Church Music Landscape Rearranged as Big Publishers Close

NASHVILLE (BP) – When it announced last month it was shutting down, Brentwood Benson became the latest in a line of major church music publishers closing their doors. Last year saw the bankruptcy of Lorenz Corp., which had purchased choral giant Word Music in 2017. Then a few months ago, Lifeway released its last box of new choral offerings for churches.

While several companies still offer hard copies of sheet music, the landscape looks very different than it did even a few years ago. And if the church music publishing industry had seen a step or two of decline in the 21st century, the COVID-19 pandemic took it down an octave.

“I think COVID probably was that final nail in the coffin for a lot of our publishers because suddenly there weren’t choirs meeting, there was no need for new music, the composers were sitting on the side with nothing to do,” said Kenny Lamm, worship ministries strategist for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Longtime worship leader Kirk Kirkland, who also has worked as an arranger and recording vocalist for both Lifeway and Brentwood Benson, said the closures are a blow for small churches that don’t have fulltime music staff or a lot of time for rehearsal. Brentwood Benson’s Ready to Sing series has been a longtime staple for small-church choirs.

“[It was] one of the best church music resources on the market, and their sales proved it,” said Kirkland, worship leader at Judson Baptist Church in Nashville. “For that to go away, I know is going to impact the church. … Where are they going to get what they need? There are other publishers that exist, but those places those churches have traditionally gone to get what they need are disappearing quickly.”

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Source: Baptist Press