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I'm thankful for family. I'm thankful that I've eaten and slept in some sort of bed and been reasonably healthy every day of the last 365. These are the usual things I'm thankful for. But this year, add to the usual something unusual: Failure.

This year I officially failed as a Christian recording artist, defined (cynically, admittedly, and accurately I think by me) as "a person making music primarily for consumption by 3% of Americans: Christians who discover music primarily by listening to Christian radio stations and shop primarily at Christian bookstores." It took six years but I finally failed at being one of these. I failed badly enough that I no longer have a record deal, no longer appear on magazine covers, no longer get played on said radio stations, and am routinely out of stock at said bookstores. I miss being a successful Christian recording artist. I feel embarrassed sometimes that I failed so miserably (and publicly) at it.

All of this is bad.

This year I began succeeding at being something else. Maybe just a blogger. Just? A blogger is defined simply (by me) as "one who blogs." And blogging is all about connecting to people and spreading ideas I think. I started blogging more than a year ago but just this year the blog began connecting and influencing - getting me bookings, growing in traffic, and spreading ideas and my music beyond my old friends in the 3%. I enjoy the fenceless freedom of blogging (maybe a little too much at times.) The blogosphere has not yet been partitioned into "safe for the whole family" and "not safe for the whole family." It is still a place where everyone - even a "failure" - can connect to an audience again. I'm successful at this. I think. And it's helped heal my bruises.

All of this is good.

I'm thankful then for the new success failure has brought.

I'm thankful for the boardies from shaungroves.com who came to this blog in the beginning and were the first to spread the word about it - and continue to pray for and support me in anything I decide to do.

I'm thankful for every person who's shown up here and posted their two cents, who's told someone else about this place, who's added me to their blog roll, who's been kind enough to spend thirty seconds or a couple hours of their life with us here.

I'm thankful for Kat (if that be her name) for the hours and hours of coding and talking and recoding that will soon result in a new place for us all to gather and do the same thing we do here - but on a whole new level.

I'm thankful for you.

My biggest fear this year hasn't been that I won't be a successful musician. My biggest fear has been that I won't successfully connect to an audience again. I'm thirty-two. I've spent years trying to pretend my motivations are more complex than they are, or that I'm a noble true artist doing all this for art's sake alone. Bull. I'm in this for influence - at home, on the road, on the internet. It's what drives me. What you say and do can influence me and in turn influence my corner of the world. Something I say or do can influence you and then your corner of the world. We're connected and the power to influence through those connections fascinates and fulfills me because I believe it can be wielded for good.

Thanks to you and this blog I'm connecting and influencing (and being influenced) again. I feel useful again. I'm thankful.

More to come.


Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

I think that's what drives many if not most of us who blog - the desire to influence. Right on.

That, and the desire to learn new words, like "zherc", (rhymes with "jerk", I guess?) by Blogger's word verification.

Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Good grief man, did you read the draft of the Christmas letter I've been writing?! I do these deeeeeep, searching Christmas letters about the nature of God and how He contorts my life. LOL ...Well heck, I don't have kids to fill the page of my Christmas letter so I have to write something that'll cut through the Christmas card clutter that's in everyone's mailbox (always marketing...she's always marketing...)

This year's theme is the reversal of dreams and delayed openings that God's persistently allowed in my life, and the fruit that's come of them. They're wrapped in ugly paper, but those failures and heartbreaks make great gifts for those who see beyond the packaging and trust their maker's instructions on how to make them work.

I'm grateful for the platform that Christian music gave you to get the writing and speaking phase of your life's ministry going. And I'm grateful you weren't Christian music's "it" boy because then I would have had to sneer and mock your image like I do...well never mind whose image I do that to. You're safe. LOL


Blogger GrovesFan said...

While I'm not happy about the lack of radio play, because it makes the radio far less palatible, I'm thankful that you're not the mainstream that is so "wonder bread" these days. I've learned a lot from you over the last 3 years and I'll be just as thankful if I've been able to teach you at least one thing in that same amount of time.

Don't worry, you many not "grace" the cover of magazines anymore, but you DO grace the mug that holds my daily dose of chai tea.


Blogger Seth Ward said...

Do you really consider yourself a failure? What if it is more like an ebb and flow of things.

This statement also struck me as well.

