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Christian Teens Take Moral High Road on Music Piracy—NOT!

The Christian music industry is suffering. A study reveals Christian teens pirate music at about the same rate as non-Christians.

A new study reveals that Christian teen music fans do not hold a higher ground morally when it comes to how they acquire music. The study, commissioned by the Gospel Music Association (GMA), was conducted by The Barna Group, the leading research firm for analysis of Christianity and cultural trends.

We...need to do a better job of educating the hearts and minds of young people to the basic biblical principle, 'thou shalt not steal.'"

This finding is shaping an industry-wide campaign to educate Christian music consumers about illegal downloading, file sharing and CD burning.

The campaign theme is "Millions of Wrongs Don't Make It Right." The Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA), a GMA-affiliated organization made up of leading recording companies will give leadership to the campaign.

"Like all other segments of the music industry, our album sales have been affected by music piracy committed by consumers," said John Styll, GMA president.

"We went into this study wanting to learn more about our young consumers and how their faith intersects with this vital issue. We were surprised to find that it does not. We—meaning the industry, parents and spiritual leaders—need to do a better job of educating the hearts and minds of young people to the basic biblical principle, 'thou shalt not steal.'"

The Barna Group surveyed 1,448 teenagers. Findings of the study include, with regard to attitudes:

  • Born again Christian teens are not much different than are non-born again teens in terms of holding an anti-piracy moral position. Just ten percent of Christian teens believe that copying CDs for friends and unauthorized music downloading are morally wrong, compared to six percent of other teens.

  • 21 percent think copying CDs and unauthorized downloading is morally okay.

  • 65 percent of teens, classified as moral pragmatists, embrace a "whatever works" philosophy regarding music acquisition. They believe music piracy is not a moral issue or they hold inconsistent views on CD burning and downloading (that is, one is wrong, the other is not).

With regard to behaviour:

  • 80 percent of teenagers have engaged in at least one type of music piracy in the past six months. Born again Christian teens engaged in the illegal behaviour at nearly the same rate as all other teens (77 percent to 81 percent, respectively).

  • The strongest deterrent against piracy behaviour was a teen's moral view. Among teens that believe piracy is wrong, 58 percent had engaged in any form of piracy within the last six months.

"Millions of Wrongs Don't Make It Right" has been chosen as a Gospel music industry anti-piracy campaign theme.

"The GMA has been an outspoken supporter of the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) efforts to fight piracy," Styll said, adding, "but we still believe we must make a stronger and more direct appeal to our specific music fan base. We hope to establish the moral argument for our consumers, moving them from wrong behaviour to the many legal alternatives to acquire their music."

"It will take the collective and sustained effort of many to stamp out music piracy..."

A brochure which includes endorsements from artists Steven Curtis Chapman, Stacie Orrico and Shaun Groves will be available in downloadable form for use on websites or for distribution at Christian events, such as concert tours, music festivals and worship gatherings.

"It will take the collective and sustained effort of many to stamp out music piracy. We look forward to building support and momentum within and outside the Gospel music industry for 'Millions of Wrongs Don't Make It Right,'" said Gabriel Aviles, director of the CMTA.

Founded in 1964, the 4,500-member Gospel Music Association ( is dedicated to exposing, promoting and celebrating the Gospel through music. The GMA represents all styles of Gospel music including contemporary pop, rock, urban Gospel, praise and worship, southern Gospel, country and children's Gospel music. The GMA produces GMA's Annual Music AwardsTM, which recognizes achievement in all genres of Gospel music.

Originally published in The Baptist Horizon, July/August 2004.




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