Changes in musical styles and economics is adversely affecting the supply of church musicians in black churches, reports the New York Times(January 13). The change in black musical style to rap, not requiring instrumental talent or training, as well as budget cuts in music education has reduced the number of young African Americans conversant with the gospel music tradition.
At the same time, the “commercial market for gospel musicians, especially those who can cross over into pop, has made the five-figure salaries and 24/7 hours of midsize churches seem unappealing, though many megachurches pay upward of $100,000.”
Anthony Heilbut, expert on gospel and soul and jazz, says that “the oddly parallel evolution of hip-hop, with its materialistic world-view, and evangelical Christianity’s increasingly popular strain of ‘name it and claim it’ theology is a main agent.” He adds that: “Modern church theology and hip-hop mesh uncomfortably well because both of them place a premium on Jesus and bling . . . If you want to reach your audience, you have to give them the current sound.
What you grew up with is what they’d call Old School.” Concludes one veteran church musician: “Right now, it’s all about the tightness of the band and spotlighting the best voices. So instead of looking for people who have a heart for ministry, you look for the best musicians. And for them, it’s just another gig.”