Notes on a revival

19 January 2018

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HOW do you find out about new releases in contemporary Christian music (CCM)? The Sunday-morning breakfast programmes on BBC local radio rarely, if ever, play Christian music today as they did in the 1980s. And, while Christian media companies such as Premier and UCB do play the latest CCM and worship songs, they do not have enough listeners to spark a revival in the British Christian music scene.

Now there is an app to help. Top Christian, by Woodland Boys Software, provides updated lists of current CCM and worship-song releases. The songs are stored under three tabs: Now, which details the latest releases; Recent, which is not-so-new songs; and Worship, which does what it says on the tin.

Top Christian is a free app on iOS. The downside is that it plays only a 30-second extract of the songs. But, if you like what you hear, you can click a button that will take you to iTunes, where you can buy the song or the entire album.

Any albums you have bought can be played through iTunes or through the Top Christian app — this time giving you access to the full song. It is a useful app for finding new songs; but the linkage to iTunes is a little basic: people buy music from a range of online stores these days, and linking to only one store is a definite downside. And, on more than one occasion, the app seemed to hang when I clicked on the link to iTunes. They will have to sort this out if the app is to be worth while.

I use Apple Music rather than iTunes; both of them are Apple products, but have their differences: Apple Music is a streaming service where you pay a monthly subscription to download and listen to an unlimited number of tracks; iTunes is a store that sells digital versions of albums and songs.

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Having found a song I like on Top Christian, I can search for it on Apple Music and add it to my playlist or download it to my device. Users can apply a similar manual search to use the app with their own digital music store. Or, of course, they can take the details of the song to a Christian bookshop.

To check whether Apple Music had a comprehensive collection of CCM and worship songs, I took a look at the Christian music chart published by the Stoke-on-Trent-based Christian media company Cross Rhythms. Every song featured in the Cross Rhythms’ Top Ten for the week beginning 7 January was available in Apple Music.

The biggest downside to Top Christian is that it is available only on iOS. But there are options available for Android users, too. One such app is Air1, by the Educational Media Foundation, which is available free on both iOS and Android.

Air1 is a network of US-based Christian radio stations, and, in its simplest form, the app streams the radio stations. But it does more than that: you can select songs from its library, which contains potted biographies of the artists, interview clips, and links to the artists’ official website and Facebook pages.

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