Why Is God in Heaven?

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Why is God in Heaven? That’s the type of question that children have all the time. How do you answer them? Do you feel uncomfortable or unsure? Perhaps you have responded with the same type of canned answer you may have received as a child. Don’t feel bad, you are not alone. Most adults don’t like to admit that they aren’t always certain how to address these types of topics with children.

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Bryan Popin, is a gospel artist, pianist, writer and producer dubbed “Little Boy Wonder” by the musical genius Stevie Wonder. His first life-changing prayer was at age 11. By age 18, he graduated from Bible School becoming a licensed Minister.

Bryan has written over 200 songs and earned a #1 spot on Billboard’s TopGospel Album last year. He was also honored at this year’s Annual ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards coming on the heels of receiving his first Stellar Award nomination earlier this year.

But despite his successes, undoubtedly one of his greatest titles next to being husband to his sweetheart Susan is being father to SIX children!

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CFU: How do you explain that God is not make believe even though you cannot see Him?

BP: For me and my family it was always engraved in us at a young age, God was just part of our lives.  We prayed together, talked about God openly and made sure that He was not just this BIG God out in space, but someone that cared about our feelings, our daily life, our thoughts, our faults, our hurts, our victories, our confusion, our pain… all of it.
BP: I always remember my Dad saying…”When you want to sit in that chair right there you do what, you just sit. You trust that the chair will hold you, the screws are tightened, the wood inside the cushion is not rotting and frail, but rather you don’t even think, you just trust.” We don’t see the wind, yet we feel it and know that that is called wind because we are taught it.

God’s Majesty

BP: There is beauty all around us.  All of it is God’s creation.  The mountains, hills, grass, oceans, lakes, sky, sun.  Even, the small things we take for granted.  Water, food, a chair to sit in.  All of it is a blessing for us and to us.  We must never take anything or anyone for granted.
BP: My wife and I teach all of our kids that God works through people.  How people are different and that is God’s creativity.  Our differences are beautiful.  Culture is beautiful.  Be open to let God use you, speak to you, work through you to be a help and blessing to someone or something.

Train Up a Child

BP: I think it’s really important to teach your children to pray at an early age.  To have a real relationship with God.  They will find God on their own through their own life experiences, but because it was engraved in them when they were young, they will run to God rather than away from God.

Why is God in Heaven?

CFU: Have your children ever asked why is God in Heaven?
BP: Yes, we have 6 kids lol!  Ages 4 months, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 19.  Usually what happens is 1 will ask a question and another will answer it, almost spot on.  Not because they are so smart, but because we have spent the time to pray with them, teach them and show them the way.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

BP: My 3-year-old little man Joey, actually asked this question as he is more of our blunt, very open and curious child.  Immediately my 9-year-old son Max, replies saying why do you think that God only lives in heaven?  God lives in our hearts.  Well… as a Dad who tries to do and say the right things, yet most def messes up more than I would like to… I was beyond proud of my kid at that moment!

God is Omnipresent

BP: I think it’s important to teach children that God is everywhere and is everything.  He is not just in one state or one city or one building.  He is bigger than that.  He can be in TN and NY at the same time.  He can speak to someone in California at the same time He speaks to someone in NJ.  He works through people, uses those that are willing to hear His voice, take the time to spend with Him and be open to His will.  He is a creative God.  His beauty is everywhere.  In people, in everything we see.  The grass, dirt, sunset, sky, mountains in the horizon, ocean… His beauty and creativity is everywhere if you open your eyes to know that there is a creator and take the time to enjoy His creation.
BP: Heaven is definitely a real place.  But, it is not the only place God dwells.  Heaven is also not this earth that we live in.

Why Does God Take Our Loved Ones?

CFU: We tell children that God is good what about when He our loved ones die?
BP: This is never easy.  Children usually ask things we adults struggle with and do not ask.  For me, I’ve always been taught and known that the world we live in is not heaven.  The world we live in is not just good.  There is bad and evil in this world.  Instead of blaming God for the bad/evil, I think it’s important to be thankful we have God.  Through the pain, through the hurt, through the frustration, through the sadness.  We have Jesus, the Holy Spirit to help us, comfort us and give us strength during these times and to also help prepare us for these times.

All Things Work Together for Good

BP: God is good, and God will use any circumstance or any situation, any failure, any hurt, any defeat or any loss that was meant to hurt us and HE will turn it around for His good.  To help someone that is going through what we’ve gone through or to allow that situation to drive us or catapult us to a direction in life He wants us to pursue or shift us too.
BP: God is good, all the time.  We live in a world that is not perfect.  Only heaven is perfect.  There is death, pain and loss on this earth.  What are you going to do during this season or time in your life when you experience this death, pain and loss?  It’s always important to mourn with those hurting or for those you cared about.  God gave us feelings.  After time, we must transform those feelings and our mind to speak life over our mind, our situation and our feelings.  This is a daily lifestyle process.  Speaking God’s word over our life, our children, our mind, our circumstances.

