Selling Out For The Children

I’m at a crossroads in my musical career.  My number one goal is to get kids sponsored through Compassion International.  When I speak to a group of people about Compassion International no less than five percent of the crowd will sponsor one child.  Usually the percentage is between ten and fifteen and goes as high as twenty at times, but definitely doesn’t dip below five.  This makes me a more potent mobilization tool at the moment than traditional advertising tools like magazine ads or radio spots.

But like traditional advertising tools this success is dependent upon the existence of listeners, the number of folks actually tuned in.  Radio ads don’t work because few people listen to them.  We don’t listen to the radio to hear ads, we listen to hear music.  So when someone stops the music to sell us a car or tell us about a “sponsor” we grab that knob and turn until we find what we’re listening for again: music.  Same is true of magazine ads.  I tear them all out as soon as I unwrap WIRED magazine each month.  I don’t buy magazines to read ads.

Here’s a good example of how traditional advertising doesn’t work anymore.  We took out an ad in a great magazine read by worship pastors several months ago.  Full page.  Full color.  A picture of me and my sponsor child.  On the opposite page was an article I wrote on the topic of compassion.  Looked great.  Well done.  The ad told worship pastors they could book me for free if they’d let me talk about Compassion International for a few minutes at the concert.  Contact info was given clearly in the ad.  The magazine had a circulation of 50,000.  I thought the phone would ring off the hook.

It didn’t.

We got two calls from that ad.  TWO CALLS out of 50,000 subscribers.  Even great ads in great magazines don’t work so well anymore.

But we made the same appeal in a far less attractive, less colorful, less targeted way here on SHLOG.COM in a post around the same time.  One post read by 500 to 1000 of you. And you, SHLOG readers, spread the word about the free booking deal and – BAM! – we booked months of concerts in a matter of days.  The blog worked.  The magazine did not.

So if my blogging, my speaking and my music works in mobilizing Christians to care about the things Jesus cares about, the question then becomes how can we continue to be good stewards of that influence, to get the most out of it, to build upon it for the sake of kids o=in the third world?

Ad this has lead me to another question whose answer will greatly impact what I do next: If I’m going to continue to be an effective walking talking advertisement for Compassion International and, more importantly, for a brand of Christianity that demands imitating Christ and not just believing in Him, must I have a large audience?  Would a larger audience help?  If so, are there limits to what I should do to get one?

Is a larger audience good for me good for the children?

Yes: I should make a record that is right up the middle of what Christian radio wants (whatever that is) so that I can get airplay, my face on magazines, Dove awards, sell lots more records and have better attended shows.  I should not write about hard subjects like justice and poverty which matter to me.  Instead I should attract an audience that hasn’t pondered these subjects and then, once they read my blog or attend my shows, expose them to these ideas.  The music is bait.  All this must happen so that I can expose the largest number of people possible (people who have not yet been exposed) to Compassion International and to a more missional approach to being a Christian and, in the end, this will rescue more children from poverty.

No: I should make music I like, that I think is good, whether or not it increases or decreases my platform, crowd size, popularity, readership etc.  I should write about things that matter to me even if doing so mostly attracts an audience that is already convinced those things matter.  Instead exposing the unexposed to new “missional” ideas I should be a cheerleader for those who already think missionally and ask them to spread the word about Compassion International, therefore rescuing more children from poverty.

Welcome to my brain folks.  It ain’t pretty.  It’s self-absorbed, analytical to an extreme, and paralyzingly concerned about the ripple effect of every decision.

Got thoughts?  I’m listening.