Twenty years is a long time. If you truly take a few minutes to think back at where you were 20 years ago, you quickly begin to realize how much life has happened since July 2001 and chances are, your life is completely different.
When I launched NewReleaseTuesday (our original name), I was 23 years old and just a few years into working for Family Christian Stores' (FCS) main office in Grand Rapids, Mich. The technological landscape looked vastly different in 2001 than what it does today.
MySpace was exploding with Facebook still a few years away from launching. That's right. Facebook didn't even exist. Music "sharing" platform Napster was the talk–and frustration–of the hour for the music industry, with Apple's iTunes a distant 16 months away from monetizing the downloading process that had stymied the momentum the music industry experienced for decades.
The Web was just starting to explode and eCommerce was beginning to catch on. I remember during this time, purchasing my first iPod, and then my first iPhone while thinking, "This will literally change everything." I had no idea how quickly that would actually become reality.
The idea for NRT came during a label marketing meeting in Nashville where we were all brainstorming how to market the new Avalon O2: Remixed album. The label had presented some well-researched fact that 80% of Avalon's fans had no idea when new music was coming, and we needed to collectively solve that problem. As the digital marketing specialist (also known as the young, annoying guy in the corner), I suggested that we, at FamilyChristian.com, publish the upcoming release dates of all of the labels' albums. They instantly balked at the idea of telling their competitors (#sameteam, anybody?) what was coming and when.
The idea stuck with me and I came back to the offices and presented the idea to my boss that we simply put up pre-orders online of every single album that was coming out in the next six weeks while making a bigger deal out of every "New Release Tuesday," the day of the week when all of the new music released. By pre-ordering the albums–a concept that was entirely new at the scope we were considering–we would have to publish street dates so consumers would know when to expect their product. Loophole achieved.
At the same time, the retail music buyer at FCS noticed that mainstream brands like Target and Pepsi were putting a lot of effort into secondary sites focused on reaching a more youthful audience using music as the main draw, and suggested we look into doing the same. From that, NewReleaseTuesday.com was born as my pet project–a site and community focused on promoting what's new in Christian music every week. Away we went.
In 2006, my wife and I began missing home (Boise, Idaho) and we were ready to start our family but did not like the concept of being 2,000 miles away from our families. So we decided to pursue a path of independence. My boss at FCS graciously gave me the rights to NRT, as it was my little side gig that no one else was going to keep it going.
I decided to pursue web design full time and continue NRT as my passion project on the side. In July of 2006, we relaunched it from a simple weekly release reporting site to more of a hub where Christian music fans could interact and contribute in ways previously (and still) unseen in our industry. It grew and grew, and in September of 2012, NRT was at the point where I was able to turn my attention to the site full time.
Throughout this entire timeline, God has been incredibly present. I've been amazed at the way He has orchestrated volunteers, staff, and partners throughout the years in ways that I could never do on my own. We now are a team of many, all passionate about helping people discover as much Christian music that we can find while building lasting, loving, and fruitful relationships with others that have the same desires. Christian music changes lives. We hear about it all the time. And if NRT is able to have a small part in furthering the message of these amazing artists and their songs, then our hard work continues to be worth it.
My part in this has been quite simple: work hard, love others as well as I can, and point the victories back to God, giving Him the credit where it is absolutely due. He has been incredibly faithful to provide exactly what we need throughout the years and that has given me much comfort as we continue to forge ahead in this industry.
NewReleaseToday has been an absolute dream job for this kid that was called into music ministry at age 13.
TIMELINE OF MILESTONES
2001-2002 Big feature: The site itself, reporting all the major releases in Christian music for the first time anywhere.
2003 Big feature: The NRT Community–message boards for Christian music fans.
2004 Big feature: Imported music news from a third-party site.
2005 Big feature: Exclusive interviews and features provided by Family Christian Stores staff.
2006 Big feature: Blogs and podcasts; New Music Challenge (MySpace battle of the bands voting)
2007 Big feature: The NRTeam, a crowdsourcing community where users can contribute to an artist/album database in exchange for goodies; a search function, too.
2008 Big feature: NRTeam Reviews, sections for books/authors.
2009 Big feature: New Artist Watch, a new section highlighting specific bands/artists each month; weekly produced New Music Podcast.
2010 Big feature: Free song downloads; NRTMobile, NRT's first-ever app (for iPhone only).
2011 Big feature: NRT Radio, which later became NRT Radio One–NRT's first-ever online radio station; new navigation, music videos section.
2012 Big feature: The creation of the NRT Review Team, an entity that previously hadn't existed; the beginning of the fan-voted We Love Christian Music Awards.
2013 Big feature: Launchpad, a central location to learn about Christian music crowdfunding campaigns; on-the-road tour blogs.
2014 Big feature: New navigation that features newly added sections for movies and the NRT Radio Network; original news reporting from NRT.
2015 Big feature: New name and URL (NewReleaseToday); massive homepage redesign to employ scrolling homepage blocks, for a more graphical interface.
2016 Big feature: Launch of NRT Now, a topical daily Facebook live broadcast hosted by Kevin McNeese and Marcus Hathcock.
2017 Big feature: First-ever television broadcast of the We Love Christian Music Awards.