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Responding to the Study “Worship at the Speed of Sound”

Responding to the Study “Worship at the Speed of Sound”

Editorial Team
  • Worship Leader Mag responds to the new study "Worship at the Speed of Sound" with questions in an effort to find answers.

Last year we were approached by Dr. Mike Tapper to publish a very important study, “Worship at the Speed of Sound,” where he and Marc Jolicoeur, Lisa Corbin, Charldon Dennis and Andrea Hunter looked at the accelerating pace of creation, distribution, ascent & decline in the life of congregational worship songs.

This new study, “Worship at the Speed of Sound,” left us with many questions that we’re still searching for answers to.

  1. What are the factors influencing the speedier appearance and disappearance of songs?
  2. How does social media impact adoption and retention?
  3. What is the role of song author(s) on a song’s rise and adoption (How do the number of writers, church affiliation, or label association; whether the writer is classified primarily as an artist, producer, or solely a songwriter correlate with songs’ rise, adoption fade and/or lasting power?
  4. How does the circumstance/the story of a song’s conception correlate with its adoption and use? Is it written in a writing room, at a worship rehearsal, or a retreat/conference? Is it written in response to an encounter with God, personal revelation, or assigned?

    You can checkout the full study by clicking here or checkout the digital version below:

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  5. How do production budget, source, means of distribution, and relationship to CCLI, PraiseCharts, etc. (e.g. church, church label, commercial label, individual songwriter) impact song adoption and retention?
  6. How does the faster cycling of songs impact congregational formation and absorption of Biblical principles? What are the up and downside of trends toward faster rise, adoption, and fade?
  7. What attributes and qualities (e.g. lyrical, musical, Biblical, and theological) increase or decrease adoption and retention?
  8. What attributes do classic (anomaly) songs that maintain “staying power” presence in or near the Top 100 over decades possess?
  9. When looking at and cross-referencing lyrical content, do themes ebb and flow, year-by-year, in increasingly more rapid succession?

We’re in search of some answers… what do y’all think? Leave your comments below.

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  • Looking at this coming Sunday, the copyright dates for the songs are 2004, 2010, 2013, and 2016. This is definitely a mix of what is relevant to the sermon, despite age or style, and what is new and interesting. In my opinion, it’s good to have both in order to do service to the message but also the current style of music for engagement.

    To answer the questions above. I’m not on social media, so I have to pass there. The artist absolutely makes a difference. There’s a trust or familiarity factor with Tomlin, Hillsong, Elevation Worship, etc relative to other artists. It certainly perpetuates their continued growth in this space, but when you have good artists putting out what works in a church, it’s self feeding and not necessarily in a bad way in my opinion. Similarly, if a song is popular on the radio, Ccli, Praise Charts, etc, then it perpetuates the popularity as well as use those resources. Absolutely this drives the fast rise compared to 15 years ago when our resources were fewer. The cycling is tough and I’m not a fan. I do think that certain songs will stick around longer and broaden the distribution, but the way the world is, we can introduce songs faster and easier, but I’d they’re not impactful they will go away just as quickly. Good songs will always stick around and defy this trend in my opinion. I hope the songs that are more scripturally relevant stay longer. In reality, songs that have good imagery, strong beats, and easy memorable lines will reach higher and further. I don’t feel like that’s for the best, but is the reality I see at play. Lastly, I assume there are themes across songs in different seasons, but haven’t sat down and looked at it. Good question though. My opinion: Good: Songs going from publish to use quickly is really nice to provide more options. Hopefully more songs in gereal means more opportunities for really good and relevant and impactful songs. Bad: Songs cycling out too quickly can ruin the chance to really see if they should stick around longer instead of moving on to the next release. In the end, this is driven by worship leaders and I think there could/should be more discernment in song selection regardless of artist, publish date, and popularity. Unfortunately, I’m as guilt as the next person in pursuing the quicker and easier song choices that float to the top of websites, playlists, and popularity than truly taking the time to do what I could/should.

    Thanks for the study.

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