NASHVILLE (Billboard) - At a time when the viability of many record companies seems less than certain, three new labels are launching in the Christian community.
Koch Entertainment formed a new Christian division and is starting the imprint Kosmos Records.
In the praise and worship genre, Vineyard Music is launching Varietal Records. The first release will be Jeremy Riddle’s “Full Attention,” due March 6 via Word Distribution.
And Vine Records, recently formed by producers Wayne Haun and Kevin Ward, is a venture in the Southern gospel community. The roster includes Janet Paschal, the Lewis Family, the Cumberland Quartet and Lewis, Scruggs & Long.
“Independent labels tend to spring up in cycles, usually when there is a perceived void in various sectors of the marketplace or when investors sense an opportunity,” said John Styll, president of the Gospel Music Assn. “It’s a healthy thing because independent labels will often take risks that the majors cannot.”
Christian music represents one of the few genres whose retail figures increased last year, in terms of total scans (39.7 million, compared with 39.2 million in 2005) and the genre’s percentage of total album sales (6.75 percent, up from 6.34 percent in 2005). Figures come from Christian SoundScan.
In recent years, several successful indie ventures have been bought out by the major Christian labels. Deals have included Provident Music Group’s acquisition of Flicker Records and Word Entertainment’s purchase of the Fervent label.
“Hopefully we are making music that’s for everybody,” said Barry Landis, who will head Kosmos Records and who, during his tenure as president of Word Records, spearheaded Randy Travis’ success in the Christian market. “There is a great spiritual hunger out there right now and people of all faiths really respond to songs that ask great questions and provide great answers.”
In inaugurating Varietal, Vineyard -- which in the past concentrated on music from worship services -- aims to expand its brand with a label focused on artist-driven product. “Now we have a vehicle for more than just songs,” Vineyard senior VP/COO Bob Meter said. “With the launch of Jeremy Riddle’s ‘Full Attention,’ we start a new chapter.”
As for Haun and Ward, they conceived Vine Records as a shelter for artists they believe in. “Artists that I had been working with for the past 10 years were out of a home as far as a label goes, and there was nowhere to go,” said Haun, an award-winning producer who previously served as vice president of A&R (artist and repertoire) at Daywind Records. “We put some funds together and started with one project, and that one turned into two, and now we have a label.”