Before and after my church’s services, we show music videos. Christian music videos, of course; Lady Gaga is a bit much to take as background music during pre-service prayer. But I have successfully managed to slip a Cee-Lo Green song into the music mix ’round Christmastime: He did a version of Mark Lowry’s cheesy standard, “Mary Did You Know,” and that counts as Christian enough to not cause a fuss. Yet.
Where do I get the videos? I swipe ’em from YouTube. Where else?
How do I pick the videos? Half of it comes from looking for what’s popular on contemporary Christian radio. Usually that’s whatever people are listening to on K-LOVE, the Christian radio network that seems to be seeping out of every Christian’s stereo; or Air1, K-LOVE’s sister network, which plays a lot fewer soft rock and worship songs. Sometimes I cheat and look at the Billboard charts. Of course, I won’t just play anything K-LOVE and Air1 will. I have standards. Some songs annoy me. I skip them.
That’s about half the playlist. I do that for the sake of those people who would be annoyed if I didn’t play their favorites. I learned long ago, back when I did college radio at Sac State, that you gotta keep the people happy by making sure at least half the playlist was the stuff they wanted to hear. Then, the rest of it could be stuff I wanted to hear. Thing is, when I was at Sac State, I’m pretty sure nobody was listening to our station at all. I got on the air more than once, asked people to call, and offered prizes if they did—usually CDs, ’cause we had a lot of promotional CDs. But people wouldn’t call. So, one day, I offered both the promotional CD, and the studio’s professional-quality CD player. No calls. I threw in our tape deck. I threw in one of our turntables. I threw in the other turntable. I threw in the sound board. No calls. And I had the prime time listening slot. But then again, we only broadcast to the dorms, and if I were a dorm rat, I’d listen to anything else too.
Okay, back off the tangent: The other half of my playlist comes from what Christian music I listen to. That’d be mostly gospel. Some Phil Keaggy and Michael Card too, but a whole lot of gospel.
But since I’m showing videos, I can’t just play gospel song I like. There need to be moving images with the music. Preferably the person or band which produced the music in the first place. Here’s the problem: A whole lot of them don’t make videos.
I don’t know why. It’s not hard. You get a camera, you get your band, you sing your song, you film yourself doing it, and you replace the audio with the recording off your album. Once you’re done, upload it to YouTube, and iTunes if you want to sell it. Simple. You can do it with zero budget. Even so, a whole lot of gospel groups don’t make videos. They just don’t.
It’s most of the reason why nobody knows who they are. That, and the contemporary Christian radio stations, like K-LOVE, favor white artists. No, I’m not saying there’s some sort of discrimination going on. If a black artist wanted to play cheesy soft rock, K-LOVE would probably play their stuff. (However, if a white artist like TobyMac wanted to play hip-hop, K-LOVE would also play their stuff, so maybe there is a double standard, but I don’t have stats and figures to back up any accusations at this time. I’m just sayin’.) Billboard’s “Christian music” charts are full of white people, and their “Gospel” charts are full of black people. It’s a lot like how secular radio was self-segregated until Michael Jackson got big. Christians are yet again behind the times.
Anyway, I play what I can get. There’s a new trend lately where musicians release “lyric videos” instead of actual videos: They animate the lyrics to their song in Adobe Premiere, and put that on YouTube. It’ll do, in the absence of actual videos. It’s better than nothing. Not by much, but still.