A Brief History of the Christian Music Industry

~ A Look Back at the Beginnings and History of the Christian Music Industry ~

The 2023 movie Jesus Revolution provided a look back at the Jesus movement and the early days of contemporary Christian music. However, the Christian music industry’s roots date all the way back to the early days of Christendom when hymns and chants were composed to praise Jesus as well as to provide inspiration to the early church. The gospel music industry began to evolve in the 1920s, with the modern Christian music industry being birthed in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the “Jesus movement.” During this time, the new genre began to develop its own distinct sound and identity along with more current lyrics.

What Is Contemporary Christian Music?

In the late 1960s, a number of artists like Love Song, Larry Norman, Evie, Petra, Second Chapter of Acts, Keith Green and others began to blend traditional hymns with contemporary rock and pop music. This resulted in the creation of the new genre called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), which soon gained popularity among Christian youth and the young at heart. The new music form, which praised God with a contemporary sound, exploded from churches into festivals, revivals, and into record companies, record stores and radio stations.

As the Jesus movement declined in the ‘80s, the Christian music industry continued to grow and diversify. Soon names like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Sandi Patty  began to emerge and gain recognition outside the Christian community. New sub-genres such as Christian rock, Christian hip-hop, and Christian metal emerged alongside more traditional forms of gospel music. Christian heavy metal bands like Stryper gained acceptance and followers both in Christian and mainstream circles.

Christian Music Crosses Over

By the 1990s, the CCM industry had become a major force in the larger music community with numerous contemporary Christian artists achieving mainstream success through heavy radio airplay and record sales outside the Christian community. In fact, in 1997, the Christian music industry was reported by CCM Update to have been the fastest growing segment of the music industry.

During the 80s and early 90s, publications like CCM Magazine and Christian Activities were launched to try to help people keep up with the growing industry, provide concert dates and articles about the artists.

Amy Grant was the first artist from the gospel music industry to achieve major mainstream success, having made inroads into mainstream music throughout the 1980s. She was quickly followed by others.

Gospel Music Goes Global

Today, the Christian music industry is a recognized as a thriving part of the international music world, with a diverse range of artists and music styles sharing the good news of Jesus Christ around the globe. While it has faced many challenges and endured numerous controversies through the years, the contemporary Christian music industry continues to play an important role in the lives of millions of believers around the world.

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