Shout to the Lord: Music and change at Hillsong, 1996-2007


Riches, Tanya Nicole. (2010). Shout to the Lord: Music and change at Hillsong, 1996-2007 [Thesis].
AuthorsRiches, Tanya Nicole
Qualification nameMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)

The Christian pop-rock music of Hillsong is an iconic Australian phenomenon. According to Michael Hawn, ""The music of Hillsong is undoubtedly the best-known church music export from Australia to the world"". This study focuses on the years between 1996 and 2007, a time when Hillsong bands received a staggering amount of industry accolades and awards, and the church expanded from Sydney's Hills District into the city, and internationally to London, Paris, Berlin, Kiev and Moscow. Encompassing Darlene Zschech's appointment as Worship Pastor, this period saw many developments in the Hillsong musical and textual style, production and marketing strategies, resulting in the creation of Australia's leading Christian music publishing house. The study seeks to investigate Hillsong music within its local worship context of Hillsong Church, taking into account data collected from interviews with key leaders, and providing analysis of the content of Hillsong Music Australia's annually released albums in both CD and DVD form. It aims to identify and explore the many layers of change that emerge during this time particularly in the areas of repertoire, performance and production. In the song lyric for example, traditional Pentecostal theologies such as the Spirit's supernatural empowerment are shown to give way to themes reflective of prosperity gospel, ultimately embracing the foundations of a social gospel. Musically, the product of Hillsong can be traced from black-gospel piano ballads to complex, crafted rock songs that highlight multiple electric guitars and a talented rhythm section; with the United Youth band recordings instrumental in the experimentation and development of a Hillsong sound. The study also investigates the development of marketing strategies and the promotion of a competent, exciting and sophisticated Hillsong brand.;This features celebrity artists notably the feminine Zschech and masculine United musicians Joel Houston and Marty Sampson as figureheads - however, by the end of the period, album artworks feature stylised photographs of the church congregation rather than HMA's earlier releases promoting glossy images of celebrity worship leaders. The thesis thus comprises a case study, which addresses important tensions inherent in contemporary Christian music.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Final version
Publication dates01 Jan 2010
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