Most music flows from one major source
Researchers released a new study in April showing the most popular worship songs we sing along to on the radio, through streaming apps and in church, can be traced back to a small group of megachurches.
The research group (WorshipLeaderResearch.com) cross-referenced data from two main worship song charts: Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) and Praise Charts (where churches purchase chord charts and arrangements), focusing on the years 2010 to 2020. They found that during that decade only 38 titles made both Top 25 charts. Of those 38 titles 33 could be traced to one of the Big 4 churches – Bethel Music, Hillsong, Elevation Worship and Passion – through direct association with or collaboration on the songs.
Of the remaining five songs ("King of My Heart" by John Mark and Sarah McMillan, "Tremble" by Mosaic MSC, "Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters, "Good Good Father" by Housefires and "Way Maker" by Sinach), each saw one of the Big 4 release its own version of the song prior to its rise to the Top 25.
The research team’s objective is to start a conversation about where our music comes from. "Some say, ‘Yeah, the best music rises to the top,’ " explains Mike Tapper, a researcher on the team. "On the flipside others say, ‘If we’re getting our theology and spiritual formation from a relatively small number of sources with potentially limited topics, what does that say about our spiritual formation and discipleship?’ "
The objective is to start a conversation about where our worship music comes from and what that means for local church musicians.
"What does that do for the local church musician that has a song and is trying to disseminate it across Canada? We’re encouraging people to consider the mechanisms that are at play."
Tapper is based at Southern Wesleyan University, where he is chair of the school of religion and humanities, and professor of religion. The new study, he says, is "our attempt to ask questions like, ‘What do we think about these four large churches as being record labels and interfacing with the music industry?’ We’re inclined to associate the music we’re singing with anointing, but we’re not used to asking questions about how it’s coming to us."
The researchers’ first goal was to look at the volume of worship songs and define where the music is coming from. With that complete their second goal is to examine the attitudes of worship leaders toward those songs and the people that produce them. The attitudinal findings will be released in the coming months.–JULIE FITZ-GERALD