Nostalgic worship songs prove profitable

Kelsey Kramer McGinnis of Christianity Today writes that many worship songs from the nineties and the aughts, including “The Heart of Worship” and “In the Secret,” remain powerful moneymakers in 2023. Their enduring popularity is credited to growing support from Gen X and millennial Christians. Record companies have noticed the trend as they’ve focused more on support for previous recordings.

The love for nostalgic music is not limited to Christian songs with some of the biggest record labels such as Universal Music Group, spending upwards of $1 billion on expanding catalogs with older melodies from every genre.

McGinnis continues:

As songs like “The Heart of Worship” (Matt Redman, 1999) and “Here I Am to Worship” (Tim Hughes, 1999) come back around as throwbacks for Christian millennials and Gen Xers, the music industry is in the midst of a financial sea-change focused on previous recordings.

Back catalogs across the music industry are more profitable than ever, and it makes fiscal sense for entertainment companies to market the music they control with the musicians they have already signed. So if you see a popular artist release a new recording of an old hit—it’s not just to tap into our nostalgia.

In recent years, industry giants like Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), which, as of 2021, claims over half the market share of the Christian music industry, have invested more in catalog acquisitions and are seeing profits from publishing catalogs increase.

Just as the industry wants to market the back catalogs for revenue, a wave of Christians who who came of age during the rise of the worship music industry and in the aftermath of the worship wars are eager to tune in and sing along. The songs from decades ago represent the soundtracks for their faith journeys.

“These songs hold a special place for folks of my generation,” said Ian Stewart, a worship leader in northern Colorado.

Stewart, 35, vividly remembers the message and resonance of songs like “The Heart of Worship,” which encouraged churchgoers to focus on the posture of the heart rather than the style of the music, even as churches installed new sound systems and projectors.

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