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1/10/2006

ROLLING STONE VERSUS CCM

Here are twenty of Rolling Stone magazine's Fifty Best Albums of 2005 list. Did your favorite make the cut?

1. Kanye West, Late Registration
2. The Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang
3. White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
4. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
5. Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust
6. My Morning Jacket, Z
7. Beck, Guero
8. Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
9. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
10. 50 Cent, The Massacre
11. M.I.A., Arular
12. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
13. Various Artists, Run the Road
14. Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall
15. Gorillaz, Demon Days
16. John Legend, Get Lifted
17. Van Morrison, Magic Time
18. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
19. The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers
20. System of a Down, Mezmerize/Hypnotize

Here's what's interesting to me. First, go to iTunes Music Shop and sample a couple songs from all of these albums. Get the gist of what music folks under thirty are listening to. Then go to any Christian radio station on-line or on the dial that makes it their goal to be "reaching young people" with their programming (eg, Air1 or WAY-FM) and listen. (These stations are often labeled "CHR" or "ROCK") Now compare what you've heard. Does one sound anything like the other? Why is that? Is this difference, assuming you heard one, good or bad? Is that difference intentional? Does it serve a purpose? Does an eighteen year-old Christian have different ears than an eighteen year-old agnostic? Are these questions unfair or off base? Do they matter at all? Why or why not? You tell me. I'm just thinking out loud.

38 Comments:

Anonymous James said...

Hi Shaun! First time visitor.

Thanks for White Flag, a truly inspiring and enjoyable CD. (listening right now!)

My thoughts regarding music and youth culture are pretty simple. I really think that the church should be setting the trends. To make that happen the up-and-coming generation is going to have to penetrate the influential urban centers of our country. We need sharp, educated, trend setters with a passion for Christ and a vision for Kingdom dominion through servant leadership. You, Shaun, are a great example for the generation on your heels.

Until then I think it's stupid to try to fight what's popular from the outside in. It's stupid to fight popular trends unless they're sinful

P.S. My wife, Deea, has been a fan for a long time. If you left a comment on her with a link to yours she would be very encouraged and a loyal reader! We're praying for you.

1/10/2006  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I think one of the problems of why the stations sound so differently is because of servicing.

As the old saying in radio goes "we can only play what we have" and unfortunately many of the singles sent to radio don't sound like what is on the secular stations.

I can't tell you how many times I've been sent songs classified as "ROCK" that should have been labeled "POP" or "AC".

On the other hand, not all the blame should be placed on the labels. Christian stations who want to reach a younger audience need to get younger people involved in programming their stations who know what their peers want to hear.

There are some Christian rock stations out there that are doing a great job- we just need more of them.

1/10/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ya know, i was in springfield MO recently and there used to be a station that just played the latest hits from christian candy-land but somehow and in some way the station has turned into a rocking machine. i heard, DURING THE DAY, mutemath - peculiar people, shaun groves -whats wrong with this world, and a host of other very original and creative people that i had never heard on a radio station that was "christian"it almost made me a little upset because i did not have an opportunity to gripe.

btw, i didn't know that "whats wrong..." was going to be released as your next single. it thought we would hear white flag before that one.

anyway, while our station here in town continues their J. Camp marathon into the next decade, it was good to know that a little station out in springfield MO was doing its own thing.

Seth

thanks for the list. i was pleasantly surprised to see 3 of my fav artists on the top 20. i guess my taste isnt that crappy after all. or maybe it is.... (sufjan, beck, white stripes)

1/10/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Since I'm far from 18, I couldn't tell you what they're listening to these days. I know that I listen to the Christian station I do because it's the only one around and I don't like the message most secular music contains even though some of the music itself is good. I will say that most "pop" artists I've heard lately (and admittedly they are few) are just doing covers of what others did of what others did, and so-on. Nothing original at all. They are far more interested in what they LOOK like and the sexual allure of their act than the SOUND, lyrical quality or substance of their music. Having said all that, I don't recognize but three names on that list so I can't say anything about them.

I will say that Christian radio lags way behind in the music arena for many different reasons, the least of which isn't poor direction and abismal testing.

Beth

1/10/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I agree that there are many well programmed stations. When I've heard Radio U I've liked it. I think WAY-FM is well programmed as well, just not for "young people" I work with weekly.

SG

1/10/2006  
Anonymous tunz4jesus said...

