William Ray “Bill” Hearn, chairman and CEO of Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), passed away Sun., Dec. 10, at age 58 after battling cancer. His death follows that of his father, who founded Sparrow Records and passed away in 2015.
Hearn was at the forefront of Sparrow’s initial sale to EMI and eventual acquisition to Universal Music Group in 2013. Renamed Capitol Christian Music Group, the company currently oversees multiple divisions, including CCMG Label Group, Motown Gospel, and CCMG Publishing, making CCMG the largest Christian music corporation in the world. Hearn has been the CEO since 1996.
“I was blessed to have known Bill for 42 years,” shares Steve Potratz, a former member of the founding executive team at Sparrow. “Bill was a quiet, wise, humble, servant leader. He loved the Lord and loved our industry.”
Now the president and founder of The Parable Group, Potratz also remembers Hearn’s deep love for retail. “His support behind-the-scenes for Christian retail was tremendous. He was always learning and consistently asked how he could serve us,” Portratz says. “We lost a giant this week—a giant that made a tremendous impact on the Kingdom through Christian music. He will be deeply missed.”
CBA President Curtis Riskey adds, “Bill Hearn found ways to extend worship from the church and into the culture, helping make Christ known through song. He lifted up Jesus in every musical genre to touch people’s hearts, celebrate the Gospel, and make it normal to be a Christian.”
Greg Bays served under Hearn for 25 years as the executive VP of Capitol Christian Distribution. Earlier this year, Bays took a new role with Integrity Music as VP, commercial partnerships and marketing. He remembers Hearn with fondness.
“It was a true gift to work under Bill’s leadership, and I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his generosity and the many opportunities he sent my way,” Bays reflects. “He challenged me and encouraged me to grow, and I am a better man because of my time with him.”
A mentor and friend to many, Hearn was a leader in the Nashville community, often giving his time and financial resources to numerous charitable organizations, including the T.J. Martell Foundation, Music Health Alliance, the Nashville Symphony, and Compassion International, among others.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Bill for more than 20 years,” adds Paul Sizelove, VP, Gaither Music Group, a CCMG partner. “He was instrumental in the growth and success of not only the Gaither brand but the entire Christian music industry. Bill’s legacy will continue to thrive and influence generations of Christian music artists and professionals, as well as the recipients of his philanthropic generosity.”
CCMG artists also expressed their admiration for Hearn and condolences for his family on social media.
“I truly cannot put into words what Bill Hearn meant to me,” Chris Tomlin writes. “He truly is the best friend an artist could have—a man of great vision and integrity. His impact on Christian music as a whole and my music, personally, is immeasurable; and his legacy will live on for generations.”
On Instagram, Kari Jobe recalls the first time she met Hearn. “He smiled at me and talked about how he and the label wanted to serve the vision of God on my life,” she posted. “He was a quiet man, but always kind. He was a deep thinker, but always had a smile in his eyes.”
David Crowder remembers singing at Hearn’s wedding, adding, “At my lowest, he was there. In the rare magical moments that allowed for celebration, he was there. He was counsel to me more times than I can count … He knew when I needed a call, or a text, or golf. He was magic. Music is easy; following Jesus is hard. He helped me do both.”
Hearn will be honored with a memorial service in Nashville on Thursday, Dec. 14. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Thistle Farms (thistlefarms.org).