Are the big publishers set up to fail?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    This discussion was created from comments split from: The incompetence of this GIA Quarterly article.
  • GIA and OCP's business models are in a crisis on the contemporary side of things too.

    Their business model relies on having parishes want to buy music that they own the copyrights to. For this to work long term, GIA and OCP have to keep producing new music that is in demand, as older works go out of style.

    Sometime in the 1990s, GIA and OCP both largely lost the ability to produce new music that people want. The problem is much worse for GIA, as they basically haven't had a single hit since the 90s. OCP has a few composers that have a following (such as Angrisano and Stephan), but its probably not enough to be profitable long term.

    Basically all the good contemporary music post circa 1995 is licensed through CCLI. And in addition to having better contemporary music, CCLI has a vastly superior system for acquiring sheet music, CCLI SongSelect, which allows you to print any song in any key, all with the same formatting. And you get all the music in their catalogue for a single subscription fee. Meanwhile, GIA and OCP only sell either single copies of music or entire hymnals. Any time you need something else, it's another fee.

    The difference in user friendliness of SongSelect vs. OneLicense is kind of comical. OL seems to run on very old software, in particular, whatever software it uses to answer search queries frequently fails at basic tasks.

    International Liturgy Publications (ILP) recently starting putting their content on SongSelect, including their versions of public domain hymns. SongSelect now has a liturgy feature which includes verbatim Mass parts and Psalm settings. Much of this is low in quality, but there seems to be an effort to keep improving this. You can now get music for stuff like O Salutaris Hostia on SongSelect.

    The long term trend here is that SongSelect is going to have all the public domain content on it that a Catholic parish would want. My understanding is that Source and Summit does largely the same thing, although I haven't personally used it. GIA and OCP's only value proposition going forward is going to be their legacy copyrights from the 60-90s, which I don't think are enough of an asset to keep them in business.

    I think that GIA and OCP are paradigmatic examples of businesses that don't develop new products out of fear of losing the revenue from their old products, such is discussed in books like Good to Great by Jim Collins. SongSelect has been around for something like 20 years, and GIA and OCP all this time later don't have anything in the same ballpark. And I don't think they'd be facing the same threat from Source and Summit if they had built out this software 20 years ago when they could have had first mover advantage.

    GIA and OCP are businesses built around creating new music that have become basically inept at creating new music. It's hard to imagine them staying in business like this long term.
  • @contemporaryworship92 -- This is the kind of analysis I signed up for. Bravo.

    Your analysis is substantially corroborated by the OCP advert linked in an earlier post, the one with the vintage Carey Landry ditty in the background -- that's literally what they are marketing at this point -- "Do you still want nostalgia vibes from the church music of your childhood in the 70s, 80s, or 90s? Then I guess you have to buy our product!"

    I once wrote the music for a hymn anthem at the request of a colleague who had written a text, and it got published through WLP (now GIA).

    Because I was so used to working in the digital creative commons, and since my hands were so tied by the rights and licenses etc., I felt as though, of everything (worthwhile) I've ever written (we'll pass over the moment when I discovered the music of Fela Sowande and tried to write Afrocentric meditative interludes), it's gotten the least exposure of all!
  • Your analysis is substantially corroborated by the OCP advert linked in an earlier post, the one with the vintage Carey Landry ditty in the background -- that's literally what they are marketing at this point -- "Do you still want nostalgia vibes from the church music of your childhood in the 70s, 80s, or 90s? Then I guess you have to buy our product!"

    Yeah I took a look at that, I thought it was really odd! I thought that it had a ChatGPT-like quality to it, as in, it sounded like what I imagined the soulless output would be if ChatGPT was fed folk Mass era music as training data and then told "write me a song in the style of the Spirit of Vatican II."

    This is a sad tell as to who their customers are right now. It seems like their short term plan is to get what revenue they can from the people who still like the stuff from the 60s-90s, and that their long term plan doesn't exist.

    I don't think GIA and OCP understand the magnitude of the problem they have on their hands. They may understand that their revenue is down, but I don't think they understand why.

    As a now older young adult who still is involved in campus ministry, I can say that none of my peers, and none of the undergraduates that I interact with have any interest at all in new music from GIA, and sparing interest in new music from OCP.

    There are a lot of young adults for whom contemporary Christian music deeply informs their faith. They listen to it on the Christian radio stations, attend Christian concerts, listen to it on Spotify, and request it for retreats, and sometimes adoration and Mass. None of this music is from GIA and alsmost none is from OCP. In fact, anything published by GIA or OCP is guaranteed to not get exposure in the contemporary Christian music universe (radio airplay, concerts, etc) because GIA and OCP do not have the agreements that the major record labels have that get access to these spaces. If you ask the people who listen to contemporary Christian music who their favorite artists are, it will be the lineup of artists that are on KLOVE and the major Christian music tours, and absolutely no one from GIA or OCP will be listed. I think that hardly anyone under the age of 40 can name a single composer who is currently writing for OCP or GIA.

    When I've programmed OCP selections, I have occasionally gotten positive comments about Angrisano and Stephan pieces that students have remembered fondly from their OCP parishes. Occasionally these people may put one or two of those songs on a Spotify playlist that has 90 other songs from Hillsong, Bethel, Tomlin, Maher, Redman, etc. So, there is perhaps a bit of interest, but it's a small drop in much larger bucket.

