Morningbird's music is `Christ-centered'

Columbia company uses Internet to widen appeal

also going local on radio

Small business

Howard Business

May 07, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Morningbird Records has come out swinging.

The Columbia company, which started in 1999 promoting its Christian singing groups over the Internet, has had its Christian jazz group, praise-and-worship ensemble and contemporary Christian band broadcast on radio stations in Australia and Zambia after the music is downloaded off the Internet.

Their music is on the shelves in area Christian bookstores as well as at Record and Tape Traders and the Borders bookstore in Columbia. Since 1999, the label has sold more than 6,000 compact discs.

After spending about $40,000 to get the label started, Chance M. Glenn, owner and president of Morningbird, said the company is almost breaking even, with $100,000 in revenue last year.

Now, the recording label is looking to expand its audience in the Baltimore area as it launches a weekly radio program designed to highlight independent artists.

Morningbird's "Music Spotlight," a half-hour broadcast on Havre de Grace's WJSS 1330 AM, is scheduled to begin Friday.

Glenn, 35, said he hopes the program will be the next step of growth for the company.

"For the label, it's constant exposure," he said.

The program will direct listeners to the Morningbird Web site ( for information about the artists, or to buy compact discs.

"We want to get the concept of Christ-centered, multicultural music out," he said. "The business model is to light the regional fires, do lots of concerts, let people hear what's going on, then spread out nationally."

The business plan is not a bad one, but record labels must be able to promote their artists to succeed, said Phillip Burks, marketing director for the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles.

"If they don't have the financial backing, they have a problem," Burks said. "Gospel labels do have a better chance of selling because they have a built-in audience, which is the church. The problem is when they get outside of that church. You can produce a CD, and you can have a distribution agreement, but what good does it do for you to have a distribution agreement if you don't have the money to promote it? That could speed along your demise."

Lisa Smith Putnam, chief executive officer of Turning Point Entertainment, said gospel labels have a harder time succeeding.

"That genre of music is probably the low man on the totem pole," she said. "It is harder to sustain a gospel label because the interest is not there."

That's why the label is looking for an investor to help the business grow and promote the artists, Glenn said.

"We're looking for a major influx of capital because we think the artists are all at the level to make that impact," he said, "We've seen what we can do on this level. How much more could we do with an influx of capital?"

The recording label, which deliberately mixes people of different races and ethnic backgrounds in each of its groups, seems at home in Columbia, the community that the Rouse Co. created as a suburban melting pot.

Glenn said the music has its roots in his nondenominational and multicultural Bridgeway Community Church.

The company Web site boasts that it is the originator of the "Christ-centered" sound.

"We're creating a new genre of music," he said speaking softly and leaning in from behind his desk in a cramped office that is headquarters for the label and his other business, Next Wave Technologies.

With apparently boundless energy, the father of four runs both companies while traveling to and from Baltimore, where he is studying for a doctorate in electrical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University.

"It's multicultural, it's diverse, and it cuts across racial lines," Glenn said, expanding on the "Christ-centered" definition. "We want people all around the world worshiping God with the music he's inspired us to create."

Morningbird Records has quietly made an impression among online music listeners, with a single from one of its groups, the Praise Project led by Glenn, climbing the charts last week to the No. 1 spot on the MP3 music charts.

Another single, "Callin' Jesus," held that spot for 12 days in February of last year.

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