Interview with Jonathan Lane (Integrity Music), Part 1: Questions from Churches

For more than 20 years, Sovereign Grace Music songs have been administrated by Integrity Music. In that relationship we’ve had the joy of working with Jonathan Lane, the Vice President of Music Administration and Contracts for Integrity, who has been an invaluable resource for questions related to contracts, licensing, royalties, and CCLI. In this first of two episodes, Bob and David talk about how Jonathan arrived at his present position and explore the ins and outs of CCLI and posting songs.

Have a question about this episode? Send us an email at

Follow us

#soundplusdoctrine​​​​​​ #sovereigngracemusic


David Zimmer: Hello and welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine podcast. My name is David Zimmer.

Bob Kauflin: My name is Bob Kauflin.

DZ: And we have a very special guest with us on…

BK: So special.

DZ: Today. Not in person unfortunately but over Zoom nonetheless. And who is our special guest?

BK: Our special guest is Jonathan Lane, the Vice President of Music Administration and Contracts for Integrity Music. Jonathan, thank you for joining us today.

Jonathan Lane: Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

BK: I was so excited when Bekah sent out the emails to various people asking who could be on the podcast, Sound Plus Doctrine podcast. And you got back to us and said yes, and I said, yes!

DZ: Yes. Especially, oh.

BK: Go ahead.

DZ: Go ahead. I was just gonna say, especially around these parts, Jonathan Lane is famous.

BK: He is. We’ve spoken about you for years and I’m gonna tell people why in a second.

DZ: Yes.

BK: But do you want to use your joke to introduce Jonathan?

DZ: No, it’s okay. It flopped the first time.

BK: No, I think it’s really a great joke.

DZ: This is the second time we’ve used this joke. My question was, Jonathan, if people ever introduce you as Jonathan Lane, a man of integrity.

JL: No.

BK: I just wanna make sure people heard it.

DZ: Thank you.

BK: We, listeners of the podcast might be saying, well, so what, what is this? What’s Integrity?

DZ: Yeah. What is Integrity Music?

BK: So Integrity Music serves Sovereign Grace Music in two primary ways. One is to administrate what we do. And this has been such a gift for over, I think about 20, over 25 years.

DZ: Wow.

BK: Administrating our copyrights, our publishing, our royalties, our licensing. We’ve done some of that and it’s just, it’s so complicated and Integrity does it for us. They do it joyfully, they do it efficiently, effectively. And one of the main reasons they do it that way is ’cause of Jonathan Lane.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: That’s the first thing they do for us.

DZ: And distribute our music as well.

BK: And that’s the second thing.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Quit stealing my thunder. I was gonna say this. And they distribute our music that’s been more recent where they get our music out on DSPs, digital streaming platforms. And those kinds of things. And just make sure our music gets out.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: So you do it all effectively. But Jonathan, well, I’m gonna ask you about your present position, how you got there. But basically, Jonathan serves us in answering questions and making sure that our royalties are being paid rightly, that they’re being accounted for. All those kinds of things. We’re gonna do, we’re actually gonna do two podcasts with you. The first is gonna focus on those who use songs, use our songs and other songs. The second is gonna focus on people who write songs.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Churches who produce songs. We have questions about that. Let’s start with your present position. How long have you been at Integrity? How you got to where you are, just tell us a little bit about that journey.

JL: Yeah. So I’ve been, this coming May, I’ve been with Integrity for 23 years and once you hit the 20 year mark, the years start to become milestones. And for me, I don’t know about you but for me, that kind of triggers a time of reflection, of looking back and doing that you could start to see God’s hand on your life guiding you certain ways, breadcrumbs he’s dropped along the way that’s helped you navigate forks in the road. And for me, I think to really explain how I’ve arrived where I’m at, is I have to go back eight years prior to before I got into Integrity. That started in 1993 when I was in high school. And in my high school youth group at church, the youth minister that had a huge impact on my life really planted seeds of a love for worship music and leading people into God’s presence through praise songs.

