by Colin Cruz, Program Director of The Blast and The Blast Blender.
The criteria used to be a lot easier to be met:
Back in the days when most Christian record labels were Christian-owned (late 1990’s, early 2000’s), it was easy.
If the band was on a Christian label, the assumption was that this was a real Christian band, as most Christian record labels were apparently vetting the artists they signed.
As a music director in FM Christian radio, I could hear the hearts of bands at Gospel Music Week.
The Blast has never had it in the budget for us to go to that event.
It is more difficult now, as some bands don’t like the Christian labeling so as to not be stereotyped and instantly dismissed by the masses. And, some Christian labels don’t vet very well.
Plus, I am programming radio that is more cutting edge than I have ever been allowed to program elsewhere, so less artist accountability tends to come with the territory.
As to criteria for even being CONSIDERED for airplay as a band:
1. Being on a Christian label helps a lot, but it is not necessary, nor is it a guarantee that we will play a band. Solid State has had some bands we will not play anymore due to things we have learned about those bands. We generally give the band and the Christian label the benefit of the doubt that the label has vetted the band for their Christianity.
2. A band can be on a secular label if they are stated to be a Christian band and their lyrics match what they say they are and their lives and words don’t disprove their lyrics.
3. A band can be an independent band and be considered if they are declared to be a Christian band.
4. A band could possibly be considered for airplay even if they don’t consider themselves a Christian band, but all band members are known to be born again believers.
An example of a band we turned away comes to mind: Thrice, after a decade of success as a secular rock band, suddenly started promoting themselves to the Christian Rock market a few years ago. I asked their management, label, promoter if the guys in the band were all Christians and were told that only 1 or 2 of the band members were Christian. We passed.
I am old school. I was listening to Christian Rock and Christian Metal before the debate about “Christian band or not a Christian band” started. I grew up on bands that had lyrics that were spewing forth direct invitations to receive Christ (packaged in heavy metal like Barren Cross) or spewing forth Scripture in their lyrics or at least having Scripture references listed next to every song like Petra.
Here is my scale:
Satanic Bands-Secular Bands-Spiritual Bands-Christian Entertainment Bands-Christian Ministry Bands
The vast majority of the world’s bands and artists fall under the header “Secular Bands”.
Overt Satanists with overtly Satanic lyrics (or bands that have Satanic lyrics as part of their act) are Satanic Bands.
Christian Ministry Bands: examples would be Sleeping Giant, who stops in the middle of the song to pray over and prophesy over someone. Skillet and Disciple and a whole host of other bands minister to the audience through spoken word during their shows and/or in prayer and/or discussion time after their shows. Their lyrics are strongly Christian (sometimes in more subtle or more overt ways, but unmistakable to the learned ear).
Christian Entertainment Bands: We have a lot less emphasis on bands who are perceived to be Christian Entertainment bands. These kinds of bands encourage the church but may not necessarily win a lot of converts if they aren’t doing any hardcore ministry.
Spiritual Bands: Creed comes to mind. As one former traveling speaker (Phil Chalmers) who used to deeply study the lyrics, public words and lifestyles of mainstream musicians (and point people to Christian alternatives) used to say…if Creed would listen to their own albums, they would probably get saved.
Christian Ministry Bands Who Swear On an Album: I think P.O.D. created its own category here. Our board decided to pull all their music after they dropped an F-bomb on a recent album. That, or they fall in to the Spiritual or Christian Entertainment band categories.
The Blast and The Blast Blender aim to focus heavily on Christian Ministry bands. Ministry is why we do what we do. There is a tolerance and promotion of Christian Entertainment bands, as their lyrics agree with Scripture and they are professing Christians. Spiritual bands: we may inadvertently play some of these, but not on purpose. It is a benefit of the doubt thing with regards to their label or their marketing declaring them to be a Christian band.
One thing we don’t do is…go out of our way to play Spiritual bands and hope they are a Christian band.
There a bunch of bands on the bubble that don’t want to show their cards…they like the promotion they get from some Christian radio outlets, but they don’t want to be tarred-and-feathered as a Christian band.
If success is more important to a band than naming the name of Christ, then the band probably isn’t a Christian band and the band might as well not wear that label.
The only counterpoint to that that I can think of is…if you are called to be stealth about it…to build a platform within secular circles and include a Christian message in your songs (without declaring that you are a Christian band) and build relationships and be a witness to kids after shows…I don’t know: I guess that is between the band and God.
As to criteria for a song: it has to be high quality music, it must fit the format, and the message has to agree with Scripture. And that is on a case-by-case basis, song-by-song basis for every band we play.