Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Rest Of The Story

This post is a follow-up to yesterday's post, Counting My Blessings #3: My Career. If you haven't read that one yet, please read it first. But make sure you have some time. It's about the same length as War And Peace. In that post, I talked about the incredible career I've had. It's lasted for 28 years, but it's winding down now. That's the rest of this story.

Yesterday I talked about four main parts of my career; song parodies for radio, performing with event and wedding bands, recording for children's ministry, and leading worship in churches. All of those fields have provided me with a lot of work, income, and fulfillment over the years. But now, none of those fields can provide for us the way they used to.

I retired from wedding band singing several years ago. That's a young man's game, especially for singers. I have still occasionally done gigs when I was asked, including last New Year's Eve, but even at its peak for me, I could not have made a full time living doing that alone. I've been out of the loop for so long that none of my friends who still do that would pick me for their bands on a regular basis. Maybe 15 years ago, but not now. I'd have to learn too much Top 40. Can you picture me singing Justin Bieber songs? Me neither.

When my career was at its height, I had between 10 and 20 radio clients, I was doing parodies for a nationally syndicated comedy service every week, doing wedding gigs every weekend, and recording 6-8 CD projects per year for One Way Street alone. But since 2001, all of those sources have steadily declined. I now have 2 radio clients. I lost the comedy service in 2006. For the past several years, if I had 3-4 CD projects to produce from all my clients put together, I was doing really well.

That's partly why I needed to get a church gig a few years ago. The rest of my career was in decline, so I needed to supplement my income. That worked well, but didn't last.

What happened? Without going into too much detail, let me explain why it's very unlikely that there will be any resurgence of the career I've had.

First, what happened to radio? Before the media companies were deregulated in the 1980's, one company was only allowed to own one AM station and one FM station in any one market. That created competition and forced radio companies to compete with each other. When those restrictions were relaxed, all the media companies started to consolidate and merge, and now you have a situation where every radio station, TV station, and newspaper in some cities are all owned by one company. This is not good for our democracy, when a few companies control what we see and hear.

But I digress again. When radio stations had to compete with each other, they had budgets for the kinds of services that I provide. Now, they don't have to compete so much, since they're all owned by the same company. As a result, I have not added a new radio client since 2003. Nobody has budgets for song parodies anymore. So though I'd like to think that my radio career could have a sudden resurgence, it's not very realistic to expect that.

When the economy crashed in 2008, it was very rough on all of us, including churches. When people lose their jobs, they stop giving. When church budgets have to be cut, guess what one of the first things to go is? Puppet ministry. And when the economy recovers, it's too late to start the puppet team up again, because all of the equipment the team used got cannibalized by other ministries in the church. So my income from puppet ministry has also declined, and seems unlikely to come back the way it was.

And of course, many still struggle in this economy, so church giving and attendance is still down. Let's face it, my evangelical friends. The church in America is in decline. We are headed for the Post-Christian Era that Europe has experienced for decades. We can wring our hands over this, but we have only ourselves to blame. If we were as committed as our parents and grandparents were, the church would not be in the shape it's in. Amen ouch, as a friend of mine used to say.

Obviously, this means that church gigs are not as plentiful as they used to be, and churches don't have budgets for music like they used to. The decline of the church in America has not only affected my ability to get a church job, but has reduced the amount of work I can expect from church-related companies.

So basically, every area of my career, as it has been since 1988, is in decline or over. I'm 60, and there aren't very many churches out there looking for 60 year old worship leaders with cancer. Ten radio stations aren't going to call me Monday demanding parodies. My ministry clients still want to do music, but not anywhere near the amount that they used to do. So in case you've wondered why I seem so ready to retire at such a "young" age, that's why. I just don't see a career path for me right now. That, combined with the timing of my diagnosis, and the way everything has gone the last couple of months, makes me really start to believe God is easing my path toward retirement because he has other things for me to do now.

I could be totally wrong about this, of course. I could be cured, get offered a sweetheart gig, and live happily ever after. But if that's true, why is God not opening those doors? Why do I feel such peace about approaching the end of my career?

Please don't be depressed by this. I'm not. I'm excited. I'm enjoying life more than I have in years. When you can see that it's finite, life becomes much more precious.

My career is winding down. And I'm OK with that, as I keep saying. I feel no need to keep working, no loss of purpose. I feel like I've done my job. Is that crazy? Maybe, but that's how I feel. I really hope it's true, but if not, that's OK. As long as God understands that if he wants me to go back to work, he's gonna have to heal me. If he does, he'll also have to find me a gig!

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