What do you think of the Christian Music Industry??

We would like to have an open post about what many of you think of the Christian Music Industry.

Do you feel that it is different than other secular organizations?

What impact does it have for the kingdom?

Does it really make an impact to missions around the world with the millions that it makes each year? 

Just a questions to see what everyone thinks.

Team IML

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29 responses to “What do you think of the Christian Music Industry??

  1. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the Christian music industry as being corrupt.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some good, genuine people in the industry, they’re just really hard to find. Personally, I’d rather support independent artists.

    At least in the secular music industry, they do what you’d expect, which is anything they can to make a dollar. You don’t expect that to be the motivation of the Christian music industry, but it is.

    As far as impact on the kingdom, I’d say that God can use pretty much anything for His glory. That said, even if a song is written for the purpose of lining someone’s pocket, if the theology is consistent with the bible, it can still reach people. So, I’d say, probably it does have an impact on the kingdom.

    Missions? If they contribute to missions, the contributions are typically minuscule in proportion to their profits.

    But, I’d like to ask a question here. What is more important, what we think of the Christian music industry or what GOD thinks of the Christian music industry?

    From what I’ve seen, the Christian music industry doesn’t really look much like God, so I can’t imagine it being especially pleasing to Him.

    But, that’s my human perspective, I could be wrong.

  2. J2Nice78, Thanks for your insight. We really like the question you pose “What does God think of the Christian Music Industry.”

    If the industry is corrupt in some ways like you mention, how can we help? This industry has a lot of power to impact people everywhere if used completely by God.

    Please provide some more insight.

  3. I think that a good way to start is being more ready to reach people.

    To whom much is given, much is required right?

    Look at Phil Wickham who just gave his live album away free on his blog. I’m not suggesting that we give every album away for free, because then the money would eventually run out.

    I’m saying, keep LESS of the profits. Put more of it into missions and ministry.

    Stop being a look at me crowd at start being a look at God crowd.

  4. What Phil Wickham did was VERY generous. It is a great worship experience especially for being captured on a cd. We strongly endorse Phil WIckham and recommend that you check him out.

  5. WOW. Great question. I know some very genuine people in the music industry, and some who are not as genuine. It is probably a lot like church really. A label should be looked at as one part of the team, not an end result for an artist. All a label should ever do is help an artist achieve the ministry God has called them to stewart.

    The problem more lies in two things: expectations and definition. Having honest, real, balanced conversation and making sure that the artist and the label are trying to achieve the same thing will help everyones expectations of what is going to happen. This conversation should be had before anyone signs anything. Definition is more “what is Christian music?” For me, and this is only an opinion, Christian music is probably a wash. Now, worship music, that is REAL Christian music. Entertaining Christians can be done by any artist. Worshipping is what creates a defined difference between Christian artist and artist.

    Just my 2 cents.

  6. Stephen, You are absolutely right, there are some great leaders in the industry. I like the way you distinguish Worship. I think you make a strong point with that. Thanks for your response.

  7. Millions of dollars each year??? Tell that to the hundreds of employees whose music biz jobs have been eliminated in the last few years because of financial losses. This is an uneducated question.

  8. Come on Jimi, are you telling me that just because people have lost their jobs that executives aren’t still stuffing their pockets?

    I have relatives that work in the automotive manufacturing industry and some of them have been laid of and let go due to the slow economy. I also have some at higher levels that didn’t get let go. Guess what, THOUSANDS of people lost their jobs but their executives are still pocketing millions. The industry is still bringing hundreds of millions.

    I also know plenty of people who work in the “music biz” and if you think for one second that just because people have been let go because of slow sales that means the labels and artists aren’t still making millions YOU’RE UNEDUCATED.

    Now it sounds like you might work in the industry somewhere. Here is my suggestion if you do – follow the money.

    The reason jobs get eliminated when the sales are slow is because the uppercrusts don’t want to lose their travel and party funds.

