Disney and corporate America sees the consumer potential of Christian music
ORLANDO, Sept. 25, 2006 (music.monstersandcritics.com) - In looking at Suzuki`s sponsorship of Kutless' fall tour, Third Day`s long-term agreement with Chevrolet and McDonald`s new sponsorship deal with Smokie Norful, it`s obvious corporate America is realizing the potential that Christian music has to connect with consumers. But one corporate icon realized this potential long ago.
It was 24 years ago that Disney launched Night of Joy. Since then, the annual Christian music festival, held in Orlando, Fla., at Walt Disney World`s Magic Kingdom, has drawn more than 900,000 attendees during its history.
This year, the two-night event, held Sept. 8-9, sold out both evenings. MercyMe, BarlowGirl, Rebecca St. James, Matthew West, Jeremy Camp, David Crowder Band, Building 429, Vicky Beeching, the Afters, Casting Crowns, Hawk Nelson, Norful, Todd Agnew, Kirk Franklin and tobyMac were among this year`s performers.
MercyMe frontman Bart Millard has a history with the event that predates his days with the band. "I was a youth minister in Lakeland [Fla.] in the early `90s and I used to bring our youth group to Night of Joy," he says. "We saw DCTalk, Carman and Petra. So for us to be playing in front of the Castle is a dream come true."
"It`s great for the park to have something like this for churches to be a part of, and it`s great for thousands of Christians to show up," Millard adds. "Everybody is starting to realize there are a lot of people in the country who believe there is a God and are Christians, and they buy stuff."
Indeed, according to the RIAA, Christian music shipments have increased from 381 million in 1995 to more than 700 million last year. In 2006, while overall music sales are down 5.5 percent year to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan, Christian sales are up 8 percent.
The Christian industry still very much appreciates Disney`s stamp of approval. "Disney is a massive corporation, and for them to acknowledge our little industry is not just great promotion," tobyMac says. "It`s sort of like we have their signature, [saying], 'This is a force to be reckoned with. This is legitimate.'"
The Christian music community formally showed its appreciation to Disney in April when the Gospel Music Assn. honored Night of Joy with the Lifetime Achievement Award during Gospel Music Week, presented for major contributions to the gospel community for more than 20 years. "It meant a lot to everybody who works on the event," Rob Jordan, associate brand manager for the Magic Kingdom, says of the GMA accolade.
Disney special event manager Carolyn Whitethorn adds, "Anyone can do an event for one year, but what made this event happen for 24 years is the response we have gotten from the community . . . Our management values the relationship we have with the Christian community."