Armor of God

BP: I think one of the scariest things is to not know the word of God.  It’s like going to war with no armor.  There is so much more than just a relationship with God.  There is a plan for your life and an outline to equip you along the process.  The goal is to use what you’ve learned and know and apply it to your life and pass it on to your loved ones, family, children.

Do as I Say AND Do

CFU: How important is it for children to see adults worshipping God?
BP: I think it’s INCREDIBLY important.
I have been in full time music ministry now for 22 years.  It’s all I’ve ever really done.  From a teen to now a Dad with 6 kids lol!  When I was a teen, I saw my wife, Susan, worshipping God at a church service conference.  I was overwhelmed with not just her, but how wholeheartedly you would worship.  Hands fully extended, smiling, crying, dancing.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  Obviously, I had to know more about this woman and eventually marry her lol!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

BP: One time, during a church service, I remember looking down at Gigi, my 5-year-old daughter, her hands were fully extended and she was trying to worship like her Mommy.  Eyes squinting as she would watch Momma, then close her eyes and worship, then open her eyes and look again at Momma!
BP: When I was in my teens I took piano lessons from a Julliard professor in NYC.  He would ask me to play a classical piece that I never saw before.  I would then ask him to please play it for me first.  After I saw and heard him play it, I understood what it was supposed to look like, sound like and feel like.  I could then almost play it as a copycat as he played it for me.

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

BP: Point being, if we don’t show our children the way, who will?  If we don’t teach our children the way, then who will?  We must not just teach our children from a book but show them with our actions as well.  Both are important.

Memories of Dad

BP: One day I found out that my Dad served in special forces for the army when an old newspaper clipping fell from a high shelf as I was helping them move.  My Dad never said anything about war, serving in the armed forces or anything to me while growing up as a kid.  I picked his brain that day, asking him everything I could think of as I was so proud of him and thankful for his service.  One thing he told me I will never forget… when or if a soldier was to lift their hands and surrender, it was the absolute last resort.  It was letting the other party know that you are wholeheartedly theirs.  You surrender your life, your heart, your ideas, your thoughts, letting everything go and place your life in their hands.  Truly surrendering to what they want to do with your life.
BP: With that now engraved in my mind, every time I see someone worshipping with their hands lifted or I decide to lift my hands in worship… I remember this statement from my Dad.  I used to question why people would lift their hands and what the point of it was.  Never again.

Daddy’s Ministry

CFU:  Your children know that you are a singer, but do they understand that what Daddy does is not the same as mainstream entertainer/performers?
BP: My wife has taught all of our children that God uses Daddy to go to churches and help people by encouraging them through his music. That Daddy is in ministry and it is more of a calling.
BP: Usually when I pack up and leave, I hear my little 3-year-old Joey say…”Daddy, God wants you to go help people again?”  They just know the calling on my life and what I do.  Most times I try to take them one at a time, so they can see what ministry is about. So they can see with their own eyes what Daddy does. They help me with my CD’s at my product table, carry my keyboard, whatever they can do to help.  More importantly, they spend quality time with me doing God’s work.  They see how people are encouraged through the music and how it connects with people’s heart when they see how Jesus touches their life.  How God uses the music as a tool to encourage people and how it brings people together.  Oh yeah, and that church and ministry can be alive and fun too!  I love what I do and want them to see that I love what I do.

Suffer Not the Children

BP: The last thing I want my children to do is suffer because my priorities are out of order.  I learned this years ago, when I didn’t value the very things God had already blessed me with yet gave me the grace to restructure and reorder my life.  I promised myself I would never let me family be negatively affected by ministry because I let them feel not important.

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Thy Will Be Done

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All Christians want to go to Heaven, but no one ever wants to think about dying. However, death is inevitable for all human beings whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. But being prepared for one’s death is a choice.

“WILL” You Be Ready?

Will preparation is a helpful tool that hopefully would ease the burden of decision-making by families and loved ones in the event of your passing. It is a legal document that sets forth your personal wishes for any assets or personal belongings you would like to have assigned to either family, friends, favorite charities, Churches, etc.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

If you have a living spouse or children, the decision-making may be left by default those who are legally recognized as survivors of the deceased. If you die and do not have relatives or designated beneficiaries then you will be regarded as an intestate person.  Depending on the rules of your state of residency at the time of your death, the state may determine that your assets be given to a next of kin or they may take possession of your belongings if no next of kin exists or can be verified.

Going Up Yonder

Another reason for preparing a will is to avoid any unnecessary unpleasantries between family members and/or friends. By making preparation for your arrangements in advance, you can save your relatives both time and money. Funeral preparation can be a very stressful time for the survivors of the deceased. It is also a time that family discord often hits a feverish pitch.

Suddenly everyone remembers what the deceased had promised may have promised them. Whether it is some treasured heirloom or personal piece of property, if it is undocumented then it is hard to prove.

Sad as it sounds, it is all too common to have family members stop speaking over material things. Whether it’s Big Momma’s ring or a coveted family punch bowl, the passing of the deceased is sometimes overshadowed by family infighting.

So why don’t more people take the time to prepare a will?

