1-There should be no such thing as a "Christian Artist" or "Christian Industry". We should all just be artists so we can have more of an effect on the world and have less limitations. Plus, the "Christian Industry" is a convoluted place full of insincere lyrics, non-innovative music, and pretty much subpar everything. Plus, how can a song be "Christian" or not? What does that even mean, and how do you define it?
2-"Christian Artists" need to be separate because the whole world is flushing itself down the toilet anyway. Christian music is better than anything else out there, and we should stop trying to compromise to become "accepted" by the world.
Does that sound about right?
Here's the thing, both sides of this cultural....thing are very sincere. I think I have a perspective worth sharing on this though, because I see that there is validity to either side. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I think I have at least a start to a solution.
Let's start with opinion #1. I'd like to balance it out.
It's sad but true that labeling yourself as a "Christian Artist" has been limiting for some (but certainly not all)(and actually, it's been quite the career booster for others). The Grammys have been prime example. For some seemingly asinine reason, there have been "Christian and Gospel" Grammys that haven't even come close to being televised, which in my opinion wasn't fair to artists who were very well good enough to be on the networks next to the rest of the Billboard top 40-ers (I'm talking about radio-playable, rock and pop artists specifically. Many of which aren't lyrically "preachy" anyway). Whatever reason you might have for TobyMac (and I just picked him because he's a very big artist right now) not being "suited" to perform on the same block of staged airtime next to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, it frankly isn't good enough. We've been happy to be relegated to the back room for far too long, on artistic and industrial grounds that don't even make sense. Since when is holding a "religious" affiliation any less suited to TV than wearing a meat dress or building a career on bashing politicians? Better yet, why this specific affiliation? There are plenty of artists who incorporate spiritual overtones (from all sorts of beliefs) into their music all the time. Again, many of these artists have plenty of individual/particular songs that are "crossover" and aren't overtly (or even underhandedly) preachy
Plus, why "limit" yourself to the "Christian Industry". Do you want to change the world for the better, or don't you?
I spent some time also feeling like "Christian Music" was losing a lot of its creative spark. But then I realized that was a jaded point of view, meant only to make me believe that. I mean, the Newsboys were doing things in the 90's that I feel like people treat like a game changer when the Black Keys do it now (with no disrespect to either band). But then I actually turned on the radio. And you know what? I found that there was TONS of stuff I just didn't like on secular radio. Some of these songs just weren't written well, had hokey lyrics, and seemed like more of a triumph for their producer than their artist. I know that's all just personal opinion (I certainly don't want to run around insulting other people's music), but that's how some of it came off to me. And then, some things that I really did like. And it was the same in "Christian Music". So I've basically come to the conclusion that if you don't think there are still artists doing good things, you just aren't looking hard enough. There are creative "Christian Artists", and there are "secular" ones that are neither more skilled or "genuine" than their counterparts.
But at the end of the day, we've gotten so caught up in artistic qualms that I think we forget that the message is key. I don't really care if an artist is "Christian" or not, if their lyrics are still super contrary to what that's supposed to mean, then what's the point? I don't care if they're selling your CD at Berean. I still love and respect you as an artist and person, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to your music.
This opinion also says that music doesn't have a spiritual or philosophical affiliation. Well, I may not have all the answers on that. But there are really different stances on that too. For example, when I was in college I was in a music history class and we were discussing an instrumental composer (I don't remember who offhand) who was apparently gay. Some music historians and philosophers suggested that you could hear this in the way his pieces were written. Well, frankly, I couldn't hear it. But there are examples of music, both with words and without, all through history that have allegedly been imbued with idealisms and philosophies far beyond what the average listener may even pick up on. "This symphony is antisemitic" and so on. So I suppose that's something to think about. I'm not saying every little thing is full of hidden, conspiracy theory worthy vibes. But not all music is devoid of affiliation either. It's like Paul told the church in Corinth, (my paraphrase), don't let things freak you out or have power over you, but be conscious of your own convictions and the how they may affect others.
Ok, let's talk about opinion #2.
It's true, the whole world can be a dangerous place. Many has been the wide-eyed young artist that wanted to "cross over" and ended up getting mixed up in the process. And people all over the place feel like the world is flushing itself down the toilet. And trying to "compromise" should certainly not be the goal.
But, consider this. What if we did write songs as Christians and just let them affect the world we live in? What if we were clever and skilled enough to write some songs that could be played on secular radio, and some songs that could be played on "Christian radio". Then people from both camps would run to us and we could share something good with everyone. We shouldn't be acting like "everyone else", but we shouldn't be afraid to walk out our front door either.
What if an artist wrote a 10-song album. 9 of those songs being tunes that could be played on secular radio and didn't feel contrived (or religious), and then 1 all-out, you could play it during church, worship song? How would you categorize that CD? And would it matter? It would be an absolute crime for the secular industry to reject perfectly good music because it might also be alongside something that is/made by an artist who could be categorized as "Christian" or because there was a single worship song on the album. People could act like it wasn't there, but that wouldn't make it go away.
Thing is, there really is merit to the "Christian Industry". It's done a lot of good things for artists who would have been rejected elsewhere. And, everyone who argues that the "Christian Industry" shouldn't exist are forgetting one very important thing: it at least tries to be a safe haven. You don't want your kids having to search through a forest of explicit content to find something ok to listen just because you thought the "Christian Industry" was a dorky idea. This is a point we can't forget, because even if the whole"Industry" was done away with, people would immediately get to reorganizing and categorizing things again. It's what people do. It's a good thing. It gives generally like-minded people something to gather around and share. It may have a long way to go to become everything it can be, but what doesn't?
My point is, I UNDERSTAND both ways of things, and pluses and minuses of each of them.
At the end of the day, what's the answer to this?
Just do what you're called to do.
This is where I currently stand: If someone asks if I am a "Christian Artist" I will reply with a definitive "yes". But will I always market myself that way? That depends on how I'm led. The systems we have are imperfect. But so what? We serve a God who IS perfect, and He isn't limited by systems. So we shouldn't be either.
I believe in the music I'm making. You can buy it on ITunes by clicking here.