JL: It was probably your typical ’90s youth group set up where you had a youth minister giving a Bible study every week. But before that, he’d pull out this 12 stream Takamine acoustic guitar with the wood front and the rounded plastic back like your typical ’90s guitar. But he’d lead us in praise songs, praise courses, and we were singing things like Our God’s An Awesome God by Rich Mullins As the Dear. The biggest praise song probably in the country at the time was a song by Rick Founds called Lord I Lift Your Name on high.

BK: Lord I Lift Your Name on High.

JL: Yeah. That whole experience just planted a seed and desire in my life to help people enter into God’s presence through song to the point where my best friend and I, we just told ourselves one day we’re gonna teach ourselves to play guitar and we’re gonna learn these praise songs and then we can help people sing praises to God. And that carried with me through college, where I joined a college Bible study and bringing my guitar along to help lead us into a time of praise before diving into the word. And that was around like ’95, ’96, ’97, that timeframe and trying to find praise songs geared towards younger adults, the youth. We didn’t have Google at the time. We couldn’t go on there and say top praise songs for college kids.

BK: You couldn’t just Google it? Well, how did you live? How did you have any joy? How did you know anything?

JL: Yeah, I know. You had to be really intentional to go out and find things, but we had this great resource back then called your local Christian bookstore. And we had to go in there, there’s a music section, find The Praise and Worship section. And I remember 1997 finding Paul Baloche’s First Love record which had Open the Eyes of my Heart on it. He had some covers of some delirious tunes.

BK: Yes. Wow.

JL: Which a lot of those work well in a small group setting with a guy and a guitar plugging along.

BK: Even I could play the guitar.

JL: But what was really cool about it was you had this CD and all of a sudden you had a songbook that went along with it. So I didn’t have to just go figure it out anymore. It was laid out in front of me. It was almost like cheating, trying to find songs to help people enter into that presence. That was my first introduction to Integrity as well, is through that record. But I was majoring in music business in college at the time, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Really big town for rock music in the ’60s and ’70s and in the ’90s, big in country music. But I got to the end of my college career and I needed to do an internship. And Muscle Shoals didn’t really have a Christian music scene. So I had to go to Nashville for that. And I really had this desire that I was carrying with me from high school to help people enter into God’s presence through worship music. And I got there and the experience was good.

JL: It was not a bad experience. I interned at EMI Christian Music Group, which is now known as Capitol Christian Music Group, but they were really focused more on CCM, radio, artist-driven type stuff, and I did a good job there. I mean, I got job offers from different places, but it was more the CCM type thing. It wasn’t what I felt like God was leading me to do. So I turned those things down, went back to Muscle Shoals, finished my college degree, graduated, married my wife that May. This is like May of 2000.

BK: Your wife’s name is?

JL: Jennifer. Yep. And just entered into like a 12-month period of what next? What next, God? What do you want from me? Not knowing what was going to happen next. Feeling like I’d followed him and, you know, leaving Nashville and not going down those paths because it felt like it would be a compromise and not really following what God had instilled in my heart all those years. So entered to that time, that 12 months not knowing what to do. In that fall, I saw Integrity had a job opening for a product licensing person, which is someone who goes out and when Integrity records someone else’s songs, gets permission for that recording so that then they can release that record. Applied for that job, interviewed for it, didn’t get it. And just started feeling really down, not knowing what to do next. And January 2001, a few months later, just entered into a time of saying, okay, God, I don’t know what you want. And just coming to peace saying, you know, whatever you want, I’ll do it. If it’s not working in the music business, great. I’ll just do whatever you want and just making peace with that.

BK: Yeah, that’s great.

JL: And in that same month, a good friend of mine who was a spiritual mentor, came to me and said, “God’s preparing you for something. He’s getting you ready for something big that he has for you, but you’re not ready. And until you’re ready, he’s not going to give it to you because you’ll make a mess of it.” And it’s like, “Okay, I don’t know what that means, but okay, I’ll take that.” And just carrying on for four months. And then April that year, 2001, I was at work, my wife was at home, she called me at work and said, “Integrity Music just called. They have this role open they want to talk to you about that they think you’d be fitted for.”

