1) Use national professionals:
Experienced NT touring pros can be located through these great sites: Empower Music and Arts, Positive Music Association, Unity FM, and Spiritual Living Radio Network. These artists are usually more accustomed to serving NT communities than secular artists or mainstream Christian contemporary artists.
Sharing with your regional colleagues can radically speed up and improve your hiring processes. For example, the PNW region has a Music Ministry tab that provides a list of regional artists, and they often cost less than national touring people. Also, communication between ministries helps build and maintain reputations, so that artists who serve well can work more.
If your region doesn't have a website where you can share artist lists, consider making one, like this one made through Facebook. It's easy, creates community, and improves function.
3) Hit the venues:
I love to debut new talent I find by checking out non-church circuits like my local folk scene, performance festivals, kirtan calendars, and multi-performer cabarets. Church newbies do require more time and care in the prep processes, but it's worth it.
4) Ask your current performers:
About every 6 months, I send a note to all my regulars asking for recommendations for new blood. It works wonderfully, and reminds my current people that they're valued and their opinions matter. This is especially important when attempting to increase ethnic and cultural diversity, or find younger performers. Product gets a boost, too: friends-of-friends are more motivated and better supported to serve well, even the first time.
5) Ask your congregation:
About every 6 months I remind the congregation that their recommendations matter. The reality is I have to pass on many of the folks people recommend, so I make sure I have grateful and graceful language around the "no". But when I can book someone who came that way - like this wonderful find - I include the "thank you" to the congregant when I introduce them on Sunday morning.
My congregant development program takes up more prep time, but fits our mission well. We use about 4 volunteer performers every Sunday, plus our pros, and occasionally produce "all-congregant" Sundays. I also invite the pro band members to bring students as "interns", and this emphasizes the value of learning/teaching and inclusivity.
Got more ideas about how centers can find artists that will fit their needs?
Let's hear them!