This is something I wrote on an early Internet newsgroup, oh, about 16 years ago. In some ways I've changed. In other ways I haven't. Here is one area where my views have not changed.
The CCM industry, like every other industry, exists to make money. We can put a noble face on it and talk about the Christian witness provided in the music, but historically those Christian musicians whose witness hasn't led to increased album sales don't get the chance to keep on witnessing via recorded music. The bottom line is and always has been this: witness all you like, and be as artistic as you like, as long as you make money.
Certain concepts are intrinsic to the operation of the CCM industry, namely that Christian music is a ministry, and Christian musicians are ministers (in the church leadership sense) who are accorded the same privileges and responsibilities as pastors. I think these are highly debatable assumptions, but for argument's sake let's assume that they're true. My question, then, is this: is there something inherent in those assumptions that would promote and lead to higher profits in the CCM industry?
I would argue that there is. The alternative to the "ministry" view is that Christian musicians are Christians with musical abilities. Nothing more and nothing less. They compete in the marketplace with other people with musical abilities, some of whom are Christians and some of whom are not. However, CCM labels are at a distinct disadvantage in this competition. Their CDs sell for, on average, $15 - $16, while those of their competition (non-CCM labels, or, if you prefer, secular labels) sell for, on average, $12 - $13. How, then, do you convince the music-buying public to pay that extra $3 per CD?
I think you do it by promoting the uniqueness and the exclusive nature of Christian music. CCM musicians are more than Christians with guitars. They're ministers. They're annointed. They're called by God. They feature evangelistic messages designed to lead people to God (this despite the fact that the overwhelming evidence shows that it is Christians, not non-Christians, who listen to CCM). Furthermore, those musicians who don't record for CCM labels are *not* ministers. They may be Christians, but they haven't been zapped in the same way. This is the special "oooomph" that CCM needs to compete in the marketplace. Never mind that Brother X might be a brand new Christian who was signed because of his abilities to sing, play the guitar, and string together rhyming words like "loss" and "cross." If he records for Word or Myrrh then he's a minister.
How do you get people to buy this stuff? You simply tell them that the music is annointed. You emphasize the (false) dichotomy between "Christian" music and "worldly" music. You carefully control your product so that only overtly religious material or upbeat, wholesome material is released. You carefully control your artists so that they are presented as larger than life and Superstars of Holiness, and you ensure at all costs that their sins are kept hidden from their followers. And if one of them slips up and lets his sin become known, you have no choice but to boot him out of the club. How do you justify the extra $3. Simple. You tell people that they're not only getting music, but music from Giants of the Faith. And God help the poor wretch who doesn't live up to the image.
More and more I believe that the CCM world is absolutely based on a lie. That's not to say that God can't and won't use it. He does. But He uses it in spite of the wrong motives and untruthful messages, not because of them. The vast majority of CCM artists are no different from you or me except in one area: they have musical abilities. Setting them on a pedestal will inevitably lead to broken plaster. It also leads to bigger bucks for the CCM labels. These profits are made at the cost of the truth and the lives of those who swallow the whole pathetic charade. Is it worth it?