Where Are the Downloadable Classic CCM Tunes?


Okay, so I’m ripping some of my old CDs via iTunes and I’ve only got one question:

When is someone in the Christian music biz going to get wise and start opening up the old catalogs for digital access?

Sweet Comfort BandRecently, I looked back over some “ancient,” decaying cassette tapes and started looking online for some of those classic songs. I put about two dozen of those songs into The iTunes Store and not a single one came up. There are so many classic bands and tunes from the 1970s through mid-1990s that are simply not available by any means. And that’s a crime. We stand to lose a true library of Christian music from that era if someone doesn’t get wise to collecting it into some digital format.

Albrecht, Roley & MooreI can’t get MP3 versions of far too many songs. One of my favorite songs of all time is Mark Heard’s own version of “Strong Hand of Love,” but the only downloadable version out there is a pale copy  (sorry, Bruce) by Bruce Cockburn. Anyone remember Albrecht, Roley & Moore? I’d love to get a copy of their song “Holiday Son,” but where? One of my favorite albums ever was Terry Talbot’s A Time to Laugh, a Time to Sing which has incredible songs like “Lamplighter” and “Father, Break Me,” as well as the truly funny “Bibleland.” Sadly, my copy of that album melted in a hot car and the tape I’d made of it finally snapped a couple years later. I still get a chill when Russ Taff belts out, “I’m goin’ down to the river, gonna be buried alive…” on The Imperials classic “Water Grave.” No hope of finding any of those available for download off the Web.

Terry Talbot & Barry McGuireAnd sure, you can probably find a recent compilation that features Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again,” but what if you like his classic “Here We Are” better? Good luck! Tear up every time you hear Billy Sprague’s version of his great “How Could You Say No?” or “I Never Should Have Left You” by Sweet Comfort Band? Remember Prodigal and their rockin’ number “Just What I Need”? Wanna compare Jacob’s Trouble’s version of “Door Into Summer” with the original Monkees version? Well maybe that’s going a little far, but you get my point.

Anyone who owns the old catalogs from Word Music, Sparrow, Benson, Light, or any of those classic labels, I think you’ve got a market out there that is going untapped. I know that I would pay good money to get some of these albums and songs. Some never made it to CD, but certainly master tapes exist somewhere.

There’s no good reason, either, that so many Christian artists are not available on iTunes or one of the other services. Too many partial catalogs exist, too. I mentioned Mark Heard—iTunes only has about half his albums. What gives on the other half?

Everyone knows that the MPAA is none too happy about copyrighted music being downloaded through sharing software. It’s wrong and Christians should not be doing it. That said, I’m guessing that some of the songs I’ve mentioned in this post were probably available online at some point through the old Napster and others. We just need legal sources—the artists or labels— to offer them for sale. I would buy them in a second if they existed.

With so much tuneless teeny-bopper drivel on most Christian radio stations, wouldn’t it be great to have some of those old catalogs available? The music from the time I became a Christian is precious to me, but it is slowly decaying and being lost forever.

How do we go about making this happen? Artists, labels…anyone listening?

(For a list of most of those old CCM artists and their discography, check out this and this.)