Common Myths Surrounding Will Preparation

  • Once you prepare a will, you are more likely to die sooner
  • Only rich people have wills
  • You need a lawyer to prepare a will
  • I don’t have any assets
  • I have assets but I’m still very young
  • Will preparation is expensive, complicated and time-consuming

“WILL” You Face Reality?

  • People who prepare wills do not die any sooner or later than anyone else. The truth is, none of us will know when our time has come. The Bible tells us life is but a vapor. None of us know the exact number of days assigned to our lives. We aren’t even certain about tomorrow. (James 4:14)
  • Anyone who has acquired anything of personal value regardless of cost should prepare a will. By preparing your own will you get to make the decision as to who your belongings will go to rather than have it haphazardly decided by people who may or may not be privy to your final wishes.
  • Hiring a lawyer isn’t always necessary, especially if there are no large estates or complicated transfers of assets involved. Online legal technology provided by companies such as LegalZoom, can allow you to create legal documents on your own without the use of a lawyer.
  • Assets are not always defined monetarily. Anything that you would consider a treasured possession can be an asset, particularly if it is something you would consider leaving to someone as a remembrance of you.
  • If you do have assets such as a home, car, business or something else of considerable value, you should consider protecting yourself legally with a will.  A  documented will clearly states your wishes in the event of your passing regardless of your present age. Death is no respecter of youth.
  • Will preparation doesn’t automatically have to be expensive, complicated or even time-consuming. LegalZoom again is a great resource for do-it-yourself legal documents that can be customized based on your personal needs.

Time “WILL” Tell

There’s no perfect time to start considering preparing a will. Most people unfortunately don’t even think about it unless they suddenly become ill. Preparing a will is not something that is done because you think you may die soon. Do it because you already know with certainty that you can’t take any of your earthly belongings with you.

Hearses do not come equipped with a U-Haul. So before you “fly away”,  consider getting  your house in order. Once your will has been completed,  the next step will be to assign either an executor, which may be a trusted family member or friend or a hire a professional advisor to execute your final instructions.

A will can also be easily changed using what’s called a codicil, which is basically an amendment. Changes sometimes are sometimes required due to unforeseen circumstances or new life events.

When it comes to preparing for your end-of-life events you can either opt to let THY will be done or risk trying to figure out the timing of your own mortality and let the chips fall where they may. Preparation will always the best choice.

Surviving Church Hurt

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How Do You Define Church Hurt?

Church hurt is a term that is frequently used when a believer hurts another believer. Gossip, slander and isolation are just some examples of behavior that can cause individuals to feel as they do not belong. It can be emotionally distressing to undergo bad treatment in general,  but these feelings are somehow magnified when they occur within the church.

Church hurt can sometimes be a result of misplaced anger or one’s unwillingness to handle correction or take constructive criticism. Nevertheless, while it doesn’t even seem plausible that the two words church and hurt would even be associated with each other, it’s one of the primary reasons people give for leaving the body of Christ.

Sticks and Stones

As children we’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you”. But they can, and do especially if they’ve come from fellow churchgoers or God forbid the actual shepherd of the church.

Preacher’s Pet

The role of the clergyman or clergywomen of a Church will always be perceived as a position of power. A position perceived to be closest to God. Similarly, those who are closely aligned to the Pastor, are often seen as an extension of this power.

Whether it is the spouse of the minister or the head of a ministry in the Church, titles somehow suggest superiority. Church officials are often viewed as an object of favoritism  rather than individuals appointed based on their ability to lead.

These hierarchies have oftentimes led to dissension amongst fellow members causing harm not only to individuals but to the Church body as a whole. But why?

Unrealistic Expectations

Church members for some reason expect more from each other. Just because they see each other on Sunday mornings, worshipping the same God, they expect each other to think the same way about everything.

Church members have a hard time allowing themselves and each other any margin error. The expectations are somehow different just because they are Christians. The truth is, people are people and will forever be flawed whether they are in the Church or in your workplace. Here’s another eye opener for you, there are people at every Church, so church-hopping is not the solution.

For it is Written

  • Christian or not, you aren’t going to like everyone and everyone will not like you. But don’t let that stop you from loving them. (John 13:34)
  • God sees everything. Not only does He see what others have done to you He also sees how we choose to respond. Two wrongs have never made any one person right. (Romans 12:17-21)
  • Stop judging each other’s standards. Being a Christian is not a title it’s a declaration of one‘ s determination to pattern themselves after Christ. If you want to be like Jesus, don’t be petty. (2 Timothy 2:14)
  • Don’t get an attitude with God just because God’s people may have let you down. His ways are not are our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
  • Jesus cares about everything that you care about. If you’ve told everyone with ears what has happened to you, then why not tell Jesus? When you need answers go directly to the source. (Psalm 18:6)
  • Speak with the person(s) who offended you. This does NOT mean confront them. If you’ve received an apology accept it. (Matthew 18:15)
  • Don’t be afraid to do a bit of self-examination. If you find yourself having personal issues at every church you attend then perhaps it’s time to ask God to reveal you to YOU. (Psalm 139)
  • There are always going to be people determined not to let an offense go. They will carry their hurt and pain like a trophy from church to church and even make it a part of their testimony. Pray for them. (Matthew 24:10-12)
  • God can change situations and hearts when you least expect it. Readily receive any offers of reconciliation. (Ephesians 4:32)

Finding a Church Home

Here is where you have entered a judgment free zone.

