My Manifesto On The Pursuit Of Music

I feel like Jerry Maguire as he was writing that letter to all of his co-workers on how they should treat their clients. It was a manifesto of sorts. The clients were individuals that needed to be loved and taken care of on a personal level. The basic principle behind the letter to his own company was “less clients, more personal care”. The next day after everyone got the letter he was applauded and fired all at the same time. Well I have no idea if this letter will be received the same way or if it will be nearly as powerful as his was, but I feel I needed to write it. If I had to pick a basic principle behind my note I’d say its “less about me, more about God”. Seems like a simple statement, especially on a personal application level… but take that and apply it to all areas of the Christian music industry and you will get some pissed off people. I promise. I might get a few that applaud, but I think I may get a few more that want to fire me, and to that I say… oh well. So be it.

Let me pause here and say that I am in no way trying to judge anyone else’s hearts. This is solely something that’s been placed on my own heart in regards to how I am going to pursue music in the future, or I guess I should say on how I am NOT going to pursue music in the future.

So I’ve been going at it for about 4 years now. Pursuing music in the hopes that I would “make it” or get some place. I often use terms like “get my name out there”, “get some exposure”. I probably wouldn’t have ever come out and said I was trying to “make it”, but I know my heart and I know what my real desire is/was for my life. In my heart of hearts I have been shown and convicted that anything I’ve had to do with music over the last few years has been a pursuit of getting my name out there and made known. I might have said that I wanted to make God known and really try to affect people for Him and push them towards Him, but if I am being completely honest… my deepest darkest hope was that I would get a career out of this somehow. That somehow my name, Rick Hopkins, would be the name people would hear and be drawn to. That my message would be powerful and convicting, and that people would want to hear me, and that I’d be able to move into doing music as a full time “ministry” and career. No where in this pursuit has there been a real full fledged pursuit of getting God’s name out there and making Him known.

Also, in this pursuit of mine, I’ve seen parts of the Christian music industry that I just don’t want to see again. I don’t want any part of it really. I know there are some good artists out there doing some great stuff who have honest and pure hearts. But I don’t want to have to go down some of the paths I was told I’d have to go down. One such thing that has torn at me was trying to get my music on the radio. I am in no way putting down the guys I talked to about getting songs on the radio, so please don’t hear that. I realize they have a job and a ton of music to weed through in their selection process. However, I felt like I was begging them to play my music. I walked away from my meeting with them just feeling dirty. I felt like a loser. I was also given names of people that could help me get into the industry somewhat, but I was also told I’d have to wine and dine and spend lots of money to get them to listen to me… well I’m sorry but that’s just not going to happen. I will not be humiliating myself and spending a load of cash in a vain pursuit of my own desires. I’d rather leave things in God’s hands from now on. When my song “Lift Up Your Eyes” got on the radio and had lots of air play I had absolutely nothing to do with that. It just happened. That’s really how it should be in the first place. Any time I have tried to get myself somewhere, I have gone nowhere. So in the immortal words of Carrie Underwood… “Jesus Take The Wheel”…

Another side of this is my family. I have 3 kids, and due for a 4th in little less than a month. That’s a lot of responsibility, and I don’t just mean the work of keeping them under control at Wendy’s when we go out to dinner. I am the spiritual leader of this family. For my wife and my kids, they are all looking to me to lead them well. My children need a godly example of strong male leadership from a loving father. My wife needs a godly husband who will love her and cherish her. How does all this mesh with my selfish pursuit of myself and my own gain? Not well. My heart is heavy lately with what it means to be a good father and husband. I want my kids to grow up with a dad who they use as a role model on what it means to follow God. I want my wife to be drawn to me because of my pursuit of God. My pursuit of self, and my desire to be this type of man to my family conflict.

So here is a list of things that I am committing too, which seems fitting with the beginning of a new year. In regards to how I approach music…

  1. I will never charge for music again. If you want my music you can have it. I will have some way for everyone to download it for free if they want it. If you come to a show, like the one I played tonight at a church in Grand Rapids, and I have copies of my cd, you can take a copy of my cd for free. Again this is just my own conviction and in no way reflects anyone else’s hearts… but I feel like if I have a message of a loving God that I want people to hear, then why would I charge them to hear it…? A side effect of this is that I may not ever make hard copies of cds again because I won’t have money to get them produced. But whoever can download will be able to get all my music for free, and if you can’t download, let me know, we’ll work something out.
  2. I will not charge to play shows… this with a condition… that you help me cover expenses of traveling and food and what not. If you feel compelled to pay me for the show, I will not turn down your money. I do have a family that I need to support and take care of. This could possibly make me a little more selective in shows, but most of my shows are local to west Michigan anyway and require very little travel.
  3. I will not ever enter a battle of the bands, or any sort of songwriting contest ever again. This is a just a personal thing for me and what I know it to do within my own heart. When I win I get prideful and arrogant about how much better I am than the other bands. I wouldn’t say that out loud, but I know it to be true in my heart. When I lose I get prideful and arrogant and resentful of the judges because they obviously must have made a mistake, or the contest was rigged or something. How could I have not won? Shouldn’t I be the winner of all contest in relation to music mastery?
  4. I am going to pursue God with all my heart and my life. I’ve said for many years that I am a believer in God, but only recently have I been burdened with how all encompassing that belief is. If you say you believe in God, specifically the God of the Bible, and that you ascribe to the way of life that God in the form of Jesus came here and prescribed for us to live, it is all consuming. Everything falls under it. From the very breathe in your lungs at this very second, to how you react to the most menial circumstance or inconvenience, or the biggest blessing of your life. All things fall under the umbrella of a belief in God. I have to admit that I am an utter failure at how I have approached God and my relationship with Him in the past. Giving Him very little of myself, and keeping it all for me. I have pursued myself long enough. I find myself to be empty, lonely, boring, and any other adjective you can think of pertaining to the pursuit of death.
  5. I am going to continue to write and record music. But I will not bow to the pressure to write radio friendly music, nor will I seek to write any “hits”, or any songs that fit the formula for a hit song. I am going to write what I want and feel needs to be said in regards to my own relationship with God, and my own experiences in life, or whatever words God puts in my mouth to sing. I will not be trying to get my music anywhere. I am going to put it out there for anyone to hear that wants to hear it, and if God decides to use it in some way… I almost hope I don’t know about it because that would only make me arrogant again anyway. If God decided down the road to move me into a career in music, I am not opposed to this… but it’s totally in His hands and He will have to make that happen. I will pursue Him. He can do with me as He pleases. (by the way, that’s a terribly frightening phrase to put out there, but I suppose I can’t give Him only part right?)

There is probably more to my manifesto here… but this blog post is getting really long so I am going to draw it to a close. I’d love to hear from any of you on this, and get any feedback you may have. Even in writing this I feel I walk a tight rope of getting a big pride filled head because I am some sort of super Christian. Believe me I am nothing of the sort. I simply want my life to reflect that which I say I believe. If it doesn’t then I am wasting my time with my “beliefs” and I hold them only as a source of false comfort and personal gain.

Again, it should be said that I am making no judgments on anyone else or their heart in their pursuit of music. I am sure there are others out there who are pursuing God with pure hearts and are going after music in the right way. I however, am not one of those people.

Anyway, there it is for the most part… I have lots of stuff to say, but this is enough for now.