Social Networking and Christian Music

2009 is here and the marketing fury begins! Social networking has become a crucial platform for every marketing plan designed to sell music. As I was working on setting up a new release recently, I was reminded that social networking was present and played a key role in the beginnings of the Christian music industry. Twenty years ago, the Christian radio landscape was very under developed. Yes, there were am talk radio stations in abundance but no real outlet for 24 hour Christian music on FM radio. KLTY in Dallas was just being launched. The marketing plan for a Christian record consisted of touring churches and selling cds at the merch table after the show. As KLTY began to grow, this incredible organic thing blossomed. Listeners would hear new Contemporary Christian Music on the radio in Dallas. Word of mouth would then quickly spread like wild fire across the country. I think it would be safe to call this phenomenon an early version of social networking. Dallas is home base to a major seminary and many ministry organizations. When students returned to their hometowns or spoke to family via the phone they would share their excitement about the music they were hearing on the radio in Dallas. I believe this was the birth of social networking for Christian music. As KLTY became a power house for all music in Dallas, the social network grew into this incredible marketing machine. If your song was played on KLTY, your record was a success and proof was in the sales at Christian bookstores across the country. Gold and even Platinum Records became a reality in Christian music for artist like Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, DC Talk and Point of Grace. More of these 24 hour FM Christian Music stations began to pop up around the country. As numerous Christian music stations popped up all over the country, markets like Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Orange County, Houston, Sacramento, D.C. and Grand Rapids all began to play a major role in promoting Christian music artist. Then the landscape began to go through another transition. As Christian radio stations were bought up by corporate America, the social network impact began to wain. No need to buy your music based on what some friend in Dallas was telling you as you had your own Christian radio station in your market. As corporate America began running these radio stations, play list began to shrink. The almighty dollar became more important than playing new music so playlist became stagnant in the name of ratings and testing. Along with this change, came fewer record sales. The fire and excitement of discovering new music was extinguished. Marketing executives at Christian companies became frustrated as the traditional marketing plans which were designed around radio were no longer effective. That brings us to today. If early forms of social networking appear to be the catalysts for the huge explosion of Christian music twenty years ago, why would we all not be running towards any and every new social networking tool available to us today? Some marketers are utilizing social networking tools and those are the ones who will find success in 2009. The marketers who are stuck on MySpace as their only “go to” for social networking will be left behind. MySpace is certainly a great social networking tool for music but there are many more social network sites emerging. Facebook and Twitter are exploding and it amazes me how many people who consider themselves marketers don’t even have an account set up with those networks! Artist Garden Entertainment will be utilizing many of the social networking sites in every marketing plan we design in 2009. We believe that social networking is vital to any marketing plan. Christians are huge evangelists when they believe in something and social networking sites give them the evangelizing platform.  If you are looking for help navigating through the plethora of social networks, contact us for help.