BK: Wow.

JL: And I was like, “Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t apply for anything. Did they say what the role was?” She said, “Well, I don’t understand it, but it’s something about licensing churches.” And I was like, “Well, that’s interesting.” Because that really started to line up with how I…

[overlapping conversation]

JL: So I went down to Mobile. They put me in a hotel and I spent two days with them. The guy hired me there, Joe Buckley. I think he decided to hire me before he met me. Because we got down there, spent like a day and a half with him. We talked about the role for maybe an hour. The rest of the time, he was showing me around town, saying, don’t live here, live there.


BK: Sounds like you had the job.

JL: Talking about life, getting to know each other.

DZ: That’s awesome.

JL: And at the end of all of that, he offered me the job at the end. And we took it, we moved down there, found myself in a role licensing churches that I had not applied for, didn’t know existed. God just put me there. He just opened the doors. I walked through it. Then when Joe left, I took over his role as Manager of Copyright and Licensing. I kept learning new skills. And in the past couple of years, I found myself sitting in a seat leading the department that I started in, leading a team. So that’s kind of like a long-winded way of saying how I’ve got where I am, basically just walking through doors that God’s opened and letting him put me where I am.

DZ: That’s wonderful.

BK: That is so, so good.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Now, you mentioned something along the way about how music brings us into God’s presence. I know that there are people listening to this podcast who are going to say, no, that’s not quite right. So I’m going to fill that out some for the people who have heard what we’ve taught on this, which is… And I think it’s helpful to bring the distinction because Jesus is the one who brings us into God’s presence.

BK: And what we experienced in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s was this, I don’t want to say the experience, I guess, where you would be singing songs to the Lord and all of a sudden you’d be much more aware that he’s with you. He’s there with you. And the truth that has to be balanced with is God is always with us. God’s promised to be with us. But there is something that takes place when… He’s promised to be with us when we gather, two or three gather in my name, there I am in the midst of them. When we preach the word, when we share the Lord’s supper, that’s His promised presence. But there is something of the experienced presence of God, the manifest presence of God, the demonstrated, the felt presence of God that God uses not just the music, but the truths that we’re singing to make us more aware that he is indeed with us, that he is indeed good, that he has shown us mercy in Christ, that his promises are true. So I just wanted to say all those things because I don’t want anybody tripped up over, music doesn’t bring you into God’s presence. No, Jesus brings us into God’s presence, but He uses music to make us aware of the things that He has done, the things that He has said and who He is so that we might be more aware of who He is. That’s just a theological sidebar I wanted to throw in there. But what I wanted to get at is you talk about licensing, you talked about CCLI, Christian Copyright Licensing.

JL: International.

BK: International.

DZ: That’s why Jonathan’s here.

BK: That’s right, Inc. That’s not right. Which didn’t begin until the late ’80s, is that right?

JL: Yeah, it’s like ’88, ’89, something like that.

BK: So talk to us a little bit about what CCLI is and why it’s so important.

JL: Yeah. So it’s an organization. They’re in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, Washington area. I think they’ve been in both states. I’m not quite sure which one they’re in now, but something in that area. But they issue licenses to churches and what we call a blanket license. And what that is, is they license a church with one license that covers all the songs they have rights for. I think one website or so something says they control 200,000 songs.

BK: I think it’s even more than that now.

JL: We’ll say 200,000 songs that they control. And when you get one license from them, you get rights to all those songs that you can use in your church services. And they have five basic licenses that they’ll license to churches for different things that you do with songs. You don’t need a license to sing a song in a church. You really need a license for duplicating sheet music, duplicating lyrics, displaying lyrics on a screen, live streaming through like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, things like that. Copying music for rehearsal purposes, teacher worship team songs, those kind of things. That’s what the license covers.