If you’ve been out of church for a while or perhaps you have relocated and have yet to settle down with a new church home.Search for church online for free. Let’s Pray Together is a nationwide church search database available to church seekers and those who volunteer to list their churches as a resource: LetsPrayTogether.org

If you still need assistance finding a church or if you have specific requirements for the church you are seeking. Email: MetaWashington@siriusxm.com with your request.

 

July is Fibroids Awareness Month!

Nearly 20% to 80% of all women develop fibroids by age 50. For women of color, this number has climbed to an astonishing 90%. But what exactly are fibroids? Even those who have them are sometimes unsure what they are and what do they mean for a women’s reproductive health?

What are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas or fibroids are benign smooth, noncancerous growths of the uterus that usually occur during a woman’s childbearing years. These tumors may vary in size and quantity. From barely visible to very significant.

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Fibroid Symptoms

Many women who develop tumors may never experience any discomfort, while others suffer from a variety of unpleasant symptoms including:

  • Excessive bleeding, cramping and pelvic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination/difficulty urinating
  • Menstrual periods lasting a week or more
  • Bloating and/or constipation
  • Back pain, headaches or leg cramps

**NOTE** If you are currently experiencing any of the symptoms above for any prolonged length of time. Please schedule a checkup and speak to your physician right away to discuss available treatments and options.

What Causes Fibroids?

While there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the actual cause of uterine fibroids. Advancements have been made to identify possible triggers and correlations between factors such as genetics or diet.

Erica Campbell of the multi award-winning duo Mary Mary, radio host of “Get Up! Mornings with Erica Campbell and one of the stars of the new TVOne docuseries “We’re the Campbells” is a wife and mother of three. 

In March 2018, Erica posted this message on social media to share her post-op experience after undergoing a minor surgical procedure for fibroid removal.

Erica continues to be an advocate for encouraging women to be proactive about monitoring their health.

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CFU: How did you first come to the realization that you had fibroids?

EC: I had excessive bleeding for 2 weeks straight. My energy was low. I was nervous whenever I wore light colors.

CFU: When is medical surgery usually recommended to treat fibroids?

EC: I believe God allows us to feel pain as a trigger to change! Anytime your blood is low your body doesn’t have what it needs to survive. I can’t say when for anyone else should go, so I just listen to your body and the Holy Spirit!

CFU: Does having fibroids always result in needing a hysterectomy? Are there any special dietary recommendations for those that suffer from fibroids?

EC: No absolutely not, a hysterectomy isn’t always needed! You can definitely make dietary changes and do your research! Take ALL processed food out of your diet! Add more green vegetables and cut out sugars, and you will see a change. Another things is a lot of big brand sanitary napkins are actually toxic! Find natural products to use they’re much healthier for your body!

Marketing & Self-Promotion 101

Welcome to Marketing & Self Promotion 101. Congratulations! Your music has been published and now it’s time for the people to come and be blessed. WRONG.  Creating a positive buzz around your project means mastering the fine art of marketing and self-promotion. The gospel music industry is a wealth of amazing talent with both new and old artists constantly vying for the public’s attention.

As a new artist, getting the word out about your project will require lots more than a few tweets and Facebook posts. Self-promotion and marketing of your brand has to be purposeful and well-orchestrated.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind before you “Go and Tell it on the Mountain”:

Market Yourself Spread the Word

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  • Real marketing and self-promotion begin long before your project is complete.
  • Network, network and network some more to get your name and brand familiar in the minds of your potential audience. Don’t just look for the hookup, do the homework.
  •  The gospel industry is an extremely tight-knit community. Word of your reputation can spread and quickly become “gospel” for better or WORSE.
  • Social media engagement involves more than 20 consecutive posts of you with a CD in hand reminding people to BUY…BUY!! Do this and you’ll be saying “Bye, Bye” to your audience.

Better to Give than Receive

  • Don’t pass on the opportunity to perform for F-R-E-E. Church concerts, civic events, conferences and even weddings are perfect opportunities to not just be seen, but most importantly heard as well.
  • Emailing industry leaders to say “I want to send you something to listen to that will bless you” is not a good opener. It’s cliché and most music professionals already have more music than they have time to listen.
  • Get sound advice from as many industry professionals as you can. Established artists, managers and consultants with a proven current track record. If you are blessed with an opportunity to meet someone significant please don’t pounce. The objective should not be to get your CD in their hands as fast as you can.

My Sheep Listen to My Voice, I Know Them, and They Follow Me…EVERYWHERE!

  • Get rid of the glam squads, the “slay all day” stylists, praise posse and all other non-essential persons to your brand NOW. Representing yourself as a serious artist should be your focus right now.  Lest not forget, “the crew” helped cause tragic downfall of M.C. Hammer.
  • Your Pastor, family members and friends as dear and well-meaning as they may be may not be experienced enough in the industry to act as professional business managers and publicists. Running a church doesn’t count as artist management experience.