  9. Ok… sorry, that was a bit harsh and not quite Christlike of me, but the point still stands.

  10. Jimi, thanks for writing, but I think it is harsh to say this is an uneducated question. Industries change all of the time, but it is the adaptation of companies that survive, and this is speaking for any industry. Executive Leadership is crucial at times when things aren’t going well. If jobs are being lost, don’t blame the economy, something from a leadership standpoint must be done. ($16.99 cd’s is not the answer to the question)

    2nd this question was to be focused more on the ministry side of the Christian Music Industry.

    If you want to make it a business question we can go there. Feel free to post more insight on that side.

  11. Collide Magazine wrote an article about how Christian Music might be dying.

    I don’t think about Christian music that much. I enjoy it, but rarely by music of any type.

    I personally feel that worship in our churches is odd and inauthentic. I feel like a lot of “worship leaders” are doing it to be cool and for ego – and probably Christian music adds to this idea b/c we idolize the Christian rock stars.

    I think an interesting side effect of the Christian Music industry is that it has added a hip, culture, and consumerist side to Christianity in America. I don’t know if there was a hip side to Christianity before 1996, or a huge market for Christian resources – was there? (I’m only 27, I was a freshman when Christian music started getting big).

    I wonder if the success of Christian music made it possible for other Christian consumables to take hold like Christian books, christian clothing, Xn movies(I don’t even know what I’m talking about).

    Also, without big festivals like Cornerstone, or Creation fest that feature popular Xn bands, what would we have to make festivals over? Where would we put our booths to sell other Christian products (not saying we should).

    I would love to read an essay on the history of Christian music, and see how it affected the rest of the Christian consumer industry – like Christian bookstore sales, conference sales, perhaps a rise in an American Christian identity, or unity among Christians?

    I feel like Christian Music has somehow given us Christians a common ground, or a place for a hip public, yet distinctly Christian, identity – is this true?

  12. Jesse, Thanks for your insight. I agree with you on a lot of what your saying. I think a lot of times cheesy music is created just because of the market that is there to buy it. I would love to read a history of Christian Music essay. If you find one let me know.

  13. I’ve lived in Nashville for about 5 years and have had first hand association with and around the Christian Music Industry. Needless to say, I have a lot of issues with it but am also intrigued by it’s audacity at times.

    Let me preface by first saying that MOST mainstream music whether it be secular or Christian has hit the proverbial ‘gutter’ of mediocrity. There’s nothing new under the sun, but apparently it’s not under the moon, stars, rocks and bushes either. I digress.

    For the past few years I’ve walked around the Renaissance Hotel during “GMA” week which brings in Contemporary Christian Music artists and band from all over the world. I would be so bold to say that it’s progressively sunk into a deeper abyss of self indulgent airheads that are naive enough to believe that the ship they’re on isn’t sinking. There is nothing more unsettling than someone who commandeers a stage and cranks out mindless, artless shapes of music that are as uninspiring as any televangelist that charges you for hankeys.

    What people don’t realize is that the church WAS the focal point for art at one time until we became so legalistic and irrelevant to society. Most Christian acts go their whole existence virtually unknown by average non churchgoers. Don’t believe me? Ask any average club goer if they know who Third Day is, or the last time they felt inspired by Point of Grace and how much of a visionary that Amy Grant was (pre divorce of course).

    The ship is sinking, but as long as there are shows on the lito deck, the small leaks can wait.

    Are they relevant? No.
    Do they need an overhaul? Last Week
    Will DeGarmo and Key Reunite? Who cares

    We need Steve Taylor back. 🙂

  14. Brandon makes some strong points. He makes an accurate point of GMA week. I have been and would love to not go back. At times people do become so carried away with their own egos it is funny to watch people parade around like they are everything.

    I like the point you make about asking any average club goer about Third Day or any other popular acts. This brings up an interesting point of how the Christian industry seems to only cater to itself. Where is the true ministry outside of believers going on?

  15. It’s me again. I know, I should probably be quiet, but I have to say AMEN to Brandon’s response and to Jesse’s response.

    The Christian music industry is hugely self-serving.

    Personally, up until recent years, even I as a Christian didn’t know these people existed.

    And Brandon is right. All it takes to write a worship song these days it seems, is to take your favorite 15 or 20 worship tunes and cut and paste the lines together into a song, change the chord progressions a bit, record it, mix and master it and BAM! Instahit!