BK: And why is that important? Why would that… What do you say to the person who says, well, why don’t we just give our music away? I mean, who cares? Why can’t people just sing it? And what’s the big deal? Why do you need to license the… I’m sure you must have thought about the reason something like this would be needful. Now I remember before CCLI and I remember why it was so helpful, [laughter] but I’d love to hear your perspective.

JL: Yeah. Well in the US in the, well most countries around the world, there’s a copyright law. And what copyright is, is whoever owns that copyright has the exclusive right to use that song and decide how other people use that song. Copying, distributing, public performance, all those things. And it’s important for churches and believers to follow the laws of the land that we’re in and make sure we’re not breaking those laws. But even more on a practical side, the songwriters and artists who create these songs and carry them, it’s not free. They spend a lot of money doing this stuff, and they deserve to get paid for their work.

JL: And a lot of them use that money to help support their ministry so they can create more music and keep creating, and so that we’re not stuck with the same songs all the time. ‘Cause human nature is we want change, we want new things. So it is just different expressions that they can create in their music that keeps coming out to help support that.

BK: Yes. And do you remember the time before CCLI? You may not.

JL: I don’t. I was probably in elementary school, middle school. [laughter]

BK: Okay. Okay. Yeah, you had to contact, I mean, you could use a hymnal but you have to buy those hymnals or you contact different publishers. And so any song you wanna do, well, can we do your song? Can we do your song? It was a nightmare. I knew a church in Pittsburgh that hired one individual to handle all those publishing contracts, licenses, because they wanted to do it right. They wanted to obey the laws, but most churches just said, nah. [laughter]

JL: And it’s probably more difficult if you were to go that route today, because there’s some songs I’ve seen that have 10, 12 different publishers on it, one song.

DZ: Wow.

JL: So just to use that one song every week, every week you’d have to go get a license from every one of those publishers. So CCLI helps streamline that with just one license that you have to get.

DZ: Well, and I think a lot of what we interact with when we’re talking to worship leaders or guys who pick the songs for their Sundays is just kind of an ignorance to what is this? Like, why do I need this? Especially because we see songs on Instagram. We see songs on YouTube, and we go get the chart because some guitar chart website put it out. And so there’s just this sense of like, well, I just collect the songs and I sing them in my church.

S4: Yeah.

DZ: And we’ve had conversations, funny interactions with people where it’s like, hey, thanks for doing our songs. And are you registered with CCLI? What is CCLI? [laughter] It’s like the way that you track your songs, it’s like, I don’t know what that is. And so I just think there’s an ignorance around it. Like, why do I need this? What is this?

JL: Yeah, for sure. And there’s not a lot of understanding also other places like YouTube and Instagram and Facebook.

DZ: Yes.

JL: All those places…

BK: Talk about this.

JL: Are licensed also by publishers and copyright owners. So those aren’t… They’re not getting monetized and getting back to the writers.

BK: So you are not CCLI, Integrity’s not CCLI, but you help, you receive those royalties and then distribute them. And then you also keep track of where songs are being sung, performed, recorded, displayed on the internet.

JL: Yeah. Outside of CCLI and CCLI has a lot of data about different denominations and churches and church sizes and countries that they share with publishers that it can get really overwhelming really quick. They have so much data around all that stuff. But we’re tracking songs outside of CCLI as well. Direct uses of songs that we’ve licensed out to people, how they’re being used, what languages they’re being used in, all kinds of things like that.

DZ: Wow.

BK: Yeah. So one of the things Integrity has helped us do is continue to do what we do by, for instance, going on YouTube and finding where are songs being sung? And when you say monetize something, that sounds so worldly. How do you think… What does that mean?

DZ: Yeah.

JL: It’s an industry term that we use, but basically it means we’re making sure that revenue is gonna flow back to the songwriter for that use of the song on that platform.

BK: And it’s not saying that people shouldn’t record songs and do songs. I mean, that’s great to have those songs go out, but I know sometimes for different artists or churches or ministries that have huge, massive followings, they release a song and within two weeks a week, there are 30 covers of that song.

