If you have ever felt like most worship music sounds the same, it may be because the worship music you are most likely to hear in many churches is written by just a handful of songwriters from a handful of churches.
As part of our group’s analysis of contemporary worship music output (for details on our study’s methodology, click here), we delved deeply into the most popular worship songs released between 2010 and 2020. We cross-referenced two main sets of data: the ever-popular CCLI lists – viewed much like the “Billboard charts of church music” – and the Praise Charts top songs lists, where churches might purchase chord charts and arrangements.
After cross-referencing the Top 100 lists from each, we found that there were only 114 songs associated with just 43 discrete songwriters or churches. However, reporting on the Top 100 says much less about the impact these songs may have on the church than it might seem at first glance. It has become clear that music revenues earned tend to concentrate in a very small group of contributors. This is true in almost all genres of music. In fact, Mark Mulligan of Midia Consulting indicates that the top 1 percent of artists account for approximately 77% – 80% of all music revenues. Thus, in order to correlate the greatest possible amount of data and create the most accurate picture of what it feels like to sing songs in churches, we narrowed our lists to focus on the Top 25.
When we did, we found there to be a mere 38 songs. That’s right, in a decade, only 38 titles were among the Top 25 songs sung in churches. Even on the surface, most of these songs are directly traceable to four church groups (Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Passion) and a handful of other artists. Click here to see the list.