It’s not a question of talent anymore. It’s not a question of acceptance. It has nothing to do with marketability. Read the numbers: Christian rock rules!
This isn’t just the opinion of Christian record executives, industry leaders, or monthly music columnists; it’s fact. Critics can argue all they want, but the people are speaking and 5 Grammy nominations, a Best New Artist award, Best Hard Rock Performance award, and over 10 million albums sold don’t lie (that’s referring to the quasi-Christian artists of Evenescence). If this isn’t enough, look into Audio Adrenaline’s Best Gospel Rock Album, Worldwide, or Switchfoot’s single Meant to Live, which has spent over 30 weeks on the Billboard Modern Rock charts, peaking at number 5. There’s no way around it; Christian rock is not only being tolerated, it is being promoted. So, who’s responsible for this positive ballyhoo?
That’s right: the Christian rock industry owes much of its success to the successful promotions coming from within the church. Youth leaders have long been supporting artists and providing their youth with answers and alternatives to secular rock trends; but now more than ever before, youth leaders and their youth are helping the Christian rock scene explode by attending and promoting concerts, booking bands for rallies, and purchasing albums. Companies such as Interlinc (www.interlinc-online.com) help the process as they cater to today’s youth leaders by providing music and music video subscriptions as well as industry and release updates and reviews. And youth groups create a noise by demanding that their music come from within the church. The Cornerstone Festival (www.cornerstonefestival.com) in Illinois, Florida, and North Carolina provides a four-day event featuring the best in Christian rock. There is even a platform for unsigned artists. The LCMS National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, 2001, featured live performances by The O.C. Supertones, The Newsboys, and Audio Adrenaline. In 2004 the National Youth Gathering in Orlando, Florida will feature punk rock sensation, Reliant K. Having groups play in large convention settings such as this encourages the promotion of such bands as well as pushes CD sales.
The success experienced by bands within the church has fueled their following in the mainstream platform. P.O.D recently finished their sold-out North American tour alongside Linkin Park. Lava Records recently signed long-time Christian rock veterans, Skillet (Lava carries such acts as Simple Plan, Smile Empty Soul, and Blue Man Group). But this new surge of Christian bands begs the question, how far will it go?
Michael Tait, lead singer of the band Tait, said to CCM Magazine, if it’s Christian, it ought to be better. The closer we get to the Creator, the more creative we should get. This seems to be the mentality the new wave of Christian rock acts is adopting. There’s less a sense of the industry trying to keep up with secular culture as bands break barriers and become unique on their own terms. It will be exciting to see what develops in 2004 as the wall between mainstream and ministry break down.
Will the wall ever fall? It won’t be taken down by record execs, but with the incandescent screams of Chevelle, the powerful chords of Pillar, and the anthems of 12 Stones, it might just get blown away.