In case you didn’t know I’m a Christian, now you can assume some biases about my points of view. Christianity is the only religion in my local area with commercial retailers targeting it. There are Christian Book Stores, Christian Music section at Target, Christian this, Christian that, you get the idea. I used to shop at Christian book stores, now most of the stuff I bought there I either don’t buy anymore or buy online. I understand the reasoning behind this targeted approach, it is a marketing shtick, they’ve got a product that only a certain kind of person would want, I get it.
There are three ways that people get into the Christian music industry, two of them are disturbing. The first (and only good one) is a talented person or group that wants to make high quality music that is praising to God. The other two are untalented people who got the gig by default, or talented people who are using it as a stepping stone.
The first of those is very frustrating, because I love music. Aerosmith is my favorite band, Bon Jovi is second, and after that it gets muddled. I have pretty eclectic tastes though (Savage Garden, Alice Cooper, Matchbox 20, Pink Floyd, Harry Chapin, Eminem, U2, Weird Al, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many many more). When people like Evanescence get recording contracts I can’t help thinking it is because the Christian Music racks “needed” a female “hard rock” vocalist (I put hard rock in quotes because even though it may be labeled as Hard Rock on the shelf, I can’t put them in the same genre as AC/DC). There are other bands that are sub-par when it comes to true skill, musically, lyrically, vocally, stagemanship, etc. I think that the Christian Music executives are trying to mirror the “secular market”, having multiple artists in every genre, so that anyone has a “Christian” alternative to their favorite non-Christian artist. I think this wrong, there is no reason to label a band as Christian or Non-Christian unless the content of their work speaks to that declaration. U2 is a great band, arguably one of the best in the world, and people everywhere know who they are. Bono and other group members are outspoken about their faith, it infiltrates their songs and performances (as it does their daily lives); yet they are not a Christian band. They did not set-out to have their albums sold from the shelves of coffee shops inside mega-churches. No, they decided to make good music, and their beliefs and lifestyle shine through. This doesn’t make them a Christian band, they’re a good band who does not need to be marketed to a single narrow segment.
The other is frustrating on a less artistic level, more a personal sense of betrayal. WARNING: These thoughts are more scattered than the ones above. There are many bands that started in Christian music and then moved on (P.O.D., Relient K, Switchfoot). If a band is skilled and dedicated and gets their start on a smaller Christian label and then moves on to a larger one that’s fine. The problem I have is when the band changes their message after this move. Most songs produced on Christian rock albums are not specifically “Christian”, they’re just songs that don’t include foul language, bad messages, and are performed by artists on Christian record labels. I have a problem when people use other people. If an artist is genuine (and I’m not making any statement about the afore mentioned bands beliefs or motives) and gets in on a Christian label and then gets an opportunity to move on to a bigger distribution network, larger label, better production environment etc., that’s great. But I find it hard to believe that that is what happens for all the bands that move to one of the bigger labels, and can’t help but thinking that they were using the system.
All this being said, I am not against Christian music, artists, stores or anything like that; I am against sub-par performance and using people.