"I'm a noble true artist doing all this for art's sake alone. Bull. I'm in this for influence"

Couldn't you say that it is really both here as well- Art and influence? You do create art, and you are driven by those convictions but what you are really bummed about is that what YOU want to communicate, the art, is not what Radio or Labels want to communicate or actually, sell. Now that really does suck. But again I wouldn't call you a failure because they don't see eye to eye with you on these issues.

I hope this doesn't come off critical of this great post here. Especially since it is such a personal post. I just have a hard time seeing that you have been a failure in the industry that you have worked the past few years. This blog as you have noted has is tell tale of that fact in my book.

Of course I have not been knee-deep in what you have been through the past few years so it is just speculating here.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Seth...A failure at being permanently adored by the 3%.

Not a failure overall.

I love the way you write, Nancy.

Beth, it's an honor to be with you at tea time.

Blogger Seth Ward said...


Anonymous noelle said...

Hey Shaun,

You may not have a record deal or whatever, but you have in no way failed. You have that one song, "Should I tell them?" and I can't tell you how it has convicted me and challenged me to share my faith with others. People will go to Heaven in part b/c you sang a song with a powerful message! Failure, I don't see it.
Thanks for all that you allow God to do through you!

Blogger supersimbo said...

shaun, i still have your cds in stock!! It annoys me when i look at the artists who are selling by the van load from my shop and then i look at "other" artists such as yourself who have not made the cut in the way that somneone like Tomlin has................it annoys me cuz iv met you, iv saw how you are with an audience but as a promoters we have saw other aspects of your ministry. We know the honesty, the humility, all the qualities you guys have.............it makes me sore but then i think God wants you for something far far greater than just your music...........influence?? i think you are onto something pal

Anonymous Laura said...

Good post!

Anonymous emma said...

Your influence extends further than you know I reckon... I love to blog because it allows me to record my journey and to try to share with (influence?) others in some small way what I'm learning. Many times I find this happens... I read a few blog posts by difference people on vaguely related topics, it influences me, i spin off into my own train of thought, the I post my thoughts... so in many ways you may never know the extent of your influence (until heaven!) Sometimes God has to block the paths we want to go along so he can get us onto the ones we really want but just didnt know it...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write that you've failed publicly, and miserably, at what's essentially your career. You sorta soften this by saying you know you're not a failure overall.

I'm thinking out loud here, but it's pretty tough for guys, particularly, to separate the two. If you can cleanly divide work and life, it's admirable. I'll bet you can do it, but only intellectually.

Seems like, from afar, you've failed only at being a super-duper-whatever-star in the CCM world. As a musician among millions, you've clearly succeeded spectacularly. In order to see this as failure, you must've expected superstardom?

There are so many other things to do.

My whole life has been a struggle with thinking I've failed. Literally, I broke down at seven years old, and again in high school, in front of teachers. "I haven't accomplished anything!" --somehow feeling the weight of my supposed gifts. I'm realizing the connection my own perceived failure, my low self-esteem...and my arrogance. Just what is it that I think I'm capable of? Must be pretty lofty. I must be something special.

Anyway, this entry resonates with me, because I constantly feel like a failure, even though I can look at my family and think, "No way." Sorry again if I'm projecting me onto you...just thinking aloud. Thanks for your blogging.

Sorry for typing so much,

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I obviously didn't type exactly what I'm feeling...or didn't do it all that well. Brant, and others here have gotten the idea that I'm saying I'm a failure. No, no. I failed at being popular with the 3% - at being a "Christian recording artist."

Those who are loved by the 3% keep their record deals, get their current albums (not the ones they made six years ago) played on K-LOVE and WAY-FM and get to be on magazine covers etc. These people who entertain and hold the interest of the 3% are the ones I call "Christian recording artists" since being one of those people is the aim of every major "Christian record label" and the friend of every "Christian radio station" and "Christian book store."

I don't miss the magazines. I miss the radio play very much though, and not just financially. Mostly I miss feeling like I'm sneaking new thoughts under the fence into the 3%'s backyard. But there are other covert theologians out there - Brant for one - sneaking in contraband thoughts about God in between "worship" songs on the radio. That makes me happy.

So, no, I'm not a failure. I'm succeeding. Just not at THAT - not at being the darling of the 3%. I don't know what to call what I am, or what I'm becoming, but it's looking less and less like a "Christian recording artist." No label. no radio support. No magazines (unless I'm their writer.).

