Head’s up: we’re starting a record label, and we’re gunning to take over Christian radio.
At the helm of the newly minted label, Mars Hill Music, is Deacon Jonathan Dunn, interviewed here by Pastor Mark. Dunn, a founding member of the heavy metal band Demon Hunter, spent a decade at Tooth & Nail/Solid State Records, and was the director of A&R when he felt God calling him to Mars Hill—"one of the top three things ever called to in my life," he says. And he’s got a big vision for Mars Hill Music and bands.
Bottom line, whatever you think has defined “Christian music” up til now, you can forget it: “We don’t limit our bands to the Christian cul-de-sac of U2 circa 1987,” says Dunn. [Editor’s note: Said with all due respect to Joshua Tree and U2, who have a solid contingent of fans at the church.] In short, it’s a label defined by Christ and culture and corporate worship.
When this announcement was made last year it was bright and optimistic.
Then this came along.
Driscoll noted that things change really fast at mars Hill. They sure can. In 2011 the new Downtown site almost didn't become the new Downtown site that opened weeks ago. A few changes here and there and the five-year lease is looking pretty good for Mars Hill where in 2011 the deal nearly died because the owner of the real estate wasn't willing to sell or relinquish total control over the property.
Well, building a music label from the ground up is a lot of work and very expensive. There was not much chance it would work with the economy the way it's been and with the aforementioned presentation by Driscoll about how Mars Hill had a financial model that wasn't sustainable for the long-term future.
Well, this month there was a new announcement.
Mars Hill Music is partnering with Tooth & Nail
It’s official: Mars Hill Music has officially signed with Tooth & Nail Records!
We’re incredibly grateful for this partnership. Not only does T&N do amazing work, but many of the folks on staff are members, deacons, and band members at our church. This includes Deacon Jonathan Dunn, who oversees Mars Hill Music after working at T&N for years, and T&N founder/president Brandon Ebel, a personal friend and member of Mars Hill’s Ballard church.
Thank you to all who have supported, prayed for, and participated in this project—including the musicians (many volunteer) whose hard work has turned a big vision into reality. By God’s grace, we’re ready to get some top-notch, Jesus-centered, theologically sound, and artistically rich music into the hands of millions around the world. We have literally dozens of bands in the church and we've done a lot to prepare for this opportunity.
Citizens and Ghost Ship have their first full-length albums nearly done, and Deacon Dustin Kensrue is working on his first-ever worship album after years in the middle of the post-rock scene. Following that, expect to hear from Kings Kaleidoscope as well.
The first LP will be Citizens' self-titled release, due out March 12. Can’t wait? Here’s one of the new tracks, “Made Alive”:
Building a music label from the ground up is expensive and time-consuming and if a bunch of staff on Tooth & Nail Records are already members, staff, and band members within Mars Hill anyway then why bother creating a Mars Hill label when an existing label could functionally be thought of has assimilated into the Mars Hill conglomerate already? It's a whole lot cheaper and saves the trouble of developing infrastructure and it is, after all, a better approach to just have Mars Hill signed on to an existing label that for Mars Hill to have dumped money into creating a new label from scratch. Why create from scratch in the current economic setting if you can collaborate (or perhaps even functionally assimilate)?