JL: Yeah. Which is a great thing, honestly, because then the song’s getting out, it’s reaching more people, it’s touching more lives, and ultimately it helps build the kingdom.

BK: Yes. And I mean, at some point we’d love to have someone from CCLI on the podcast, but I wanted to talk to you, we wanted to talk to you because you are so much in the trenches and on the ground with these kinds of questions. Like what happens when someone wants to use a song? And I remember Covid revealed a lot of that stuff as we tried to let people use our videos for free. But then YouTube kept shutting it down and it was just, wait a minute, we can’t do this. And you guys were instrumental in helping us trying to figure out how can we make this work? And so that’s part of what you do, is just making sure that those who are producing the music are somehow compensated in the right ways for what they’re doing. Is that how you’d see it?

JL: Yeah, that’s true. And that’s what we’re trying to do is just help make sure number one, songs get to the people they need to get to so that they’re used to change people’s lives for God and to help build the kingdom. That’s our main goal. But the ancillary part of that is helping get money back to the songwriters and the artists to help fund their ministries, keep a roof over their head, food on the table for their kids. They don’t have to worry about that. They can focus on their ministries and what God’s called ’em to do. But part of that is also, like you said, like example of YouTube during Covid, that was an example of… YouTube’s not, they’re not a Christian organization. They don’t care as a organization about God or His Kingdom or anything.

JL: So they have their rules, their regulations, and we have to find ways to work with places like that because the church does use tools like that. And so having to find solutions to make sure that music can go out on there and not get blocked like it was happening in the beginning is really important. And CCLI was really instrumental in that. And then they launched their streaming license during Covid and churches signed up for that. And in a lot of cases just telling YouTube that, hey, we got a license for this use, don’t block it, really helped.

BK: Yes. Yes. So that leads to a question. I have two questions. One was, so I’m in a church and I wanna post a song that Sovereign Grace Music has written or whoever has written, and what should that person do? Because we’ll get those emails sometimes or our church is doing, I guess it’s maybe two different questions. Our church is singing these songs and we wanna post video of our church singing that song on YouTube. What should they be thinking about? Or do they need to think about anything? Should they just wait until the police show up at their door?


JL: Well, hopefully that never happens.

BK: No, I’m just kidding, just kidding.

JL: It depends. It depends on if it’s a live stream or if it’s a prerecorded thing they’re uploading. If it’s a live stream, that can be considered a public live performance. And you do need a license for that. And that’s where CCLI comes in with their streaming license that helps keep that legal. And usually just putting in your description of the live stream, telling YouTube or Facebook that you have a license does the trick and they leave it alone. Not always ’cause they have algorithms that are computers that are not people in the background finding things. But as long as you have a license from either the publisher or CCLI or organization like CCLI to cover that stream, then you’re okay. And you don’t have to worry about anything else. If it’s prerecorded and you wanna upload it after the fact, you really don’t have to worry about anything because most music publishers and labels have licenses with YouTube and Facebook and all the places that cover those things. So it’s already taken care of and the uploader doesn’t have to worry about it.

BK: Huh. So does YouTube go and find that cover?

JL: Mm-hmm, they do. They’ve got these algorithms, they’re really sophisticated these days. Like we upload recordings to them and it helps fingerprint it and their algorithm, when they hear a snippet of it, they know, oh, it belongs here. And they put a claim on it. When they put a claim on it, it’s just saying, oh, that belongs to this publisher, and the money for that video’s gonna flow back to them.

DZ: Yeah. But for the most part, I mean, wouldn’t you say that that’s an incredible tool that we’ve never had that’s probably doing so much work for a company like Integrity that they can go find it, and provide their report.

