Self-Promotion Versus Christian Humility

by Bobby Gilles

in Music Business

Yay! Boo! art for article on Christian humility versus artist promotionsOne of our readers recently suggested we write an article about the tension between the self-promotion of independent artists and Christian humility. For instance is it okay for a Christian singer-songwriter to promote his music through social media? If so, what about biblical commands like Proverbs 27:2 –

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.

First, promotion and praise are not the same. If I send out a message on Twitter/ Facebook/ LinkedIn/ Google+ that says:

“Download The Whole Big Story by my wife Kristen Gilles for free. It features 4 worship songs we wrote together”

That’s entirely different than:

“Our EP The Whole Big Story is the greatest thing since spray-on sunscreen. Get it now because it’s the best worship record of the year.”

Further, it is possible to write longer messages (blog articles for instance) that highlight the benefits you believe people will get from listening to your music — whether deep theology, good dance beats or something else. The key here is what branding strategists call

Coherence: When your message aligns truthfully with your product.

This is not the same as the saying “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Saying “I’m the best” is always bragging, even if 100 authorities also say you are the best.

Promotion is simply the act of letting people know you’ve created something that you believe will benefit them. If someone has subscribed to your social media account, then they expect you will promote your music. If this isn’t what they counted on, or they grow tired of it, they are free to unsubscribe.

But How Much Promotion?

This is tough, because it is subjective. In my Social Media Marketing For Independent Music Bands & Artists I wrote that you shouldn’t go overboard with social media promotion. For me, that means that if you look at my Twitter feed in a given week, the number of tweets that promote our music, blog posts and even tweets relating to things at my church Sojourn (where I am employed) will be far less than tweets relating to other blog links that I think would be of interest to my followers, as well as retweets and personal reflections that have nothing to do with promoting our “goods and services.”

Some social media experts have suggested an 8-1 ratio, meaning that for every tweet about your music, you’d send eight tweets about other things. I don’t think there is a magic number or ratio, but I agree with the principle that your promotional tweets should not outnumber non-promotional tweets, especially if you tweet multiple times per day.

Band Accounts Are Different Than Individual Accounts

Earlier this summer I took over the Sojourn Music (@sojournmusic) Twitter and accounts. An official band account is different than a personal account, in that there is no reason to think anyone would follow a non-human like “Sojourn Music” unless they wanted to receive updates about Sojourn’s recordings, appearances, training for worship leaders and things of that nature.

On average I post 10-12 times a week to Sojourn’s social media pages. In these posts I tell people about songs we’ll be leading at upcoming worship gatherings, I link to individual Sojourn albums, I link to articles written by or about Sojourn worship leaders, and I link to the music of individual Sojourn artists. Note that even though these are all “promotional” links, many of them are still helpful to worship ministries who follow us, and are above and beyond the typical “Buy our latest album.”

Also, 10-12 posts a week seems to be a sweet spot for this kind of thing; 10-12 posts a day would be overkill.

If you’re a solo singer-songwriter, you can still treat your own Facebook fan page like a “band page.” Just don’t treat your personal Facebook account as nothing but a place to sell product.

What About Retweeting Compliments & Positive Reviews?

I’ve gone back and forth in my own mind on this. I am less hesitant to do it from a “band page” (in other words, “Sojourn Music” retweeting a message that says “The new Sojourn CD is such a blessing to me”) than from my personal accounts. I have done so from my personal pages before, and later felt uneasy about it.

Now, I’m more likely to respond with a simple “Thank you” when someone compliments my writing or Kristen’s music, rather than retweeting the compliment. I don’t, however, have qualms about retweeting a link to someone’s review of our work, or announcement that we’re guest-blogging for them.

And I guess “review” is the key component there. Even a 140-character tweet can be a mini-review of an album or song. It seems less like self-praise to me if I retweet something like a review than if I simply retweet a message that was sent to me personally, like “Hey, your new song is my favorite of the year.”

What do I mean by “review tweet?” Dr. Russell Moore (author & dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) tweeted something like

“Lots of Kingdom Warfare language on the new Kristen Gilles EP.”

Whether you like our EP or not, this is an objectively true statement. I see no problem with retweeting it because it is an accurate assessment of our work and could help people decide whether they want to listen or download the music.

The Key Consideration

It all comes down to your heart. You know when you are envious of the success of other artists. You know when you are bitter that more people haven’t bought your album. You know when you’re more concerned about being a success than growing in holiness.

If promotion is hurting your walk with Christ, don’t promote.


Kat French July 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Good stuff as usual, and just as relevant to Christian writers of fiction as musicians. I think the “corporate/band” vs. “personal/human” distinction is good for providing clarity. As is the distinction between giving people information to decide if your music/writing/art is of interest to them, and boasting.

Part of the confusion, I think, is compounded by the difficulty that artists have seeing their art as a business. Part of running any business, Christian-owned or not, is sales and marketing. Ignoring that is like ignoring your financial accounting. If you ran a hardware store, you wouldn’t see mentioning your upcoming 4th of July sale on the business’ Facebook Page as a conflict with Christian humility.

Like you said, it’s a matter of your heart attitude. Unfortunately, logging off Twitter or your blog can’t shut off envy or pride. I wish it were that easy.

Bobby Gilles July 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm

The hardware store analogy is very helpful. Thanks Kat!

Ben Chilcote July 15, 2012 at 2:42 am

This IS a good topic. This tension is something I wrestled with to the point that it delayed me from getting started writing and performing my songs. I was so afraid of coming across conceited or boastful. I hesitantly got started and from the comments I received from others started trusting in the value my music performances and songs were adding to people’s lives. I still deal with the tension of promoting myself but I try to keep in mind what other’s have said and go by that.

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