A recent Nielsen SoundScan reports encouraging news for the Christian music industry which has seen three consecutive years of declining sales.
Christian album sales in the U.S. have soared from 285.9 million in 2003 to 305.7 million this year, marking a whopping 7 percent increase in sales.
Nielsen SoundScan also tracked an enormous surge of growth in legal digital downloads for Christian songs. There were close to 54 million tracks purchased during the first 26 weeks of 2004, more than twice of the 19.2 million downloaded during the first half year of 2003.
The rising popularity of Christian songs have also paved way for Christian labels to garner much recognition. Labels are now adding new artists to its roster seemingly everyday to keep up with the demand.
The Brentwood Tennessee-based EMI Christian Music Group, the world's largest Christian music company operating the EMI CMG Label Group (Sparrow and Forefront Records), announced that it recently signed six new artists to its Gospel department. Of the six, the label also enlisted three-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, arranger and producer Darius Brooks. Brooks is best known for Gospel classics such as Available To You and My Mind Is Made Up.
Representing Atlanta and newly signed to EMI Gospel through a production deal with mega-producer, writer and visionary Dallas Austin (TLC, Janet Jackson, Stacie Orrico) is vocalist Darlene McCoy, who is set to claim the spotlight when her solo debut, featuring her unique brand of Urban Gospel Soul, hits the streets in early 2005.
"We at EMI Gospel are thrilled about the future. We are meticulously growing our roster specifically blending young, new artists in addition to successfully established artists," says Larry Blackwell, VP/GM of EMI Gospel.
With the addition of these 6 new artists, EMI will continue to make strategic moves within the industry and expand the potential to reach their most diverse audience ever. The label will also further expand into the Urban and Hip-Hop world with the June 29, 2004 release of Holy Hip Hop: Taking The Gospel To The Streets: Vol. 1 - a compilation of some of the hottest artists hitting the underground Holy Hip Hop scene today.
"Our goal is to offer stylistic diversity while not compromising the integrity of our slogan, The Ministry, The Music, The Message," says Ken Pennell, President of EMI Gospel. "Ministry first, through the gift of music."