Gerard Bonner is Founder and CEO of the Stellar award-winning 24/7 internet radio station Bonnerfide Radio and Co-founder of Gospelflava.com.  Gerard is a well-respected gospel industry veteran with over 20+ years in the business. He is a fountain of knowledge and is an expert consultant working to help shape and define the careers of indie artists nationwide.

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CFU: What’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen indie artists make in terms of marketing themselves?

GB: Let me give you two big mistakes that indie artists make relative to marketing themselves. First, they usually forget to budget for marketing. They tend to put more budget into production, recording, and styling than they do marketing. There’s little planning and strategy put into effectively marketing an independent artist. As a result, the independent artist drops a project with an even steeper uphill climb.

Secondly, independent artists have a tendency to over inflate their reach. Only Beyonce can drop an album unannounced and have the world react significantly. Mary Mary once said “We treat every record as is we are new artists. We never assume that people know who we are.”

A strong social media following doesn’t always equate to great sales. Independent artists have to be ready and willing to put in the work behind creating awareness for their new efforts and it requires more than a lone social media post.

CFU: Have you witnessed any recent major shifts in the gospel industry that indies should be aware of?

GB: There are several major shifts that have happened in the last few years. At the top of the list is the way in which listeners consume music. People are streaming more than buying. It makes more sense economically for the consumer.

We went through a period where the gospel community was trying to push buying over streaming. However, the independent artist needs to embrace streaming because this is where consumers are. Artists have given streaming a bad name because the payout is vastly different than purchases. However, long term, streaming can be better for artists.

Because listeners consume music differently, independent artists need to prepare for multiple sources of revenue. Gone are the days where merely releasing an album will pay the bills. Indie artists need to tap into multiple ways to use their art to make a living. That includes streaming, teaching, workshops, and perhaps even keeping their 9-5 corporate jobs.

CFU: What sort of consultation services do you offer indie artists?

GB: We offer a number of services to assist independent artists. Our consultations cover a wide variety of topics ranging from marketing and advertising to artist development and management. We look forward to working with artists to really establish individualized paths to achieve long term career success.

You can sign up for our consultation services and be sure to mention the special Church Folks United code “INDIE” in your message:  BonnerfideRadio.com/consultation/

Are there better times than others for an indie artist to approach the market with their product?

GB: Traditionally, it’s best to avoid releasing music during the 4th quarter of the year, as consumers tend to be focused on Holiday purchases.

However, the BEST time for an independent artist to release product is after they’ve created a demand for the effort. That means their needs to be intentional work to create awareness and a need for their product and their voice. People are no longer randomly supporting artists in general principle. Time and money are valuable to consumers. They need to know they are investing in something that fills a need for them.

Create the demand and the support will soon follow.

Tyscot Records: Standing the Test of Time

Tyscot Records co-founded in 1976 by Dr. Leonard Scott is the oldest Black-owned Gospel recording label in the nation.  Initially operated from offices in his dental practice, today Tyscot Records is home to some of the biggest names in the gospel industry including Anthony Brown & Group Therapy, the Rance Allen Group, VaShawn Mitchell, Shirley Murdock and many others including Bishop Scott himself.

Pastor Bryant Scott, who is Bishop Scott’s son serves as President & General Manager and is the interviewee for this article.

CFU: What makes an independent label independent?

Tyscot: There are three remaining major music conglomerates (Sony, Universal, & Warner).  An independent label is a label that is not owned by one of these majors.  You also have some large independent music companies, i.e. E-One Entertainment.  Many independent labels are distributed by the majors.

Tyscot Records Difference

In the current gospel music space you have RCA Inspirational (aka Verity Records) which is owned by Sony, Motown Gospel which is owned by Universal, and then your larger independent labels (Tyscot, Light (E-One), Malaco, Central South), and an array of up-and-coming independent labels.  Tyscot is a little unique in that our distribution for the majority of our catalog is through the major Warner Music Group, but we also have and have had licensing and co-branding arrangements with other majors and independents for various artists and products.

CFU: Generally, what do labels look for when deciding upon a new artist?

Tyscot: Although all labels must look at the sales potential and overall talent of a new artists, labels have varying individual criteria they consider for a new artist to fit their company culture and goals.

Social Media Footprint

Tyscot is ministry-focused, and we select artists based on their ability to effectively minister to a large segment of the African-American population.  These days, in addition to their musical talent and ministry presentation, we also look at their social media footprint and effectiveness in engaging via those platforms.

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CFU: What’s one of the most common mistakes would-be artists make?

Tyscot: The most common mistake I’ve witnessed during my 30-year tenure is that many artists simply do not efficiently utilize their number one asset (their number one stake-holder), which is THEMSELVES.  The number one promoter, salesman, producer, and even fan of any artist MUST BE THEM.  And even after being signed to a label, they must continue to work harder than anyone else for their career.

CFU: What is the general protocol for new artists to approach a label they are interested in? Or is it usually invite only?

Tyscot: Most artists get signed because of some connection (introduced by another artist or industry person seen performing at some venue, etc.).  Very few artists get signed from just submitting a demo package to a label.  Companies have even started using social media and YouTube to find new artists.

