Rise of Faith-Based Films Helps Promote Christian Music Artists

Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips performs during filming for the Christian movie "God's Not Dead 2." (Photo provided by the Newsboys)
Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips performs during filming for the Christian movie “God’s Not Dead 2.” (Photo provided by the Newsboys)

The Newsboys were hardly newcomers in the music business when they scored the film licensing hit of a lifetime in 2014.

The Christian band from Australia had been around for about 30 years when they licensed “God’s Not Dead,” — the title track of their No. 1 album — for a production company to use for a film with a modest budget.

Now, Newsboys manager Dave Wagner said people in airports and towns across the country recognize the band as the guys from “God’s Not Dead.”

“The film being out there has exposed the band, and their music and message to such a wider audience even though they’ve been around for 30-plus years,” Wagner said.

The success is perhaps the best example yet of the potential bounty that awaits Christian music bands able to secure songs in the soundtrack of a faith-based movie.

That’s in part because the song became more than just part of a soundtrack, it became the title of the movie. And the film became more than just a success in the niche faith-based film genre. It turned in $62 million at the box office and helped propel Christian films even more into the theatrical mainstream.

The sequel, which includes scenes featuring the band and, of course, more Newsboys music, was widely released in April and has already eclipsed $17 million at the box office.

To be sure, licensing a song for film is by no means an obscure path for a band to make some extra cash. But the Newsboys took it to the next level. They appeared in the film and, since the movie was named after their song and album, had built-in marketing appeal.

As the faith-based film industry has risen in recent years, studios have tapped into Nashville’s Christian music industry for help with marketing, especially reaching churches and youth groups.

Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips readily admits he didn’t know much about the scope of the production when the band’s bus rolled onto the Houston set to film in 2013. Phillips opened the doors, saw a Hollywood-level production crew, and promptly returned to the bus to tell his bandmates they better take this seriously.

“I said, ‘Guys, learn your lines. This is the real deal,’ ” Phillips said.

He admitted that the quality of independent Christian films had been “pretty bad” prior to “God’s Not Dead” and other films coming along with increased budgets and improved quality.

“It just takes so much money to make a great movie, it just does,” Phillips said.

The success of the two “God’s Not Dead” films has had a clear impact on the Newsboys’ sales. The title track of the first film went platinum, and the album was certified gold. The latest Newsboys album “Love Riot,” which includes the theme song for the new film, topped the Billboard rock and alternative charts — a significant accomplishment for a Christian band.

“I know the first movie, for the first few weekends, we got to quote, ‘play,’ in front of 6 million people,” Phillips said, referring to the number of people who watched the film and consequently saw the band’s appearance. “I think what it did for us was it put a face to the name. People knew the band name, they knew the Newsboys because we’d been around for a while.

“It made people want to come and see Newsboys live. So it absolutely has impacted our attendance, but it’s also impacted people’s impression of who we are.”

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SOURCE: The Tennessean

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