Centricity Blog

What we want and what we need

Posted February 10, 2010 by in A&R

I suppose it goes without saying that the question we get asked the most, at least in the A&R department, is “how do I get signed?”, or “what are you guys looking for?”.

As the music biz continues to change, the answer to this question seems to change right along with it. However, in an attempt to answer as honestly as I know how, I thought I’d take a stab at it so you’d know where we stand, at least for today.

What we want

In order to truly make a mark on our time and culture, we want to sign profoundly creative people. People who possess incredible musical gifting and who weave their passion and vision for their work into every song and performance. People who are uniquely gifted in such a way as to impact millions with their work for generations to come because it stands the test of time. People who write, record, and perform songs that dig deep into our souls and create work that challenges, encourages, stirs, provokes and edifies. People who are concerned and curious about all that they see and experience, and who process those things into music that somehow leaves the listener different… forever. We’re looking for artists. That’s what we want.

What we need.

In order to even begin to create some exposure for an artist among the staggering number of artists and bands on the landscape, we need to sign people who are willing to work really hard. Who, way before we ever meet them, have been laboring to build a following. Who care about what kind of music the public wants and is trying to deliver it to them. Who are disciplined, organized, self-starters and who spend time booking dates and doing whatever it takes to get out in front of absolutely as many people as possible. People  who spend tons of time on the internet posting blogs, videos, replying to messages, facebooking, twittering, et al. People who are constantly networking, relating, asking for references and connecting people who might help their music get exposure. We’re looking for workers. That’s what we need.

What’s the problem?

The heart of the artist and the heart of the worker are rarely found in the same person. Sure, most artists have some portion of the worker in them, and most of the workers have a creative streak, but in general, the wiring is completely different. To the artist, the worker can appear to be nothing more than a puppet salesperson. A sellout. To the worker, the artist can come across as the hopeless dreamer who gets nothing done and only cares about his or her own self-expresion. A slacker.

What we want and what we need.

So back to the question. What are you guys looking for? Well, we’re looking for an artist or band who represents what we want, and what we need. With signings like this, we provide the greatest opportunity to expose music that has life-changing potential, and that provides the revenue required for us to continue doing business. Both are incredibly important to us.

Maybe this is why we actually sign so few artists and bands. It’s certainly not for a shortage of them, but more a shortage of them that are willing to embrace the conflicted life of both the artist and the worker.


About The Author: John Mays

John Mays, VP of A&R for Centricity, is one of Christian music's most respected executives, having worked in A&R at Word, Sparrow, and Star Song Records before serving as president of Benson Records. Over his 35-year career, Mays discovered and signed Point Of Grace, Scott Krippayne, Cindy Morgan, Matt Redman, Nichole Nordeman, Warren Barfield, and the Passion worship recordings. Mays helped found Centricity Music in 2003. He began his career in music at 17 as a musician, eventually landing jobs as a bass player with several bands and many Christian music recordings during the '80s. Along the way, he co-wrote "Love In Any Language," a career song for Sandi Patty included in CCM's list of 100 greatest Christian songs. The Andrews, TX, native has been married to Dianne for 32 years and continues to brag on his two kids, Kelsey and John Austin, now both in college.

  1. Mindy said

    I appreciate that you don’t sign someone just because they have a “good voice” or could bring in a radio single. I don’t think I have met anyone on the staff or artists of Centricity that don’t have a servant’s heart. I have discussed this so many times with people that I am not a fan of Christian radio right now because of the lack of depth in some songs. I’m not saying that I don’t feel like there is someone who will be able to relate or connect with the song, it’s just not for me at this time in my life. And I think that’s why I love everyone on Centricity. I am forced to look at myself and see how I can change to help serve the Kingdom. The songs make me think.

    Thank you for this, John.

    • John Mays said

      Thanks so much Mindy. We’re flattered and humbled that this has been your experience with Centricity artists. Pray for us as we continue pressing on.

      And don’t give up on Christian radio! We’re probably more focused on it this year than ever before since it’s still THE most powerful tool to get out artist’s messages out there.

      Thanks again for the kind comments.


  2. Gary Durbin said

    Really great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. It appears to be a very straight forward explanation. As a songwriter, I would love to see a post on what kinds of songs you’re looking for. I’ve talked to a few people in your world this year, and they seem to be looking for songs as much or more than artists. It would be cool and educational to hear what kinds of songs are wanted/needed. Thanks again. Great post.

    • John Mays said

      Thanks for the comment Gary. That’s a great idea! We’ll be sure and add that to our list of good topics to be covered. It all starts with a song.

      Please let us know of any other ideas you have that you’d like to see us blog about.

      Stay encouraged and keep creating to the glory of God.


  3. Jon said


    In reading your post I was both encouraged and convicted. As a songwriter I keep striving to write those kinds of songs that will (to paraphrase you) “impact millions of people for generations to come because they stand the test of time”. It seems to be the most rewarding and difficult task sometimes. It is certainly one of the most worthy ambitions I know of as a musician who loves Jesus and the truth of His word being communicated in songs that change people.

    I was encouraged to know that there is a music company out there that places Kingdom impact at the top of the list for artists. I was also convicted to not grow complacent and keep the “worker” in me alive and doing his job better all the time.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I think you’re right on.

  4. Carla said

    John, as a music listener, I have to tell you that your efforts are not wasted on us. Centricity has by far the greatest concentration of truly GOOD music that not only speaks to the heart but engages the brain on multiple levels. To put it simply, I’m not spending time reading any other label’s blog. Blessings to you, the staff, and artists… Your work is appreciated.

  5. John Mays said

    Wow. What an encouraging word Carla. If our work is appreciated, your support is even MORE appreciated! So there!!

    Seriously, these kinds of comments are the kinds that keep us motivated, encouraged, and committed to our mission of “enabling our artists to create life-changing experiences for the world”.

    We’re grateful for your role in that mission.


  6. Christian Baxter said

    I have followed this blog for about six months and it has challenged and inspired me as an aspiring recording artist. This blog has given me a better understanding of what I need to do and what I need to keep doing. Thank you for your willingness to connect to us, the hopeful.

  7. Interview with John Mays–A&R of Centricity Music, on the climate of the Christian music industry | Making it In Music said

    [...] Hello John. Thanks so much for this inter­view! I was read­ing one of your blog posts called “What we want, what we need,” and there was a part that stuck out to me regard­ing what you look for when sign­ing new artists: [...]

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