Stats and Community testify Dominating Demands for Christian Culture

"There's no doubt that the Christian music business is becoming more and more mainstream. It wasn't that long ago that a handful of [Christian] artists were touring nothing but churches, except fo
( [email protected] ) Jul 27, 2004 03:54 PM EDT

Christian culture is crossing over and surpassing mainstream music revenues, acording to the Seattle Times.

Summer concerts this year have seen a tour cancellations among mainstream pop-stars such as Britney Spears to Christina Aguilera and Lollapalooza. Ticket sales have experienced decreases while another genre of music has reportedly gained increases and awareness – Christian music.

Concerts including Creation West, Freedom Fest, and Spirit West Coast have dotted the West Coast expect higher attendance and consider adding further festival dates in some cases. Organizers of the festivals expect attendees to increase within 10 percent above last year’s figures.

For Creation Fest organizer Bill Darpino of the New Jersey-based Come Alive Ministries Inc., although the show on the East Coast showed a decrease in figures, there has been a growing audience in the west.

Darpino says that the vision for Creation is centered on people’s faith. "The reason why we do it is because we want to see lives changed and brought to the cross, affected by Christ's love. People are drawn to that kind of stuff because it does affect their lives in such a positive way."

Freedom Fest co-director, T.J. Bauer, says that Christian rock festivals tailor constructive activities to families. According to Bauer, most young people are likely to attend in groups with churches and youth leaders. Music plays a key role, because "it draws in the kids and from the standpoint of ministry, maybe the music will bring in some people that normally won't go to church. You have the music and message of Jesus Christ being preached to them."

Spirit West Coast's Jon Robberson, who promotes Spirit West Coast and Celebration Concerts, agrees that it takes more than just music to win over hearts and minds.

"The experience is content driven, as opposed to just another 'good time,' " Robberson says. "A rock show is a rock show. How many can you go to before you say, 'Is Christina Aguilera any different from Britney Spears or any different from Jessica Simpson?' It's like, yawn," he notes.

Going beyond summer festivals, the Christian and Gospel genre sales saw the largest jump from 2001 to 2003. The Nielsen SoundScan, an information system tracking sales of more than 14,000 outlets (retail, online stores and venues) throughout the United States and Canada, reports that the Christian category specifically increased sales by 18.2 percent.

With tour attendees matching with midlevel rock group concerts, experts say that the figures reveal a trend in moving toward ‘middle-ground’ for Christian artists.

Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, a weekly magazine that monitors concert industry trends notes, "There's no doubt that the Christian music business is becoming more and more mainstream. It wasn't that long ago that a handful of [Christian] artists were touring nothing but churches, except for Amy Grant. That's changed dramatically. Now straight ahead Christian artists are playing real, commercial venues," he adds.

Jeff Gregg, an agent with the Creative Artist Agency (CAA) — the world's largest talent agency — says the Christian rock realm is truly evolving.

"In the last year, there's been a lot more brand new rock acts breaking into Christian radio. There's definitely a resurgence from album sales, the radio community and ticket sales," Gregg notes.

One point that Gregg mentioned is that increased marketing from major record labels has aided Christian artist popularity.

“All the Christian labels used to be owned by smaller 'Mom and Pop' companies, but now they're owned by the big three — Warner Brothers, EMI and BMG. Because of that, the labels have pushed harder with radio" to play the artists, he adds.

Gregg explains that merging record labels are not always negative for recording artists.

"Part of it has been a positive," Gregg admits with a chuckle. "As far as the focus, it's been positive for all the Christian artists, definitely."