Pop Music with a Purpose: The Organization of Contemporary Religious Music in the United States
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Contemporary Religious Music is a growing subsection of the music industry in the United States. Talented artists representing a vast array of religious groups in America express their religion through popular music styles. Christian Rock, Jewish Reggae and Muslim Hip-Hop are not anomalies; rather they are indicative of a larger subculture of radio-ready religious music. This pop music has a purpose but it is not a singular purpose. This music might enhance the worship experience, provide a wholesome alternative to the unsavory choices provided by secular artists, infiltrate the mainstream culture with a positive message, raise the level of musicianship in the religious subculture or appeal to a religious audience despite origins in the secular world. It is vital to categorize contemporary religious music based on the goals of three key players - the record labels, the musicians and the audience. In this paper I use data from all three key players in addition to analysis of music and lyrics to ascertain the placement of music within my organizational system. I arrange contemporary religious music into two functional categories based on these key factors. These categories create a framework for understanding the multi-purpose world of contemporary religious music and its role within American religious communities.
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