Artist Promotion

Therefore, my suggestion for a new artist is to promote themselves to the best of their ability, utilizing industry conferences, church conferences, and social media.  They must make sure that their package (songs, production, performance, look) is superior to the gluttony of available noise competing for the consumer’s time and ears.

The cream always rises to the top, and labels are in the business of partnering with the cream.

Finding Success As An Independent Gospel Artist

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Success does not look the same for everyone. It is almost impossible to compare your experience as an independent artist to that of another. Each person’s journey takes a different path. There are no hard and fast rules to follow but there’s a lot to be said about being a humble and teachable spirit. When you show humility, people will feel compelled to help you and not even know why. God’s favor will always open unimaginable doors.

But the time it can take to see tangible results definitely is not for the faint of heart. Patience is not only a virtue it is a necessity for anyone seeking a career as an independent gospel artist.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their Strength…They shall mount up with wings as Eagles…. Isaiah 40:31

In 2011, Javon Inman released his debut album HEART OF A WORSHIPER earning him 13 music awards. Having written over 200 songs with his music playing on over 50 stations across the U.S., the U.K, Africa and Caribbean islands, Javon is clear about his Kingdom purpose. He is ecstatic for the world to hear his latest single “Love Covers [ft. Music Society]” from his sophomore album AGAPE EROS.

 “Love Covers” featuring Music Society introduced simply as “his brothers” demonstrates Javon’s willingness to put God first and others in the forefront.  Just watch how he positions himself to be in the background of his own project.

Matthew 5:5 (NLT) God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the whole earth.

CFU: How long have you been writing music?

JI: I have been writing songs for over 20 years.  I wrote my first song for a singing group I was in when I was 16.

CFU: What do you consider your big break?

JI: In full transparency, I am not sure if I can point to one particular moment in my journey as a “big break,” but rather a series of true God-moments that have sharpened and led me to this place. The first time I ministered on The Word Network in March 2013 was incredible. Placing 3rd at the Radio One, Praise 103.9 FM “Best Inspirational Singer in America” national competition in Philadelphia, PA in front of judges James FortuneFred Hammond, Kurt Carr and Kerry Douglas was a moment I’ll treasure forever.
Having my first gospel album Heart of a Worshiper win a distribution contract with Central South Distribution was mind-blowing. And most recently, performing my new single ‘Love Covers’ LIVE at Sirius XM with an Easter Resurrection Weekend Special Guest Takeover on Kirk Franklin’s Praise Channel 64 was astounding!

CFU: How do you sustain yourself in between “gigs?”

JI: Spiritually, I spend a lot of time in God’s presence, reading the Word and in prayer.  Financially, I am an IT Professional and have been for over 20 years. My music purpose is to write the music in God’s heart for the world. However, until I am able to provide for my family on income received solely from music, I will use Godly wisdom, pay my mortgage, and feed my family by remaining in my IT career!

CFU: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

JI: The best piece of advice I received was from my grandmother who is resting with Jesus now. She told me, “Stay in God’s Word.” The rollercoaster of life has definitely taken me on a few rides that left me dazed, broken and scarred. It was the scriptures and God’s presence that brought me through each time.

CFU: As an indie artist what cautionary piece of advice would you share with would-be artists?

JI: Wait patiently on the Lord! Promotion comes from the Lord and His timing (and His process) is always perfect. Being an independent artist is awesome, but it is a lot of work.  You have to be willing to sacrifice resources and your time. I would caution artists to be wary of any platform or individual that promises instant success.

Unfortunately, music business professionals often prey upon artists who are “thirsty” and will seek to take advantage of them. If an artist doesn’t have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and can’t discern truth from manipulation, they’ll end up getting duped.

 

 

What’s the “Big Deal”? Indie Artists vs. Major Label Artists

“I sing because I’m happy I sing because I’m free His eye is on the sparrow and I know He’s watching me” – Civilia Martin (1905)

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Gospel music is a ministry. One that should make you happy whether you are singing or playing an instrument. The opportunity to use your gift as to make a joyful noise is truly a blessing. But how it is presented to the masses is ultimately your choice.

To Be or Not to Be…

Now that you’ve made up your mind to pursue a career as a gospel artist. There are many things you’ll need to consider. Among these decisions, one of the biggest you’ll have to make is whether or not you will be an independent artist or work for a record label. Either way, prayer should help you decide path you will take to manage your career.

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 Ms. Anita Wilson is an artist who has seen both sides of the gospel industry as both an independent artist and as a signed artist for a major recording label. As a GRAMMY and Stellar nominated artist she has been a celebrated member of the gospel music industry since her solo debut of “Speechless” in 2011. Anita is a businesswoman and founder of both Melody Green Music Group and Reflection Media Inc.

CFU: You are an artist who has been signed by a major record label and also found work as an independent artist. You started on a record label. What are the major differences between being on a label and being an independent artist?

MAW: Yes I’ve had the experience of being signed to a record label and being an independent artist and label. I’d say the major differences are when you’re signed to a label – you’re not in control. When you are independent, you’re in control. For someone like me, since my day one, I have been very aware of who I am as an artist and my mind has always been drawn to more than just the music but also the business of music. So being independent is definitely the best route for me.

