EXPLORING TRENDS IN THE CHRISTIAN MUSIC INDUSTRY By Beau Black Though overall the music business continues to slump (off by 45 percent since 2004, according to one source), the touring business is weathering the industry decline and the recession better. We start the new year by talking with two artist managers helping buck the downturn with affordable shows jam-packed with big artists—Brickhouse’s Scott Brickell (MercyMe, Fee) and Proper’s Nick Barré, who’s working with Newsong’s blockbuster Winter Jam tour for 2010. Though concert business is off (in the 10-20 percent range, according to Brickell), “music’s never been in a better place,” he says. “It’s cheaper to make, cheaper to purchase, readily available, and easy to access. Music is being consumed in mass quantities like never before.” Though it’s not quite clear how the labels are going to adapt and survive, he notes that “there are twice or three times as many tours in the Christian market as there used to be,” recalling when Amy, Smitty, and Steven Curtis were the only game in town. Barré and Brickell are pushing a new generation of mega-tour packages: Winter Jam, which last year seated 335,000 people in 35 shows, and MercyMe’s Rock & Worship Road Show, modeled on Winter Jam’s 14-year success. Both feature bills packed with artists who could easily tour on their own (including Third Day, newsboys, Skillet, and David Crowder Band), mid-level acts growing their own fan bases (Brandon Heath, Francesca Battistelli, Family Force 5), and rookies like Sidewalk Prophets. And both sell only general admission tickets at the door for $10—though Winter Jam will experiment with tiered pricing this year. The draw for the consumer is obvious—where else can your youth group or family see such a spread of artists for $10? But for the artists? In Third Day’s case, having already toured Revelation (Essential), “this is a kind of victory lap,” says Barré. “As big as Third Day is, they’re going to be in front of a lot of people who haven’t seen them live before.” That’s true for all of the acts on both tours and can benefi t them down the road. Brickell offers an unusual analogy: “You don’t know that you like Twinkies until you eat one, and then you’ll do anything to get one.” He’s talking about hearing new-to-you music and suggests that at least some of the folks who came to hear newsboys will come out for Third Day’s next show, or vice-versa. Or, maybe he needs a snack. The goal of touring, he says, is to build your audience and your ticket price; but higher prices keep casual listeners from coming out. Brickell adds that they have timed and routed the R&WRS to avoid competing directly with Winter Jam, which should allow both to continue to grow. Barré says Proper’s focus is on creating tours that are “content-rich” events, rather than just artists singing their hits. That may mean bringing a speaker (as both Winter Jam and Casting Crowns have done) or something thematic or purposed—like the Art*Music*Justice tour with Sara Groves and Derek Webb and Andrew Peterson’s terrifi c annual Christmas tour. Such listener-centered thinking seems to be shielding the concert business from the worst of the downturn. “You don’t know that you like Twinkies until you eat one, and then you’ll do anything to get one.” – Scott Brickell The Twinkie Theorem, and Other Aspects of Touring WHAT’S NEXT [ccmmagazine.com] 31