Exploring trEnds in thE Christian MusiC industry By Beau Black One of the biggest and least likely successes of the last decade of Christian music belongs to Casting Crowns. Little of their story— youth pastors, passed on by nearly everyone in town, singing straight to the church—would seem to predict their success: two platinum and three gold records in six years. For some perspective, I called radio promoter Chris Hauser, an industry vet who’s worked with Amy Grant, newsboys and MercyMe, and helped break Aaron Shust, Rush of Fools and Jason Gray at Christian radio. [He was also in talks with Casting’s label about working their next single— interesting timing.] Hauser remembered, as I did, an early CC performance that was “nothing to write home about.” But when that first single (“If We Are The Body”) hit the airwaves, something happened: “There was something special about their using terminology that was so much the language of evangelicals, like using worship as a noun—‘it was crowded in worship today,’ that resonated with the church. So I think that they were using language that Christian radio specifically understood”—and language that resonated with a whole lot of radio’s listeners. After “If We Are,” the band followed with “Praise You In The Storm,” which Hauser calls, “an even better song that lasted longer.” Before long, a couple of big singles in the familiar musical vein of what was already working at radio (MercyMe, Chris Tomlin) turned into a million-selling first record. Providing some context, he recalls, “There was a time when a certain father figure in the industry [observed that] young artists growing up in the church either wanted to cross over and be Switchfoot or be worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, and that there was no middle ground for artists to be ‘Christian entertainers.’” Hauser doesn’t buy that. “Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, MercyMe and Barlow Girl are examples of acts that aren’t worship bands, who have entertaining, faith-based songs connecting with the church. Even in a broken down retail system and a weakened economy, there’s still a very viable group of artists who are being raised up [who don’t fit those two neat categories]. I’m glad for it, personally.” As for Casting, he says “they’ve delivered something that few others have” with 5.2 million units sold, a number still quickly growing. He notes that at a time when “there are lots of great artists who can’t get above 50,000 units and would be happy selling 200-250 tickets,” the band’s recent show in New Jersey brought out “15,000 paying people.” Few single acts in any genre have that kind of draw. Those people go because of those songs, and a “compelling story— that Mark Hall is still a youth pastor at his church, they’re not flashy and they have a heart for people.” “they were using language that Christian radio specifically understood.” – Chris Hauser, Radio Promoter What’s Next Carving Out a Place in the Middle CCM 49