We spoke to Kevin McNeese the founder of Christian media site New Release Today and the We Love Christian Music Awards, the event we were invited to.
With just over 20 years of covering Christian music, McNeese has seen it all. He imparted some of the wisdom he’s learned over the years, and the improvements Christian entertainment can have moving forward.
NRT launched in 2001, and the music industry has changed mightily.
“It’s totally different – retail to CDs, to downloads, to single downloads, to streaming, to social media not existing, to the iPhone…I feel old,” McNeese joked. “I’m honored to be part of this time where music is just fast-forwarding from technology.”
When discussing the successes and longevity of sites like NRT, Rapzilla, Christian festivals, events, and awards shows, he stated they had to represent excellence well.
“The biggest thing I’m missing from Christian media is quality,” he said. “Put the time in to make it look and sound professional. I don’t know if there’s no money backing it or longevity, it’s something we work really hard at. Step up and produce with the big boys and create content that looks good, reads well, and is consistent.”
The NRT founder said something most Christian media does, is have a hard time “adopting the smaller artists, the independent artists, the new and emerging.”
“We’ve just worked really hard to make sure that’s part of our culture and DNA. Not just talking about the TobyMac’s, MercyMe’s, Hillsong Worships’…the problem is, if we are not doing our job helping them [indie] get an audience, they have nowhere to go. I think we can all do a better job at that.”
When creating the We Love Christian Music Awards, the questions asked were “Why do this? What’s the point?”
They aren’t trying to be the Dove Awards 2.0, and are not trying to do another K-Love Fan Awards. They just want to give fans a voice and make sure they are discovering music.
“24 categories and 84 artists nominated. If you dive in and don’t come away with a few more artists you like, then we’ve done our job wrong,” said McNeese. “That’s a huge differentiator from those other awards shows. It’s not a knock, but they have million-dollar budgets and zero independent artists nominated typically year-to-year.”
He continued, ” [WLA has] 24 independent artists nominated. If you don’t have a label you’re not going to get a Dove Award nomination, you’re not going to get played on K-Love.”
There were a few Christian rap artists sprinkled about the categories and two dedicated Hip-Hop categories – the Hype Award to which Andy Mineo won and Rap Song of the Year with the winners being Social Club Misfits.
With the passing years, CHH is starting to leave more of a footprint on sites like New Release Today which covers a broad range of music with most falling under CCM, Worship, or Rock. Hip-Hop has been knocking on the door of the Christian music industry for a long time and now those doors are finally opening more regularly.
McNeese has followed closely for years and still thinks CHH could do more to be just as known as the bigger artists in Christian music.
“As a media site, there’s a lot to be desired [CHH]. The quality is there for sure, but just artists knowing, ‘Okay we got our song, what do we do with it?’ or the over-committed artist who just put a beat once a week, overflooding the market.”
He continued, “Even in the world of streaming, quality over quantity still needs to be considered and I’m not sure that can happen as we barf out the next idea and move on. Don’t just release a song, nurture that song.”
The idea of creating a classic album in 2022 or this musical climate is brought up. Classics are generally labeled that because they stand the tests of time. 20, 30, 40, years later, they can still be listened to, and hold up well. The way music is released now and often times while following a sound trend, the true “classic” in a sense, might not happen anymore.
“If all you’re doing is creating and not nurturing the content, then that’s all you know. You shouldn’t just have to keep writing to keep the audience engaged.”
Watch New Release Today Founder Kevin McNeese Below:
Watch the Award Show Replay
Stay tuned for part 2 with Kevin McNeese, where he talks about the decision to have Donald Trump the Unity Award to Alevda King at the event.