Many Christian record labels have struggled in 2004, downsizing their staffs, outsourcing publicity work, and cutting their artist rosters—all making it more difficult to break new talent to Christian radio stations and stores.

Yet it also sets up a perfect opportunity for independent artists. Record labels are always searching for established talents that are successful in their own local area. The key is to be effective locally and grow from there. That's how artists like MercyMe, Sanctus Real, Sara Groves, and Building 429 got their starts. Still, some choose to remain independent, preferring the extra freedom and lower expectations—to them success is defined by the people they closely connect with, not the thousands of albums sold.

The myth that independent artists are somehow inferior to signed artists is rapidly becoming debunked. In fact, more than half of the submissions in this semi-annual indie roundup came with quality press kits and packaging. They're recording good albums faster and cheaper than most signed artists. Not that we're judging a book by its cover. Check out these 10 artists to hear some of the excellent music that's going largely unnoticed … for now, at least.

Jaylene JohnsonFinding BeautifulProgressive AC pop

This singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, Canada left her job as a flight attendant in 2000 to pursue a lifelong dream as a full-time musician. I'm glad she did—Jaylene Johnson could well be Canada's answer to the smart AC pop of Nichole Nordeman and Cindy Morgan. She's gradually developed her craft these last four years, sharing the stage with fellow Canadian artists Steve Bell, Carolyn Arends, and Jill Paquette. Her sophomore effort features the work ...

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