The band Citizens is among the groups set to release music on the new Mars Hill Music label. (Mars Hill Music photo)
Seattle-based megachurch Mars Hill is considered by some the punk rock of Christian congregations. And now the fast growing organization is launching a new music label to spread the word and attract even more followers to its ever growing flock.
With everything from roots rock to rap regularly being made at its 14 locations spanning four states, Mars Hill Music manager Jonathon Dunn says the goal is to capture the diverse offerings and share the gospel through music.
"The record label is focused on what's going on at our local churches. Each one is uniquely different, different based on the cities and communities and cultures they're engaged with," Dunn says.
Unlike other start up music endeavors, the label has a built in audience. Podcasts of Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll's sermons were downloaded more that 10 million times last year and consistently rank number 1 on iTunes, the church claims.
"It seems like a lot of the worship culture that already exists out there in the Christian market has been hitting a very specific group and what we'd like to do in some ways is broaden that," says Zach Bolen, worship director at Mars Hill's University District church and leader of the band Citizens.
Bolen's band will be the first to release a full length album on the new label, with several EP's from various bands already available.
The offerings are as diverse as the churches, known for attracting younger, "hipper" followers. There's everything from indie pop to Motown. Citizens plays what Bolen calls more "blue-collar indie rock."
"We want to be able to fit into as many groups as possible. We don't want to alienate ourselves in any way, and so accessibility is huge. So especially with Citizens we're trying to do music that dudes would like," Bolen says.
It could be big business for the church that boasts upwards of 14,000 followers in Western Washington, Portland, Orange County, California and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Christian music was the second highest selling category in 2011, according to The Nielsen Company & Billboard's 2011 Music Industry Report.
And label head Dunn says while the target is Christian audiences, the goal is to reach well beyond that.
"We really just want to share music with everyone who enjoys music, and share the gospel through that, and not just be pigeonholed into a Christian cul-de-sac of influence. So I'd love to see the expanse go far beyond just Christian radio," Dunn says.