    Then I put these made-for-mass-marketing songs in my cd player and scream for some aleve to soothe the throbbing headache that the blaring lack of creativity causes me!

    Can I please get someone to turn the volume down on the monotony channel and up on the talent and creativity channels?

    Thank God for .99 cent downloads because I wouldn’t pay the $18 for the CD in the store if it would save my best friend’s life.

    Profiteers the lot of them. Poor people probably don’t even realize that they are getting ready to collapse and their collapse will give way to the independent artists and labels.

  16. Wow! I hadn’t really thought about Christian music in a long time. I put on the Christian station in my car, but I can’t understand a lot of what they’re saying (hey, I listened to really loud music when I was younger). I just know that it at least won’t jar me with offensive lyrics, so if I want some tunes, that’s what I play. Most of the time, if I’m alone, I spend the time with God instead, and sometimes I sing my own songs, usually David’s words–or one of the other psalmists, but as far as I know, my melodies. And I sing other people’s songs, too, but I don’t usually know who they are.

    I went to Christian music festivals 20 years ago and I don’t know that they’ve changed a lot. I don’t go now, because it’s just a bunch of people worshiping a band that seems happy enough to be worshiped. Just like the old days. Discouraging and disturbing.

    Lots of people can write songs. I’ll bet most churches have one or two decent song-writers and could have more, if they encouraged this gift. People used to write wonderful songs–the Wesleys, for instance, before there was a load of money in it. I’ll bet we could still do it, in current styles that would speak to people today without needing to make buckets of money.

    God bless,

    Cindy

  17. Cindy, thanks for your response. I agree with you that money can change things. Especially when songs are being written for money first before being a true worship experience. That is why it puzzles me that worship songs are written from the publishing standpoint. It is like lets get a group of people together to write a song that will sell. You will find very few cd’s today that are written wholeheartedly from one artist. Not that there is anything wrong with co-writing, but the pressure the industry can put on artists to make a living is funny.

    Thanks Cindy for you opinion.

  18. I think its hard to say, not being on the inside of the music industry. But one valid question is … a christian business … should a christian business not make money just because it is christian and sells to the christian market? Should it make money? How much money should it make? A better question might be what does that business do with its money?

    My other issue with the christian music industry is that it tries too hard to duplicate what the secular market is doing. For example, what purpose does the Dove Awards do? To me, it looks like we are glorifying people. I love Steven Curtis, but it makes me sick to hear people qualify him as great because he’s won 5 million dove awards. If the last shall be first, then what are we doing by trying to glorify man for their accomplishments instead of praising the creator who gave them their talents.

    Personally, I’m more interested to hear how an artist’s music is affecting hearts than how many albums they sold. If artist x sells 5 million albums and plays a bunch of catchy tunes, but doesn’t change anyone’s heart or build up the body … what good is it?

  19. You said it, its an industry… industrializing and duplicating what sells, what people want to hear…what they can market successfully and make money from. Christian(sm) is their brand, because that’s their niche. Have you ever heard of a Christian car? a Christian keyboard? a Christian Company?

  20. Brandon, your point is on the money. Maybe we should build the first christian car. ha j/k the way I always look at it, is MUSIC, good or bad.

  21. Maybe there should be a way to separate the music biz into two parts.

    Part #1 – those who want to sing and entertain and perform. These people do their “jobs” the best they can to serve God and to make money. My father worked for 40 years as an Electrical Engineer. He did his job as best he could -but he worked because he wanted to make money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with singing and making music in order to make money. Attempting to “bash” Christian Artists because they make money (whether it is a lot or a little) means we need to start “bashing” everyone who makes money – we’ll need to bash every single person who works hard at his or her job and yet isn’t a world-changing innovator at that job. These people work the same as everyone else. And, they work in order to get a paycheck. Nothing bad about that. Perhaps we should start calling our musicians – entertainment employees.

