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I didn't grow up on Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Quite the opposite. Early one Saturday morning during high school, my father decided to wake me with Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick blasting on my stereo. I now know every word to that 45-minute song.

So I was perplexed when friends at my Christian college, knowing my musical tastes, would introduce me to "cool" Christian bands struggling to make it in the mainstream music industry or to break out of the Christian biz. These groups would say, "We're Christians, but we're not a Christian band."

It's an established trend. Entertainment executive and author Mark Joseph says that the concept of Christian music is "in the middle of a quiet collapse" as a younger generation realizes that to be taken seriously outside the Christian scene, a band must stay far, far away from that scene. This conceptual collapse is breeding not only confusion, but also litigation.

A perfect example is the lawsuit recently filed by the band Mute Math against its Christian label, Word, and the label's owner, Warner Brothers Records. Some Mute Math members were formerly in Earthsuit, an "unabashedly Christian act," according to Billboard. Mute Math has sold most of its albums in the Christian market and played Christian festivals. Band members maintain they are all Christians. Yet they say they expected Warner to release the album, not Word.

So they sued, complaining that the Word release damaged their brand. Keyboardist and cofounder Paul Meany tells Billboard, "I had no desire to be the Christian version of a real band." Meany complains, "They [Word] were going to market it the exact way we didn't want."

In other words, Word was going to market this band made up of Christians to Christians. The suit, ...

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In the Magazine

June 2006

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