My local radio station, God bless their their hearts, is sponsored by local Christian business people, who are not twenty
somethings typically. The radio station manager is trying to please the people who pay the bills, so it appears their target audiance is geared to the older crowd. I usually listen to Christian radio for at least 4 minutes a day, I am trying to build a tolerance, I hope to add another minute next year.
Favorites that made the list for me.
Tunz
Sufjan
Monk/Coltrane
Stones

1/10/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does one sound anything like the other?
No (with the exception of one or two sprinkled in)

Why is that?
Because Christian radio is designed with a purpose (agenda) other than simple artistry. Also, Christian music for years has been a genre in itself. Tours have been scheduled for label-mates rather than actual musical style, simply because, well they were Christian, so they must be similar right? Just recently Christian artists have been creating styles that are branching out from being 3 or 4 years behind the times. Because of this, I think radio and Christians in general are slow in responding to “culture” and reluctant in starting another failing, “look we are cool too” radio station, coffee shop, bookstore, church, ect. It is easier as a radio station to appease several groups of people playing everything from adult contemporary, to rock, to worship style pop. In appeasing all these groups radio stations are able to pay bills stay on the air. My guess… 5 years from now there are radio stations with half-way decent playlists, relevant music, and the finances to keep it running.

Is this difference, assuming you heard one, good or bad?
Neither. It is expected. Culturally relevant Christian music is still new. For so long Christian music was a “style”, and even still, rock/alternative/rap/ “styles” are stocked in the “gospel” section at your local Wal-Mart.

Is that difference intentional?
By the artists-not all the time. By the labels/radio stations-yes.

Does it serve a purpose?
Yes, to appease a mass audience.

Does an eighteen-year-old Christian have different ears than an eighteen year-old agnostic?
Absolutely, eighteen-year-old Christian has the ears of someone who has obviously been taught to “hear” Christian truth. An eighteen-year-old agnostic has the ears of someone who is influenced by piers and culture. Both can have ears for talent but I don’t think we are talking about that.

Are these questions unfair or off base?
No.

Do they matter at all?
Sort of.

Why or why not?
In order to stay away from “Christian music bashing”, I think these questions do matter. It is important to realize why something is a certain way and to see the process evolving if one is interested. We study the history of music all the time. (Classical, Blues, Jazz ect.) Eventually the evolution of Christian music will matter more than it does today.

brody

1/10/2006  
Blogger Matthew Smith said...

I have got to get that Stones record.

1/10/2006  
Blogger happy dad said...

If I am not mistaken, the list from Rolling Stone is an editor-compiled list. Right? That is to say, eighteen year-olds did not create this list. I don't presume to know the editorial staff of Rolling Stone, but I assume they are adults with pretty stout and mature musical tastes. Yes, they have some artists that would be represented on a eighteen year-old's list. But this list is obviously slanted to a more mature, eclectic secular demographic.

The number one selling album of the year was Mariah's "The Emancipation of Mimi," which is no where on the list. Many other high sellers are missing...including many country artists.

All this to say, my opinion is that the "best of" list from Rolling Stone would not be an identical, or even similar list to a "christian" kid or an "agnostic" kid. This list bears little resemblance to either group to me.

1/10/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i agree with that. .the list -- my youngest daughter is 19 and she wouldn't listen to 95% of what's on that list. She's into Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Michael Buble, Esthero, Black Eyed Peas, etc. I'm middle aged and I would be more likely to buy some of those CDs. . Van Morrison, Stones, White Stripes, Beck to name a few.

The whole Christian vs non Christian music. . for me i would rather spend my hard earned dollar on non Christian music. . just because to my ears, it usually sounds better. As for the difference in the message. . there isn't always a difference. If i only listened to one type, i'd miss some gold. I don't want to be narrow. . I just love music and lyrics in general. Many kinds of music can touch my emotions and spirit, but when it comes to being impacted by music/words, I am more challenged by non Christian lyrics, just because they are so reflective of authentic need, greed, despair, whatever. . and as for comforting or encouraging. . I can get that in Christian music, or i can listen to Bridge Over Troubled Waters. . know what I'm saying?

1/10/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

IT's fair to say this list isn't created by eighteen year-olds. And fair to say many eighteen year-olds wouldn't listen to this stuff. But this stuff, while it might not sell the best, is current. I could do the same thing with a sales chart showing the best sellers of 2005. Heard anything resembling Mariah Carey on Air1 lately? Urban gets played if it's sung by a white girl. But Mary Mary's "Shackles" didn't get played on CHR stations until it won best gospel song at the Doves. That's a little late to the party. How about rap, arguably a massive genre for teens of all races and economic standings (wasn't always the case). Again, if a forty year old white boy is rapping it'll get played on CHR stations. Never heard a black man rap on Christian radio. And I'm around a lot of Christian radio. Racist? No, just out of step with what the people they claim to be reaching are demanding from retailers that don't sell Testamints.

