WORD RECORDS HISTORY

Word Records logo

Word Records had two distribution agreements with A&M Records. The first one, finalized on December 12, 1984, ran from early 1985 until 1990. The agreement was reworked in 1987 and was in effect through 1992.

Bob Darden reported in Billboard on October 11, 1986, "Word has enlarged its share of the marketplace in the last year. Depending on who you talk to, Word has anywhere from 49% to 65% of the total Christian music market. An any given time, 10, 11, 12, 13 of the top 15 albums on the Billboard contemporary charts are from Word or Word-distributed labels."

From Word's inception, it had a number of label divisions including Canaan Records, Exit Records, Myrrh and Myrrh/LA Records and Rejoice Records. Word established the What? Records label around 1985. What? was designed to capture new musical trends--youth-oriented contemporary market. A&M showed interest in two of the artists on that label, Tonio K. and Dave Perkins. Albums by both were released under the old Horizon Records SP 700 series.

Word sold 80-85% of its products in Christian bookstores, not retail record stores. About 80% of Word's sales were cassettes in the mid-1980s.

With the distribution agreement with A&M, Word began to achieve crossover success in the secular market through Amy Grant's Unguarded album which went was certified gold in 45 days and went on to platinum status. The album received airplay on pop radio and Christian stations. When a gospel artist is marketed to a gospel audience, print media works better. With a secular audience, the overtly religious element is downplayed in order to get television and promotional appearances.

A&M's succeeded with Word Records where other major secular labels failed in their distribution of gospel and Christian labels. A&M developed separate marketing strategies for the contemporary, inspirational and black gospel products within the Word line.

In 1986, Word re-signed its distribution deal with Reunion Records to last until 1990. Word also had arrangements with DaySpring Records, Home Sweet Home Records, I Am Records, Live Oak Records, and Maranatha! Records.

In 1987, Word began exploring CDs but had not made much progress with that format.

By the time Word dissolved its association with A&M Records in 1992, it had five gold certifications from the RIAA: four to artist Sandi Patti and one for Evie. (Amy Grant's certifications are listed under A&M Records history although a number of those releases were due to the Word/A&M pact.)

WORD RECORDS FORMATS AND PRICES

YEAR SERIES ALBUM CASSETTE CD
1988 Word 8100
What? 0700
$8.98
$8.98
$8.98
$8.98
No set price
No set price
1989 Word 8100
Word Videos 61700
What? 0700
$8.98
$19.98 VHS
$8.98
$8.98
NA
$8.98
No set price
NA
No set price

SOURCES:

Billboard. Word Records: Breaking Down Barriers Still Top Priority in Campaign to Capture New Musical Trends. Bob Darden. October 11, 1986.
A&M Records retail catalogs.