CFU: What are the pros and cons of being signed to a major label vs being an independent artist/label?

MAW: Having experienced both sides of the coin I’d say the pros of being signed to record label are (ideally) you now have a team of people who will work together to create a vision and plan for your music and for you as an artist. Now that’s an awesome advantage IF that team of people actually has a vision for you that you are comfortable with if they actually come up with a plan that specifically fits your artistry. So, the responsibility of creating that plan doesn’t fall totally on you, you have a team to handle that.

Cons

The cons of that are….you and that team of people may not work very well together. Perhaps you don’t like their ideas, you’d rather implement some of your thoughts on how to market your music or how to reach your demographic etc. Depending on the temperament of those you’re working with, you MAY have some input but more than likely your voice and input may be minimal when you’re signed to a label for the duration of the deal term. (And sometimes, those terms may last a very long time last the deal term). BE CAREFUL ABOUT WITH WHOM YOU SIGN.

Pros

The pros of being independent are that you call the shots. You make the decisions from A-Z. You have Creative control. Many labels don’t want to extend this to an artist because if you have creative control and make decisions then….what do you need them for? It’s great to have the final say in how your art is handled, what songs you record, what the radio single will be, how the marketing campaign looks and will roll out etc.

But this can be expensive & comes with several areas of responsibility. You have to assemble your own team of professionals who can assist in these areas. (Marketing, Budget, Legal, Digital Presence, Accounting, etc.) and be sure your I’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed. And oh yeah – YOU MUST HAVE MONEY SAVED & IN PLACE to support your indie journey. All responsibility is yours.

Signing with a Record Label

Now if you’re an artist who is solely interested in just the music side of things and you want to be a performing artist but not worry with the details and the business, then being signed to a record label is for you. If you’re someone (like me) whose attention goes to not only the music but you’re also invested in how the business & details are handled, then you’re better off being an independent artist/label.

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CFU:  How important are connections in the business. Did you have a mentor? 

MAW: I believe having relationships in the music business can play a key role. When starting out (2010) I was blessed to not only have Sir Donald Lawrence as a mentor (as I was a member of DL & Company for almost 10 years) but also my then best friend, now husband Rick Robinson, who had been writing and producing since 2001, was a key voice when I began as well. It’s important to either have personal connections who you trust that will honestly answer questions for you (even the really small “silly” questions).

Social Media

Even if you don’t yet have personal lines of communication, through social media and the internet you can research and observe those who you admire or look up to. I believe in having mentors from afar as well. Always be a student and a sponge. There’s a lot to learn so remain teachable and humble as you walk along your journey. And always be authentic! Know who you are, be creative and fearless!

CFU: For people trying to enter into the gospel music industry, what advice would you give a newbie who is trying to attract the attention of a record label.

MAW: Well…in light of my previous answers I must say, first off, really weigh your options, consider what “being signed” means and decide if attracting the attention of a record company the best route for you. Whether your journey will be independent or with a label, I think your initial steps remain the same.

Develop Your Identity

Learn and develop your identity (unique artistry), utilize the internet and social media to build your audience, attend events that offer information or showcase opportunities (but don’t spend all your money entering showcases) and be patient on your journey. Eventually you will either build your own following and not need the assistance of a label or you will build in a such a way that labels begin to seek you out. Just remember, don’t allow a label to offer you something that you can do yourself!

 

Breaking into the Gospel Music Industry

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Like a Thief in the Night

Breaking into the gospel music industry is something a lot of singers and musicians aspire to do. People ask me about it all the time, wanting to know how they can “break into” the gospel music industry.  What does that even mean? When I think about someone “breaking in” I immediately imagine someone with a half-baked plan for a theft or some other felonious act.

In that respect, why would anyone want to break in anywhere? Is there no other way to be welcomed?  Let’s say you do break in.  If you didn’t belong there in the first place how long do you really expect to remain there? Truth is, only few people become an instantaneous success in the gospel.

God’s Perfect Plan

So, let’s forget the break in aspect. Concentrate on what it takes to “pursue” a career in the gospel industry.  To pursue means going after something with intent.  You have to get a true understanding of the process. At very least, the process requires focus, thoughtful planning and yes talent! A systematic approach to developing a career requires serious discipline. You have to be patient and most importantly seek godly counsel. God already knows the plans He has for you AND your musical career.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

What Does It Mean to be an Indie Artist?

Becoming an independent artist is definitely one way of making a legitimate entry into the gospel industry. It’s the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach.  But even as an independent artist, you still won’t be able to climb the ranks entirely on your own.

What are the Responsibilities of an Indie Artist?

As an indie artist, you are essentially responsible for producing, recording, publishing and sometimes distributing your own music apart from any commercial companies record labels or their subsidiaries.

If you truly believe you have what it takes to become a gospel artist, pursue your dream wholeheartedly. But never forget, although it is our Father’s business, it is an earthly business as well and one that hopeful can lead you to a profitable career.