Swtichfoot, The Afters, Sixpence. POD. These groups get played on CHR radio but they all had to "cross over" to some extent first. They had to be embraced by the "secular" station or film or TV show before they could be played on CHR stations. One station manager explained to me that he plays Switchfoot (this was early on with The Beautiful Letdown) because they'd made it on MTV. His hope was that he'd fool a teenager into thinking she was listening to another station in town when surfing or scanning the dial. Then, he figured, she'd keep listening and maybe hear a little of the next song and get saved by Mercy Me or Casting Crowns. So the bands that sound in step with Rolling Stone are played, on that station anyway, as bait for pagans. (Pagan bait. Good name for a band. I should copyright that.)

WHile things have dramatically improved since Ha Ha Heaven Bound grieved my spirit, CCM music, as Kathryn pointed out, generally doesn't sound as good for some reason as mainstream music - no matter which list you're looking at. That's something different from stylistic differences. That gets into production/budget/producer talent differences, but is it somehow related? Are stations not sent songs of the same quality OR style that would appear on Rolling Stone's list or a best sellers list? Is the budget to blame?

Good thoughts. You've got me thinking. Thanks for chiming in.

SG

1/10/2006  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

This thing is not going to end until it becomes unprofitable for Christian radio stations to play the type of music they're playing now.

n

1/11/2006  
Blogger Dave Haupert said...

My two cents- I have struggled with the fact that I must be getting old as I don't care for the music from 90% of the artists listed on that Rolling Stone list, and yet I'm still trying to reach young people with my music as well.

I hate the saying 30 year old soccer moms (30YOSM) as a target audience but that is the truthful audience of a CHR station IMO. They play a few more cutting edge songs than a 30YOSM would prefer but that is so that her kids will not absolutely abhor the music in the car and they can say "safe for the whole family". You mention WayFM and they had a streaming station they designed for young people, forgot the name but it was specifically designed not for the 30YOSM and it was much, much edgier. How well did it do? No idea, but I don't hear much about it anymore.

Then, he figured, she'd keep listening and maybe hear a little of the next song and get saved by Mercy Me or Casting Crowns. So the bands that sound in step with Rolling Stone are played, on that station anyway, as bait for pagans. (Pagan bait. Good name for a band. I should copyright that.)

Do you really think that is wrong? My desire to have my songs played on radio has always been based on my hopes to be used by God for that person who was just surfing through the stations and stumbled upon that music. After all, I was that person back in the early 90s, and I don't feel like I was baited at all! I'm extremely thankful for that moment in my life.


Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

1 Cor 9:19-20

1/11/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

I've heard of most of the artists on this list, but probably haven't heard many songs from the albums listed.

As a mom of two teenage boys (14 & 15) and one tweenage girl (11), I think Christian teenagers and agnostic teenagers have different ears in the same way that country teenagers and city teenagers do. Depends on what you grew up listening to.

My teenagers listen to both, secular and Christian music. Sometimes when we're in the car together, I'll turn it to a secular station to get an idea of what they're hearing when they tune in or they'll bring one of their CD's so that I can sample it. Or they listen to one of my CD's or Christian radio. One of my teenagers prefers rap music, the other rock/alternative. They have both Christian and secular CD's, although I research the group and the lyrics before allowing them to purchase a CD. When one of their friends jumps in the car, my boys sometimes ask me to turn to a secular station depending on which friend. When another friend jumps in, he might immediately start singing the song that's playing on the Christian station.

All these boys are good friends, but I have to say that their musical tastes vary greatly from what I've seen.

My daughter listens to everything from Radio Disney to Shaun Groves to country music! I know, I know, I try to discourage the country as much as I can. ;) She didn't get that from me!!

1/11/2006  
Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

FYI, Shaun, WNAZ in Nashville plays quite a few black rappers along with the white ones (cough)posers(cough). But as for WAY-FM, probably not, outside the occasional Grits song.

1/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drew, I think you hit the nail on the head. When I first started as a naive intern at Grassroots Music a number of years ago (the former, more renegade incarnation of it prior to moving to Tennessee), I was full of questions about what I perceived to be a marked difference in quality between the playlists of a AAA non-commercial radio station and a Christian radio station. One of my supervisors explained it to me like this: what sense does it make for the powers that be at Christian radio stations and CCM labels to cater to the preferences of 20-something college students, even though they are presumably at the forefront of culture consumption? If we think in business terms (which is almost always the case when it comes to any kind of record industry, Xian or non) the average college student has no buying power. She/he is dead broke and will be in debt upon graduation for a number of years. They're not the ones driving up CD sales and influencing the charts of Christian radio. Instead, it's 30-something established soccer moms, who are browsing Wal-Mart for the Xian equivalent of Linkin Park and Ashlee Simpson for their kids. And most recently, soundalikes of a certain ubiquitous Brit-pop band or white, male singer-songwriters like Josh Kelley.

