Independents Day: A look at some American and Canadian independent artists

Tuesday 1st February 2000

Mike Rimmer spoke to ED MORALES, CHRISTOPHER WRIGHT, CROSS CONNECTED, AVANTE and pioneering independent distributor BROKEN RECORDS.

Ed Morales
Ed Morales

When it comes to tracking down the best independent music on the planet, the internet has established itself as THE means of finding hot Christian music that doesn't have a Nashville major behind it. Pennsylvania-based Broken Records, with its huge website of independent Christian artists' albums means surfers don't need to spend forever and a day searching for that illusive album. I spoke to Broken Records' 37 year old founder Keith Mohr about his pioneering company.

Mike: Tell me about your background in Christian music?

Keith: "Most of my experience comes from a sales background and a musical prediction background. I am a Christian music industry veteran with 13 years of music ministry experience. I toured the USA with the group Harvest between 1992 and 1994. It was during that time that I felt God calling me into a ministry that would usher in new music that was so powerful, so fresh that people would come to a realisation that God desired each and every one of his creations to know him intimately. The Broken Records website commenced in the early autumn of 1997 after I saw a need to help the artists I was producing and recording at my studio. That need was to assist the artists and bands with on-line distribution and promotion. Currently, I run Broken Records with a very small staff of highly underpaid friends! For my real living, I run my own production and recording biz where I am committed to helping independent artists make the tools they need to go out and share the message. We have a unique programme to entice artists to work with us... We'll record them for whatever they can afford. Imagine running a business on that principle. I love that!"

Mike: How did Broken Records come about?

Keith: "The name Broken Records popped into my mind, from the Scripture verse Psalm 51:17, 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, 0 God, thou will not despise.' It really spoke into my life. Figuring that the name Broken Records was already being used, I searched the net and to my surprise found the domain name was still available. Call it what you may, but looking back on that event, I knew there had to be a divine reason for the name. That was all the confirmation I needed, and Broken Records was ready to become a reality. It started with just four artists and groups. Now it has almost 300 committed groups and artists who are united in purpose and in spirit!"

Mike: How does it work in terms of how it promotes independents? Is it simply about selling CDs?

Keith: "Not at all. Selling CDs is the icing on the cake. We do not 'sell' anything. We enable artists and give them the tools to help themselves. We package and present the music to the best of our ability and try to make the "site easy to get around on. Broken Records is about a movement. Christian radio has been slow to include independents in their playlists. I understand that they need to report who they are playing back to the labels, and the labels feed the stations. This by default locks out much of the music being produced by the front line musicians who are indies. So, we are acting as the 'label' through our strength in numbers to get our feet in the "door for the artists, develop relationships and do it the old fashioned way, by saying please and thank you. Our goal is to change the way Christian music is produced and marketed. We are truly an enabling and encouraging ministry."

Mike: Why do you think independent artists are important?

Keith: "I believe all Christian music is important. But as indies who are self funding and self promoting, they have a tendency to not 'preach to the choir' as most label artists do, since the labels know that is where the bulk of their money comes from. Most indies are quite radical in their approach to their music and their faith. I like that! Most have the abandoned spirit to them and follow what God is truly leading them to do. Those are the kinds of artists I want to be involved with."

Mike: What's your perspective on how Ecommerce is changing the Christian music scene and the role of traditional record companies?

Christopher Wright
Christopher Wright

Keith: "It is nothing short of a miracle. The ability to marry an artist from Canada to a customer in Japan completely makes me jump for joy! There is still a need for traditional record companies, especially those who have a desire to break traditional marketing techniques. These labels can take a very talented artist, provide them with the tools to do the job, promote them and send them out into the world.

Mike: How do you see things developing in the future?

Keith: "The best thing that can happen for independents is realising the need to help one another. That is a major goal of Broken Records and one that I preach to the artists. There is certainly something that happens when like minded people come together for a unified purpose. Any movement in history started from a vision, the vision spread because of desire, the desire turned into determination, and determination evolved into change. The largest hurdle we face as independents is thinking we can make a change one by one. The world is just too large for that. What will create change? It will happen when artists lay down their desire to be the next big thing and be content with what God has them doing for that moment in time. Exchange pride for humility, envy for contentment, taking for giving, serviced for serving."

Mike: Would you be up for British independents to join Broken Records?

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