The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Mar11Filed under: Ichthus Festival, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion, Rupp Arena; Tagged as: Anthony Armstrong, Break Me Down, C.S. Lewis, Chris August, Conan, Faceless, Feed the Machine, Francesca Battistelli, Ichthus Festival, iTunes, Jason Castro, Joe Rickard, KJ-52, Kutless, Michael Barnes, Newsboys, NewSong, Randy Armstrong, reathe Into Me, Red, Rupp Arena, Sidewalk Prophets, Skillet, TBS, the David Crowder Band, Till We Have Faces, Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Until We Have Faces, Winter Jam
In 2006, the band Red released its debut album, hoping someone would listen.
The group wasn’t even on a label at the time, but slowly people tuned in to the hard-rock sounds of the disc, which spawned the hits Breathe Into Me, Break Me Down and a couple of other chart-toppers. The album ended up nominated for the Grammy Award for best rock or rap gospel record.
Five years later, Red doesn’t release albums quietly.
Quickly after the Feb. 1 release of Until We Have Faces, Red was hovering near No. 1 on iTunes’ sales charts, and the band was booked on TBS’s Conan and NBC’s Tonight Show With Jay Leno, national television debuts for the band.
“We can’t even believe the numbers that are coming in,” guitarist Anthony Armstrong said a few days after the album’s release. “Some amazing things are happening.”
For Central Kentucky fans of Red, one of those things is a slot on the Winter Jam tour, which comes to Rupp Arena on March 12. The bill is topped by the resurgent Newsboys, the David Crowder Band, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, Jason Castro, Chris August, Sidewalk Prophets, KJ-52 and tour hosts NewSong.
But Red is easily the hottest band at the moment on the show, like many other bands successfully crossing the line between mainstream and Christian venues.
“We try to play the same way whether we are playing in a church or a bar,” Armstrong said at last summer’s Ichthus Festival. “We want people who see us to say, ‘Those guys are the same no matter where they play. They’re not putting on an act or trying to hide anything.’”
One thing Red showed very well at Ichthus, where it was the Friday evening main stage opener for Skillet, was that it could play to a huge crowd — sort of like the one it will see in Rupp Arena, where last year’s Winter Jam drew 14,756 fans.
Nov6Filed under: American Idol, Music, rc talk - Christian pop culture, Religion; Tagged as: American Idol, Amy Grant, Awake, BlackBerry, Casting Crowns, CCM Magazine, Gospel Music Association, Hello Hurricane, iTunes, Jimmy Kimmel Live, John Styll, Kris Allen, Larry Norman, Michael W. Smith, Skillet, Switchfoot
Switchfoot’s This is the Sound rocks the new Blackberry commercial.
During the past year, there have been public signs that Christian pop music is on the rise.
Last spring on American Idol, a pair of openly Christian contestants vied for the title and one of them, Kris Allen, won. Your TV doesn’t have to be on long to hear the rumblings of Switchfoot, one of Christian music’s top bands, on commercials for BlackBerry’s new Storm2 smartphone. Late in the summer, when Christian rockers Skillet released their latest, Awake, it perched itself atop iTunes’ rock album charts and at No. 3 overall.
Pretty good stuff for a niche genre, eh?
But beneath the surface, there have been rumblings for some time.
Late in the summer, Gospel Music Association president and CEO John Styll stepped down, saying he was sacrificing his salary in an effort to stabilize the organization, which has laid off a number of staffers. Then, in October, the GMA held an all-star fund-raiser – we’re talking Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith heading a lineup that included Casting Crowns and other chart toppers – billed as “Save the GMA.”
Even though that $1,000-a-head event apparently was a success, raising more than $350,000, there were rumors late last month that the GMA was closing its doors.
The association’s troubles come on the heels of other setbacks in Christian music, such as the shutdown of the print edition of the industry’s flagship publication, CCM Magazine, which was founded by Styll, and attendance drops at some festivals.
Christian music also has faced the double whammy of the economic downturn and the effects of a rapidly changing music marketplace less dependent on major labels for distribution and increasingly challenged by problems such as digital music piracy. (Yes, people are stealing Christian music. Go figure.)
These are problems affecting the music industry as a whole, and you know that if the top of the pops is getting battered, the foundations of a niche genre really must be getting shaken.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich