Derek Webb’s old band, Caedmon’s Call, was once the darling of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) industry. Their eponymous debut, released in 1996, sold over 250,000 copies, and their follow-up, 40 Acres, sold about 100,000 more. Caedmon’s Call’s live shows frequently sold out, and really broadened CCM’s demographic. You were as likely to see college students as their parents at Caedmon’s Call’s shows.

“We had some very unexpected success, very early,” Webb explains. “We backed into a moment of success we could have never anticipated. But a wise man once said to me, ‘The two things that will ruin an artist are success and failure. And especially in that sequence.’”

Today, Caedmon’s Call is a dusty afterthought of a bygone industry. Chances are you’ve never heard of Caedmon’s Call. But the band’s story is an interesting microcosm, if not a metaphor, of CCM as a whole. In CCM’s heyday, approximately 50 million CCM albums were sold annually. In 2014, that number had plummeted to 17 million. CCM Magazine has long since ceased printing issues, and modern Christian songwriters struggle to penetrate the masses, outside of writing worship songs for church gatherings.

The descent of CCM is a reflection of America’s waning interest in Christianity as a whole. The precipitous dropoff in CCM sales has left Christian labels and artists staring into the void alongside their pastors, scratching their heads, wondering where they went wrong.

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