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The 5,100 gospel music industry professionals in Nashville this week for the genre’s biggest annual convention have reason to rejoice that goes beyond the core spiritual message of the music.

After a decade of steep declines in music sales, the $40 million U.S. gospel music industry is bouncing back more energetically than other niche genres. A number of FM stations in major cities have switched from other formats to gospel in the past five years. And corporations such as McDonald’s and Verizon have sponsored live music events.

Many in the gospel industry say the troubled economy has offered a silver lining of sorts for the largely African-American Christian musical tradition.

“With the economy doing so poorly, when we get in trouble, we have to sing about it, and what better music to bring us out than gospel,” said Bishop Albert Jamison Sr., chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, which has organized the convention for 45 years. “People hear a song that uplifts and they go into a store to try and find it and buy it.”

This summer’s Gospel Music Workshop of America convention runs through Friday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Gospel as a business has experienced the same lean years as the rest of the music industry, with gospel album revenues cut in half over the past 12 years primarily as a result of the weakened economy.

But in 2011, gospel sales grew 4.4 percent over the previous year. And in the first half of 2012, sales remained steady — which in today’s turbulent music industry is a positive sign compared with other genres’ continued sales slumps.

R&B sales fell nearly 9 percent in the first six months of 2012, while classical music sales declined 18 percent and Latin sales dropped 20 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Country music  remains strong with a nearly 6 percent sales increase in the first half of 2012.

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