In other words, while all of us are still unboxing our spring wardrobes, the Christian band from Atlanta already knows its schedule after the weather cools. That’s not unusual for contemporary Christian music, which lacks the promotional capabilities of mainstream rock.
According to the band’s agent, Randy Humphries, Christian bands need the promotional help of churches, the Internet, youth pastors and youth groups. The grassroots effort requires a summer to get results.
Casting Crowns’ draw for its first headlining tour is not surprising. The band’s first album is already platinum and the second, Lifesong, will precede the tour by a month. Meanwhile, the Crowns and its main songwriter, Mark Hall, just walked away from the Dove Awards with seven wins, including group of the year, song of the year and songwriter of the year.
Yet, neither Hall nor Humphries thought the Doves were the turning point.
“I think it’s gradually grown,” Hall told Pollstar. “I don’t think it exploded after the Dove Awards. I think it definitely made people more aware of us, but I think radio has been the main spreader of news – just from interviews and talking to people, and the songs are really connecting with people.”
Humphries believed the awards made some difference but the debut, Casting Crowns, was already platinum and the band had an unusually high demand for booking.
The band, though, has given Humphries a unique challenge, according to Hall.
“Normally, when a band signs on (to a record label), they’re signing on to travel,” the singer said. “So the band gives their management their calendar and between them and the booking company and manager, they fill the calendar with places to go. Me being quasi full-time at the church, that makes everyone stop and check the schedule. They really had to adapt to that and they’ve adapted very well.”
Humphries said this is the first time in his 16 years at Jeff Roberts & Associates that he’s had to schedule around a youth ministry. Hall formed the first version of the band when he was a youth minister in Daytona Beach, Fla., before he and his family moved to Atlanta-area Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church.
The band was just one of many vehicles Hall used to minister but, even as Casting Crowns grew in profile, Hall kept the youth ministry as a priority. When the band toured with Steven Curtis Chapman, he would fly or drive back to Atlanta every Wednesday, and every other weekend for Sunday school to maintain his ministry. Nothing’s changed.
“It presents quite a challenge in booking but we’re very appreciative of him staying connected to the church,” Humphries said. “We really have to plan their schedule far in advance and then we have to have him home for church on Wednesday nights and every other Sunday.”
In fact, the Crowns never tried to reach this level. The band members, many of whom teach Sunday school, printed a couple thousand CDs to hand out to attendees of the youth ministry and anyone who wanted to listen. One found its way to Sawyer Brown frontman Mark Miller who, with Chapman, decided to contact Hall about making a record for a new imprint on Provident Label Group.
“Everything we were hearing was basically the first we’d ever heard of the record industry,” Hall said. “We didn’t know what managers really were, you know, and I still remember saying, ‘Are you sure we need a manager?’ That’s kind of funny now because we don’t know how we’d make it (without one).”
Provident chief Terry Hemmings introduced the Crowns to about three or four managers; they gelled with Norman Miller.
Hall will probably have to skip a couple of youth ministry meetings when the tour reaches the West Coast. Dove’s new artist of the year, Building 429, will open and Hall chose youth evangelist speaker Tony Nolan to address the crowd between sets.
“My wife is our road manager,” Hall said. “She’s always been a road manager sort, even as a student administrator. There’s so much to do in a youth ministry, with cancer retreats and trips, concerts and stuff … so moving into this position for Melanee has just been pretty natural.”
The tour will begin in Texas, then move through California, Oregon and Washington in early October. Winding through the Midwest and South, the tour wraps in the northern part of the country December 4th.