Swelling Rebellion

From my seat near the bottom of the Christian Music food chain, I’m witnessing what I can only describe as a swelling rebellion by those in the Christina Music industry against one another – especially against radio and retail.  Artists, being inherently self-absorbed and whiny, lacking self-control and a volume knob, and the hardest hit financially when things don’t go their way, are the loudest and most venomous voices of the rebellion at the moment.  I have not talked with an artist in the last year who is pleased with the current state of affairs in the industry and who doesn’t in some way blame radio for its woes.  The artists are culled from all the major labels and a couple independents and their opinions range from livid or disinterested to saddened and leaving. 

But radio isn’t the only face on the dart board.  Artists, both successful and not, are increasingly engaged in the bashing of other artists seen as less than their ideal, of labels and radio stations seen as out to make money first and represent their Jesus second, and of retailers for screening CDs for the word “whore” while not applying the same this-might-offend filter to t-shirts and books because those products, unlike CDs, are sold with a return policy.

But artists aren’t the only one’s raising their voices and shaking their fists.  Labels are angry at radio stations for not helping them sell records, and lots of them, better than they do.  Radio stations, wielding most of the industry’s power at the moment, are pissed off at ungrateful labels and artists for complaining at all while station ratings and revenues continue to increase.  Retailers are pissed off at artists for selling their wares on-line and at labels for selling them on iTunes and at radio stations for not playing more artists, which would help them sell more CDs.

Can’t we just get along?

Not right now.  There seems to be some good coming from this tension.  And so this fighting may be a necessary evil used to move us towards understanding and a better representation of Christ together. The animosity has gone on long enough in some of us that it has fizzled and turned into self-examination and a craving for peace.

The hold up to peace at the moment, in my opinion, might not be our differences, but instead what we have in common: a desire to be successful that at times outweighs our desire to be faithful.  And the inability to pursue faithfulness at the possible expense of personal financial success.

So for my part in making in peace I’ll begin by confessing.  I was mad at everyone, all of you, fans included, for more than a year – a wasted year I can’t get back.  And my hostility made me say and do things I deeply regret today.

And I’m moving to step two of peace-making by entertaining all points of view, asking all parties what they want, what they’re mad about, why they do what they do and why they think the rest of us should do what we do.  That’s a good place to start: listening, believing no side is all good or all bad (especially my own), believing everyone can teach me something.  And they are.

There are many voices to hear in the rebellion at the moment.  Many confident and brave people daring to say publicly what they are feeling and thinking about the strange mixing of commerce and faith.  I’ll post links to them when I find them.  Let’s listen together with a teachable mind, willing to appraise all points of view and judge ourselves first in light of them.  Maybe with enough listening and self-examination we can stop being pissed and start getting better. 

Here’s the first of many voices I hope to bring to SHLOG.COM’s many industry ears. This is not an endorsement of any point of view.  If you work in the industry and have a different viewpoint, feel free to blog it or e-mail it for the rest of to hear.  I promise to listen.