Ever wonder what music Christian college students listen to? That’s a subject anyone working in Christian music should explore frequently because today’s college students are tomorrow’s adults. Listening habits of Christian college students are similar to those of non-Christian college kids in that they enjoy discovering new music. As students graduate from high school and transition into college, they look to engage with things which make them feel like they are maturing. No longer being shuttled around in mom’s mini-van listening to KLOVE, college students quickly determine that core CCM artists are uncool. They begin their search to replace Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Natalie Grant and Tobymac with artists who represent their newly refined taste in music. Many begin adding mainstream artists into their playlists as they no longer feel bound within the Christian subculture. As they step out into the world leaving the Christian bubble, some are overjoyed to discover mainstream artists who are vocal about their faith. They also find a new excitement in discovering Christian artists who don’t limit themselves to the KLOVE/FISH CCM radio formula. Who knew there was a world of music being created by artists who ignore the boundaries established in CCM music?
We were fortunate to begin working with a college favorite, The Gray Havens, a little over a year ago. Immediately, we noticed their listeners are quite different than those on the Christian radio chart. They long for deeper messages crafted with creativity and melodies that live well alongside mainstream music. The college students are super engaged with the artists they love and and are quite loyal once they become a fan. The Oh Hellos, Judah & The Lion, Josh Garrels and Colony House top the list of college favorites and serve as examples of mainstream artists who are vocal about their faith. Those artists are often found mixed in with John Mark McMillen, The Gray Havens and The Brilliance.
While examining streaming stats for college favorites, I’ve noticed a long, steady solid growth in fans as opposed to quick spikes one might see for CCM radio artists. A search for Christian college playlists on Spotify came up empty so we decided to create some playlists targeted at Christian college students. I’d like to invite you to check out the playlists we launched called THE VIBE.
Are we experiencing the return of the single?
Remember the days or least heard the stories of vinyl 45s? Or how about cassingles? Those were exciting days in the music business! Before record labels launched a full album, they would release a “for sale” single well in advance. The single served as instant gratification for the new music being heard on the radio but more importantly it tickled consumers’ taste buds creating an insatiable anticipation for what was to come. With the introduction of CDs, the single quickly died. I’m still not sure why the single died other than maybe impatient record labels wanting the full album revenue as soon as possible.
Fast Ford to 2017 where we stream and download instead of placing the needle on 45s or loading cassingles into a Walkman. Have you noticed what the top artists have been doing lately? Both Ed Sheeran and Coldplay put huge emphasis on releasing singles in advance of their new full albums. Ed Sheeran took it a step further trickling out two singles a few weeks apart in advance of his full length release. The single release strategy for Ed Sheeran’s Divide brilliantly catapulted him to the top of Billboard charts while smashing Spotify streaming records.
The single has indeed returned.
Noah Cleveland released his new lyric video for “My Savior Lives” this week. The Easter themed song written by Cleveland and Tony Wood promises to become a favorite worship song for churches around the world. As listeners will see and hear, the song simply tells the story of the Gospel through a hauntingly beautiful melody.
Bono wants honest Christian music, according to an interview published by The Huffington Post this week. U2’s frontman stated in the Huffington Post interview that he finds “a lot of dishonesty” in modern Christian art. The article quoted Bono as saying “Why I am suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism,” he continued. “And I’d love to see more of that — in art and in life and in music.”
Well, as you can imagine, Bono’s statements lit up the social networks with thoughts and reactions from the Christian music community. While some agreed with Bono, most think Bono is only hearing the music supported by Christian radio. There has been an ongoing conversation about Christian radio’s unwillingness to support great honest songs for quite a while. Honest music is absolutely being made, but Christian radio refuses to support it and instead chooses music that is safe, watered down and familiar. Some would even argue that Christian radio has become the A&R team for the Christian record labels as most labels won’t sign or release music that doesn’t fit in the safe box that Christian radio has created.
Christian radio has grown quite dependent on “radio testing” in order to decide whether or not to add new music. Unfortunately, the “radio testing” is viewed by many as a flawed process and is designed to favor familiarity. Of course listeners are going to rate familiar music higher than unfamiliar music while participating in the testing process. Those results scare Christian radio programmers into shying away from adding some of the more honest music. That doesn’t mean honest Christian music isn’t being made, it’s just not being exposed to the masses.
In an effort to expose Bono to some great honest Christian music, I created a Spotify playlist specifically for him. Bono – here is some honest Christian music for you to check out “Honest Christian Music For Bono.” I think you will see there is much more depth and honesty than is normally heard on radio.
I invite all to follow the playlist and send your suggestions of music we should add to firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, the world celebrates Easter. Some celebrate with chocolate bunnies and little yellow marshmallow chickens. Some celebrate with a nice new outfit. Some celebrate with family around a table full of wonderful food. Many pick this one day out of the year to attend church. For me, it’s a time to celebrate the most important event in the history of the world. God’s son Jesus was crucified on a cross but then overcame death and rose from his tomb. An event that makes it possible for us to live eternity in heaven with God. There is more to this life on earth!
