“what the hell is up with Christian Radio?”
One of the disadvantages in being a young visionary is that you can see the changes comin in the future of music before the status quo has had time to retool. You are the one who probably asked.. “What the hell is up with Christian Radio?”. I, of course, would never use the word “hell” in that context because it might guarantee that I would never get airplay on Christian Radio ever again. Why? Cause my mom listens to Christian Radio and she doesn’t wanna hear that from me.
Moms are the primary cash cow in Christian music these days. And I hope she forgives me for using “cow” and “mom” in the same sentence. And Christian Radio? Well now they’re trying to appeal to the entire Christian market place but she is the buyer! She doesn’t really get yer new music but she’ll buy a younger artist if she thinks it will redeem her kids. Her purchase is more about trusting your spiritual disposition than it is about your talent.
Never mind that the average age of the members of the National Religious Broadcasters Association exceeds the speed limit on the Autobahn. Never mind that when you are tryin to appeal to Christianity as a whole you cannot rise above the weakest link in the chain of personal theology. I’ve heard that the overall I.Q. of an audience drops ten points per thousand people. So if yer broadcasting to a hundred thousand people you will be speaking in mono syllables with a vocabulary of a kindergartener.
In 1970 Christian Radio was mostly church choirs, J. Vernon McGee sermons and George Beverly Shea singing hits from the 1800’s. In 1970, I was pulling up to the local public park with my drummer in an old dodge van. It had a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer commercial bleeding through the spray can paint job. We’d use picnic tables for the stage and I plugged my microphone into my guitar amp. It was just another “Saturday in the park” singing to the sandwich eating heathens, playin Frisbee on the grass. We had no chance of being on Christian Radio. But the style of music we were developing would become the new norm…“Radio Rehab” is inevitable.
Change came with the hippie revival we now refer to as the Jesus Movement. And the music transformed Christian radio. But it was the revival of new interest from the next generation that made it possible to take the risk of putting a new sound on the airwaves. Even then you gotta know that for an eighteen year old Christian singer I was constantly suspected of demon possession and prayed over regularly.. from a distance of course. You don’t wanna be standin too close when demons jump ship. Remember demons are granted permission to enter great herds of swine in scripture.
The Jesus movement brought a Christian message to the masses with a significant variety musically. ‘Folk music’ was the main vein cause everybody had a guitar in those days. But still the new bands included country and rock and jazz styles, with their identifiable notations and every band had a remarkably distinct flavor. No one had yet thought to copy someone else’s style. No body had a style to copy really. We just liked what we liked.
But someone finally noticed that “Christian Music” didn’t seem to have a musical identity of it’s own cause it really wasn’t about a musical style. So an influential business guru decided to work toward the honorable goal of making Christian Music “Marketable”….by having an identifiable music style. He’s been reasonably successful. After many years you can pretty much tell, as you are fanning stations, when you hit the “Christian Radio” mark. It’s homogenized and the vocals are usually louder than the drummer and bass player put together. But let’s be honest… you know it when you hear it!
Christian Radio has now officially ‘Harnessed’ Christian music to make it marketable and profitable. We know who’s buying and what they want. But like all things comfortable it becomes stagnant and incestuous, regurgitating the same stuff cause it requires less risk.
Radio must support itself above all first!, unless it’s being subsidized by one point of view. And although you have a wonderfully perceptive point of view and an ‘original’ sound, and righteous intentions, it might not be something the local Christian bookstore can sell Bibles with. Don’t forget, the Christian bookstore is buying ads on the Radio. So even if the majority of the church goin faithful were to like your music, Radio cannot make money from it, unless you or your record label are buying ad’s on the Radio. Or yer huge audience is plunkin down twenty bucks at the door of a Radio Sponsored event. We all know that the basics of Sugar, eggs, butter and salt are what make the cake. Don’t start throwin oregano in there!
Music has to be reinvented by new people cause we all eventually get used to the taste of the “Manna” we’re being fed. But it’s why the children of Israel continued to wander the wilderness until a new generation with a new attitude actually took them into the promised land.
Your mission should you accept it is to seek out a new audience and define what they like in their Christian style.. you’ll probably have to introduce them to Christ first…isn’t that the point? But don’t count on Christian Radio to back you until you’ve found the ‘buying” public.
The Good News is Jesus went 33 years without radio airplay! He started with 12 listeners…they got really good at “Gorilla Marketing”.