Of course, while there have been some applaudable attempts to create soundalikes, the vast majority of it doesn't quite sound like the real thing, whether that's because of sanitized, predictable lyrics. This is where I think it gets interesting. I have a half-baked hypothesis that the production values of Christian music might say something indirectly about the values of Christian media subculture. I find Christian records to be overrun with pristine, antiseptic production: spot-on, autotuned vocals, super tight arrangements, bright, sparkly guitars, and generally positive lyrics that indicate a clear resolution in its message set to a happy melody and driving beat. While I'm sure there are many exceptions, and I'm sure much the same could be said for a non-Christian Power FM station, and none of this is by any means proveable, this still stands in contrast to other music that really moves me - for example, Bruce Springsteen at number 5 on the Rolling Stone chart. I don't think anyone who sang like Bruce Springsteen from a similar bare-bones, tormented soul POV against a sparse backdrop of instrumentation would survive a day on Christian radio. But then again the same could be said for any commercial radio - I've never heard Bruce, Wilco, or Ryan Adams on Power FMs either, just college radio or NPR. I guess that's why it's a half-baked hypothesis, maybe even not worth mentioning, but there it is if any of you ever had a similar thought.

Good points about hip-hop music Shaun - here in Houston, that stuff used to get relegated on Christian radio to late night programming (don't know if it is still). God forbid it would be played during the day when safe, suburban Christian families are actually awake and listening to radio in their cars. Not to mention the fact that Christian rap hardly gets played unless it has some sort of "crossover" appeal - you can guess what that might mean. And I scarely can remember one time where I heard non-rap African American artists like Fred Hammond on the radio. Of course, that sort of second-tier customer treatment of minorities is pervasive everywhere in Christian media. That's plain to see when walking into any Christian bookstore or looking at depictions of families in Christian advertisements. Anyone hear of the "Rickshaw Rally" VBS material fiasco with Lifeway? I bet not.

- Nick

1/11/2006  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Fantastic insights, Nick. I think they're better than half-baked. I'd like to hear a lot more from you!

Now everybody, I have a question for ya. Would you really listen to a Christian station or show that plays...say...Mary Mary, Switchfoot, Fred Hammond, The Afters, Cross Movement (a genuine African American rap group), Rick Elias (Springsteen-esque), Alathea (pop-bluegrass) and Natalie Grant...all mixed in together--different genre from song to song?

Serious question, not a hypothetical. Need your feedback--Nick, Shaun, Matthew, Cristy, Dave, Kathryn, Happy Dad, Brody, Tunz, Beth, Seth, Kristen, James and anybody I've missed or who hasn't posted yet...

...what DOES the ideal Christian station or show sound like to you?

Thanks,

n

1/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One question:

Would it matter if WAY-FM, for example, was actually shown to be doing very well in the ratings with teenagers?

...because it is.

Best,
Brant

1/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nancy.
i think to ask how "the ideal Christian station or show would sound like" is like asking what the ideal "secular" station or show would sound like... I don't know any of the stations out here but i'm guessing Green Day is not on the same station as Celine Dion or any other "easy listening" giant out there. My point in the above post was simply (although wordy) Christian music is not a genre. Christian music, however, is a new market and I think eventually there will be Christian rock/alt stations, easy listening stations, country stations, hip hop stations ect.... things take time.

brody

1/11/2006  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Brody, I'm sorry. Maybe I wasn't clear. I just wanted to know what YOU would want to hear on a Christian radio station or show--which artists, which music formats (rap, pop, etc,--all mixed together or just one format for the station?). The choice would be yours.

Thanks,

nt

1/11/2006  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Brant,

I was wondering what some of the characteristics of the teenage listener you're targeting are--like gender, age, school performance or youth group involvement or...I don't know, what other cool things do your average teenage listeners have in common? Do you find that their moms are generally Christian radio listeners too? Thanks. I always learn a lot when you post.


nancy

1/11/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Nancy,

I'm afraid I can't help you much because unfortunately my station is one that I don't really care for all the time, but wouldn't know who specifically to add to the playlist (other than Shaun of course). What bugs me most is that they play the same artists all the time, with an occassional new one thrown in for good measure. During Christmas, they played the same song, up to three times in a row (Christmas music) by different artists! YUCK! I love MWS and Third Day and Casting Crowns, and SCC too, but I don't want to hear 3 songs in the same hour by the same artist. I really think MWS could record "Twinkle, Twinkle..." and they'd play it just because it was by him! They play Brian Littrel's cut of "In Christ Alone" and act like it's the greatest thing in the world! He sounds just like he did with the BSB's and very "boy band" to me. Can't stand that version! What I want is a variety and things that are new too and old too. I never hear anything by Smitty earlier than "I Lead You Home." and no early SCC, 2nd Chapter of Acts, no Sandi Patty at all, very little Amy Grant, no Shaun Groves (except the occassional "Welcome Home"), no Keith Green, but lots of Rich Mullins (which I like). There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason except for the over abundance of praise and worship and girl band fluff. I don't get to hear other artists to know whether I like them or not because of the limited # of outlets selling around here and the fact that the radio stations never play it. It's very frustrating to say the least, but not nearly as much for me as for the artists I'm sure!

