Damian Taylor visited Stoke's Cross Rhythms HQ to find out why it's begun selling vintage music
Being offered exclusive access to tour the Cross Rhythms headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent was too good a chance to ignore. Here I am then, exploring a room which few - if any - of the visitors to this five-storey Hanley building actually know about, let alone visit. The room is one of the two stockrooms which are crammed full of boxes and crates containing a multitude of Christian music CDs and vinyl albums. It is the epicentre of a new service that Cross Rhythms is offering, the Cross Rhythms Direct Used & Deleted Music Mail Order service which is officially launched today.
For several years Cross Rhythms' etailing division Cross Rhythms Direct has carried out a much praised service selling new albums to its worldwide customer base. The charity has now opted to expand its sale range to include a head-spinning variety of used and mint-but-deleted albums and LPs, offering everything from the heavy metal releases of Bloodgood to the Greenbelt favourite Steve Taylor; from the 1980s CCM of Joe English to the vintage black gospel songs of Inez Andrews and from the hymnody of Harry Secombe through to the sanctified dance music of Scott Blackwell. There are millions of musical memories all waiting to be rediscovered, with each song playing its own way into the history of Christian music.
Helping in the launch of this new service is Cross Rhythms music editor, Tony Cummings. He speaks about the thinking behind the move. "You can search on the internet and you can find lots of old music, deleted music, music which is just not currently available. But you won't find a huge amount of music by Christian artists: Christian music has largely fallen through the net. There isn't any website you can go where you'd have a realistic chance of finding an old White Heart album let alone an ancient import by Cleophus Robinson. We began to have our first thoughts of, 'Wouldn't it be good if Cross Rhythms could address the need? It would be a great help to the followers of Christian music. And it would help us financially.'"
Cross Rhythms needs to find new sources of income to sustain its ministry. Some old albums, even a handful of ones by Christian artists, are today much sought-after and sell for big money to collectors. So will CR be selling rare albums for big money? Cummings responds, "Cross Rhythms would not feel comfortable in charging hugely inflated prices for the albums we sell. So even when we have a copy - or even several copies - of a 'rarity' or 'collectable' album we won't be asking for the kind of ludicrous prices often seen in the Record Collector's Rare Record Price Guide. The vast majority of the albums we'll be selling will be priced at £4.99 plus postage and packaging. Our most sought-after albums will be sold at £9.97. If that means that you can snap up a classic Jesus music album by Sheep or a Malcolm Tyrrell album which apparently contains a 'folk/psych' classic and then re-sell them for a large profit on ebay, then so be it,"
But is there a market for a long-deleted Steve Taylor vinyl or an out-of-production Spring Harvest CD? "There's a market, but it is a small market and it is not one currently being addressed. We are hoping, in due course of time - particularly as people begin to find out Cross Rhythms Direct is now selling used music - that people will be find their way to the website to search for particular items, or even just browse and say, 'Well, there's some pretty good music going here for a fiver. I might just take a plunge.'"
So how did Cross Rhythms obtain its bulging crates of stock? "From three sources," Tony explains. "Firstly, for some time now individuals have been donating to us albums that they no longer want. Any album we don't already have goes into our music library. But any for which we already have library copies, we are now selling. Second and third, there were two mail order concerns, New Christian Music in Leighton Buzzard and Crossways Music in Leigh-on-Sea, who were closing and we were able to take on their stock."
Clearly, it's used and deleted music service will help some music fans. Tony recounts the story of a man who has just bought from Cross Rhythms a vinyl album by Liberation Suite. He'd spent a decade searching for it. Tony gave a knowing look before saying, "Just about everybody I know who buys the occasional Christian music release will be after something which is currently deleted. The thing is Cross Rhythms is making new additions to its on-line availability list every day. So it's worthwhile people regularly going in to our site to search for this or that album. And they might well find something else they'll enjoy."
Tony then returns to an earlier comment about this being an important symbiotic relationship with the music-loving public by saying, "We hopefully will make a small profit from these sales as we need to develop Cross Rhythms sources of income so that the other good things we do can continue. So hopefully it will benefit all the people who access the website who are music lovers, and it will benefit us in some small way as well. Our mandate from God is very clear. We were called and brought into being to serve Christians and to build the Kingdom of God," he states before breaking into a self-deprecating smile and adding, "even if it is through this quirky little subdivision of Cross Rhythms activity."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.