes lose sight of the blessings of doing what we love. Stories of the difficulties of making money, finding work, reaching audiences, and maintaining our life balance can become a running soundtrack in our minds.  We continually face creative, social, financial and spiritual challenges, and if we’re not careful, those challenges can wear us down. That’s why it’s important to intentionally refocus on gratitude; we can’t survive as artists if we’re always looking at what’s wrong.

The fact is,  we have a lot to be grateful for. In many respects, we are privileged to be alive during the best time ever to work as creative professionals.

Sound far-fetched? Maybe not. Let’s unpack six reasons to be thankful as creatives during this time in history. They are:

  1. More Opportunities
  2. Greater Acceptance
  3. More Information
  4. Easy Access
  5. Total Independence
  6. Valued Individuality

1. More Opportunities

Despite all the talk about recessions, economic slowdowns, and changes to the creative marketplace, there are still myriad opportunities to create meaningful art and make a living doing so. The need for quality art has exploded as entertainment and media companies scramble to produce content for ever expanding and demanding audiences. Just look at the rising tide of series on Netflix and other streaming services. If you are a songwriter, filmmaker, actor or screenwriter, you’ve seen opportunities skyrocket before your eyes in the last decade. This means that there are more consumers than ever who are looking for artists who can deliver content that is fresh and new.  This doesn’t just apply to those who produce art for digital and streaming audiences, either. Many audiences, who are weary of the digital lifestyle,  are seeking artists and musicians who can create experiences for them in person in an authentic way.  Unlike other professions that can eventually be replaced by automation and the internet, the touch and feel of a live artist can’t never reproduced by a machine. As long as people desire to feel deeply, sing out loud, sense the human experience, and connect with others, there will be a need and a market for artists. We can be grateful that we work in a profession that is constantly offering us new, interesting avenues for work and fulfillment.

If you have trouble thinking of these avenues, and you are feeling discouraged, don’t let that feeling turn you off from exploring new possibilities. A grateful artist never looks at the cup of work as half empty. For every client, project, gig or opportunity that doesn’t work out, there is another waiting in the wings that will be perfect for you. You only need to keep searching and continue creating.

[For those musicians who are searching for new ideas of where to find opportunities for work, check out this listing of resources from David Cutler’s site The Savvy Musician, along with his book which we reviewed.]

2. Greater Acceptance

Maybe you’ve heard it before – “when are you going to get a real job?”  Or, maybe you haven’t. You may have noticed that being an artist is no longer seen by many as a fly-by-night pipe dream of a career. Books, articles, and corporate strategists are now bringing the artist mindset into the forefront. As the traditional 9-to-5 career becomes more and more rare, and the “side-hustle’ becomes normal for many people, the creative professions are less and less viewed as something outside the mainstream. Creativity, vision and insight are desired and celebrated more than ever by business leaders and cultural influencers,  and since we are already highly engaged in these types of activities, we reap the rewards as our work is valued and respected. No longer do you have to apologize for your decision to pursue your creative craft, whether as a growing passion or as a full-time career.  Be proud and thankful that the wider culture is beginning to better understand and accept your profession on equal terms.

 

3. More Information

In earlier times, artists and creatives who needed help and information had to seek it out through tedious research, moving to a new town, or seeking mentorships that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. However, now, again thanks to the internet age, every artist and creative has all the resources you could possibly need. If you want to write songs, work in mixed media, write a play, or design a building, you can find the information you need in a heartbeat through a Google search.  Social media allows us to instantly connect with other creatives who can help us find the answers we need. Remember, once again, that the internet isn’t the only source of information. Some of your greatest breakthroughs will happen when reach out to other artists on a personal level.   Groups all over the world give artists and creatives a space to connect, learn and grow, such as the local Con/Ex events sponsored by God and Gigs.  Be grateful for this wealth of information as you consider all the resources available to you.

