MONSTERS OF COMMITMENT
Growing up in a God-centered family a afforded me great teaching through the example my parents lived. One of my biggest takeaways from childhood was learning the meaning of integrity. Dad taught me that aside from following God, integrity is a person’s biggest asset. Integrity is also apparently a big deal to God as there is quite a bit of real estate dedicated to it in the Bible. A few verses that I keep close by to remind me of the importance of integrity include:
But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
(Psalm 41:12, ESV)
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
(Proverbs 11:3, ESV)
The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!
(Proverbs 20:7, ESV)
When I see a person exuding integrity, I can usually trace it back to their parents. Even many I worked with in the mainstream music industry hold integrity with high regard. Commitment plays an important role in most business relationships, and it exposes one’s level of integrity to the world. During my years of working at both mainstream and Christian record companies, I generally experienced a high level of integrity. Of course, there are normally contracts in place to help folks keep their integrity in tact, but there is also a high level of respect and pride in honoring commitments.
Surprisingly, when I entered artist management I began to experience something a bit different. First of all, I noticed many artists were leery of making commitments as their minds had been filled with horror stories of bad deals and contracts. While I have heard many of the same stories, I also understand that the music business has evolved and much of the “music business swindling artists out of money” of the past has been forced out. Technology has made much of the business that was once hidden very transparent. In the past, artists with large platforms who felt mistreated used their voice to broadcast to the world how they were wronged. Their voices were often heard louder than those they accused as most business entities quietly default to litigation to settle disputes. While I understand an artist’s hesitancy to enter into a contract, they certainly have an opportunity to carry out due diligence when considering partnering with a business. In Christian music, I would hope that process includes prayer. Prayer and due diligence should help make a wise decision as the Christian music business is quite small.
As we launched our artist management company, we expected a high level of integrity from artists. After all, we would be working with Christians right? We were advised by trusted veterans in the business to use contracts. While we followed the advice, we were also willing to begin working with artists before contracts were finalized. Big mistake! We had several experiences where we worked for artists for a year, only to find them avoiding making the commitment official. When it came time to pay us, they would lean on the fact that a contract hadn’t been signed. As a result, contracts became a much bigger priority for us. However, thinking contracts would solve commitment issues was our second biggest mistake.
One of the artists we worked with joyously allowed us to help build their platform. After years of hard work developing them as an artist and songwriter, we secured them a record label. The day they signed the record deal, something in their demeanor changed. Diana picked up on it immediately, while I was a little slower to recognize the change; and I probably chose to ignore it. The day following the record deal signing, the artist hit us with “here’s why we don’t think we should pay you commission on a large part of our advance.” I was extremely shocked and disappointed that the thought of not paying us would even enter their mind. We had invested a great deal of our lives over a few years making little to no money while preparing them to get a record deal, and this was how they were saying thank you? It was their parent who delivered the message, making the artist’s trail to the absence of integrity obvious. Eventually, the same artist would walk away from our contract as if it never existed, once again being encouraged to do so by parents who proudly wave the Christian banner. Was this really happening in the Christian music industry? I pray the artist eventually realizes the mistake they made in taking their parents’ poor advice and being dishonorable. Hearing stories from other managers, I’ve realized we weren’t the first or only ones to experience an absence of integrity from artists in Christian music. While there are plenty of artists who operate with a high level of integrity, it’s sad to see even one Christian who doesn’t.
Clearly, the monster desires to control our commitments. Stripping integrity and honor from a believer is a crafty way the monster prevents one from reaching God’s purpose for their life and ministry. Should we expect a non-believer to be receptive to a message from someone with a reputation of not honoring commitments? As I stated earlier, even many operating in the mainstream music industry regard integrity with a high level of importance. As believers, shouldn’t we desire to show the world how to live with integrity? Honoring commitments is one of the most visible opportunities we have to do so. God can give us the power to resist the monster.