Recently, I spent a good chunk of time looking for MP3s of old worship songs. My purpose wasn’t nefarious; I’m just looking to build the repertoire of the worship team at our church.
So I went skimming through some old (read: 8-10 years) worship song listings I had from my Vineyard church in California, stuff I played to much blessing for the congregation. Good songs. Tunes that got people worshiping. Music that blessed me as I played it.
My conclusion from intensive searching online for about a dozen of those songs? They may as well have never existed. They’re just gone.
Out-of-print albums. Missing entirely from iTunes or any other site. No Last.fm, no Pandora. No streams existing anywhere. I can’t even find a snippet in any form for my team to listen to, much less the particular arrangement I’d like to mimic.
That seems to me to be an enormous loss to the Christian community.
Sure, I might be able to find a copy of an old CD on eBay for $10, but I can’t afford that kind of dough to amass a stack of old CDs when I’m only after one song here and there.
Why is it that we still can’t get access to a lot of the backcatalog of some of the Christian recording companies who have all this music locked up? I complained about this before, but I find it even more amazing when genuine worship music, the kind church worship teams would play, goes MIA. I mean, if it was great 10 years ago, why would it not be great now? What’s wrong with rediscovering a classic for a new generation?
It seems to me that we’re gutting our own heritage by letting good music vanish into the ether.
I went looking for Cindy Rethmeier’s “Processional” and Kevin Prosch’s “(Even) So Come” and struck out everywhere I looked. An old Crystal Lewis version of the Prosch tune exists in video format on YouTube, and that may be what I have to go with, though the audio quality is poor and it’s hard to make out all the instrumentation. The Rethmeier tune, a lovely and anthemic song, is vapor.
Maybe this is a stupid beef. I don’t know. In the past, you cut a track to an LP and good luck when that LP went out of print.
Still, I would think we could do better in preserving our heritage in music, especially since it is now so easy to store music digitally.
So how about cutting us worship teams a break when it comes to access to old worship songs? If the CDs are out of print, what’s the harm in putting a lower bitrate MP3 on the composer’s site so someone can at least hear how the song goes? And don’t even get me going about the lack of availability of some of this stuff on iTunes. I know I would definitely pay $1 to download some of these songs just so the people in the pews can be drawn into a soul-stirring worship experience through old music that stirred us once and can do so again.