Only at Presbyterian Youth Triennium (PYT) can a music-lover go from Taize to hip-hop in the space of 15 minutes.
Shortly after daily worship ended here June 17 for the 5,300 gathered on the campus of Purdue University for the massive June 16-20 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) youth event, many in the crowd were treated to a Christian hip-hop concert by renowned recording artist Dorian Stevens.
Stevens is one of the featured artists (and on-air hosts) for “Pierced” ― a brand new music app launched by the Presbyterian Media Mission (PMM) of Pittsburgh. “It started out as an internet music channel,” PMM executive director Gregg Hartung told Presbyterian News Service after Stevens’ concert, “but the technology is changing so rapidly it’s now an app.”
“Pierced” includes three music channels ― mixt (a variety of genres), rock and hip-hop/R&B ― and a number of other interactive features that are sure to expand as the service catches on. Right now, those include:
- Mini-movies, which audience members can submit for inclusion on the app;
- “Discover,” which features new bands
- “Pierced Places,” a directory of youth groups around the country that promote and support “Pierced”;
- “On Demand,” audio and video clips that Hartung says range “from the silly to the serious”;
- “Open Mic,” where listeners can submit for possible airing 10-second commentaries on any subject they like;
- A blog, that will include daily devotional messages called “the daily dose,” “My Mind” ― personal commentaries on religion, culture and the arts, movie and music reviews, and “Mood Music,” in which guests will say something like, “Here’s the mood I’m in today and here’s a song that fits.”
- Links to other sites, apps and media (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
The app also has an alarm clock feature “so listeners can wake up to their favorite ‘Pierced’ music,” Hartung says.
Not all of the music on “Pierced” is overtly religious. “We call it ‘meaningful music,’” says Keith Stover, a former CBS Radio executive who began working with PMM last year after an attempt to create an internet radio template for congregations to use failed.
“About three years ago I started a company called Shout Mountain to help churches start their own internet radio stations ― I ran mostly into brick walls until I met Gregg a year ago,” Stover said.
Development of “Pierced” has cost PMM just $25,000 Hartung said. “Record companies are willing to put their content on ‘Pierced’ because our audience is the audience they’re after,” adds Stover.
Stevens has found a whole new audience for his music, which has changed dramatically since he converted to Christianity. “I’ve been doing music since I was 11,” the 26-year-old said, “but I just started taking it seriously a couple years ago. I used to make my music for negativity ― I was into gangs and drugs.”
Stevens, who met Hartung while doing music events for Beaver-Butler Presbytery, said some of his earlier fans “have followed me over to Christian rap. Some have told me they became Christian or at least got helped through some serious stuff. I try to keep my music relatable.”
Stevens ― and “Pierced” have clearly found at audience at Triennium. A large crowd gathered for Stevens concert and PMM’s nearby booth in the exhibit hall was crowded with young people wanting to know more about “Pierced.”
“There seems to be a lot of excitement here,” Hartung noted. “Lots of young people are saying to me, ‘The church is really doing cool stuff like this for kids!’”
The “Pierced” app will be free ― at least to start, Hartung said. “We want kids to sign up and we also want their feedback,” he said. “We want ‘Pierced’ to be their app, not just some idea of old white guys in Pittsburgh.”