Praising On The Net- A Study of Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and Bethel Music's Social Media Content and Comments

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Harris, Martrell Devon
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Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis is centered on the impact of social media and digital marketing for three popular worship bands – Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and Bethel Music- affiliated with renown mega churches. It details how these worship bands have risen to the pinnacle of the Christian music industry with chart-topping hits and millions of devoted followers using spirituality, lyrics, and melodies to capture large audiences. This study will couple the popularity of these bands with the success of the mega churches they are affiliated with that attract the attention of millions of people. Mega churches such as the ones these bands are affiliated with have often been criticized for making large profits in the name of God. Many mega churches, which is defined as a church with 2,000 members and some churches are reported to have brought in $143 million in revenue. (Schmidt, 2019) Social media in its true instant gratification fashion has enabled audiences to respond or react to content immediately. This capability gives the audiences a platform for sharing their opinions directly with the content creators and can potentially impact what content gets created, posted, or discarded. For centuries, organized religion has been a staple, or one could even say a pillar in cultures all over the world. Currently, the world’s largest religion is Christianity. Established in 313 A.D., Christianity has been around for quite some time. Shortly after its establishment it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. (The Roman Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Early Christians) Over time the religion has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar empire, bringing in an estimated $378 billion annually in the United States alone. (Zauzmer, Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined 2019) This article examines how Christian churches have continuously adapted and evolved to remain relevant in an ever-changing society. Currently the Christian faith boast over 2 billion followers. (Hackett & McClendon, World's largest religion by population is still Christianity 2020) Content is king and what types of content worship bands release can impact their fan growth and loyalty. This study explores audience responses to the content worship bands post on Instagram based on the Uses and Gratifications Theory. This qualitative study also draws conclusions about uses and gratifications commenters derive from engaging with worship bands on Instagram. This study is composed of an examination of comments on Instagram to compile data to see how worship band fans respond to different types of posts. After review, the comments, they were organized into categories to better present the findings. What was discovered is that emoji usage has key meanings in the religious subculture of Christianity. It is also noted that worship band audiences find deeper meaning in the lyrics in some of the bands’ most popular songs. As far as content, it is curated to be aesthetically and sonically appealing to the listener. With production combined with the strong Christian values, it is no question that these three worship bands, Elevation Worship, Hillsong, and Bethel Music have built Christian music empires that will likely be around for generations to come. The photos below showcase members of the bands studied in this paper.
Bethel Music, Elevation Worship, Evangelical, Hillsong, Music, Worship, Mass communication