World’s Largest One-Day Christian Music Event Now a CD!

Benson Records, in partnership with Dallas Christian radio giant KLTY-FM,
release Celebrate Freedom Live, capturing the world’s largest one-day
Christian music event in a dynamic live recording featuring 16 of Christian
music’s biggest names.
Celebrate Freedom is an annual, free concert held at Dallas’ Southfork
Ranch and put on by KLTY, the world’s most listened to Christian radio
station. Summer 2000 marked the 10th year for the Celebrate Freedom event
and appropriately, it was their biggest ever, drawing a capacity crowd of
170,000 people, plus thousands more who were turned away.
“Southfork Ranch, the legendary Texas Ranch made famous by the long-running
hit TV series Dallas, annually hosts over 1,400 events and draws hundreds
of thousands of visitors annually. The KLTY Celebrate Freedom 2000 event
was the largest in the history of this famous facility, attracting more
than 170,000 visitors, over the course of one day, to hear the 20
performances of top Contemporary Christian Artists.” states Mark Thompson –
Director of Marketing, Southfork Ranch.
“This is the first time KLTY has entered into an agreement with a record
label to produce a CD of our event,” says John Peroyea, KLTY’s general
manager. “We knew the quality of the lineup was a factor along with the
fact that we expected record-breaking crowds to be there,” he explains. The
show drew from the rosters of Essential, Reunion and Benson Records, and
including such artists as Jars of Clay, NewSong, Caedmon’s Call, Michael W.
Smith, Third Day, and Bob Carlisle.
“It started out as a birthday party/thank you, listeners’ event,” says
Benson’s VP of Marketing and Sales, Mark Campbell. “The only charge is a
$10 parking fee to pay for the facility. KLTY really encourages families
and groups of people to come out for a party/picnic kind of event, so it’s
not just a concert. It’s like KLTY said, ‘Hey, listener friends, we’ve
invited some of our artist friends to come and sing all day Saturday. Come
on over!’ That’s what it’s about.”
“There’s a lot more star power at something like this than you see at a
typical festival,” Campbell says. “Artists are asked to perform hits played
by the station in 20-30 minute sets, so they’re not doing their typical
sets. The artists are there basically to provide a live version of the
radio station,” he says. That sets up a relaxed atmosphere that he says,
“is one reason why we got such a fun sounding, live record.”
Another reason is producer David Zaffiro, who collaborated with Benson
President John Mays on the first two Passion live worship recordings (with
combined sales of over 300,000 units). “David is a musician,” says
Campbell. “He’s been on the road for years, and he understands live
recording. The way he does it means probably 6 times more work, but he
keeps the realness.”
From 14 hours of tape and 110 songs, Mays and Zaffiro, with KLTY’s Jon
Rivers, culled the best 16 tracks. They listened to find cuts with “the
best energy, and songs that are unique in their live presentation from the
recorded version,” says Mays. They also listened from a production
perspective to find things that wouldn’t have to be fixed and for songs
that that had a ‘moment’ in them. Such moments can be heard in Bryan
Duncan’s playful duet with Bob Carlisle on the upbeat “Thank You, Jesus”
and also in the musical breakdown in Jars of Clay’s “Can’t Erase It.”
Campbell adds, “Almost without exception, the artists approved what David
did production-wise. I’m really proud of it because it’s not a recreated
album, it’s basically what happened that day.”
Other standout tunes are Michael W. Smith’s “Still Have the Dream,” which
shines with new intensity, a solo acoustic version of Bebo Norman’s
“Stand,” and the premiere of three new Benson artists: singer/songwriter
Kyle Matthews, teen-pop act Whisper Loud, and Dallas natives Forty Days.
“This idea was one we weighed carefully,” says Mays. “A lot of my favorite
records growing up were live records, and we asked ourselves ‘when was the
last time there was a great live album out in out industry?’ There hadn’t
been one in a long time.”
“We had over 170,000 people at the event, and people who attended (not to
mention those who couldn’t come or were turned away) will be able to relive
their experience as they listen to the CD,” says KLTY’s Peroyea. Kroger, a
sponsor of the event, has agreed to continue their support by promoting and
selling the album through end-caps in their 80 plus Dallas area locations.
Also currently being negotiated is a 90-minute television special that
would air nationally over 65 PAX-TV outlets as well as 138 independent
affiliates on Christmas weekend. Giveaways, promotions and on-air spots
are underway at KLTY as well. In addition, LifeWay Christian stores are
working with KLTY for a major Dallas campaign featuring a free concert
“This year they brought Celebrate Freedom to the world through the
world-wide-web, at and, and they telecast the
event live on the Sky Angel channel on the Dish Network,” says Campbell.
That means that demand will be high, well beyond the Dallas area because of
the station’s high profile and its popular Internet presence. The station
was ranked 11th among the most-listened to stations over the Internet by
“We’re just spreading the event outward and allowing more people to
partake in it, and the CD is just icing on the cake.” says Peroyea.
“From a national standpoint, we’re positioning it as a ‘once in a lifetime
event’ record,” says Campbell. “In the last ten or twelve years, there’s
not been a record like this. . . basically since the Jesus Movement days.
We’re stickering the product as the ‘world’s largest one-day Christian
music event.'”
The project also promotes both the radio station as well as each individual
artist. “We hope that if people don’t have access to Contemporary
Christian music radio in their market, that this will introduce them to a
new way to listen; through KLTY over the internet.” says Campbell, noting
that “If more people in the world have access to Christian radio, the
result will be a positive impact on our industry as a whole.”
For the artists, in addition to including a live version of one of their
hits, the project offers live-performance photos, the title of one of their
albums along with their website and concert booking information, allowing
the listener to learn more about their favorite artist.
* Song listing available on


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