The growing commercialization of Contemporary Christian music (CCM) is dividing the industry and leading its top musicians to speak out against recording companies that seek to tone down the Christian content of their work.
A cover story in the evangelical newsweekly World (May 13) reports that the $500 million Christian music industry continues to grow an average of 18 percent every year since 1996, but it is paying the price in growing criticism about its lowered standards. CCM artists, such as Michael Card, say that the CCM culture pressures them to tone down elements of their songs that are based on the Bible or deal with sin. The emphasis is on positive living; “Indeed, `positive’ is the latest mantra sung by CCM retailers seeking a definable marketing niche in mainstream society,” writes Candi Cushman
CCM is facing two challenges. There is the call for a return to Christian music as a ministry. Several leading musicians and executives have resigned and criticized the industry, particularly for being “yoked” with secular recording companies (which are said to have enveloped over 90 percent of Christian recording labels in the 1990s). Such critics also cite a “loosening” in lifestyle standards of CCM musicians, as seen in the growing number of divorces. On the other side are those who say that instead of making “Christian music” artists should “simply be Christians who are musicians, carrying their Christian worldview into the secular arena.”
Such Christian musicians as the British Christian band Delirious climb the secular music charts, and see the CCM label as marginalizing Christians in the music industry. Cushman concludes that CCM might “be headed for the worst of all possible worlds: A Christian ghetto watering down the gospel in order to be positive, and a secular marketplace devoid of Christians.”
(World, P.O. Box 2330, Asheville, NC 28802)