One of the things that I learned early on being a manager was that artists like free stuff. Of course, this is not unique to artists, it’s somewhat of a human condition lived out at the sample tables at Costco every day. (I get borderline giddy when they break out the chicken wing samples.)
Almost without exception one of the earliest questions I get from a new client has to do with endorsements. It’s a great lesson to teach a young artist that there really isn’t any such thing as a free lunch or more specifically free guitar. A corporation isn’t in the business of giving out free stuff to artists because they think it’s cool. There is very much a business transaction going on. The transaction is simple, they pay you with free stuff and in exchange they get to tell people that you’re playing, wearing, driving, or slathering their stuff on.
They’re playing to lowest common 8th grade denominator that if the cool kids are doing it everyone will want to. And of course, it works. When Suzuki sponsored the Kutless tour it was their expectation that they would sell motorcycles and cars as a result of their investment. The good news is they did.
If you’re a baby band nobody has heard of you are not a potential endorser, you are a potential customer. Thus little to no free stuff for you. As the name of the artist grows, so does the desire of a company to align them selves with the name (In modern circles we like to call it “the brand”) of the artist or band.
As is always the case when lawyers and handlers are involved the deals can get way more complex and sophisticated but at its base that’s what an endorsement is all about. Your name side by side with a product or service acts as an endorsement or verification of the legitimacy of the product or service.
As an artist it’s important to not put your name next to things you don’t support, stand for, or even for stuff that has bad quality to it. The reason is simple, your name, no matter how popular, does not bring legitimacy or quality to a bad product or service. It might boost initial sales or whatever, but ultimately if the product or service is inferior or offensive it brings the name of the artist down, not the quality of the product up. It can actually bring damage to the name or “brand” of an artist.
When God was writing up the 10 commandments with His own hand He puts this commandment in the top 3.
Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
It’s pretty easy to have total buy in with the no murdering or stealing ones, but why would this one be so important? I do agree that someone ought not to evoke God and damn if you bang your shin but If it were just referring to cussing, could that have made the top ten?
The KJ version doesn’t say to not speak His name in vain but rather not to “take” it. The NIV uses the words “do not misuse”. It’s oversimplifying to suggest that it’s just referring to speaking His name wrongly. That is part of it, just not all of it.
In Matthew 7 Jesus said that there will be some who come to Him on that day (referring to judgment day) and say Lord, we cast out demons in your name, prophecy in your name, do miracles in Your name? Jesus said something that is at best provocative and at worst scary; He said He will say on that day “I never even knew you”.
It’s almost as if Jesus is painting the picture of what we would call a “name dropper.” You know the type, dropping the names of famous or powerful people as if they’re friends even when they likely only met them in passing. It’s evoking a name to make them feel or appear more than they are.
When I’m dropping the name of Jesus as if I know Him and meanwhile keep up my own agenda, lifestyle, systems that’s very much taking His name in vain. It’s utilizing His name for my own agenda. Offering up my opinions, systems, programs, judgments, in the name of God doesn’t make my agenda look any better, rather it brings defamation to Gods name. After reading what Jesus said it ought to make me afraid.
It’s easy to point the finger at a televangelist wringing people out of their money to support a lavish lifestyle or shooting and killing an abortion doctor. I also think this could apply in our institutional churches where we’re building programs, systems, regulations, judgments in the name of God that look nothing like God.
Jesus gave this as a warning for us to be able to recognize them as false prophets. (matt 7) The good news is He said it would be super easy to spot them. He said we would know them by their fruit. What does the Bible call fruit? In Galatians Paul says that the fruit of the spirit is Love. Not how many people are being “reached” or how many “souls” are saved, that’s not the fruit. (those are more branches being attached to the vine)
I guess maybe it’s better to think of it the other way around. Instead of me trying to sign up God as my endorser, I should be signing up as an endorser for God. Philippians 2 says that His name is above all other names. There isn’t anyone with a bigger name for him to score as an endorser, so he picks you and me.
And what is God selling? Not to be cheeky but He’s not selling anything, He’s giving it away. He’s offering life, salvation, service to the poor and vulnerable. To put it simply, Love. When I’m spending my time offering Gods stuff. When I’m spending my time preaching the gospel, serving the poor and vulnerable, loving my family well, I’m an endorser for God.
In doing this it’s not just good branding, it’s God branding.
Tomorrow night we’re back at Conduit and will be unpacking this commandment. I have more to unpack on this topic and I’m sure you will too. Come prepared for a fun conversation.
remember that $15 will feed a child in Haiti for a month. pray about it and see if God might lead you to partner with us.