Beth

1/11/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nancy.
A lot my personal musical tastes (Christian or secular) aren't even played on the radio at all, but if I had to choose specific artists I wanted to hear on a Christian radio station I would pick... Derek Webb, Pedro the Lion, (recent) Jars of Clay, Caedmon's Call, Don Chaffer (Waterdeep), Rich Mullins, Aaron Sprinkle, Andrew Peterson, Five O'Clock People, Starflyer 59, Anberlin...
A lot of these are pinned to roughly the same genre's but that is my point. If there were an "indie" station that played "indie" Christian music I would listen to that for the week it could afford to be on the air.

brody

1/11/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

I would definitely listen to a Christian station or show that you described, Nancy. I haven't heard of all of these artists, but I would prefer the variety over hearing the same artists over and over again. I usually turn off the radio and listen to CD's about mid-day when I've had more Third Day and Jeremy Camp that I can handle. Not that I don't like those artists, I just get tired of hearing the same songs...

I know my 15-year-old would like to hear something like Cross Movement on the radio and my 14-year-old would like to hear something like Skillet. I never hear those artists on any of the stations we listen to. Not that I'm a fan, but I think I'd rather hear a song from them every now then in place of another Jeremy Camp song.

1/12/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy,

I'm not sure I can enlighten at all on the characteristics of our teenage listeners. In terms of ratings, we don't get them broken down beyond age and gender.

I'm sure, Brody, that you *would* listen to a station that plays all the artists you like. I would listen to a station that plays Jack Johnson, Handel, Rich Mullins, and the song my kids wrote, "The Ladybug Song". I'd be all about that station. Thing is, if you're programming a station for a lot of listeners, you reach for consensus.

Here's another question, since we are all in agreement about the need for Christians to impact culture:

Setting aside our artistic pre-dispositions, who's actually had more impact on more teenagers, Casting Crowns, or The Magic Numbers (on the Rolling Stone list)?

Anyone want to bet on sales figures/concert attendance?

Best,
Brant

1/12/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brant.
that is exactly my point as stated in my above post...

"Christian music, however, is a new market and I think eventually there will be Christian rock/alt stations, easy listening stations, country stations, hip hop stations ect.... things take time"

i'm defending christian radio. I'm saying give it time and everyone can have their own style of christian radio. Look at the development of Christian radio thus far. That is why i said that radio can't please everyone's prefered playlist and that includes Christian radio. Nancy asked:
"I just wanted to know what YOU would want to hear on a Christian radio station or show--which artists, which music formats (rap, pop, etc,--all mixed together or just one format for the station?). The choice would be yours."
Are we arguing or agreeing?
brody

1/12/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brody,

We're definitely not arguing! I misunderstood the context of your last comment and your comment before that...etc. Sorry -- that's my bad. That's what I get for being hurried...

Best,
Brant

1/12/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See we all can be friends... even while we continue to beat a dead horse.

brody

1/12/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Hey Nancy, thanx for asking our opinions. Regarding the 'ideal Christian radio station' -- for me there is no ideal Christian radio station. I do not listen to radio ever. . not Christian radio, not other types of radio. I guess i'm the wrong person to ask!?!! I don't like radio. I do a job all day that requires from me 7.5 hours' worth of intent listening, so I can't listen to it while i work. In the evenings, when i am free to listen. . i just don't care to. I don't like banter, chit chat, I don't like not being able to choose what I want to listen to, i HATE listening to commercials!

sorry, i was no help!

1/12/2006  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Kathryn, Brody, Cristy and Beth--thank you so much for telling me about your radio & music preferences. I do a small radio show for a community station and I am always very interested in what those who aren't into more traditional Christian radio think--because it's people like you that I have in mind when I put the shows together. You each helped me with that and I'm grateful.

Brody, about the dead horse, you are right.

Shaun and I and a rotating cast of online friends have been hashing and rehashing the whole label-artist-radio thing for at least the last three years between Shaun's board and here.

