Gospel and Christian Music Genre Going into Mainstream Media

Making it Main Stream or Making it Real?
( [email protected] ) May 14, 2004 09:45 AM EDT

Today on Friday May 14, 2004, local bands based in San Jose, CA participated in an event where Christian bands gather and ¡°battle¡± each other in constructive competition of faith and talents in front of record labels such as Essential Records(Third Day), Gotee Records (tobyMac)and Reunion Records at Bethel Church.

One of the bands, ¡°Chozen,¡± is a Latin-rock band specializing in conga beats and acoustic guitar licks modeling after Carlos Santana. With their unique approach to Gospel music, they still maintain a strong faith and mission purpose of their band¡¯s ministry. To them, their purpose of music plays on a different level that is to spread the Gospel and the message of Christ which comes first before anything else namely the success of the band.

With recent rise to popularity, Chozen could ultimately face a dilemma and decide where they stand publicly as a music artist and carrier of the message of Gospel. What is it that they strive for, and ultimately what is their position as public figures when rising to an influential position in the media takes place? Should they firmly proclaim their Christian identity, or win the crowds or soften their message to win a wider audience?

Chozen¡¯s lead singer, also a minister, Chris Hinojosa¡¯s answer displays simple and clear faith. ¡°We will not compromise to sell an extra thousand albums, ¡¦rather save a thousand.¡±

With the recent Gospel Music Association events encouraging Christian music growth among the community, many have won GRAMMY¡¯s and Dove Awards without having to cross over into mainstream. The genre of Gospel music has been climbing up the music industry ever since 1997, when Gospel music consistently sold 40 million albums a year, now increased to 50 million just last year. The Gospel music genre is currently the 6th most popular, just right behind rock, hip-hop, R&B, country and pop, and ahead of Jazz and classical.

UK¡¯s Third Day have gone platinum, recently holding a live tour around Europe and the U.S., including a short visit to the South Bay Spring Celebration Concert, only having Christian-focused audiences.

On the other side, other groups such as Switchfoot, Stacie Orrico, MercyMe and P.O.D are making major marks on mainstream culture. Artists such as Creed and Evanescence started with Christian audiences only to switch over declaring themselves mainstream after going up the charts. Their songs are not inspirational, but not clearly declared belonging to Gospel music.

¡°It¡¯s common for gropus trying to reach a broader audience to be less obvious about their Christian roots, said Jon Robberson, producer and founder of one of the largest Christian festivals, Spirit West Coast. ¡°They are afraid of being stereotyped,¡± he said. ¡°And sometimes even with a great Christian band, people won¡¯t play them.¡± According to Robberson, bands like Creed and Evanescence going platinum and winning GRAMMY¡¯s strongly correlate with how they ¡®break the stereotypes.¡¯

Chozen¡¯s Charlie Hinojosa, however, states, ¡°I think anybody comprises their own group by doing secular¡± music at the same time. ¡°Switchfoot is starting to do it too,¡± he said referring to the band whose 2003 album ¡°The Beautiful Letdown¡± made its debut in the Top 100 on the mainstream charts.