JL: Yeah, it’s a great tool ’cause then you don’t have to have someone sitting on a computer watching all the videos uploaded to YouTube everyday. And I think I saw some statistic that it’s like 120,000 different music uploads happen a day now, which it’s unfathomable, honestly.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Well, I just heard that 500… I think it was on a meeting with Integrity we had recently, 500,000 songs are uploaded every week to Spotify and Apple, half a million songs, 26 million songs a year. So it’s a lot of music.

JL: Crazy.

DZ: There’s a lot of songs to sing.

BK: So, if you get an email saying copyright claim, just leave it alone. Just don’t do it.

JL: Yeah. Just leave it alone. It doesn’t charge the uploader. You’re not paying that money. It’s paid for from ads. Like the ads that play before the video or something, advertisers, they pay for advertising. And that money, they pay for the advertising funds the royalty pool. And that’s where the money comes from that goes back to the songwriters and the artists. It’s not coming from the person uploading it. So if you see a copyright claim, just leave it alone.

BK: That’s great. And then last question, and then we’ll close this one out and have another podcast with you. If a church is saying, well, we don’t have a CCLI license, and you’ve addressed some of this a bit, but I’d love to hear it succinctly. Should my church have a CCLI license? Either we’re a church of 50 or maybe we’re a church of 200, 300 or maybe we’re a church of 1000. And it just seems like a little bit greedy or too much administration or as the one who… I mean, every quarter or maybe twice a year, you’re processing all these royalties that come in through CCLI for different ministries and things. What would you say to that person, that pastor, that music leader, do I really need a CCLI license?

JL: Yeah, I would answer their question with a question and find out more about how are they using music in their services. There may be a case where they don’t need a license if they’re not… You don’t need a license to sing a song in service. It falls under a religious exemption in the US. So you don’t need that permission. But if they’re displaying lyrics, they’re copying lyrics or live streaming, doing any of those things, then yeah, they would need a license. So it would depend on how they’re using music.

BK: Yes.

JL: And that would be most churches. But there are a lot of small churches in the US that I attended one for years that was probably no more than 50 people. And we didn’t live stream, we didn’t copy lyrics or anything. We didn’t have a worship leader. A lot of times we’d just play a CD and people would sing along to it. There was no need for a license in that situation. But if you get to the point of displaying the lyrics, making copies, live streaming, any of that stuff, you need the license.

DZ: Yeah, that’s helpful.

BK: That wasn’t my last question. I thought of one more [laughter] because we still got a couple of minutes. You are like involved in the industry. The music industry, Christian music industry, Christian worship music industry. [laughter] And you have always… In all our relationship with you, email, personal, whatever, you have always been a man who obviously evidently seeks to do what you do with humility, with integrity, and to please the Lord. So I would just be wondering how do you keep the industry side of what you do from becoming more important than the spiritual side?

DZ: Good. Yeah, good question.

JL: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think working for a place like Integrity makes that easy. We’re a nonprofit ministry. Our mission statement is to help people worldwide experience the manifest presence of God and to resource the church with songs of substance. And in order to do that, everyone has a part to play. That’s a mission statement that’s pretty spiritually focused. And really to do that, we have to really keep our lives focused on God in a healthy way. Otherwise it’s just a job. But still with that, it’s really important to keep that separate and healthy. And there’s probably three things that are key to that, is staying in the Word. That’s number one. Staying in prayer is also number one and a third number one is staying in a good, healthy relationship with the family. So it is the Word, prayer and family, those three things together equally is kinda like the core in what I use.

BK: Amen. And I would just add the church, which I know you are committed to as well. You’re not just a lone ranger out there doing your thing.

DZ: Yeah.

JL: Yeah, and to me, being in a healthy church is kind of like you can’t stay in the Word and in prayer in a healthy way without that support.

BK: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. Well, those things will lead you to the church. Jonathan, you are a gift. And thank you so much for talking about these things. I’m sure if you have any questions, more questions about these kinds of things, email us at soundplusdoctrine, spell all the words out But we’re looking forward to the next conversation about those who write songs, produce songs on their own, and just any answers you can provide for those people. So thank you so much for joining us.