Matt Papa has an interesting article on Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). It begins with a a person, a golden target audience prototype…
Meet Becky: She’s a 38 year old soccer-mom with 3 kids. She drives a mini-van, because if she didn’t, well where would she put all the crayons and goldfish? She is a loving wife and mother and is actively involved at her church. She lives in the suburbs but volunteers at the local food pantry. Becky is pretty awesome. And one more important detail about Becky…..she listens to christian radio exclusively. Yep, that’s right. And you actually already know her.
Becky isn’t one person of course…she is the prototype target audience created by the christian music industry for christian radio. True story. She’s been around about 6 or 7 years now. Christian radio demographic research discovered that “Becky” is the one who is listening, so “Becky” is the audience they relentlessly target. So here’s what happens:
Christian radio plays songs for Becky. The labels know that in order to sell music, they have to get songs on radio. Radio = Becky. So the labels coerce their artists and bands to all write and record songs for Becky….songs that will make her feel good. Songs that tell her she is good. Songs that are “safe for the whole family”. Songs that remind her of her snow-flake-ness and tell her to turn that frown upside-down. Songs that focus on love and hope. Songs that aren’t confrontational. Songs that aren’t theological because man, that stuff is up in the clouds. Songs that don’t talk about blood and crosses and depressing stuff like that. Songs that focus on Becky and her busy life. And if the artists or bands want to write songs for another demographic or another purpose, that’s fine, they can just make music somewhere else. There is money to be made.
So, here we are. Bands/Artists who want to be heard write songs for Becky. Christian radio, therefore, is for the most part an altar where chipper, inauthentic, boring, unscriptural, untruthful, gospel-absent, ear-tickling, man-centered songs are offered to an idol named Becky.
I’ve been on a couple labels in my short musical career, and I testify that this is (sadly) how things work.
I love Becky. I really do. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this. Becky needs to be ministered to just like I do and just like everyone else does. But Christian radio/industry people: please MINISTER TO HER!! Stop giving her what she WANTS….GIVE HER WHAT SHE NEEDS and that is the GOSPEL….or stop calling yourself “christian”. There is NOTHING “christian” about telling someone who has cancer that they are ok. Stop tickling her ears. Becky is a human being who needs to hear the truth of Christ, not an object to use for your financial gain. Woe to you. And here’s a novel idea: Why not target other people besides Becky?!?! The gospel has no demographics! Christ shed His blood for all people everywhere and you have mis-represented Him. I pray with all my heart that the money tables in your temple would soon be overturned.
Now I know why most of the songs on my local radio station are sentimental, cheesy and ….umm ticklish. Grrr 😉
Got Matt Papa’s latest album. My kids love it!
What songs would Calvin choose? Those without music accompaniment. 🙂
Calvin was reacting to a Roman Catholic culture where music, art and literature had ceased being done for the glory of God and was being done for its own glory.
Calvin wouldn’t choose. Calvin would be chosen:P
This is one of the reasons why I have my reservations about Christian radio. I find that the music is rather cliched and as you have mentioned seem to target only one specific Christian demagraphic
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Maybe Calvin was wrong.
Unfortunately, this article is true. All music is not bad today but, when you compare it to CCM of the mid 80s, the downgrade is obvious. Radio should be a ministry not a money-making endeavor. However, the churches in America have also fallen prey to Becky worship. Church is not a business and is not powered by Madison Avenue power brokering. If churches still studied the Bible, this could be clearly seen but, then again, Becky doesn’t like confrontation…
Reblogged this on Truthinator's Blog and commented:
Another wonderfully poignant post brought to light for your edification by my friend, Michael.
Christian radio) here in SA the liberals have got hold of it, so noo I dont listen to christain radio.
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Ya’ll are a bunch of suckers. You think records studios are built on faith? You think artists are promoted on sunshine and your prayers? Record labels are running a BUSINESS, not a ministry. These aren’t churches, these are for profit (not prophet) business ventures. If you don’t want CCM labels to put out bland, non-gospel centered music… START BUYING IT. The owners of these labels take significant financial risk in every artist they sign and promote. If too many artists don’t’ sell, these labels go out of business.This is an industry that is, in general, dying. As the digital revolution takes over, labels are folding in CCM and secular music alike. Don’t blame the labels. Blame yourselves for not buying Christ centered music. Last time I checked, this was America, and we vote with our pocketbooks here.
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I’m a little, well, annoyed? Yes, I fit the Becky profile. I am a person that grew up in a “good Reformed” environment where I heard these types of arguments all the time. In the last few years, I have found that my discernment level has been ramped up significantly. I don’t just let music go “in one ear, out the other.” I listen really closely to the lyrics, I measure them to Scripture. I will agree that there is certainly some theologically shallow music out there. But by and large, the Christian music I’ve heard on my local Christian station is not only theologically sound, it (together with other factors such as prayer, Bible reading, solid Biblical preaching, and communion of the saints) has been used (by the Holy Spirit) to transform and shape my life. My relationship with God has grown significantly. It seems like comments such as these: “Christian radio, therefore, is for the most part an altar where chipper, inauthentic, boring, unscriptural, untruthful, gospel-absent, ear-tickling, man-centered songs are offered to an idol named Becky” are particularly sharp and unnecessary. This article does not provide any lyrics to back up this claim. It’s easy to go after such a vague idea. I’ll give examples of the kind of songs I don’t believe belong in this characterization: “The Same Love” by Paul Baloche, “Who am I?” Casting Crowns, “Indescribable” Chris Tomlin, “Mighty to Save” or “Hosanna” or “Man of Sorrows” by Hillsong. These are songs that are designed to musically help us to humble ourselves and adore and worship our King. They do talk about the cross, they do talk about our bankruptcy without Christ, they do talk about salvation only through Christ, they do talk about living new life in Christ, they do talk about God the creator, they do talk about God’s intention for us to care about a lost world, they do talk about grace. May I point out that not every song contains every theological idea. I would venture that the songs you prefer don’t either. I think it is important for all of us as believers to be discerning. Yet, I don’t think that the activity of calling the Christian music industry idolatrous is appropriate. If you want to go after groups or individuals specifically, go for it. Let people read the lyrics and see what you are talking about. But to paint everything with a broad brush is unfair, and quite frankly, divisive and unbiblical. God doesn’t accept your worship based on its genre. He accepts your worship based on your heart’s posture before Him. Yes, truth is also necessary element. But when you’re living in the Spirit, he “guides you in all truth”. I trust the Spirit of God at work in me. And I worship with Christian Contemporary Music in Spirit and in truth. (Sidenote: If I was created “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, wouldn’t worship produce a positive response in me? Wouldn’t I “feel good” to be doing what I was created for? Just a thought….)
Thanks for your contribution. Indeed it’s not wise to paint with a broad brush as there is still some good sound theologically astute music out there.
Thank you for shedding light here. Music empowers us to do better so it should talk about empowering things. People will always criticize but regardless His music should build us up.
I don’t agree with a lot of what this article has to say. Why are we bashing the only part of the Music Industry that wants to make music that uplifts people from the gritty sin that we have had enough of?
Wow, although I also tire of certain stations that do replay the same songs, I have found plenty of music that does speak to the cross, the price Jesus paid & the hope He has given. Ironically,as I read this, I am hooked up to an IV to receive chemo. Never once in this last year & a half battle did I think that the music told me everything would be ok. It did often remind me of the hope of eternity because of what Christ did for me and all who seek Him.. Last time I checked…..that was biblical!
Hi Teri thanks for passing by.
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