Every time, I say to myself "You are not jumping in on this again." And then I do. :)

As I drifted off to sleep last night, it occurred to me that our enthusiastic "What's wrong with Christian radio/music" wrangle has been like trying to find the elusive, stuck down beginning of a roll of old tape. Round and round and round we trace the circle. Endlessly. Unproductively.

n

1/12/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with Christian radio as long as it's not restricting the conversation about faith and life only to that which is deemd upbeat abd positive by men twice the age of the supposed target audience. And that is another thread altogether.

I brought this comparison up to see why everyone else thinks there's a big difference between what MANY non-christain (and I think Christian as well) younger/is people listen to and what is then played on Christian radio. I think it would be business suicide for WAY-FM to play anything more left of center than the Afters, which I applaud WAY for playing. It would be suicide because CHR stations ARE NOT primarily listened to and financially supported by teens and college students or even young twenties in general. I've seen the numbers - albeit the numbers from 2004. A lot changes in a year. Maybe now CHR radio and WAY-FM in particular have flip flopped things, I don't know. WHat I saw, actual Arbitron numbers, showed that, yes, WAY-FM does well in the teen demo. Not as well as many other stations in the city but better than one might think. They do not PRIMARILY get listened to by that age group. They are not, or were not, primarily "reaching" (which implies in church culture exposing non-Christians to Christ) teens and young adults.

But again, that's not the gist of this post. The gist is, why does out music sound so much different - not worse - than the music on this list? WHy do Casting Crowns (you brought them up) use guitar sounds that I swear sound just like Stephen CUrtis' Great Adventure record at times? Why? That hasn't been current in twenty years. Great that they have an audience. great that God speaks through them to people. great that they are succeeding. They are truly nice humble guys. I'm happy for them. But how do they succeed or why do they choose to succeed by sounding dated and not at all current. Why the easy rhymes? Why the early nineties bass tone? Why? I'm trying to get us thinking about whether these differences are important, good or bad, and caused by the artist, label, or consumer?

I'm with Brody, and I think you brant, that Christian radio isn't evil. It's not always honest about it's target audience and it's profane if it's cramming the bible into a happy box, but those things are not the industry as a whole. Those are tendencies, not common practices. And I think given time it'll keep getting better...or die to satellite radio or iPods or other music. But if it lives and labels put out music that sounds more...um, progressive, I think radio will play it. It will take time though. I'm wondering if that more progressive sound exists now and is being ignored (rhetorical obviously) and if so then why? Is it money? Of course it is to some degree. This is business. And in business you have to have a marketing slogan. And if "reaching teens and young adults" is more than that and if reaching means playing music for non-CHristians, then a lot has to change fast to make CHR radio true to it's word.

The real reason for this post is my pride. I'm not a great artist. I'm a good teacher and a good lyricist but not a good singer or performer. I wouldn't last ten minutes in the mainstream and I've always known that. But I try to do what I do for greater reasons than making something that will sell the most. In that process I've had to stay educated theologically and musically. And as a result I've grown some in both areas. The more I've grown the more embarrassed I've become of some of my peers. The theology and musicality of Christian music embarrasses me. The idea of Christian music, what it maybe could be, does not. What some have made it into definitely does. And that's just pride on my part. I shouldn't care that Casting Crowns (PRODUCTION (not them as people) sounds like Mercy Me and Stephen Curtis made a record together 1989 - but it does. Elitist? You bet. A little envious? Absolutely. Both wrong. But hey, hopefully my shame makes for good conversation. And it has.

SG

1/12/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

wow, i appreciate your candor, Shawn. I think everyone posts for the same reason. . the "p-word". yep. Datedness musically just turns me off! Its not personal. . the musicians may be way better people than i am. .and way better musicians and singers than me too, of which i am a shmoe, not a pro. But strictly talking music. .*which point you also made here? right?!* i love inventiveness, freshness, like Beck, or Black Eyed Peas, or Jane Sibbery (who is WAAAY out there!) or Missy Elliott, who is so oddly, funkily creative. . I love stuff that sounds different than everything else. . that gets me. . (good different - not just different for the sake of being so). I love funk. .love old school R&B, love the blues, love jazz, i also love to hear desperation in a voice, it resonates. . i love edgy. . you get my drift? Its not always the same, depends on my mood. I love "All These Things That I've Done". . because the words are just so desperate. "no, don't you put me on the back burner, you know you gotta help me out." I LOVE THAT!!! That's like humanity's cry!!! I just don't hear that in the kinds of CDs that I have bought at Blessings. . (many of which i've been so disappointed with sonically)

Some people aren't fuss pots (i know that i'm one) and they are far more tolerant and gracious and maybe have different ears and listen more with their bigger hearts. . For me its all got to be there. I don't want to be so narrow though that I miss the fact that many, many, many people love Christian music of all sorts. . cool sonically or hopelessly square.. they love it and they love God and it helps them. How can i rain on their parade? Shame on my fussy, prideful self if i did.