    Part #2 – this would be the much, much, much smaller part that are using music in a unique way. These are the people who feel some sort of special VOCATIONAL calling into full-time ministry. They want to use their music to advance the Kingdom. Of course, this doesn’t mean that those who are part of Group #1 don’t advance the kingdom as well. It’s just a matter of focus or primary purpose. These people in group #2 are in music as a means to advance the kingdom. This group we could call pastors or ministrers or whatever term makes you feel ok.

    This group we would never want to give Dove awards to or Grammy Awards to. That would be like having a preching contest or a sharing your faith national contest or a praying for your neighbor contest. It would just be weird.

    Thoughts?

  22. Eric, great point. I agree that people do there jobs, most recording engineers work both Christian and Secular Music. These people do what they do and make a living. I like the point about more Worship Leaders just focusing on Worship. Being at GMA week is funny because of the egos and look at me factor. Of course this is not true for all artists and worship leaders in the industry. But if we are going to call us Christian Musicians, I think ministry needs to be part, or we can just say we are musicians.

  23. I think it’s hard to characterize the “industry” as a whole. Each artist is different. The artists I enjoy and whose music I buy fall into one or more of the following categories (1) those I’ve seen live (2) those whose music I feel really praises God and (3) those that perform music that turn my mind and heart to God.

  24. OK, maybe I’m just a naive goober, but I like Christian music. Just a few years ago, before I totally gave my heart to God, it really opened the door for me. I would play the songs really loud in my car and literally shout to the Lord. It made me comfortable in saying words like Jesus and faith and Christ and love and Savior. Without it, I don’t know if I would have made the next steps for me and my family. I don’t know how much guys like Lincoln Brewster or David Crowder make, but they lift my heart. Anything I can do to pay them back for that is worth it.

  25. MK great point, the music that we listen to is completely refreshing and really opens communication with God. For that we should be thankful. Artist like David Crowder and Lincoln Brewster are full time Worship Leaders at their churches. It is amazing that they share their talent like they do. Thanks for your insight.

  26. I’ve been involved in what was then called “Jesus Music” since 1975. Artists sold their albums out of the back of their cars, and sales were mediocre.

    Today, the “industry” is an accepted part of the larger music biz, but for all the “breadth,” the “depth” isn’t always as apparent. I think that on a “per capita” basis, Christian music in the past was a more effective force for witness and proclamation than is Christian music in the present.

    Also, while I love modern worship, it’s become the only formula that young songwriters are taught. Vertical worship is great, but we’ve lost the sense of storytelling or personal testimony in music.

    I just wish Christian radio would play more stuff from the ’70s and ’80s so that the present generation would have a better sense of where modern CCM originated.

  27. I write about Christian music for Beliefnet.com, and my readers know that I often question the whole subculture industry and the commercialization of the church. I rant about it often, and like Brandon hang around GMA week and scratch my head in wonder. 🙂 I think you find what you look for there, and fortunately I’ve found a group of super genuine artists and friends; but it really can be a big poser fest.

    Jessephillips wrote that Christian music might be dying? Oddly enough, in 2008 Christian music became the second most popular radio format in America, behind Country. But it’s the CCM/cookie cutter/repetitive blather that’s getting played.
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/gospelsoundcheck/2008/12/contemporary-christian-radio-s.html

    Because the industry aims their radio programming to a fictitious 30-something year old soccer mom they call “Becky”, you’re not going to hear any rock or hits from the 70s or 80s on Christian radio. It’s going to be the same old same old.

    Joanne
    host of the Gospel Soundcheck blog
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/gospelsoundcheck/2008/12/christian-music-year-in-review.html

  28. j2nice78 makes some good points, but there really are quite a few artists out there who are genuine. And we have to remember that the Christian music industry – subcultured and self-centered as it might be – is still a business. When you slap a Jesus fish on something it makes it difficult to separate business from ministry, and that’s a big problem with Christian music.

    You aren’t going to hear about artists who are giving more to missions and charity and really sacrificing their time and money without fanfare, and who are making music that’s innovative and creative and unusual, because that’s not where the money is.

    Christian music, like much of the American church, has a lot of both good and bad.

    Joanne

  29. Joanne, great feedback, i look forward to reading your blog more. Good stuff.

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