Sooner or later you'd think we would become alarmed, but the evaporation in music sales over the past four years (a freefall most thought would have hit bottom by now) has evoked little more than a collective yawn from those not directly associated with the making and distributing of music.
There's certainly been no love lost on the industry (as a disclaimer, I am happily leading a small label family), a tribe most consumers consider fat and greedy. And most don't really see a downside for the fans, with the possible exception of those of you who will miss these pages.
But the bigger story is really not about the labels, artists or fans. It's about Christ's Church. In the end, the story will not be 'Too Bad For The Industry', or even 'Too Bad For The Fans'. The real story, as it relates to the erosion of Christian music, is 'Too Bad for The Church'.
While I'm certain many music lovers wouldn't even think of taking a shortcut to obtaining the songs they value, day after day music is being “permanently borrowed” by a growing majority with increasing ease. Yet, it's more than the music that's being stolen. It's the moment. Once again, the Church is squandering an opportunity to shimmer in the midst of a dimming world. You have to admit, it would have been a pretty cool story, and a really easy platform on which to showcase the Savior, if Christian music sales had defied the global trend, which, while influenced by multiple factors, has been mostly fueled by technologically aided theft.
Labels have tried various campaigns to raise the banner of “truth in listening,” but for the most part, their pleas have failed, appearing to some as nothing more than shrouded self-preservation. Moreover, the “powers that be” have tried to scare us righteous, hauling unsuspecting end users into court on charges of music piracy. But even such threats haven't deterred an emboldened generation. And artists? They, by in large, have been reluctant to speak, concerned they might come off looking no better than the labels, risking a backlash from their fans. And few Christian leaders have stepped into the fray; and even if they did many would only see them as holier than thou crusaders out of touch with what is commonly accepted among this generation.
Rationalizations from music listeners abound, mostly about how everyone is getting rich enough off Christian music, so why not grab a little for free? After all, if the labels trimmed down to size there wouldn't be a problem anyway.
Well, defending the size of the industry is not my calling, but if corporate obesity is your stumbling block, trust me, the fat is gone. We're now down to losing eyes, ears and limbs, and the whole ship is listing badly.
I'm sure some will say, “Hurray,” while others will implore with glee, “I stole it, who cares, let them all go under.” Yet, something greater is at stake here than individual choice. We, my friends, are a collective (think Body), and could easily have seized the moment to shine a beacon on the One we love.
If such spiritual talk makes you queasy, it's important for you to know I'm writing this sitting down, not on a pedestal that makes me higher than anyone else. I should be writing it on my knees, because what I'm saying convicts me of so many ways I am not unlike the cultural norm. That's sad, given I have something miraculous flowing through my veins. And as a Believer, you do, too.
Surely, the world will not end if the music industry grinds to a halt (though I will be sad because many within it are my friends and have such honorable intentions), but an opportunity will be lost. Ideally, the Christian music industry would have trimmed the fat long ago, reflecting that we (and the music we believe so strongly in) are part of a transcendent Kingdom that compels us to think differently about everything we do. And, ideally, music lovers would have done a more honorable thing. Then, the headline would have read: OVERALL MUSIC SALES SINK WHILE ONE SEGMENT SHINES.
And, as a result of simply doing what is right and good, many perplexed questioners would have been introduced to Jesus, which, as I understand it, is the point of Christian music in the first place.
— A passionate communicator and author, Louie Giglio is the founder of Passion Conferences, a collegiate movement calling people around the world to lives that spread God’s fame. Giglio also heads sixsteps records, a label partner with EMI CMG, and home to artist-worshipers Chris Tomlin, David Crowder*Band, Matt Redman and Charlie Hall. 268generation.com