CMB 031 : John Mays, Artist Development,and The Future of Music

On this week’s episode of the Christian Music Blog Podcast, I had the privilege of sitting down with A&R executive, John Mays.

Having worked at Word, Sparrow, and Star Song Records before serving as president of Benson Records, John has seen many artists come and go for more than 35 years.

He previously signed artists such as Point Of Grace, Cindy Morgan, Matt Redman, Nichole Nordeman, Warren Barfield, Jason Gray, and the original Passion worship records.

John helped start Centricity Music in 2005, where he currently works with Aaron Shust, Andrew Peterson, Downhere, and more.

If you’re an artist, this conversation is for you. Should you even think about things like record deals or publishing contracts? If so, what should you do?

Any artist looking to pursue a career in music needs to hear today’s episode….

Listen to or download the podcast here, and check out the detailed show notes below….


Here are some of things we discussed

  • John’s story getting in to the music business
  • The core functions of a record label
  • The difference between a movement artist and a radio artist
  • Christian radio and why it matters
  • How artists should be thinking about labels
  • The misunderstandings artists have about labels
  • The messy three piece pie of Christian music ministry
  • The ups and downs of a full time artist
  • Vincent van Gogh quote
  • The four things labels are really looking for
  • Why talent matters the least
  • The things that make for longevity in an artist’s career
  • Putting in the hard work, and letting God bring the fruit
  • The future of streaming music
  • The future of radio

4 Things Labels Look For

Taken from the Centricity website:

Work Ethic

We once heard Margaret Becker tell some indie artists that before she was signed, she felt like she was digging a trench with her bare hands. When she signed, the label gave her a shovel, but she still had to do the digging! That image is important because it helps artists to understand how much patience and persistence is required, and the reality that no one will ever work as hard to get their music exposed as themselves. We can’t work with people who don’t understand this.


Fortunately, writing and recording great songs continues to play a significant role in the marketability of an artist. Through all the changes in the music biz, this seems to remain the one, consistent factor in building and sustaining a successful music career. If you are consistently writing great songs, either by yourself or with others, we’re interested

Qualified Uniqueness

We use the word “qualified” because simply saying we’re looking for “unique” artists isn’t totally accurate. We want artists who are unique enough to not sound like everything else out there; but also sound enough like everything else out there that it still can have mass appeal for it’s time. Tricky stuff. If you’re making commercial music, AND that music has an identifiable distinction to it, we’re interested.


We’ll never sign anyone who’s not talented on some level, but we’ll probably never again be able to sign someone on talent alone. There’s simply too much noise out there, good and bad, to rely on talent only to cut through. Without a good showing in the first three categories (listed above), it’s almost impossible to gain visibility for an artist or band, regardless of the level of talent.

Important Links

Other Things Mentioned