Below is a video trailer for the beautiful song My Savior Lives written by Noah Cleveland and Tony Wood. I describe the song as Hauntingly Glorious and it feels me with incredible emotion every time I hear it.
The song is available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and most other digital outlets.
Something I often hear in Christian circles, is a common distaste for the overall sound of Christian radio. Many in the industry listen to Christian radio in short stints as a necessity for work but their personal preference is found in mainstream music. The complaints I hear are generated from college/young adult Christians, artists, producers, songwriters, record label employees and even some who work in radio. Reasons heard from those complaining include 1) the music sounds the same as what was being played ten years ago 2) every song sounds similar 3) radio plays the same handful of artists on repeat 4) the production isn’t relevant to what is being made in the mainstream. While some of those reasons may ring true, who is serving up solutions? Who feeds the music to radio?
I would argue that the radio playlists lie in the hands of the creators. If the artists, songwriters, producers and record company A&R teams refuse to feed radio the same formulaic music, wouldn’t radio be forced to change? When something new begins to work, what if creators resisted the urge to jump on the copycat bandwagon and instead chose to lead with even newer sounds? What if record companies refused to put so much stock into what radio research is asking for and instead fed radio with nothing but innovative music? Imagine radio playlists chocked full of innovative artists like Switchfoot, For King & Country, Lecrae, Future of Forestry, John Mark McMillan, Social Club and The Brilliance. Radio might just sound a bit different.
Join the conversation, share your thoughts and stay tuned for Part 2 as we explore even more.
The Gray Havens End 2015 On High Note
CCM Magazine, JesusFreakHideout and NewReleaseToday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. January 4, 2016 —Artist Garden Entertainment artist, The Gray Havens, end 2015 on a high note with top rankings on multiple industry Top 2015 album lists. The independent, Chicago-based husband/wife duo found their way into the hearts of top Christian media with Fire & Stone, produced by GRAMMY® Award-winning Mitch Dane (Brandon Heath, JJ Heller)
CCM Magazine’s Andy Argyrakis ranked The Gray Havens Fire & Stone #6 on his Top 10 Albums list for 2015 stating “this full-length debut is an enthralling and enlightening start to what’s sure to be a fruitful career.”
Fire and Stone ranked #6 on JesusFreakHideout’s Overall Staff Picks for 2015 making The Gray Havens the first independent artist to ever appear on the chart. In addition, the duo ranked #1 on several individual staff picks charts.
Christian music discovery site UnderTheRadar ranked the record #4 on their 2015 Top Gourmet Album Picks.
The husband/wife duo released a new song, At Last, The King, in December which became NewReleaseTuesday’s top downloaded Christmas song of 2015.
The Gray Havens enter the studio this week with producer Ben Shive ( Colony House, Andrew Peterson) to begin recording their next record currently scheduled for a spring release.
Have you ever heard a Christmas song begin with the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden? Well, You’re about to! While many artists are busy releasing cover Christmas songs, The Gray Havens decided to take a new and fresh approach at writing and recording their new original Christmas song, At Last, The King. The new song, produced by Ryan Corn, is now available on iTunes. This song serves as a preview of what’s to come as The Gray Havens are busy working on their new Spring 2016 release. Below is a video of a live performance from The Gray Havens singing At Last, The King.
If you aren’t aware of The Gray Havens, then you should be! The husband/wife pop-folk duo have been quietly building a following amongst college students, hipsters and those who appreciate great music. With lyrics inspired by literary greats JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, The Gray Havens are branding a unique style of fantasy story telling with theological undercurrents.
David and Licia Radford, The Gray Havens, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new EP which they hope to release in Spring 2016. They have been vigorously writing new songs and have lined up producer Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, Colony House, Brandon Heath) to begin production once the funds are raised. Check out the video and join them in making the new record.
CLICK THE K IN TOP LEFT CORNER OF VIDEO
Frontman for one of Christian music’s all-time best live bands, Salvador, releases his first solo EP “My Life Is Yours” today through Lucid Artist. In typical Nic Gonzales fashion, you won’t see him attempting to grab headlines. Instead, he is quietly releasing his new collection of beautifully written songs with minimal self-promoted fanfare. Well sports fans, THE SECRET IS OUT!
This EP reminds me of the pure but powerful vocal presence that led Salvador to the top of Christian radio charts. Nic plays most of the instruments himself but is accompanied by Salvador producer/keyboardist, Chris Bevins. His brother, Art Gonzales, makes a guest drumming appearance and of course you will hear some BGVs from wife, Jaci Velasquez. Listeners will be drawn in by the vulnerability Nic expresses through his lyrics on the EP. “Good As Gold” is my favorite track as he sings about the joy of being a husband and father.
Do yourself a favor…GO BUY THIS RECORD! CLICK HERE
Artist Garden Entertainment