So the title might sound a little more anti-conformist than this post deserves but it describes an issue any musician is faced with when they begin to sell their own music. Music has always been in large part tied to the image that a given song creates. Phat beats and a stadium synth can place the listener in the hippest night club ever. A twangy melody and a lap guitar will send you to the broken pickup out back. And yes, even three power chords with enough fuzz will have you raging against any machine. But when it comes down to it, the image of a musician has a lot to do with they those sounds produce their corresponding reactions.
Staying true to the foundation of this website, Mormon musicians are not exempt from the identity crisis that is the music scene. And while some musicians choose not to place their faith in the limelight, being of a “peculiar” people makes this easier said than done. This brings up an interesting question, is it ethical to use your religious beliefs or background to sell music? While making money from one’s faith is the basis of this question, we will focus on the music point of view for this post.
I recently heard of a cigarette company who donated 70 million dollars to a local charity. Nice, right? Well, after doing so, the same company then spent 100 million dollars to tell everyone about it. While some people view “LDS” in a band bio as a helpful sign of their music being family friendly or Sunday appropriate, the argument could be made that divulging one’s faith in this manner is being motivated by personal gain. Almost as if the fact that the artist is LDS is what gives the music value and not simply the music itself. While I love to learn that musician I admire are people of faith, maybe even my faith, how this information is presented plays a big role in how it is interpreted.
Where there is a niche, there will always be someone to find it and fill it. We have seen this with those CDs that are for sale in Deseret Book claiming not to be my “mother’s” LDS music, whatever that was. The niche going after younger LDS people who want to listen to something different yet up to par with their standards (whether it is different is debatable). Linescratchers could even be placed into this niche-marketing practice. We believe that creating a sense of community among LDS musicians/music-lovers is valuable for a number of reasons and thus this site was created, to fill that niche. Is it a bad thing to cater what you create to serve the needs of those consuming it? Absolutely not.
I guess where the ethical question comes into play is when the quality of the product is no longer the issue but rather how the faith of a given person can be spun in order to advance their own interests. Personally, I have never noticed more “success” from being up front about my beliefs, though it has certainly never hurt how my music is taken in. I have never found myself saying “I’m a Mormon!” on stage but at the same time, I have songs inspired by my mission and my awesome temple marriage that I am happy to explain to people. I would really like to know if our Linescratchers artists or readers have ever had experience with this. Does being LDS help or hurt your music endeavors? Or neither? How do you feel about a band when being “LDS” is a big part of their act and not just their personal lives? You can comment here or email me at thesweaterfriends(at)gmail.com. I plan to write more about this topic in the near future and would love your input.