The other night a friend sent me a link to download a documentary about the band Underoath. I expected to see a lot of live footage and the usual funny backstage banter that you normally get with any film that comes out based on a band. Throughout the two hours of the it though, I was extremely surprised at how honest this look was into the lives of the band. The camera was exactly what it should have been for a documentary type film, it was an unbiased observer, for the better or worse. I could quickly see why Tooth and Nail wouldn't let them release the feature, as a lot of the content focused on the amount of money that the band was making and how they weren't seeing any of it.
It's easy to think that more popular bands such as Underoath are living the easy life. They play big shows, have a bus driver, a crew to set up their gear and get to travel all over the world. That is not the case though. In one segment of the video one of the guitarists, Tim McTague, shared the fact that in 2007 (when this was being filmed) the band had made $1,000,000 from January of that year to the present and yet had only received $24,000 of that, which was to be split among the six members. This is coming from a supposed "Christian" record label. Ugh.
At one point, they showed a fan talking to McTague, attacking the band for using their Christianity as a marketing tool to make sure that they sold a lot of tickets/records since that's how the Christian market is. (If you don't believe me just take a second to think of how many big Christian artists have been around forever and still make a ton of money...or just look at televangelism.) McTague made the rebuttal that if they wanted to do that, it would be easy to play churches every night for $40,000+ guarantees and that they could make much more money but that they intentionally don't play Christian venues simply for that reason. This brought up something that I had struggled with in my personal life a lot for the past 3 years or so.
When I lived in Nashville I attended Lipscomb University for a year, then took a year off to just work and play music. During this time I was doing my best to not ask my parents for any kind of extra monetary help (they were paying my car insurance and cell phone) as I believed that they were doing too much for me already. Being a member of a unknown band wasn't bringing in any cash and I worked at an electronic store making $6/hr + commission. That sounds cool, but on big ticket items I would receive 1% commission, where as I would get 10% on overpriced accessories (cables, speaker wire, warranties, surge protectors...etc). I specifically tried not to sell anyone something they didn't need, because I didn't want to feel like I was cheating anyone or lying to them to make my check a little better. This is where I felt a little betrayed though. I thought here I am, being honest, doing what I feel is right, and yet the best I can afford to do for myself right now is sharing a one room apartment (not one bedroom) with two other guys and eating a diet of mostly ramen and spaghetti-os. I remember one customer coming in one day wanting to buy a TV, and after figuring out what size he wanted, what kind of things he was going to be hooking up with the tv and whether he wanted LCD or plasma, I began making a few suggestions for him to consider from different companies. When he decided on the one he wanted, he said something along the lines of "Well hopefully this is a good price and what I need and you're not just pushing this on me to get some commission on your next check." I was so mad for a second that he would say this, to the point that I explained to him that I would be making about $1.50 on this sale, and that if I wanted to do that I could have convinced him to buy a $150 surge protector and make an extra $15. He didn't believe me at first, but I explained exactly how our payroll worked and that it meant more to me that he got a good product that he loved rather than for me to screw him over and make money. He ended up being a return customer. I was very thankful for him as he would buy something every now and then that he knew he didn't really need, or could get cheaper somewhere else, but that would give me a little extra on my check. I still felt like I was being cheated though. I felt that if I was doing everything the way God wanted me to that life should be easy, that everything should be working out and that I should be comfortable. Another instance that I'm reminded of is when my band was asked to play a retreat for a church in Redding, PA. It was a 24 hour drive round trip, but one of our friends was setting it up and we said that if they could at least cover part of travel that we would do it, just because it would be a fun show. We got there, played and were about to settle in for the night so we could make the drive back the next day when the guy who put it on hands us an envelope containing about $600 more than we would need to cover all the travel. It was a huge blessing, and even though I felt a little weird about making a $200 profit on a 45 minute set for a church function, I was hoping this was God giving me this and not me being greedy for taking it. It did pay the rent and bought me a good meal though, haha.
In any event, here's what I want to say. I think that all these instances show two things in a real way that we're told through God's Word. He tells us that we should know He cares and that He will take care of us, if only for the fact that we can see how He cares for the sparrows. He also tells us that our reward in the next life is going to be so amazing that we cannot even begin to fathom it. So regardless of if you have a crappy job or if the person doing things that you think are awful seems better off than you with their job, grades or relationships with the opposite sex, just know that we are promised something so much better just around the corner by a God who is not in the business of breaking His promises.