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Gospel Music Isn’t Dying, It’s Changing.

“While our generation (Millennials) appreciates the struggle of our grandparents, we don’t completely identify with it. Our approach to worship is different; therefore, our music is different.” [@gmwaphila Conference 2015] ‪#‎FutureOfGospel‬ ‪#‎AdvocatingIndieArtist‬ ‪#‎RadioLife‬

In March 2015, J Moss noted that gospel music sales dropped by nearly 50% in 2014. Two major factors (among others) may be to blame: access to pirated music files, and the lack of diversity in gospel music among artists and styles. The biggest complaint among young gospel music lovers is that radio plays the same 4 or 5 artists repetitively. Moreover, these same artists aren’t connecting with the younger Christian base. Over the decades, gospel music has changed very little. However, there have been pioneers in the mainstream like Kirk Franklin, Tonex, Tye Tribbett, and Israel Houghton. All of who are credited for pushing the envelope. These pioneers have inspired many younger songwriters, producers, vocalists, and musicians.

Of the pioneers I mentioned above, there is one I haven’t, Lecrae. In fact, he is where gospel music is headed. He is a crossover artist, yet he is not played on any gospel station. He unites cultures, yet the very nature of his style causes a sharp divide between older and younger generations. His album Anomaly went number 1 on Billboard’s top 200, yet the African-American dominated industry almost ignores him. Even Jamie Grace, who is a Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) recording artist gets consistent airplay on black owned Radio One. So, what’s the excuse? The audience is there. There is money to be made. What’s stopping the industry from moving forward in this direction? Unfortunately, the industry has seen little movement in that direction because it doesn’t see value in the music styles other than traditional or contemporary gospel. In addition, the industry has a pre-defined rubric of what gospel music is and “what works.” However, Lecrae and many like him are proof that the industry is wrong.

There is a plethora of recording artists who’s styles break from the traditional gospel music we all are used to. From Kierra Sheard to Mali Music, Da T.R.U.T.H. to Andy Mineo, Jessica Reedy to Jonathan McReynolds, and The Walls Group to ForeverJones, these artists offer a variety of musical styles that satisfy just about every preference: Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, Urban, Soul/Jazz. Their music and personalities reach and connects with young Christians. Christian artists like these are gospel music’s changing face.

Embracing emerging Christian music styles is key to the survival of gospel music. In order to reach this generation, you must meet them where they are. Of course, the message of Christ never changes; however, its delivery must. Knowing your audience is everything. You don’t catch flies with vinegar, you use something sweet! The same is true if you want to reach the youth.

I have heard it said that gospel music is dying; I don’t think that is true – I believe gospel music is simply changing with the generation. However, the death of gospel music isn’t far fetched; especially, if those in power continue to ignore the inevitable.