Music Biz Hatch PrintFor the first time in its 50+ year history, the Music Business Association held its annual conference in Music City. This week, hundreds of people who work in music business in any capacity–from labels, artists and managers to marketers, app developers and store owners–descended on downtown Nashville for three days of discussions, educational sessions and entertainment. The Gospel Music Association (GMA) hosted a Gospel/Christian Music Meetup on Tuesday afternoon (May 12, 2015). GMA President Jackie Patillo moderated a panel comprised of Ed Leonard (Daywind Music Group), Greg Bays (Capitol Christian Distribution Group), Laurie Anderson (True Artist Management) and Phil Thornton (eOne Entertainment). The lively hour-long discussion touched on the current state of the genre, the future of Gospel/Christian music and how film and TV are becoming incredible assets to the faith-based entertainment community. Here are 16 things we learned about Gospel/Christian music during the meetup:

  1. Women 25-44 define the core Gospel/Christian music consumer.
  2. 53% of women listen to Gospel/Christian music, while only 47% of men listen to Gospel/Christian.
  3. 215 million people have listened to Gospel/Christian music in the last month. (That’s 68% of Americans.)
  4. Los Angeles, Calif., is the top market for Gospel/Christian music, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Atlanta and Washington D.C.
  5. In 2014, more Gospel/Christian albums were sold than Latin and Jazz combined, with the genre accounting for 6.6% of all music sales.
  6. 600 radio stations in the country program exclusively Gospel/Christian music, reaching an estimated 32 million listeners each week.
  7. In October 2014, the Gospel Music Association’s 45th Annual GMA Dove Awards brought in more than 1.4 million viewers via the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
  8. Multi-artist mega tour, the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, is the No. 1 tour in the world for first-quarter sales (and has been for the past five years). This year, Winter Jam played to more than 600,000 people during 47 shows across the country, surpassing attendance for high-profile tours from Fleetwood Mac, Maroon 5 and Miranda Lambert, among others, according to Pollstar‘s 2015 First Quarter Year to Date Worldwide Ticket Sales Top 100 Tours chart.
  9. Major mainstream brands such as Pepsi MidAmerica, Cracker Barrel, Allstate, NASCAR and McDonald’s, among others, have aligned with Gospel/Christian artists, releases and festivals and events to promote their brands.
  10. Large venues are welcoming Gospel/Christian acts with open arms, leveling the playing field. “In the last 10 years, we’ve proved our worth with venues,” Anderson shared, citing multiple examples where venues have personally called her requesting specific artists. “It’s something we should be very proud of.”
  11. Gospel/Christian music generally lags 2-3 years behind mainstream trends, and the majority of the revenue for the genre is still coming from physical formats.
  12. Christian music is the fastest-growing radio format. So, Bays posed the question: “How do we convert these consumers?” Bays also said “diversification and consumer education” are two of the challenges the genre is currently facing, along with exposure.
  13. Touring is the key to breaking new acts in Gospel/Christian. “Our industry is craving younger music, but it’s still got to be viable,” Anderson said, referencing new out-of-the-box acts like her own Capital Kings. “Radio won’t play it, so you’ve got to get them on the road.”
  14. Faith-based film and TV presents an incredible opportunity to introduce Gospel/Christian artists and their music to the world. Case in point, last year’s box-office smash God’s Not Dead brought in nearly $400 million and earned Newsboys’ single of the same name RIAA Platinum status. “There is a viewer who wants family-friendly content,” Thornton affirmed, noting that his company has been approached by numerous cable networks asking for positive, faith-based entertainment.
  15. It shouldn’t be a surprise that worship music has become such an integral part of the format. “If you give people an opportunity to do what they’re made to do, they’ll respond,” Bays said.
  16. Hip-hop may just be the future of the genre, thanks to quality acts like Lecrae, KB, Andy Mineo and others, though the panelists admitted that it took years for artists to emerge from the Gospel/Christian genre that could stand toe-to-toe with their secular counterparts. “It takes a while for that genre to find its voice,” Leonard commented. Noting that youth groups have always been a springboard for the genre, Bays added, “We haven’t had [new] music for youth groups in a while–hip-hop is that music.”