4. Easier Access

Once upon a time, if you wanted to get your foot in the door of the arts and entertainment industry, you needed one thing – money. Whether it was a record company, a wealthy patron, or some other type of door-keeper, someone else held the keys to your ability to engage in the artistic community. Most simply did not have access to the tools and resources to make a big impact. Now? That time is no more. With hardly any money at all, you can leap into the fray of the creative industries and start to make your mark. The internet is the great equalizer in this case as well. With free tools, social media, cloud-based software, and other low-cost technologies, most artists can begin creating and sharing their art with no permission or blessing from a big company or publisher. It’s true that money is always helpful, but no longer is it the determining factor in whether you can thrive as an artist. Audiences, artistic fulfillment, and interesting work are at your fingertips. Be thankful for the fact that you can jump into your desire to share your art at any time, and don’t let any obstacle or person delay or deny that opportunity.

5. Total Independence

Few people really experience freedom in their lives, even if it is available to them. Artists, however, have the blessing of being able to form their own identity, code of conduct, and means of expression. You answer to no one but yourself and God, in the final scheme of things. This independence from the kind of ‘in-the-box’ thinking that many others are struggling to break out of is a wonderful thing. Celebrate your freedom as an artist by refusing to let the conventional way of things control you. Every once in a while, simply do something different because it is different. We thrive when we break away from the same way of looking at the world, and usually our best work comes when we are exercising our independence to its highest form.  Be grateful that you get to experience this kind of freedom simply by doing what you love.

 

6. Valued Individuality

A.A. Milne, author and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, once stated, “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”  In a world where differences are often criticized and demeaned, this is perhaps the greatest thing to be grateful for. Artists by nature are always looking to express what is unique and special about them, and because you work in a time and place where those qualities are rare, you can rest assured that your individuality makes a difference in the world. No one person thinks like you, creates like you, or dreams like you. In fact, if there was a carbon-copy of you somewhere, there would be no need for either one of you. But there isn’t. Your individuality is valuable, both in your artistic life and in your personal life. By being authentic, you help make this world a better place. No matter how much people may insist that we are all the same, artists know that there is something special that simply can’t be replaced or replicated. Be grateful to God that he made sure there was only one you in the universe, and that your creativity is his gift to you as a means to express and celebrate your uniqueness.

Be Intentionally Thankful

After considering these six reasons, you should have a profound sense of gratefulness about your life and the creative spirit that you’ve adopted and enjoyed. Don’t let the worries and anxieties of your passion become a drain. Instead, remember that greatness starts with gratefulness. When you realize what you have, you’ll do even more with it, and find new ways to grow and evolve into the creative you were destined to be.

Question: What are you most grateful for? Which of these categories spoke to you most, and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The heART of the Artist: A recap of the 2017 Collective Music Conference

This conference sought to touch the hearts of artists with compassion and encouragement

What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45b (NLT)

 

CriStyle Renae, co-host of The God and Gigs Show with Collective founder Trent Phillips

Perhaps no subject gets more attention in songs, poetry, movies, and other forms of artistic expression than the heart. We sing about when it breaks, write poems about giving it away, and equate true art as coming from it.  As Donald Fagen sang, we’re all trying to get down to the heart of the matter. Which is why five members of our God and Gigs team, along with over 100 other artists from around the country, spent two warm days in Atlanta at The Collective Music Conference hosted by Trent and Brittany Phillips. Truly, the heart of the matter during this Conference was reaching artists in areas that matter most – our relationship with God and our need to be artistically fulfilled and emotionally healthy. It’s impossible to recap everything that we experienced, but here’s a summary of some of the most powerful and inspirational things we heard and saw.

Day 1 Highlights

We arrived at Oasis Family Church in Atlanta a little behind schedule – partly because the church really isn’t in Atlanta. Those who know the area know that ‘Atlanta’ is a huge metropolitan area, so we had a bit of a drive to get there from our hotel. Once we arrived, the Collective staff greeted us warmly and immediately gave us a great spot to share our materials. It’s always a blessing when the details are already handled for you! (It was a double surprise when the first customer nearly bought our entire supply of group guides!)

