Gospel Music Sales Rebound In Second Half Of 2003

(CelebrityAccess News Service) – "Gospel music sales rebounded in the second half of 2003 giving the industry reason to be optimistic for 2004," said John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association (GMA).

According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of gospel music ended the year down 5.2 percent, cutting in half a mid-year 10.4 percent decline. 47.1 million albums were sold in 2003 compared to 49.6 million in 2002. The total does not include sales of singles and digital single downloads.

"With the overall economy showing very positive signs of growth, and with the tide slowly reversing on the piracy issue, we have every reason to be confident going into the New Year," said Styll. "There are still challenges ahead, but the outlook is brighter, and more importantly, we know that gospel music is having a strong impact in every segment of our society."

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sales of gospel music grew four percent. The last week of the year saw a 20 percent increase over the last week of the year in 2002. Pop gospel was the style of music that sold the most records with 19.4 percent of sales, followed closely by Black gospel with 17.9 percent, rock with 14.9 percent and praise &worship with 11.1 percent.

Sales grew at mainstream retail outlets, where gospel music sales increased 6.7 percent in 2003 over the previous year. More than 60 percent of gospel music sales occurred in the general market.

The top ten best-selling gospel albums of 2003 were:

1. Worship Together: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever/Various
(Sparrow/WorshipTogether)

2. Almost There/MercyMe (INO)

3. Wonder What's Next/Chevelle (Integrity/Sony)
5. Offerings II: All I Have To Give/Third Day (Essential)

6. WoW Worship Yellow/Various (Provident)

7. Beautiful Letdown/Switchfoot (Sparrow/Columbia)

8. Payable on Death/P.O.D. (Atlantic)

9. WoW Gospel 2003/Various (Verity)

10. Rise and Shine/Randy Travis (Word/Curb/Warner Bros.)

"The second half of the year was historic in terms of crossover success. In the past, gospel music has gained general market prominence in one-shot situations, like God's Property's 'Stomp' and Bob Carlisle's 'Butterfly Kisses.' This year, we've had several artists, each with unique music styles, penetrate the mainstream in a significant way," said Styll.

The gospel music industry does not yet chart digital single downloads, but Nielsen SoundScan reports that 19.2 million digital tracks (of all genres) have been sold since June 29, the day the Recording Industry Association of America announced it would file lawsuits in an effort to deter illegal downloading. Most of the major gospel labels are providing their music to iTunes, Napster 2.0, buymusic.com and others. Additionally, LifeWay Christian Stores recently announced it would launch the first online resource offering gospel music downloads exclusively at www.lifewaystores.com . Others are expected to follow.

"Illegal downloading no doubt affected our sales in the past few years and will continue to have an impact, but the RIAA and others have successfully raised awareness that downloading music for free is illegal and that there are a growing number of alternatives. As an industry, we plan to make this problem a priority for 2004, addressing the issues that are unique to our genre," said Styll.

Founded in 1964, the 4,500-member Gospel Music Association ( www.gospelmusic.org ) is dedicated to exposing, promoting and celebrating the gospel through music. The GMA represents all styles of gospel music including contemporary pop, rock, urban &black gospel, praise &worship, Southern gospel, country and children's gospel music. The GMA produces the Dove Awards, which recognizes achievement in all genres of gospel music, and will be held on April 28 in Nashville. –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

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