    So the cultural disconnect here is huge. I don't think that GIA or OCP have the resources to bridge this disconnect even if they want to. If you're a Catholic contemporary musician with talent, signing with one of the major nondenominational record labels in Nashville is going to be vastly more profitable than working with OCP or GIA. And in addition to the immediate financial benefit, the Nashville labels will get your music on SongSelect and thus make it widely accessible to anyone who wants to use it. The best OCP/GIA can offer is that individual copies will be for sale on their website, or included in Breaking Bread digital addition, and thus access and the future revenue that access gains will be quite limited.

    And I presume that this huge cultural disconnect is because OCP never put the investment in to make their Spirit and Song division competitive with what any young person would consider *real* contemporary Christian music. As in, pay their artists at the major record label payscale, make the necessary deals (and necessary level of production quality) to get radio airplay, and maybe move the Spirit and Song division to Nashville. They never tried to do any of this, and have instead gone down a road of largely making second-rate derivative imitations of what was popular 15 years ago, and are taken seriously by no one except perhaps older parish directors of music who take at face value the claims of OCP and GIA to be selling contemporary music.

    Even if OCP or GIA would want to start making *real* contemporary Christian music, I doubt that either of them have the financial resources to do that, and the industry has become mature without them, so I doubt that at this point they could pull this off profitably even if they tried.

    One more thing: I find it so strange that OCP frequently releases albums from their OCP artists that couldn't possibly produce sufficient sales to justify the expense of making them. And generally, all or nearly all the songs on them are poor quality.

    And that's all from my perspective in the contemporary Christian music environment. In the same time frame I'm criticizing here, roughly 1995-now where OCP and GIA failed to make the investments it would take to be relevant in contemporary Christian music, they simultaneously failed to engage the growing number of young adult Catholic who prefer traditional music. OCP or GIA could have created Source and Summit 20 years ago, they just chose not to. So they now find themselves in a situation where they have basically no viable future audience that they will have competitive offers for.

    I think that OCP and GIA are near a financial tipping point but haven't hit it yet. I've spent the past 10 years wondering how they stay in business while they keep making the same mistakes. Neither company seems to show any self-awareness about the magnitude of the problem they've gotten themselves into. I anticipate that they will have major financial problems in the relatively near future (And WLP already did, necessitating the merger with GIA).
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,967
    When I go to parishes near my home, the music dial has congealed firmly to circa 1992-David Haas+2011 Missal Mass settings. (Bernadette Farrell and a few others seem to have won the slot formerly dominated by David Haas.) For time comparison, that's 32 years ago; 32 years before 1992 was 1960.

    This also does say something about stickiness of music for human beings in ritual settings (as opposed to concerts), and that laboring in the vineyards of forever newness is not like to be fruitful over the long term.
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697

    It is likely OCP and GIA are right on mission (and are hailed by the dying chorus to “lead on”!). But they are controlled and manipulated by deapchirchNcompany. Many if not most haven’t a clue. The artists and the entire organization are driven by the same erroneous nut heads who subscribe to the theological essence of the conciliar organization that temporarily holds office. (Aka., the author of “Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality”). It is their desire to drive everyone into the religion of KLOVE. OCP, GIA, and even the smaller ones are a one way bridge to abandonment of tradition. (AOT is the mother of them all). After all, the banishment of authentic Catholicism is the ultimate goal, and music is always the leading force in the shaping of civilization.

    JMJ, have mercy on us.
  • It is their desire to drive everyone into the religion of KLOVE. OCP, GIA, and even the smaller ones are a one way bridge to abandonment of tradition.

    Point of order: the ideological landscape here is much more complex than this may imply.

    KLOVE is mostly run and supported by theologically conservative non-liturgical Protestants (basically, evangelicals) who can only produce something of this size through least common denominator ecumenism. In addition to this, their leadership believes the way to reach people is to be "positive and encouraging." The result of these two factors is is that much of the music is devoid of content. KLOVE's music is mostly designed to be listened to in the car, and only maybe 15% of what they play is worship music that is played in evangelical services. There are some very good, deeply scriptural songs on KLOVE. There are also a lot of lyrically empty and compositionally lazy songs on KLOVE. I listen to KLOVE when I'm driving but I frequently turn it off when they play songs that are so bad I find them unlistenable.

    CCLI provides a more accurate picture of what evangelicals sing at their church services. And again, the music on CCLI's website is largely sung at theologically conservative, non-liturgical Protestant churches.

    GIA, on the other hand, is an explicitly theologically progressive organization, based on their public statements. GIA's primary market is theologically liberal but liturgy practicing churches including Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. Within the context of Catholic liturgy, GIA seems to hold to a liberal position largely, excepting Worship IV, which some might consider to be theologically liberal but liturgically conservative.

    I think OCP is theologically and liturgically center-left.


    The point of all the above is to demonstrate that while OCP/GIA and CCLI/KLOVE both produce lots of poor quality new music, they have relatively opposite positions on theology issues. Thus,

    a one way bridge to abandonment of tradition.

    Statements like this are really inaccurate. Most of the people in the churches that are behind CCLI and KLOVE would describe themselves as believing in Sola Scriptura, Biblical Inerrancy, and believe themselves to be upholding their personal interpretation of what traditional Christianity is.

    And GIA's representatives on social media who are pretty clear about what their beliefs are, don't seem to me to be attempting to push people towards conservative evangelicalism.

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