The Christian music industry is dead. Cornerstone Festival announced this is its last year. (link) When I was younger I wanted to go to Cornerstone. I never did and I have no desire to go now, but I'm still sad to see it go.
I grew up in the 90s in the evangelical Christian sub-culture. Back then, a lot of Christians wouldn't listen to secular music, but they listened to Christian music. The Christian music industry thrived thanks to this. There were lots of charts listing Christian bands as “Christian alternatives” to secular bands. The bands themselves hated this, except for the few who saw themselves as the “safe” versions of secular musicians. The charts were pretty far off base too.
As a result, Christian artists gained a reputation as cheap knockoffs of secular artists. Sometimes this was true, but it often wasn't. There were a lot of bad bands from my childhood, but there were some good ones too. I still listen to some of them. And it ruined my musical taste forever.
Why did this happen? In the late 80s, popular music was very dirty. Your average rock album from 1989 is way dirtier than your average rock album from 1969 or 2009. This was the era of the Parents Music Research Council, the Parental Advisory sticker, etc. Parents want to protect their children. So we got an entire music industry designed as an alternative to one that some people think went off the deep end.
The Christian music industry did convert a lot of the more fundamentalist Christians who believed all popular music was evil. They had music with evil drum beats and guitars, but they're singing about Jesus! Nice things too. What do they do now? Some people bashed the Christian bands, but I think it made a lot of them more tolerant.
What killed it? One thing was commercial acceptance of Christian bands in the mainstream market. A few had big hits before, but not like the breakthru in the mid-00s. Another was that mainstream rock music got a lot less dirty after Marilyn Manson took shock rock as far as the mainstream would let him. By the way, Marilyn Manson was a marketing genius. All the parents complained about him, so he was one of the few secular artists I knew of when I was a kid. All the church kids knew: If you want to rebel, listen to Marilyn Manson. Back to the main topic...
Also, Christian music stopped being “safe” sometime in the past few years. Musicians start ed swearing and singing about controversial topics, e. g. Derek Webb. Christian music wasn't all G-rated any more. It wasn't all Focus on the Family approved any more. You couldn't be sure you'd agree with everything the music said.
Christian musicians will survive. We'll have new Christian musicians in all styles, but they won't be part of a separate market. I hope some of them better ones, such as House of Heroes, get the attention they deserve. I'll miss having Cornerstone around, but there's no need for a separate music market any more.
What I want to know is why almost all “heavy” Christian bands do hardcore or metalcore. There are so many styles of heavy music but Christian bands always go for -core music. Maybe they want to fight the image that Christian music is always mellow and pretty, so they scream over everything. Maybe there's less bias against Christianity in the -core world than in power metal or thrash metal. Maybe none of them can play guitar solos. Maybe it's like how third wave ska was huge in the Christian world for way longer than the secular world. The Christian music industry was usually a few years behind the secular music industry, but they were right on the ball with ska.