And all this is good, I think, most of the time. It's hard to stop trying to be a successful entertainer of the 3%, and the part of me that doesn't want to admit defeat in that arena hates what I'm becoming. But that part is dwarfed by the most of me that's wanting to make new music in new ways, and write books, and speak and blog and talk to the 97% of Christians who currently get very little attention from musicians/writers and speakers - the Christians like me who don't read Left Behind, do celebrate Halloween, do say "crap" (and even worse), and don't need the last verse of the song to explain the other two.

Thanks for the chance to clarify. Hope I did.

And always good to hear your thoughts, Brant. Now I'M sorry for typing too much. Oh, wait, it's my blog.


Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

The great thing about playing to the other 97% is that you won't have to sneak any truths under any fences. You can put them right out there--free of Christian radio's required buzzwords--and not get mired in denominational tangles or the inhibitions of the church audience. Beautiful!

Making new music in new ways...what does that mean? Will you start playing gigs in bars that serve something harder than holy joe? LOL Hope so. I really have a hard time getting that 97% into a church to attend a concert...

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I really have a hard time getting that 97% into a church to attend a concert...


I'd have a hard time getting some folks outside of the Church into a church sure, but not the 97% of Christians who don't disapprove of church but aren't interested for this or that reason in "Christian music." Am I understanding you right, Nancy, that in your area you think those folks wouldn't come to a church concert?

Here's what I've experienced a ton of in the last six years. It's a Sunday morning and I'm playing in a church's service before a concert that night down the road. The church is in a town that has K-LOVE, let's say. (Which is most towns it seems like ; ) ) I play my two songs, the preacher preaches, the plates are passed, we sing a parting song and off we go. I stand in the lobby and meet a couple hundred people. Many of them - MANY OF THEM - say things like, "What's the name of that home song you sang this morning" or "I've never heard of you before" or "I hope you get to do this for a living one day, son. You're really quite talented."


That's a large chunk of the 97%. People who, for whatever reason - age (too young or too old), geography (K-LOVE hasn't marched into town yet), denomination (Presbyterians, for instance, not real current in general on the CCM) - have never been exposed to what I do or anyone who does what I do. These people go to church. They want to learn. They like music (some of them). But they don't listen to Christian radio, shop at a Christian bookstore, or read Christian Happenings or CCM Magazine. They don't live - metaphorically speaking - where the marketing dollars are spent. The dollars are spent by labels where the most fish are - the fish most hungry for a subculture of their own: conservative, evangelical, white, Southeasterners and Midwesterners.

I love those people. But what about the 97%? Where do they "live?"

Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Where is George Barna when you need him?

The 97% I'm thinking about consider themselves Christians and, like your group, don't dip much into the media and entertainment end of the Christian subculture. Many but not all of the people I have in mind attend church faithfully every Sunday. And of those people who are faithful church attenders, maybe a third aren't involved in any Christian activities beyond that one hour a week every Sunday.

In your scenario, it's a Sunday morning, so most of my 97% are in church to worship, not to attend a Christian concert. Switch up those two songs to a full concert, put it on a Friday or Saturday night and stage it at a church (not their church) and you're going to have a hard time getting much of my 97% out for it. To an awful lot of them, church is not thought of as a venue for the kind of entertainment they're looking for. They have perceptions--rightly so in a lot of cases--that Christian entertainment is too preachy or just not good quality compared to what they're used to hearing on Hot 99.5 FM or at the clubs, where they'd rather be on a weekend night.

I had an easier time getting a dozen people from my 97% into the gay bar where I ended up doing my first stand up comedy performance than I have getting these same people into a church for a Christian concert.

That's my experience, as sordid as it sounds. LOL


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Excellent, points for me to ponder right now, Nancy. Yea, I think you're right about all of that. We're talking about the same crowd - the same 97% I think.

Which puts me in a pickle. I don't want to be that guy (I know a few of these) who thinks he's something he's not. I'm not a "crossover" possibility. And I'm definitely preachy. So, perhaps a lot of that 97% won't dig what I offer. Maybe I should articulate sometime WHY it is I want to talk to that 97% and WHAT I want them to take away from the exchange. That would give you and other folks here a chance to offer an even more informed two cents.

Thanks for yours.



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