The FirstFruits Music Awards offer a new opportunity for Christian artists
They have all chosen to support the Firstfruits Music Awards initiative. UK founder Nigel Swaby says it’s a music event specifically for Christian artists, but he says its concept is refreshing and unique.
The judging panel so far includes New Zealand film and television actor, songwriter and musician Jay Laga’aia, worship leader and Premier Gospel station manager Muyiwa Olarewaju, music director of Australian television Graeme Press, veteran music industry drummer and producer Alvin Taylor, and former Director of Marketing and A&R at BMG Africa and Sony Music Africa Dave Thompson.
Unlike most music competitions which receive all types of music, Nigel insists that Christian music is different because the main purpose behind the lyrics is to praise, worship and honor God, and well sure to bless the listener too.
“Singing is a very important way to reach people for Christ, especially through radio and digital platforms, especially in circumstances where traditional missionary evangelism is not practical due to laws in in force in some countries,” explains Nigel. “Psalms 105:2 says, ‘Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all its marvels!’”
Having previously worked in Christian music production and as a judge for the highly acclaimed International Christian Visual Media Crown Awards, Nigel describes his experience of the modern Christian music scene as very mixed, saying: “Although there are quality and timeless Christian songs, some artists may be tempted to produce songs that “tickle” the senses containing lyrics with a misleading message, limited Christian values, or even worse, blasphemous content.
Nigel goes on to explain that even with the Christian genre, the music industry is fiercely competitive. It can be tempting for Christian artists to succumb to the enormous pressure to produce material that appeals to the masses, bypassing the Christian message. He suggests that if artists aren’t careful, they could fall into the trap of pushing God into the background as they are inadvertently drawn into the limelight and fame.
Nigel has therefore decided to take a stand on the subtle war currently being waged against modern Christian music – he insists that the Firstfruits Music Awards are a platform which will allow the voices of unknown Christian artists to be heard, those who have a true love for God, this is clearly demonstrated through the lyrical content of their songs. This is a fabulous opportunity, open to all Christians and not just professionals who are successful on the charts.
The multi-stage song judging process is very rigorous, evaluating each song against a range of criteria, with Christian and Bible content being the main factors in the scoring. During the competition, members of the general public can register for the Firstfruits Music Awards to be a song reviewer and will have the opportunity to vote on the finalists’ songs. Public critics submitting the most insightful song reviews will win cash prizes.
Nigel explains that this concept is unique and has distinct advantages, as each reviewer must approach each song with great consideration and sensitivity to God’s Word to have a chance of winning awards. This process fuels social media interaction as reviewers let family and friends know they’ve entered the competition or won prizes.
The increased buzz on the net will also help increase artists’ profiles. Plus, it will provide songwriters with the assurance that their songs are taken seriously and given valuable public exposure, which, as any artist will admit, is one of the key ingredients to success.
The culmination of this event takes the form of a panel of highly experienced music industry professionals subjecting their ears to new mouthpieces and creations, carefully teasing Christian artists who have the gift and potential to succeed in the highly competitive in modern Christian music.
These judges, hailing from the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, truly make the awards international. With such diversity, of which one of the judges is an ordained minister, the jury has the cultural sensitivity, depth of biblical and industry knowledge to appreciate the subtle nuances that may be present in submitted songs from around the world.
In particular, Nigel appreciates the panel’s willingness to affirm the biblical principles and values of the event, which include, selecting only commercially viable songs that honor and glorify God (Psalm 66:1-2) and not do nothing for selfishness or personal gain, be humble toward others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Although Nigel explains that the goal of the competition is to identify and be a voice for aspiring Christian artists who accurately portray the Word of God through song, he points out that entrants have much to gain from participating. Unlike the majority of mainstream competitions which have no cap on submissions, entries for the Firstfruits Music Awards are strictly limited to 5,000 worldwide. This means applicants are six times more likely to win the £25,000 Grand Prize than other mainstream competitions which in some cases receive over 30,000 entries.
Some £5,000 from admission fees will be donated to outreach initiatives: for missions and projects with a focus on advancing the Kingdom of God.
HOW TO ENTER
Artists can submit their songs through the awards website at www.firstfruits.co/enter
As indicated in the FAQs section of the website, entries will close on July 31, 2023, or when 5,000 entries have been received. The song submission fee is £25 and artists can submit a maximum of five songs.