Music industry executive Mark Joseph is drawing attention to a serious issue within today’s entertainment industry: the treatment of Christian singers and artists as “second-class citizens.” (Shown above: Amy Grant.)
The music and film producer recently wrote “Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil’s Music,” and divulged the growing problem to The Blaze’s former faith and culture editor Billy Hallowell on his podcast. (LifeZette recently ran an exclusive excerpt from the Joseph book.)
In his interview, Joseph drew attention to the long-standing music industry problem in stark terms.
“I began to really question, ‘Why are they walled off?'” he said. “I just felt bad that there were so many amazing artists that were in Christian music who never got to be heard by the outside world.”
After working in music records distribution internationally, Joseph noticed how Christian music was siloed off, he said.
“I realized that people of faith — devout Christians — were not being heard,” he said. “It’s like Christians were at the kiddy table, not being taken seriously.”
He recommended that artists speak up for change in the industry.
“It has to be the Christians themselves saying, ‘You know what? We are tired of sitting at the kiddy table at Thanksgiving. We want a seat at the normal table,'” he said. “When the first artist declines a Grammy and says, ‘You know what? I am an artist defined by my category of music,’ [then there will be change].”
The Grammy Awards today have separate categories for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, Best Contemporary Music Performance/Song, Best Gospel Performance/Song, Best Gospel Album, and Best Roots Gospel Album.
“Right now, Christians are being treated like second- and third-class citizens,” he added.
Joseph said Christian music should mainly “function like a normal part of the industry,” while a smaller segment focuses primarily on “church worship music,” Hallowell reported.
“I think all creativity comes from God, so whether somebody is in a place in their spiritual journey to acknowledge that or not, I just say everybody is artistic in some way,” said Amy Grant.
Christian musicians are multi-talented entertainers with the ability to collaborate with other artists in a multitude of genres. Grammy-winning singer Jason Crabb told LifeZette in April about the virtues of artistic collaboration.
“I am a big fan of lots of styles of music. I believe talent is God-given,” Crabb said. “It’s always great to interact and collaborate with people who bring a different style to the table. It challenges me musically, and that’s fun — keeps me on my toes.”
“I truly feel like music can and does bring us all together,” he added. “Music, art, theater — it can unite people from all walks of life. And when you’re talking about Gospel and Christian music, well, that’s the good news. Jesus loves you.”
Michael W. Smith, whose album “A Million Lights” was a top-seller on iTunes and Amazon Christian music charts, told LifeZette in April about his views of his inspiration.
“Much of [my] pop record was inspired by how divided we are as a country,” Smith said. “All that was sort of spurred on by the [2016 presidential] election, and how awful people were to each other.”
Christian singers often feel driven to inspire and unite in a music industry that often churns out content that is cynical, mindless, vulgar, or demeaning.
Once-wholesome singers like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus chose to veer away from the Christian music path — and instead became famous for hyper-sexualized pop music. Both are strongly connected to Disney: Katy Perry for her numerous stints for the company, such as her cameo parody of “I Kissed a Girl” on “The Muppets,” and Cyrus for her Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana.”
Disney recently distanced itself from Christian musicians by dropping its long-running Christian festival “Night of Joy” in May. It had featured such musicians as Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman, among others.
In 2016, Amy Grant famously told Fox News why she didn’t want to be considered a “Christian singer.”
“I don’t put labels on anybody,” she said. “Am I a person of faith? Absolutely. But I think all creativity comes from God, so whether somebody is in a place in their spiritual journey to acknowledge that or not, I just say everybody is artistic in some way, and all that comes from God.”
While there is a rift in the music industry in terms of the treatment of Christian music, there are singers who are rising to prominence with a faith-based trajectory.
Shannon O’Hara, a former contestant on “American Idol,” is leveraging her experience in the national spotlight into a record deal. Ironically, her rendition of Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” became a viral hit.
In Mark Joseph’s recent interview, he warned about the dangers of pushing Christian artists to the side in the music industry.
“American culture thrives when all different voices are at the table,” he said. “When one group suddenly evacuates, that creates a problem in the culture.”
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