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At age 21, Jekalyn Carr is a powerhouse in the gospel industry known for songs like “You’re Bigger” and “You Will Win”. She has received numerous awards and nominations including her first Stellar Gospel Music Award at age 16 followed by GRAMMY and Billboard Music Awards nominations. She has also appeared on OWN’s TV series “Greenleaf” and is an evangelist whose spirit-filled inspiration is embodied in her new book “You Will Win”. Jekalyn who began her professional career at age 15, is an independent recording artist for her family-owned label Lunjeal Music Group.

CFU: What do you think the biggest misconceptions are for indie artists?

I think sometimes people feel as though they don’t have to work to get to where they want to be. They think things are going to happen overnight, but within this day and age you have to make sacrifices and put time in if you desire to be successful within your music career or any career you have. You have to have patience. When you are patient you can think and manage better. Also, some fail to get the right information to make sure they’re on the right track; Because if you don’t have knowledge about the area/field you’re in, you’ll constantly find yourself where you were 2 or 3 years ago. Ask God to place you amongst the right company that’ll provide helpful information to you to make sure that everything even down to the business part is in place. 

CFU: How should indie artists go about deciding which “gigs” they should take?

Well, I think if you come across an event that has you pondering and second guessing it, that may be the time for you to seek/ask God for direction. One thing you don’t want, is to end up somewhere where God hadn’t instructed you to be. This helps protects your name and integrity as well. A lot of offers may sound good, but it may not LOOK good for you to be there. 

CFU: How would you define your brand? How would you recommend others going about how to define what their brand entails?

My brand is inspiration and motivation, as well as showing people that it is possible to have a successful and longevity career without compromising. Keep in mind that whatever you show people the most even on your social media, to them that’s what you’re branding yourself as and that could either help or hurt you depending upon what you show them. You want to show them consistency with positivity because it makes it easier for people to receive you. It also helps your brand when people can feel like you’re touchable.

CFU: What is one piece of advice would you give young aspiring indie artists that they should be mindful of in the business?

Whatever you do, keep your humility and integrity because these are two components that’ll cause you to keep climbing higher within your career. 

Who Do Men Say That I Am? Christians in the Workplace

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“Who do men say that I am?” is the question Jesus asked his disciples on the way to Caesarea Philippi. Easy enough one would think. After all, the people witnessed the miracles and wonders he performed firsthand. They were with him for three days. They hungered and he fed them, he even healed a blind man.  Surely, they would be able to identify him based on what they knew.

Jesus and the Disciples

The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Okay, so maybe there was a bit of confusion. Perhaps defining who he was and what he represented was somehow misunderstood. He then asked the disciples, his closest colleagues “But who do YOU say I am?”

How Are You Identified at Work?

Now imagine yourself as Christian at work. Are your colleagues aware that you are a Christian? Does this affect how you behave? It’s usually wise and even recommended in most workplaces not to discuss politics or religion at all. But religion, depending on what your beliefs can oftentimes dictate how you interact in social circles…even at work.

So how should you respond when you are required to participate in “team building” activities that go against your personal beliefs? Maybe you’ve been invited to join your co-workers after-hours for drinks. Do you attend or graciously decline?

Social Challenges

Casual hours are sometimes as important as the actual work day itself. They can define an employee’s status with their peers and even managers. This is the time real deals are made and bonds and relationships are built. Successful interaction can sometimes make or break your career. Figuring out how to navigate that fine line between work and worship might be challenging. But can you truly maintain your identity as a Christian and still remain a “team player’?

Kelvin Beachum Jr. is an NFL player for the NY Jets. While he knows what it means to be a team player he is a Christian in the workplace. His workplace is the field and the locker room where it is not uncommon to hear profanity or in his case prayer.

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CFU: There’s a general public perception surrounding today’s professional male athletes.  They see a life of partying, fast cars and even faster women and in some instances substance abuse. As a Christian how have you managed to separate yourself from those activities yet still be a “team player”? 

KBJ: I spend time with my teammates in different ways. Grabbing dinner, doing treatment together– it’s not about separation it’s about standards. My standards don’t permit staying out late and going certain places, so once I see the evening heading in a different direction, I call it a night. My teammates respect my choices but I have to stay consistent. I have to hold on to that standard consistently.

CFU: Discussions regarding religion or politics are generally frowned upon in any workplace. Has this made it difficult for you to witness to others in the sports world?

KBJ: Not at all. I say this all the time: for some people, I may be the only Bible they see. I don’t need to preach and beat them upside the head with a Bible. What’s important and impactful is living a life that’s pleasing to God and allowing others to witness that. When God lays on your heart to witness, one can do it and there not be strain on the relationship. Being true to your faith and living in a way that glorifies God genuinely, allows others to see God.

CFU: Has being a Christian ever caused any conflict in your career?

KBJ: None whatsoever. Being a Christian football player is validated, in my opinion. Samson was violent. David was violent. Jesus was violent when he needed to be! I’ve been blessed with a gift. Playing football is one way I worship every single day!

CFU: What advice would you give to Christians who find themselves in compromising positions at work?

KBJ: Don’t compromise. Either be hot or cold. It’s very simple.