Selah Celebrates 20 Years, Thanks Christian Retail for Ongoing Success

“When I first auditioned for Selah 12 years ago, I hadn’t heard of them,” Amy Perry confesses as she tells the story of how the award-winning trio’s current lineup came to pass.

When Perry called her sister to tell her about the audition and asked if she was familiar with the vocal act, her sister replied, “Oh my gosh, they’re my new favorite group!” Turns out, her sister had visited her local Christian bookstore the week before and stumbled upon Selah’s Hiding Place album displayed on an endcap.

“That’s how my family discovered Selah—through the Christian bookstore,” Perry says.

She replaced Selah’s founding female vocalist Nicol Sponberg, joining male leads Todd Smith and Allan Hall, and the rest is history. This year marks Selah’s 20th year in music, and Christian retail has been a consistent sales driver for the group since the beginning. Selah is one of LifeWay’s top three best-selling artists of all time, and the trio credits Christian stores for massive organic support through the years. They have countless stories of customers who have walked into a Christian bookstore looking for music as a source of comfort and encouragement, and store clerks have immediately pointed them to a Selah album.

“So many times the person at the cash register would say, ‘you’ve gotta hear Selah!’ And then those people would go and pick up our CD. And then they’d buy 10 copies for their friends and whoever was struggling,” shares Smith. “So we were always a very grassroots, word-of-mouth type group, and a lot of that was directly through Christian bookstores.”

One promotion in particular, in support of Selah’s Christmas offering, Rose of Bethlehem, proved highly successful when Family Christian Stores ran the album at a heavily discounted price from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. The initial goal was to sell 5,000 to 10,000 units throughout the campaign, but the chain sold their entire inventory within the first week. The promotion ignited some friendly competition among Family locations across the country, and the campaign eventually boasted sales of 200,000 copies.

Curb Records Sales VP Benson Curb reports the group has invested a lot of time and energy into LifeWay, too. Earlier this year, Curb partnered with LifeWay on a presale campaign for Selah’s latest project, Unbreakable. During January and February, anyone who pre-purchased the album at a LifeWay store instantly received three new songs and a bracelet promoting Open Doors, an organization Selah supports that aids persecuted believers around the world.

“That was a great cause,” Curb says, “and LifeWay really helped promote that message, along with the album.”

The promotion resulted in nearly 500 orders ahead of Unbreakable’s release in March.

Outside of their career, the trio enjoy the personal shopping experience Christian stores provide—whether it’s browsing a large selection of core products or striking up an organic conversation with a fellow book or music connoisseur.

“I love to shop online, but I also like to see my options,” says Perry. “I never knew I needed that until I saw it in the Christian bookstore.”

Smith says there’s something inherently distinct about the atmosphere in a Christian bookstore vs. a big-box retailer. “A bookstore is one of our favorite places,” he shares. “There’s something, too, about a Christian bookstore where you can tell the people there really have a mission, really have a purpose where they know they’re ministering to other people. So, we’ll go in there, and you just feel this peace.”

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—Lindsay Williams