Mag Preview, part 1

by vernsanders on April 13, 2009

I’m in residence at MusiCalifornia this week, and so some of these posts are “pre-written.” I’ll be back toward the end of the week…

In the next issue of Creator magazine (, our theme is a discussion with nine music publishers. Here’s a taste of what’s coming with five of our nine publisher guests speaking…

AP=Allan Petker of Pavane Publishing

JH= Jeffrey Hamm of Beckenhorst

RN= Richard A. Nichols of SoundForth

RS= Robert Schunemann of ECS

RV= Randy Vader of PraiseGathering

How has the church market changed in the past 25 years?
We asked whether the publishers thought there had been drastic changes in church music and church music publishing, and how they have responded to any such changes.

RS: Church music and its publishers have reacted strongly to the growth of the so-called “Free Churches” (non-denominational), the so-called Evangelical market where tastes have veered toward more “popular,” folk-like, and in some cases more “commercial,” reflecting commercial media (particularly TV and Internet) tastes. Popularity, simplicity, and quickness of affects trump complexity and craft. This can probably be stated easier as: Church music is being affected by popular culture (particularly celebrity culture) fostered by the growth of electronic media. Publishers, in turn, have recognized the financial gain of this new market, and have almost universally turned this direction, even on a world-wide basis. Remarkably, one of the reasons that ECS Publishing did not turn to this market is because so many other publishers abandoned the traditional church market. Our position in the traditional church market has become even stronger simply because others have ceased to compete with us in this market. Even those who do compete with us have reduced the amount they publish for the traditional market in order to make room for more popular items

RV:Twenty-five years ago Jay Rouse and I had yet to write our first song together, so for us, things have changed drastically. Across the church music publishing world there have been several things that have had significant impact – both positive and negative.
One of the positives would be the tremendous technological advances in recording and publishing. Another is that the church at large is still singing – singing as a group – actually creating music as a shared experience. In a world that has slowly witnessed music morph into an isolated, earphone, ipod/mp3/let-me-be experience, I find it encouraging that there is a “body” of people that consistently comes together and sings, and this occurs around the world. That Body is the church. Now, trying to get a handle on and participate in what they sing, how they sing, whose songs they sing, and how they get a hold of what they sing is the crucible not meant for the meek in the world of music publishing.
On the not so positive side, from my perspective too many publishers have sacrificed their distinctiveness – their unique voice – in pursuit of a perception. Great companies, even venerable denominational publishers, have confused and alienated their constituency by trying to be whatever is in vogue at any given time. Major decisions are made and new directions taken with little or no attention to due diligence.
As publishers we can all be warmed by the flame of new and exciting trends without getting consumed in the fire. I love the excitement of new songs and praise teams and new instrumentation and multimedia, and am a strong advocate of internet technology. However, who in the world said that there are no more choirs out there? Who said that the best use of the choir was as background vocals? Or my personal favorite I heard from a clinician last year, “If you do not have electric guitars on your stage your church will never grow.” There is no denying that there have been major shifts in styles and forms of worship over the last three decades. However, the landscape has been altered, not annihilated.
Then there is the insidious growth of secular ownership and control of sacred copyrights. To quote Forest Gump, “That is all I have to say about that.”

AP: By and large, the number of church choirs performing traditional choral literature in worship has decreased. Fewer choirs are interested in artistic or musically challenging repertoire. Many church choirs have as many or more non-music-readers as those who are musically literate. Pavane has responded by publishing the Advance Music Literacy Series, which contains 5-minute lessons with content and humor. We have not changed our repertoire standards; rather we have focused our offerings to those who enjoy challenges and uniqueness in worship.

RN:The internet has changed everything, including the music industry. Customers expect to view samples online and to hear audio clips of music before they buy. We are in the process of renovating our website. Customers can already see and hear most of our product online, but we are making the site more easy to navigate and intuitive.

JH: Certainly, the contemporary music worship service has changed the landscape of sacred music. It has come into prominence, supplanting the role of traditional sacred music in many church programs. Another factor of change is the internet. It is changing how all of us are doing business and has been difficult at times to keep up with.

more tomorrow…

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