I like what you said about Christian music and what it could be. . the sky's the limit and i love the idea of it, so beautiful - like Jesus. Sometimes I get so desperate to know him really, really. .i love any message from any place that can help me to really, really know him. .

1/12/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

From the Cool Dictionary...

1) fuss pot (n): a reference to the debut album by dance pop revival band comprised of Mormons from Las vegas known as The Killers. Track 5, ALL These Things That I've Done, quoted above by Kathryn, is a personal favorite of the dictionary's author and probably earned The Killers a spot on last year's list of top albums as selected by Rolling Stone.

And Kathryn would be how old? Exhibit A: a non-Christian music listening Christian waiting to be "reached" by Christian music industry types but currently not interested and instead listening to more "inventive" and not upbeat and positive tunes. For the public record...Kathryn, we don't know each other do we? And you're not a fan of my music who comes here just to take whichever view I happen to be espousing each day, correct? And is it also true that you are not fictional but are an actual female, youngish in age, who does not listen to music labeled "Christian" consistently currently? We'll take a brief recess and let reality set in for the industry types lurking about the blog silently, after which I'd love to know what, if anything, one might need to do to bait a person like you, Kathryn, into listening to Christian music consistently.

SG

1/13/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Just figured out that Kathryn is in her 40s. OOOOOHHHH, I blew that one. FIrst rule of examining a witness: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Doh!

But this new development is even more troubling for the Adult Contemporary marketer. Kathryn is supposed to love AC music and she doesn't appear to. She must not drive a mini van. You get an appetite for vocal tuning with a proof of purchase, Kathryn. You should check it out. Pretty sweet deal. More cup holders AND your choice of a free disc from Stephen Curtis Chapman, Mercy Me or Casting Crowns. Sweet.

SG

1/13/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i'm laughing! that was a really creative way of commenting! No, we don't know each other. Yes, I am real! No, i'm not one of your fans. . which is not to say i don't like your stuff. . i just don't know it. I've only ever seen you do one song. . and that was while i watching the Dove awards? waiting to see my friend, Glenn and his band get their first award. *otherwise i wouldn't have watched that kind of show!* I don't remember the song. . cuz I hadn't heard of you before then. FF a couple of years. . i clicked on a show on my morning break that i seldom watch (100 Huntley Street). . and I saw an interview they did with you. I liked the way you expressed yourself and that's why i checked out your blog. I like your blog. . its challenging, informative, i like your writing style. So, i hang out here sometimes. When i've shared a bit of frustration on some of your posts, you cared enough to ask about it.

youngish. . i'll take that! LOL. . i may not fit 'the mold'. . . GOOD. I hate molds. *though i do drive a mini van!*

1/13/2006  
Blogger Aho said...

Natalie deasons husband here...

I was happy to find I own 3 of the top 5 and 4 of the top 7, 5 out of the top 20.

The Christian music problem is defnintely a problem but in my opinion the labels solve this problem by following the money.

I have found (in local church ministry and in christain bookstore management, which I have both done) that kids under 30 like to buy the stuff on the radio and see on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Women, who drive mini-vans and take their kids to mothers day out, shop at lifeway and buy Christian music. This why some artists are produced and sell while other, artisticly superior artist are not pushed as hard. It simply the 'jesus loving' folks chasing their share of the almighty dollar.

check out my dcb wishlist on my blog for a few more of my veiled complaints about this.
chris

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i always do this. i have to to some kind of chronolgy to to a genre or i cant make sense of it. probably becasue my orals are next week. feel free to add or correct if you want to any of this because there are people here who know WAY more about it than me.

anywho, the history of music in the last century seems to me to go something like this: sometime in the 20s and 30s, with the widespread use of the phonograph, most of the U.S. started exiting the concert halls and operas and started listening to a myriad of different types of musics. Meanwhile across the nation in little black churches African Americans started to take those old new-england hyms and put their own stamp on them. Gospel music was born and from that people like Ray and Robert Johnson, Aretha, ect took this music to the clubs and put sexy words to it. Along comes elvis who combines this old gospel style with beebop and country and Rock and roll is born. for the next 20 years it seemed as though musicians such as Cash and Elvis, and Aretha, were mixing it up by putting out both Gospel and "Secular" (although nobody would have thought of this music as "Secular" maybe the Devils music but “Secular” came a little later) Along comes the Beatles and the 60's and the Vietnam War from this came the Jesus Movement and stomping onto the stage pioneering a new kind of music walks good ole Keith Green. Probably the first artist to be from the beginning of his carreer to the end, Christian and Rock.

