2005 FCMA Workshop Review
Once a year (or mostly once a year) the Faith Centered Music Association holds its annual workshop. The FCMA is the organization that produces the Pearl Awards show each year. The Pearls are sort of like the Grammies for Mormons.
The workshop is an event where LDS musicians of all stripes, ages, and styles come together and learn strategies from those that have gone before. It’s always a fun time to network and meet as well as to learn. This year I learned a lot
The opening keynote speaker was Steven Kapp Perry. Even though he’s made quite a name for himself as a writer, producer, singer and actor, he’s also well-known as the son of Janice Kapp Perry. He spoke about some of his impressions about the current state of LDS music.
He spoke of a great circle, and that many LDS artists felt like they were standing around that circle, looking in. They felt that they wanted to create music for the saints themselves. For those that are already members of the church. There are others that stand around that circle looking outward. They’ve chosen to make music for the rest of the world to hear. His belief was that the LDS music world needs both. Some to sing to us, and others to sing to the world.
He commented that, even though LDS popular music has been around since the ‘70s, we are still primarily in the “emulation” phase, as he called it. By that he meant to say that few are really stepping out to create new sounds and new styles, but are primarily emulating the sounds of others, either within the LDS music world, or even the world beyond. He also said that he was fine with that. As the LDS pop scene continues to mature, there will be more innovators. We will develop our own sounds.
He also encouraged us as individual artists to practice emulation until we discover our own sounds, our own styles and ways of expressing ourselves.
He closed by citing Elder Ballard, “We must speak the language of technology”, and Orson Card, “Have some friend’s that aren’t (song)writers!”
Then, Janet Bradford, of the Marriott Library, told us of a “Mormon Arts Database”. In spite of the call to embrace technology, we hadn’t done it that day, so we could only hear her speak of it, rather than go visit it.
It’s a project currently under way with the full blessing and funding of BYU. It’s to contain data about authors, playwrites, songwriters, visual artists, and members of the church and their works in other creative disciplines. Designed primarily to facilitate scholarly research, the potential for promotion is huge, too. The early stages of the database can be found at http://web.lib.byu.edu/mormonlit/
Jenny Phillips spoke to us about how she’s developed her career. She spoke of doing fireside performances all over the world, and learning to sing the songs in her shows in the native languages. She encouraged us to push forward with international and non-English music! (I’ve written one song in Spanish, does that count?)
She also spoke of the importance of a fanlist in long-term promotions. I’ve been hearing this more and more lately. Very important to an independent artist.
She clarified for us to not set our goal to having a CD, but to impact lives. The CD, the performances, and everything else will follow. To me, that sounded a lot like, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God...”
Finally, Jeff Simpson clarified for us some of the reasons and processes that went into the Excel/Deseret Book merger. He said that too often in the small LDS market, we worry too much about competition with each other. Some of that, in a friendly way, is good. But we obsess about it too much. He told us of an article he’d written for the LDS Bookseller’s Association Newsletter which talked about “The Pie”. Anyone familiar with marketing knows that he’s talking about how everyone’s market share is a slice of the pie. And when one label or company increases their share, it cuts into someone else’s slice. Jeff said that what he’d rather focus his efforts on is making the pie bigger.
He went on to explain that the biggest challenge to LDS music is not each other but the overall apathy and ignorance of the membership of the church. Most church members, by far, either don’t care to hear LDS artists, or even more, they flat out don’t know they even exist.
He even had a wry comment when someone asked if he felt like downloads had cut into Excel’s profit margins: “Oh, that someone would care enough to steal my music!”