One of the first CCM Magazine covers I remember reading. Now, this issue is on ebay. (That’s where I found the photo!)
I have a confession to make. I miss CCM Magazine.
I know, I know, it’s still around in a digital format; but, call me old-school, I miss the print version of the magazine. Since I used to work there, I might have a bit of a biased attachment to the publication, but my love affair with CCM Magazine began way before I became an employee of its parent company and subsequent managing editor of the magazine. I started subscribing to the magazine when I was in middle school when my love of Christian music was just beginning to blossom. I eagerly waited for each month’s colorful issue to arrive in our mailbox, and as soon as I received it, I would spend the next month devouring every word from cover to cover. I loved seeing photos of my favorite artists that you couldn’t find any where else and reading the in-depth stories that represented solid journalism and descriptive storytelling. Granted, when I was in middle school, computers and the Internet were still relatively new, and we weren’t dependent on smartphones with 24/7 Internet access, which meant I spent less time in front of a screen and more time reading.
CCM was the primary way I found out about new music and new artists, plus it was my lifeline to all of the artists I already loved. Back then, artists had their own websites, but technology didn’t allow them to be as elaborate or as informative as they are today. To hear new music, I had to tune into my local Christian radio station. And to hear samples of an album, I actually had to wait till an album released. Then, I had to leave my house and go to a local Christian bookstore, put on some rather large earphones and patiently plug my way through the songs, all the while standing at an endcap in the middle of a store. It’s incredible how far we’ve come and how much things have changed.
Today, we have Facebook and Twitter and Spotify and NoiseTrade and iTunes and iPhones and Web 2.0. And these things have revolutionized the way we interact with artists, discover new albums and listen to and purchase music. But whether you still buy physical CDs at a local retailer, kick it old-school and prefer vinyl or download one song at a time, you are still finding out about your favorite artists and discovering new ones some way.
I’ll admit that I follow the careers of my favorite artists and discover others through a variety of means. Facebook has become one of the most consistent sources of info for me, possibly because it’s so convenient. Spotify aids in my purchasing decisions, giving me the opportunity to listen to an album in its entirety before I make a purchase, and oftentimes, a full preview makes my purchasing decision for me. I rarely download single songs, much preferring to download full albums I can enjoy from front to back on “repeat,” but I find myself enjoying the ease and price of iTunes more and more. Local concerts, NoiseTrade and organic word-of-mouth continue to introduce me to new music. I also find myself finding new artists by way of recommendations of artists I’ve loved and respected for years. One of the things I find most refreshing is the current trend of established artists using their platform to champion newer artists. (Thanks, Taylor Swift, for introducing a whole legion of teeny boppers to NEEDTOBREATHE.) There’s a lot of cheerleading going on, and I fully support this pay-it-forward mentality.
Notice what’s obviously absent form my list of ways I learn about artists, both new and old: traditional forms of media. With the evolution of publishing and the decline in music sales in recent years, Christian media has gone by the wayside, especially all of the usual sources of information specifically focused on Christian music. The handful of Christian print publications that are still around, are covering less and less faith-based music. They have less advertising dollars and, in turn, less editorial space to work with. None are dedicated exclusively to Christian music, sadly.
The cover of the last print issue of CCM Magazine in April 2008.
That leaves Christian music marketing departments and publicists working harder and more creatively than ever; meanwhile Christian music consumers are left wanting for info and Christian media outlets are trying to meet consumers where they’re already at, namely online. Websites like www.newreleasetuesday.com, www.hearitfirst.com, www.jesusfreakhideout.com, www.breathecast.com, www.christianitytoday.com, www.watchgmctv.com, www.crosswalk.com and the digital versions of CCM Magazine and HM Magazine, among a few others, do a phenomenal job of telling the stories of the artists defining the “ccm” genre today. And the best news of all? Christian artists are finally making headway in mainstream media, finding their stories side-by-side their secular counterparts.
CNN, USA Today, Billboard, and Fox News have covered TobyMac and Chris Tomlin’s recent stints at the top of the all-genre Billboard chart. Late-night TV has hosted NEEDTOBREATHE, Third Day, Switchfoot and For King & Country. “Good Morning America” recently invited Mandisa back to perform her hit “Stronger” for Robin Roberts’ return. Britt Nicole’s “Gold” has popped up everywhere from Radio Disney to Ryan Seacrest’s “American Top 40.” I love it when the lines get blurred between the sacred and the secular. So, in that respect, is there even a need for “Christian” media anymore? Should it be segregated? Christian media is slowly disappearing. I feel the loss most tangibly backstage in the press room at the Dove Awards or at industry gatherings, which seem to grow increasingly smaller each year.
I’ve made my living in Christian publishing for the past seven-plus years, and I’ve been a consumer of Christian music for a lot longer than that. I continue to be incredibly grateful for the media outlets, editors and writers who tell the stories of the talented artists in this genre, the ones who dedicate themselves to passionately telling a much bigger story. Is there still a place for “Christian” media? I think so. I think we need people who are laser-focused on telling the larger story God is writing and helping us as readers, viewers and listeners figure out where we fit in the narrative. The mediums look drastically different. (I might be reading CCM Magazine on my iPad!) But the stories are still waiting to be told.
So, tell me…Where do you find out about the Christian artists you love? What is your primary source for music discovery? How do you prefer to interact with music?
Do you miss the print days of CCM Magazine, or is it just me? Tell me I’m not alone.