Contemporary Christian Music Watch
By Jim Galipeau

Thomas Nelson buys Word, EMI Music purchases Sparrow and Mike Wamke says his ministry is closing. Over the past several months we've heard a lot of speculation about these stories, so now let the truth be known!

Thomas Nelson announced September 28 that it had reached an agreement with Capital Cities/ABC to buy Word for $72 million cash. The deal should be sealed by November 30.

On the sale, Word Inc. President Roland Lundy said, "Through an unprecedented union between two industry leaders, Word and Thomas Nelson are uniquely positioned for future growth and market innovation."

Lundy also said that Word will remain committed to its mission, dedicated to service and called to excellence. Thomas Nelson president Sam Moore said the operation of both Word and Thomas Nelson will result in his company being the leader in Bible publishing, Christian music and inspirational and Christian book publications.

Thomas Nelson is the world's largest Bible publisher with revenues of $93.1 million last year. Word will bring annual revenues of about $100 million and over 500 employees to Thomas Nelson.

The day after Thomas Nelson announced its acquisition of Word, EMI Music made known their agreement to purchase Sparrow for an undisclosed amount of money. Jimmy Bowen, President of Liberty Records, a subsidiary of EMI Music, will be co-chairman of Sparrow along with Billy Ray Hearn who founded Sparrow in 1976.

Jim Fifield, CEO of EMI Music, said, "The acquisition of Sparrow gives EMI immediate leadership in Christian music among the major record companies." You can expect to see Christian music move more into the mainstream marketplace, thanks to Jimmy Bowen. He says, "Working with Sparrow, we will launch a broad-based marketing campaign to expand the presence' of Christian recordings in mainstream retail outlets." Officials at EMI say that Sparrow will maintain creative control over its artists.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Bowen hasn't wasted any time, as he signed one of contemporary Christian music's biggest sellers, Carman. All the new Carman product will be distributed to the Christian marketplace by Sparrow, while Liberty Records will place Carman's music in mainstream music outlets. Bowen has also sent a re-mixed version of Steven Curtis Chapman's "The Great Adventure" to non-reporting country stations. It's a move that Bowen says helped him with other artists to increase sales.Won't it be interesting to see what Mr. Bowen, EMI and Sparrow will bring to the Christian music in the next year?

Not to be left out in the dark, Benson Music Group has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Cumberland Records. The Nashville-based company was founded four years ago and features what many call "old-time mountain music."

Distribution agreements aren't always a bed of roses; just ask the folks at Maranatha! Music and Word. Just a few weeks ago Maranatha sued Word over alleged nonpayment of royalties and inappropriate business practices. Word has now filed a counter suit denying the charges.

Speaking of charges, it looks like they've taken their toll on funnyman Mike Wamke and his ministry. A Michigan newspaper reported that during a recent concert Warnke told the audience of about 200 that by the end of September his organization would be no more. The article in the Gazette said Warnke was no longer able to meet payroll and that he had not taken a salary over the past several months. It appears that the charges leveled by Cornerstone Magazine several months ago on Warnke's credibility have caused his ministry to close its doors.

Well, Reunion/Geffen artist Michael W. Smith recently found his "place in this world" -"Another World"! In addition to his recent guest appearance on the soap, Smitty has gotten several calls for films and other television programs. Smith says, "I acted in school and I think it's been in my blood, but I'll never let it take the place of my music." Michael says if he does any more acting it will have to be before January. Why? Well, he starts his 60-city concert tour January 28 . . . which, by the way, may include Louisville.

In the studios these days . . . Deniece Williams with producers Michael Omartian and David Foster. Her first Myrrh release is scheduled for March. Wamer Alliance's Michael English is working on a first-quarter release with producer Brown Bannister.

Looking for some new holiday music? If you desire a more traditional sound, then check out Amy Grant's Home for Christmas, Babbie Mason's Comfort and Joy, or Russ Taff with The Christmas Song. If you're one of those who wants to jam, then listen to Hot ChristmasBy Eric Champion or Scott Blackwell's A MYX'd Christmas.

Also available for nice background music, Dino Christmas...A Time for Peace, Christmas ColoursBy John Andrew Shreiner, or Ted Eschliman's An Urban Christmas.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Amy Grant and husband Gary Chapman are the proud parents of a baby girl. Sara Cannon Chapman was born on October ll and was named after country star Minnie Pearl.

While I'm thinking of country music, you can see Bruce Carroll's hit "If We Only Had the Heart" on TNN, CMT and some other country outlets. Bruce was joined by Ricky Skaggs in the filming of the video. Bruce Carroll, Mid-South, Michael James and others are some of the Christian country artists hoping to bring their message of hope to mainstream country music fans.

If you enjoy a good laugh and a unique ministry, then you'll want to be at Shively Baptist Church for Mark Lowry, November 19, 7:30 p.m. Opening for Mark will be Ron David Moore. Tickets are S7 in advance and $8 at the door. Shively Baptist Church is located at 1599 Sadie Lane. I've seen Mark Lowry with the Gaither Vocal Band and he was a riot, so get set for an evening full of laughs with Mark and Ron David Moore!

WJIE Music Pics

"The Basics of Life" 4 Him

"God Has Another Plan" Babbie Mason

"I Choose Joy" Larnelle Harris

"There's Somebody Out There" Ron David Moore

"Love Is Strong" Paul Overstreet

"Forever Stay" Matthew Ward

"Listen to Our Hearts" Geoff Moore

"Grand Canyon" Susan Ashton

"Remember" Crystal Lewis

"Everything" Kim Boyce