next steps for “community supported music”

Posted by on Feb 27, 2012

Judging by the many friends who are going on a “Facebook Fast” for Lent, I am tempted to observe, given my very infrequent blogging as of late, that perhaps I should give up NOT blogging as a Lenten discipline this year… (GRIN). Well, I won’t promise any kind of dramatic up-tick in blog posts, but there are some significant developments in this music ministry that I want to let you know about. The mission statement of SmallTall Music is “to build up the body of Christ by creating and sharing songs of faith for small and tall.” 10 years on, this continues to describe very well what this music ministry is all about, I remain passionately committed to this mission (sporadic blogging notwithstanding), and am grateful to have such humble-but-important work to do, and so many colleagues and co-conspirators in the cause. Waaaay back, when I was first dreaming what it might look like to take this songwriting thing seriously as my “main thing” instead of as a “side thing,” I was doing a lot of thinking about the nuts-and-bolts of how such a ministry might be structured, including its economic structure. Fairly early on, the diagram came to include 5 main “revenue streams,” and this “business model” has remained remarkably durable: Performances, CD sales (which has come to include songbooks and digital downloads), Publishing, Special Projects (a bit of a “catch-all” category for one-off contract work that comes up from time to time), and the Membership system. As far as a “business model” goes, it’s that last category – based on the “community supported agriculture” or CSA model – that I saw as the most innovative, and that I hoped would grow to be a major means of support for the long term viability and sustainability of this music ministry. I thought about it a great deal, blogged about it quite a bit (here’s a series of blog posts, if you’re curious), worked hard to envision an economic structure that could be coherent with my faith and my values and the way I understand my music ministry to function.  Much to my surprise, I found this thinking/dreaming/analyzing/strategizing to be an energizing creative outlet in itself! These were the days before Facebook… days when it took a lot of time and energy to explain to most people what “community supported agriculture” was, much less to try to describe what I had in mind by adapting this model to a form of “community supported music.” After working on this idea for a few years, I officially launched my “CSM,” invited people to join, and made my first “delivery of songs” in October 2006. Since then I have made 19 “deliveries” of songs to the “members” of SmallTall Music – some 60 new, original songs over that time, including mp3 audio files, lyrics, chords, notation, thoughts and reflections and activity ideas...

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