Although we all know people don’t really buy albums anymore, people stream music, and the Billboard 200 is still an important industry indicator. That’s because we also all know that making money off streaming is hard. So if you’re still able to top album sales charts, you’re definitely successful. That’s what makes it interesting that a Christian artist, Lauren Daigle, is currently sitting so high on the chart, even higher than many more well-known artists like Drake and Ariana Grande.
While some of the more well-known artists are in second and third weeks compared to the debut week of Daigle’s album, it does help illustrate something interesting in what drives album sales today. For a Christian artist like Daigle, who does have significant crossover appeal, she can appeal to a subset of the population who still clearly buys albums, while also driving up her name recognition and not being a complete niche interest by playing toward contemporary sounds.
I listened to Look Up Child and if you don’t listen to the lyrical content too closely, it sounds a lot like a generally empowering, inspiration pop offering, in the vein of someone like Rachel Platten or Sara Bareilles perhaps. In some ways, it isn’t entirely a Christian moving towards pop phenomenon, many popular genres of music draw elements from Christian and gospel music.
While Christian artists are often pigeonholed into their genre and it makes pop crossover more appealing, another recent album, Tori Kelly‘s hotly anticipated sophomore effort Hiding Place, made the opposite move. Kelly moved beyond just drawing elements from gospel music and created an album that is undeniably within that genre. The features on the album are all well-known artists within the Christian and gospel sphere, and she doesn’t shy away from making sure people know this isn’t just a pop album.
It can be easy to dismiss the Christian genre as uninspired fare for the older Midwestern and Southern audiences. But increasingly that isn’t true as the lines are blurred. And regardless of who the audience is, they seem to have market power, particularly as a segment who still drives album sales, something that isn’t necessarily true of other genres. That kind of market power is likely not just driven by the audience many people like to stereotype as a Christian or gospel audience. People in the music industry might be well served to note these kinds of trends and try and reach what seems to be an underserved audience with a lot of power.