5 Reasons Why I Disagree With Relevant’s Assessment of Music In 2011
May 20, 2011Posted by on
Relevant magazine’s Dan Gibson recently wrote an article talking about 2011’s “musical landscape“. I don’t care to discuss the top part of the article where he talks about secular music exclusively, as I don’t think of Blake and Radiohead as my particular area of expertise. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that Christian music seems to be Gibson’s particular area of expertise and here is why.
1) Mercy Me’s album sales has nothing to do with the decline of the industry: First of all, the reason why the album didn’t sell all that well is because it wasn’t that good. In retrospect I gave them a pretty soft review grade, when in reality it had a few decent songs at the beginning and trailed pretty far off at the end. First week album sales may be based mostly off of reputation, but after that word of mouth either does or doesn’t get around. The Generous Mr. Lovewell didn’t get very much buzz because it wasn’t that good compared to some of their other work. It’s the same reason that Third Day’s Revelation still sells better than the newer “Move”, because people think it’s better.
2) Tooth & Nail is not the youth movement in itself: Yes, it is probably the most popular and busiest of the youth labels, but there are a ton of labels out there today, including many artists going independent via kickstarter programs, including the new movement of Come & Live Records. Not to mention Gotee Records having a solid group of artists, despite their size. Bigger labels have signed groups that are for the kids too, like Provident/Sony having Red and Fireflight, Atlantic/INO having Skillet and Stellar Kart and Universal having Owl City for starters. Tooth & Nail still has plenty of bands that reach the youth market and very few of their artists aren’t featured on our site, especially when you consider their imprints BEC and Solid State.
3) Radio stations such as Air 1 play music from more than 5 bands: The following quote takes place in the Relevant article:
“Half the popular acts on a Christian station like Air1 aren’t even exclusively “ours” anymore, if they ever were. Anberlin, the Fray, Lifehouse, NeedToBreathe and Switchfoot have equal footing in the mainstream.”
Yes, those bands are probably played on Air 1, but this is an exaggeration beyond my imagination. As someone who has actually listened to Air 1 quite a bit in my car over the last couple of months, this is just incorrect. Yes, there are bands played on Air 1 that have gotten some play on secular stations, but for every Anberlin there are ten or twenty artists that wouldn’t get a sniff anywhere else. Just look at the artists behind the current top 10 songs on Air 1: Tobymac, Shawn McDonald, Red, Jamie Grace, Abandon, Disciple, Anthem Lights, Building 429 and Manafest. Which of those artists are even close to as big mainstream as they are on Christian radio?
I actually think it is great when Christians play music that is accepted by secular music fans because that means they have an opportunity to minister to the lost sheep, but I also enjoy music that is targeted toward building up the body. Both are a part of Christianity, so both kinds of music are great. There are pastors and there are preachers. Both are awesome. But the idea that the Christian music industry is dying because we don’t have our “own” music anymore as we did five or ten years ago is off chart.
4) Statements of fact are better made with evidence: Gibson’s argument that there aren’t as many people listening exclusively to Christian music has dwindled lacks any proof via either scientific statistical analysis or even by anecdote. The truth is that “Christian” music hasn’t been around all that long in how we present it today and it is an ever evolving format and I simply doubt that people have changed that much recently. There are always going to be people that listen to both Christian and secular music and those who listen to one or the other exclusively. I have no data to say if the listening audience to Christian music in exclusivity has gone up or down but Dan Gibson probably shouldn’t declare that it has gone down without providing any evidence. We can all give our opinions, we do so with words such as “I think”, “I believe” or “I would guess”.
5) Billboard disagrees: Gibson closes by saying that worship music, especially by those by Hillsong and Jesus Culture, is taking over pop music in Christian music. There’s just one problem with that: The Billboard Christian Albums chart. I’ll simply take the top 5 as my main proof: Newsboys, Building 429, Skillet, Mandisa, Francesa Battistelli. You have to get to number 8, Chris Tomlin’s “And If Our God Is For Us…” to get to a worship album. You have to get to #17 Hillsong United’s “Aftermath” to get to a church band worship album. The Christian music charts don’t change very much from week to week, other than new releases coming and going quickly for smaller bands that sell well the first week. I do believe that worship music is growing, but it isn’t overcoming pop or contemporary music by any means.
The musical landscape isn’t changing all that much in Christian music. It is the same old hat. The only thing changing is that the music industry itself has been gasping for air in a sea of economic downturn and illegal downloading for years and it has to figure that out.
What do you think is really happening with Christian music in 2011?