MEGACHURCH IS THE NEW INDIE

031112-megachurches-4The internet keeps telling us that the “megachurch” is dying.

But not when it comes to music.

Churches that serve congregations in the thousands have (intentionally or not) stumbled into the role of music publishing.

Songs written and used in these churches are bouncing from phone to phone and person to person without the slightest influence of a traditional music publisher.

Large churches are writing, recording and releasing their own music to a group of people who are already invested in what the church’s mission. Sure, those songs gradually make their way to other churches, but for the most part, these tunes are having a life within a specific congregational context – although a very large one. But there’s good and bad:

UPSIDE
Identity – a church releasing it’s own music can speak directly to the needs and direction of its congregation. Song collections can honor or remember a particular phase in a church’s life or even speak to the future prayers and hopes of a congregation.

Freedom – musicians can play to their full potential without someone telling them the song’s too long for radio airplay or pressure them to make an iTunes release deadline.

Excitement – congregants as well as musicians get the chance to be a part of a project specifically designed for the church itself. With the prominence of small studios and mastering houses, a project can be turned around pretty quickly (if musicians pull it off, that is!)

DOWNSIDE
Vacuum – Sometimes artists don’t know what’s best for a song. The absence of unbiased perspective means mistakes get missed. (There’s a reason why albums have producers.)

Workflow – Especially in cases of volunteer worship teams and technicians, it’s hard to maintain a solid work schedule and steady musical output. Church projects are often held up by the both the schedules and different skill levels of the players.

Indigenous – Worship that reflects “us” is good, but some church projects run the risk of being a bit too self-focused. Many of the albums don’t provide resources for other churches because the team isn’t able to consider what other churches are able to play.
______________________
The publishing world is taking notice. We’re seeing a lot more records released as partnerships between churches and publishers and I think that’s a good thing. For too long, we’ve had folks with little to no worship leading experience picking what churches are supposed to play. Big churches and their musicians are funneling fresh, new unexpected music into the church landscape. Kinda’ indie.

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5 comments

  1. nickfranks

    Really excellent thoughts – I can relate to all of what you say from experience and agree but I would rather be part of the former points with the risk of some of the negatives side-effects!

  2. Jonathan Benedetti

    Interesting connection… I would never have thought of megachurch worship as indie, but I see your point. So what do you think are the best examples of this? To me, many megachurch worship records sound like they are mirroring trends rather than setting them. One exception that immediately comes to my mind is the Village Church’s latest “Raging Strong,” which is definitely unique. In your opinion, which megachurches have brought fresh, new unexpected music into the church landscape?

    • toddwright

      Good examples of this might be North Point, Austin Stone and The Village. These churches are releasing a lot of music and garnering industry-level response without being attached to traditional music publishing.

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