Our first session started of with a jolt of inspiration as recording artist MAJOR. led off the conference. His humor, likeability and enthusiasm had us laughing immediately, but the real power of his presentation was in his story.

MAJOR. with CriStyle Renae, co-host of The God and Gigs Show

Sharing how he dealt with the stigma of being a ‘church boy’ in the music industry touched all of us that have wondered if we might be rejected by the very world we were trying to reach.

Some key points MAJOR. shared:

We may be great naturally, but training is necessary to reach excellence.

God doesn’t bless the fake. We artists have to be true to ourselves.

Being ‘cool’ means unapologetically embracing your uniqueness.

Honor every moment and be consistently grateful.

Dr. Hart Ramsey teaching on Pastors and Musicians

Our second presentation was from none other than Dr. Hart Ramsey, who has established himself as one of the leading authorities on pastoring musicians and worship ministry dynamics. The ‘truth-bomb per minute’ ratio was so high that I (Allen) could not write fast enough and resorted to recording the entire lesson. Here’s just a little of what he shared:

Everyone who has served in worship ministry has been wounded in some way.

If it wasn’t for our struggles, our gifts would not operate effectively.

A death ends a covenant. A date ends a contract.

There are three kinds of worship team members: Partners, Pirates, and Parasites. We must be honest about which role we are filling in a ministry.

God and Gigs author Allen C. Paul and Bridge Hooks and Stuff CEO Rachel James with her new book B.G.eVolve: The Manual. 

Following these general sessions, we separated into breakout sessions with a producer roundtable featuring Trent Phillips, Gerald Haddon, Nicole Neely, Tarrio Broome, Justin Raines, and Carlton “C-Dub’ Whitfield in one room, and vocalists with vocal arranger and BGV specialist Rachel James in another. Both breakouts provided opportunities for the attendees to ask specific questions and get invaluable feedback from top figures in the music industry.

Producers and Musicians Roundtable Discussion

Despite all of these wonderful career tips, perhaps the the most impactful session of the day was the Mental and Emotional Health Panel, which was led by Trent Phillips and Abigail Foard. Their honesty, sincerity and clarity on deep psychological issues opened the door for dialogue which you wouldn’t normally hear in conferences like this. The openness continued with Foard being joined by Dr. Khaalida Forbes and Pastor IIka Murray, and the roundtable was similarly full of heart-healing strategies and honest discussion.

Closing out our day, the world-renowned and prolific songwriter, pastor and worship leader Bishop William Murphy taught on the Heart of Worship.

Bishop William Murphy

Using Old Testament worship practices as a guideline, Bishop Murphy explained how worship musicians and leaders must prioritize a right relationship with God and with each other in order to minister effectively. Some key points from Bishop Murphy:

We should be shaped by God, and not by our circumstances.

We will be tested to see if our worship is genuine.

Being pure does not mean being flawless; it means being honest.

(Moment of honesty from all of us in the God and Gigs delegation: There was also a great performance Friday evening at Battery Park featuring several of the artists from the Collective. Unfortunately, we were so tired from the day that we missed it. Oops.)

Day 2 Highlights

Saturday morning at the Collective Conference began with the same focus we left off with on Friday; an emphasis on spiritual and emotional health. Worship artist KJ Scriven absolutely wrecked the audience (in a good way) with a powerful worship service and a talk on the need to lead and perform from a place of affirmation, rather than attempting to use our gifts to gain affirmation.

Performance and technique again took center stage in the following sessions, as master keyboardists Justin C. Gilbert (Justin Timberlake), Antuan Walker (Angie Stone, Musiq Soulchild) and conference host Trent Phillips took the musicians through a keyboard lab segment, while vocal coach Ametria Dock worked with the vocalists. The breakouts continued with specialized training on tax filing for artists, production techniques, and music ministry leadership.

Justin Gilbert working with the advanced keyboard lab.

L-R, CriStyle Renae, Ametria Dock, Naomi Paul, Lia Paul after the session

The remaining Saturday general sessions were full of practical and applicable career advice, as entertainment lawyer Heather Beverly shared the nitty-gritty on why obtaining good legal counsel early in your career is the best strategy.  The final general session featured a true giant in the industry, multi-Grammy winning songwriter, producer and music director James “Big Jim” Wright on a panel with several of the weekend’s other presenters. Wright summed up the key to staying relevant on big tours and in TV work with four words – “Character first, musicianship second.”

 

Trent Phillips, Justin Gilbert, James ‘Big Jim’ Wright, Ametria Dock and Rachel James sharing keys to working on tours and in TV.

All in all, this Conference once again proved to be worth much more than its small registration cost insinuates. It’s obvious that Trent and Brittany Phillips have a heart for helping artists as well as the churches that are connected to them.  In this way, the heart of the matter wasn’t just about making us feel better as artists – it was to make us better in every way. The 2017 Collective Music Conference certainly gave every attending artist the tools to do just that.

The God and Gigs crew – Naomi Paul, Lev Curtis, CriStyle Renae, Allen Paul, Lia Paul

Links to Resources from the Conference

BRIDGE HOOKS AND STUFF ENTERPRISES – Rachel James – Entertainment Agency and Placement Service

FRUITION ORGANIZED MUSIC – Ametria Dock – Vocal Coaching 

DESERT STREAM MINISTRIES – Abigail Foard – Counseling and Mental Health 

MARRIED BGV – Kennya Miller – Apparel 

HEATHER BEVERLY – Legal Counsel for Entertainers 

For information on next year’s conference, visit CollectiveMusicConference.com and subscribe to the mailing list to be updated when tickets become available.

5 key steps to achieving your creative dreams

Creatives must be intentional about making their visions a reality - and the work never really ends

Always remember there are only two kinds of people in this world, the realists and the dreamers. The realists know where they are going. The dreamers have already been there. – Robert Orben

We all know the feeling.

You woken up out of a deep sleep and scrambled to write it down. You’ve been moved to scribble it on a napkin in a middle of dinner. You’ve written a declaration in your journal or have a vision board in your office. It’s what drives you, almost to the point that you seem obsessed to the outside world.

It’s your creative dream. And it’s not getting any easier to reach it.

Seeds in the Storm: Why you must invest in your goals when it’s inconvenient

Growing as a creative requires commitment that isn't swayed by circumstances

As a creative, you likely dream about doing great things and creating wonderful art.

However, we all know dreams aren’t realized unless we wake up and start working.

Anytime you have a new creative idea, project, or movement, the most important step is to start the process of making it happen. Unfortunately, starting is often the hardest part. Millions of people simply keep their dreams and goals on the shelf of “one day.” Even when we get serious about our biggest goals, we’re faced with opposing forces.  This force, one that author Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art  calls the “resistance”, rears its ugly head in the form of obstacles, unforeseen circumstances, and other factors that make it difficult to see the way forward.

4 lessons I’ve learned from writing a book

The author of God and Gigs reflects on the book's anniversary and lessons learned

I’m Allen, author of God and Gigs. I’m passionate about helping everyday artists excel in everyday life, by helping them strengthen their faith, improve their careers and deepen their relationships. You’re invited to join this community of faith-focused creatives, musicians and artists by signing up for my newsletter at godandgigs.com/signup.

Author’s note…

[Just kidding. This post is basically an author’s note, so the tone will be different from our previous informational posts.]

September 6th, 2016.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas. I was excited, but I was also as nervous as I’ve ever been. It had nothing to do with a performance. Neither was I getting married, nor anticipating the birth of a child. I wasn’t starting a new job or moving to a new house or city.

I was becoming an author.

September 6th, 2016 was the official release date of my first self-published book; God and Gigs: Succeed as a Musician without Sacrificing your Faith. For nearly 5 years, the book had only existed as an idea, then as a slowly growing set of paragraphs in Microsoft Word, as I began to realize what it would take to actually finish the project. It then evolved into an ever-expanding research project, an aggravating reminder of my procrastination, a classroom which forced me to reach out to new teachers and mentors, and a mirror where I had to confront my past, my failures and my life’s journey to that point.