Christians and Heathens flock to this music, mass conversions happen at his concerts, people like Don Fransisco. Sandi Patti and and (lord help us) Carmen followed adding to the the variety. A little company is born in Waco Texas called "Word" then Amy Grant hits the scene and things really explode. she becomes a household name. Her fame comes partly from the songs of MWS and everyone’s favorite St. Rich but mostly because she was HOT. A strange thing for reasons unknown to most, Our Lady of Christian Music decides to go ....Secular, and the term is born. Christians began picketing her concerts. (this was very upsetting to the whole Christian world for those not old enough to remember.) "Oh my God is Amy really a Christian?" was on the lips of every G.A. and Royal Ambassador across Baptistdom in America. up to and probabaly ten years after this period Chrisitian music somehow retained some kind of individuality. there was something about the genre that was interesting, even the rest of the world would agree by letting the likes of MWS hit the "secular" radio waves with "go west".

Christian Music is altogether forgotton and unheard by the mainstream world for a solid ten years, still enjoying some moments of creative bursts, still pretty much in its own world until that little group Jars of Clay came along and shook everything up. At this point, in steps "the Man" The big labels figure out this is a pretty dang good money-making machine and decide to buy it out.

They start buying out Christian Labels and Stations. Chrisitan Music starts to not resemble, but Copy, more and more "Secular" Music. It seems that at this point we started deliberately following what was happening artistically on Secular Radio so that 1. the Christian artist could get a record deal that would pay the bills buy a big house and they wouldn't have to go on faith as much (back when record deals where still good) , and 2. because this is the type of music everyone is listening too. All the while while people like Rich Mullins and MWS still do their own thing which is why we still love them today and still listen to them. They (smith and mullins) could retain their individuality and still sell records, even though record exec’s tried to get Rich to cut his hair and loose some weight, and sound more boy-bandish (he actually told them to kiss his ass and stormed out of the office.)

With Jars of Clay and right after, Jesus Freak, you would think that the CCM industry would get the hint and figure out "oh its originality that people want" but nay, twasnt meant to be. In the mean-time Chirisan radio starts to rely more and more on those orginal listeners (soccer moms) and starts doing surveys tests which tell them what those 30 and 40 somethings want to hear more of. “Whatever you do keep the listeners/cash flowing and if we can help people and encourage them while we are doing it then, man we still win, cause if we dont make the cash and keep the audience then The Man shuts us down and if we dont obey the surveys then no one will listen or get reached.” Afraid of "the Man" and trusting in God.

Radio and Labels have always had the tugg-o-war between what sells and what is original, but Christian music seems to be in a class all of its own when it comes to this. Why did those people make the Rolling Stone list? because they were original and good. why hasn't Chrisian Music died a horrible death and gone bankrupt? Because even though groups like Casting Crowns is highly derivative, it still retains enough originality and honesty that it speaks creatively on some level.

Every person that has ever written music is influenced by someone. there have only been probably 5 or 6 people that have ever written anything TOTALLY original and that goes back to Medieval times when music was first notated by a bunch of out-of-tune monks. The evolution that is going on in Christian radio is that maybe radio is getting the clue that it is something Honest, Real AND Original that people want to hear. Maybe just maybe the radio has been underestimating the average soccer-mom’s tolerance for Individual sounding music. Why have labels and artists been able to get away with it, all this blatant imitiation? mainly because the listener doesn’t know that its imitation because that’s all they listen to. If this is the case then it means that they really will listen to whatever you play. So why not play the things that they KNOW is full of originality.

Okay, my longest entrie ever, sorry, just trying to make sense of it all and in the process probably got more confused, my fault entirely.


Peace.

Seth

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I disagree with anything here. Dang.

Shaun, WAY-FM West Palm has been doing great with teenagers. We could do better, but I believe we're in the top 3-4 stations out of 40 or whatever in the market. Given our religious niche in an area that's 20% Jewish, for instance, that's suggestive that the music itself is resonating.

Totally agree on Casting Crowns. I appreciate them, but don't compare them to SCC. I think of them as a 39 Special.

...and 38 Special outsold The Fixx, Yes, Simple Minds, blah blah blah. Messed up, but hey, if you want the "Christian" music world to work like the mainstream, it kinda does. Critics in RS rip artists that sell loads of CDs, Christian critics rip artists that sell loads of CDs.

And guys twice as old as the album buyers are making the decisions in mainstream radio, too. And at Rolling Stone.

In honor of Paul Stanley's hip replacement, I sang some KISS on the air this morning, as we went into "I Can Only Imagine". Where else you gonna hear that? Kinda postmod, no?

Best,
Brant

1/13/2006  

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