I was listening to a radio show recently that covered Evangelical Christianity’s attempts to convert “sinners” into believers – and the long standing tradition of using the bait-and-switch to bring non-believers into the fold. (I’m in no way religious, so bear with me on this…)
As an example, some churches would invite students to what looks like a regular Spring Break party “with free food and drinks!” without telling them that the party was organized by a local church, then they would not-so-subtly drop in messages about Jesus and the church throughout the event.
But one pastor, Jim Henderson, has eschewed these practices completely in favor of encouraging evangelicals to connect with people. He’s realized that people don’t want to be tricked, sold to or deceived – but that they want to be connected with, listened to and understood.
He broke down his method into 3 steps –
1: Don’t concern yourself with converts or sales.
2: Notice people. Sit and watch how people are interacting.
3: When you do engage with people, actually listen to them and respond AFTER you’ve listened.
These are some of the most basic tenents of social media (hell, ANY social interaction) – this is how social media thrives and how relationships develop in the online AND offline space. When you like someone – i.e. when you connect with them and their message INDEPENDENTLY of outside forces or trickery, the relationship changes.
Essentially, as a label or artist, you’re evangelising too. Jesus is your music :D. You can take the ever-less-effective route of the bait-and-switch – lure people in with the single, switch it up with the filler, focus on the numbers (how many people can I PUSH my CD on tonight?) and get concurrently pushy so you can meet your short-term sales goals.
Or you can realize that it’s not just about getting the CD or the t-shirt sold – that the smart move is developing long term relationships. That it’s about connecting with people, recognizing what they love and value and providing that in some way.
And yes, you need to have FAITH that people will connect with you and your music enough to convert.