CCM: Growing and changing
Singer/songwriter Bob Kilpatrick, a member of the A/G Music Hall of Fame, has ministered in music worldwide for 28 years. His chorus “(In My Life) Lord, Be Glorified” appears in tens of millions of hymnals. Bob’s radio program, Time Out With Bob Kilpatrick, is heard three times a day on the K-LOVE Radio network. Bob spoke with son Joel Kilpatrick about the state of contemporary Christian music.
PE: How has the contemporary Christian music scene changed over the years?
KILPATRICK: When I started 28 years ago, contemporary Christian music was a novelty. It was not being carried in book and record stores. When you came to town and had a contemporary Christian record, people bought it because it was their only opportunity. Contemporary Christian music wasn’t going to be at the record store, and it wasn’t being played on most Christian radio stations.
Now there’s plenty of Christian music, and Christian music stations are very forward thinking. But Christian music has saturated the market. People know there is a lot of it readily available. The Internet has even made it possible for people to find music and not have to pay for it, which has had a huge impact.
One of the best and worst things to happen in Christian music recently is that worship music has become a big seller. The good thing is that people are attracted to worship and are using music as a vehicle for their worship. Great songwriters are using their skills to write great worship songs. On the bad side, wherever there’s money, you get people who love money. Sometimes people love money more than they love Jesus, and they make worship music to make money.
PE: What are the challenges these days for young artists?
KILPATRICK: If you’re looking to be on a record label, the competition is much more fierce than it was 10 or 15 years ago.
It’s also more important now than ever to know what you’re about, to have a very focused message and to stay on point. People are not looking for a diffused message. The young musicians I mentor are more into message music, like Keith Green and Randy Stonehill, than they are into feel-good music. Songwriters have to know what they have to say to people, then say it. If they go from style to style, people won’t follow.
PE: How has new technology changed the Christian music industry?
KILPATRICK: The power of distribution used to be in one place, a corporation, but now the power has completely dissipated. The Internet is the best thing to happen to Christian musicians in a long time because it puts the control of their own ministry and music in their hands. For a long time, people would try to shape their ministries to fit the demands — or what they thought were the demands — of the Christian music companies. Often it led to compromise and took away the power of what they were about. Now you can make your own music and distribute it, and nobody is asking you to change anything. There is good and bad in that. The good is that you’re in control of your ministry; the bad is that you and your ministry might benefit from the advice of godly and knowledgeable people in the music business.
The Internet also allows Christian musicians to make contact with pastors who would like to have them in their churches and with people who like to hear their music. Musicians can book themselves and spread their music. Hopefully, what they say in their music has a message that’s life changing. People grab it and say, “This is what I need. I want God.”
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