Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Christian music industry is dead

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.

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