Why Follow The Example of the Music Industry?

I like a wide range of music. Just look at the random albums I reviewed in this issue. Unfortunately, I also follow a lot of what goes on in the “music industry.” Sometimes this industry is just flat-out weird. One of the issues that have really puzzled me through the years is the thought that “Christians put out a bunch of bad music – if only they could be as good as the mainstream music industry.”

What I find the most puzzling is not that people think Christians put out bad music in large quantities. That much is pretty obvious. The weird part to me is the thought that the mainstream music marketplace puts out mostly high-quality, enjoyable music.

Listened to any radio stations recently? Heck – listened to any of the songs that get blared in the backgrounds of movies and television scenes lately? This is the standard we are supposed to live up to? I think I’ll pass. I’ll take my cheesy 80s hair metal clone White Metal warrior music any day over 90 % of the swill that passes for hit songs now-a-days.

People always want to ask: “what is wrong with the Christian music industry, and what can we do to fix it.” The problem with the Christian music industry is that it follows the mainstream music industry too closely for my comfort. There are two basic reasons why there is so much bad Christian music out there (I hate that label, but you know what I mean). First of all, there is just so much bad music out there period. We need to look at fixing the problem with mediocre music in the first place, and that will trickle in to all lyrical subgenres (did you know that there is Hindi death metal and Islamic rock? Really – no kidding). Secondly, too many musicians of any religious persuasion are basically entertainers at heart. They want to give people what they think they want, and as long as teenie-bop nu-metal rock rules the sales charts, musicians will see that and want to just give people what they think they are wanting.

The challenge is for Christians to live the old cliché: “be in the world but not of the world.” We teach Christian businessmen that they need to be good at business and follow the practices of the leaders in their fields. So, when these Christian businessmen went out and formed record companies back in the day, who did they follow? The examples set by the already busted music industry. The example of finding a trend and exploiting it to death. The example of creating suspect artist contracts that keeps most music sales out of the hands of the actual artists that created the music in the first place. The example of a hundred other bad business practices.

Follow that example? Why?

Those that claim that Christian music only copies popular trends of the mainstream about 5 years too late never really spent much time in a music store. Or, more accurately, the bargain bin and Top 40 shelves. Hundreds of albums get released every month. Ever checked out some of the ones that don’t even make the charts? Massive delayed trend copiage going on there… along with the occasional ignored album of some truly trend setting band.

That is why in some of our interviews we ask artists what is wrong with the music industry – not just the CCM industry. The problems are wide spread across every section of the industry, not just one corner of it.

(this post was also published in the October 2008 issue)


2 Responses to “Why Follow The Example of the Music Industry?”

  1. Jeff says:

    As a believer myself,and a songwriter, I always lamented the Christian music market. I just “never got it.” I use to go to Christian book stores” years age to look for some music that reflected “reality” but was always hard pressed to find any. However, you could actually buy U2 and Bruce Cockburn cds in those stores. Not now. Bigger mainstream artists (with questionable lifestyles) started to disappear from the shelves of Christian music stores. I live in Canada so maybe it’s different in the States. All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be any crossover anymore.

    And any Christian bands that wanted to get on a “worldly” label would be considered backsliders!

    Anyway, not to flog a dead horse, the Christian music industry in America is huge! But here in Canada it is practically non-existent. I always just thought if you were involved with the arts and you were a believer then your art would speak for itself. There shouldn’t be a need for it to be “stamped” by an industry.

    Frak the industry.
    It’s the artists that have the goods!! The “industry” exists FOR THE ARTIST.
    It’s like what Van Morrison said: “Music is spiritual, the music business isn’t.”


    [Ed note: sorry – had to edit for the kiddos. You all probably get the point, though 🙂 ]

  2. Jeff says:


    That’s awesome!! I think you may have just started a “catch phrase.”

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