Does the Christian music industry have a future?
To even casual observers, it’s immediately clear that the Christian music industry has contracted since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. Single-song $0.99 iTunes downloads replaced $14.00 CD sales. But then Spotify and YouTube streams for hundredths of a penny per stream replaced $0.99 downloads.
In most genres of Christian music, the biggest stars have been able to pivot to a greater reliance on alternative income streams. For many, this means that a higher percentage of their income is coming from live shows. Even so, clues from their social media posts offer subtle clues that many have had to downsize from an upper-middle-class lifestyle.
Meanwhile, some incredibly talented singers, musicians, songwriters, and industry people have moved to other industries. Some still engage with their genre as a hobby; others have vanished entirely from the scene.
Current trends show little signs of reversing. A high percentage of music revenue finds its way to the pockets of Silicon Valley moguls and their investors and stakeholders; creators see far less coming their way than in older days. And apart from trends impacting the overall music industry, Christian music faces an additional challenge, cultural trends less hospitable to Biblical values.
Yet despite all these changes, a leaner Christian music industry is still here. Chances are some individuals and organizations are just barely making ends meet. But others are doing well enough that we’ll quite probably still see them a decade from now.
This post’s title talks about the future of Christian music. Its opening question talks about the future of the Christian music industry. Those are two different things.
Perhaps the day comes when Christian music as entertainment ceases to exist. But Christian music will never cease to exist.
No matter how bad things are culturally or economically, there has always been music for the church. And there always will be.
Distribution methods have changed many times over the last two thousand years. And if the Lord tarries, they will probably change many more times. But the church has been charged by Scripture itself to sing a new song to the Lord. God always makes a way for this to happen.