April 10, 2017 Matthew Ojar

The value of Christian and Gospel music

Worship Central Bespoke Records

Hello again,

My last blog entry was focused on the PRS world and how to approach it. In this entry, I want to share about my general thoughts of the value of UK Christian and Gospel music, and my suggestions about how we can move our Industry forward.

I just want to start with some numbers to give a starting point of what I’m going to say:

In 2015 – £460.9 million was distributed to Songwriters, Publishers and affiliate Societies (other Songwriting collection Societies). This is common knowledge and is included in the ‘Big Numbers of 2015 breaking down PRS’ financial progress.

Part of my job means I have access to confidential information as to what songwriters and publishers make in terms of royalties in the UK across all genres- from the smallest to the greatest. This means I see the value in real terms of what figures and income is generated and paid out for all. For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on one large revenue stream….PRS income. PRS For Music as an organisation deals with paying out two major rights: PRS and MCPS. For clarity:

PRS* collects and distributes:

Live Performance
Streaming income
Sampled music played across various non-music venues- gyms, coffee shops, shopping centre etc


Physical audio product released by a record company other than yourself
Digital download income
MCPS broadcast (a form of sync income)

*These are both for Songwriters and Composers only, as that is all PRS For Music deal with as an organisation

For my comments I am focusing on PRS.  Due to the confidential information as a PRS employee I am privy to I cannot share exact values of what is generated to whom. But I will give some general impressions I get after seeing all this income and where it is distributed to:

There is no conspiracy

Many people develop a victim mentality in the world of songwriting when apparent songwriting value is not reflected in equal real world value. If you are big enough, and on the right platforms, you will see value coming back in the form of royalties. The be all and end of all of songwriting income is that certain platforms generate income and some do not- some streams within each right generate income, some do not. It is important to learn what does and what doesn’t and ask questions to determine what generates higher income so that you can direct more efforts towards those that do. 2017 is not about working harder, but working smarter.

Infastructure equals money- it’s all about platforms

The more recognised an infrastructure, the more established the platform, the more likely you are to receive income. When thinking about royalties, think about the reach of the platform you are on. The bread and butter of PRS for a lot of songwriters is still the traditional means of radio, television and live performances. You may have a huge online following but the value paid out from PRS will be small due to the large amount of music actually being used online. My suggestion is to turn that value into visibility across the established routes of TV, radio and live performances to equal value as a songwriter and higher royalties.

Those who you think are big are not always big, visibility does not equal songwriting value

This is an important point- perceived success vs. real success. I can tell you from the inside there are levels to songwriting, secular and christian alike. Many people who believe they have arrived have not even begun to scale the heights of songwriting income. Without saying any names I can say the top of the PRS mountain is £million+ a year from just PRS income. Doing well and being relatively healthy/successful would be over £50k a year, but doing well can also mean £12-20k a year, in certain genres the writers are not seeing more than £5k a year.

My last point particularly concerns me, I have scanned and looked across genres and I can confirm wholeheartedly that UK Christian and Gospel music is among some of the lowest value generating songwriting income from a PRS perspective. Even amongst the two, UK Gospel particularly from a songwriting perspective may be the lowest I have seen, things are healthier in UK Christian Music (CCM and Worship Music) than Gospel. Again this disturbs me.

Why does this disturb me:

  • Songwriting is important, it is residual income that generates while you may not necessarily need to be present in a place. The music you create to an extent can work for you. Your music being used on radio and television generates value while you may be sleeping, doing other things.
  • You can pass songwriting estates down to children, a spouse or a relative of your choosing. As such songwriting can be a multi-generational asset.
  • More songwriting income means that you may not have to burn yourself out as muchdoing live shows, pick up another full-time career. It also means when you need to take a break due to potential health reasons or life events you can still be sustained.

With all that said I believe in Christian and Gospel music, as a vehicle that God has on the earth to deliver a message. At its heart Christian and Gospel music can inspire, restore and convey God’s word and message through music.

The current problem from my limited perspective is that for mainly Gospel and some CCM songwriters songwriting royalties are unsustainable in comparison to other genres. I don’t believe God gave us all such beautiful music to be on the outside, looking in financially. But I believe He has given us the ability to challenge and overtake our various spheres for the Kingdom- this includes being the benchmark and prototype for music in this nation.

With all that said I want to end with some of my recommendations as a Christian ‘scene’ to move forward:

  1. Greater unity- across genres, across congregations
  2. Invade the spheres of mainstream music
  3. Build infrastructure and share knowledge

Thanks for listening, this was a challenging write up due to the depth- but an important issue to raise and discuss.  I want to ‘go in’ with the subject but recognise the controversial nature of what I am saying, so have kept to trying to raise the conversation, and to get people thinking and talking. I’ve held back opinion, and acknowledge my perspective is limited to one income stream- but it is my perspective for those who want to see value in UK Christian and Gospel music. Furthermore, I have not built my own infrastructure with UK Music so cannot comment as to some of the unique difficulties facing UK faith music.

I salute all those who have gone before and have created pathways. Now is the time to share with one another, impart and raise up your own protégés and to help to create a brighter future for UK Christian/Gospel (faith) music.

Let’s build and let’s move forward.

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Matthew Ojar

Matthew has worked at PRS For Music for 10 years as a direct member services representative. This gives him an unparalleled 'behind-the-scenes' look into songwriting, royalties and their distribution. He is also a songwriter and artist in his own right.

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