Folks, this is the last post you will ever see on the site known as Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row. The new mega-blog is now official and operating. Please go to the following link and be sure to bookmark it and find everything you loved about this site. I, along with David Bruce Murray, Kyle Boreing, Diana Brantley and Phil Boles look forward to bringing you all the features you have come to enjoy over the last several years and more! The new site also has Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row entire library of posts, so you can go and search for anything you could have found here.
Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category
Tags: Brian Free & Assurance, Gold City, Tribute Quartet
This week will forgo the ‘live’ Southern Gospel music connection feature to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Happy Easter everyone! Here is a YouTube video, chosen by each of us, to help celebrate the Easter season. Enjoy!
1. Steve’s choice: ”Good News From Jerusalem” – Tribute Quartet (published by TheSevenTronic).
2. David’s choice: ”Jesus Came Out Alive” – Brian Free & Assurance (published by BnCSGMusic).
3. Diana’s choice: ”There Rose a Lamb” – Gold City (published by Kyle Boreing)
4. Phil’s choice: ”The Old Rugged Cross Made The Difference” – Gaither Vocal Band (published by GaitherVEVO)
5. Kyle’s choice: “My Son” – The Oak Ridge Boys (published by TheORBFan)
This week concludes Southern Gospel’s potential irrelevance series. Last week looked at the concert side of things in Southern Gospel music discussing concert tours, offering free concerts for promoters and ticket sales.
This final installment will look at three final talking points. Southern Gospel can survive in the 21st century, but it will take the efforts of industry members and the listening audience to make it happen.
- Free Song Download: How can an artist introduce their music to new listeners? Many pay radio promoters tons of money to promote a song at radio, when it has already been discussed radio doesn’t have the same impact for artists as it did 15+ years ago.
When an artist has a new album coming out, they should offer one song from that album as a free download. Get the audience wanting more by giving them something up front. Even if an individual may not decide to purchase the new album, you’ve at least introduced your music to new listeners.
Artists should also think about having a concert to premier the new album. I saw this happen when new quartet Union Street released their debut album at the end of 2012. Jason Crabb also just had a concert for the release of his new album Love Is Stronger. These concerts can be streamed live or recorded and then posted to YouTube. This allows a larger listening audience to get a glimpse of your new album and your music as a whole.
- Get Southern Gospel Back In The Church: Southern Gospel’s biggest asset in the early years was having the brand sung in church every Sunday by the church. The first thing is ministers of music and church members shouldn’t be ashamed to perform a Southern Gospel song during your services.
Sure, there may be some folks groan at you performing a Southern Gospel song for a Sunday special, but so what. As long as the Church isn’t dictating the song you must sing then do a Southern Gospel song. And if the church is dictating the song you should sing, then maybe you should find another church.
Ministers of music, use Southern Gospel in the mix of music you’re presenting as well. Again some folks may groan but this day in age, it would be refreshing to have a song they can sing where they won’t have to repeat it ten thousand times before it finishes.
There are plenty of Southern Gospel music listeners who sing in church. Sing Southern Gospel because there may be someone who could be hearing Southern Gospel for the first time and end up liking it.
- Stop Being Cheap: The last talking point is directed at the listening audience. The only way Southern Gospel music can survive in the 21st century comes down to the audience that attends concerts and purchases the music.
There is only one thing I can say to you: ”Stop being cheap”. If you’re complaining that you have to pay $20 a ticket to see one of the top artists in the industry you need to change that mindset. Many will be pay upwards of $50 or more to attend country music shows, sporting events, etc. Are you not going to a Southern Gospel concert event to also have a good time?
To the artists; to get more individuals out to concerts you need to put on a program they will remember. The biggest artists in the industry knows how to mix humor with the more serious moments to make for a memorable event. I believe concert goers will pay for a good concert if they know it is going to be better than what they could get in church (for free) on Sunday mornings.
This week continues Southern Gospel’s potential irrelevance series. Part five will cover three additional points that will keep Southern Gospel music relevant in the 21st century. Next week will cap the discussion.
Last week covered the brand in general while also looking at technological tools that need to be used. They included making music available digitally while utilizing all the social media tools available in 2013. This week, I want to take a look at the concert side of things.
- Concert Tours: When looking at any other musical genre, concert tours are what occur. The biggest acts will headline a show while they invite several emerging artists to tour with them for a series of shows. I never understood while this was never utilized in Southern Gospel music. With the exception of the Blackwood Brothers and Statesmen Quartet in the 1950′s/1960′s, Southern Gospel rarely utilized an actual concert tour.
I understand the logistical nightmares that would occur having to change the current system of letting promoters call and book a la carte. Am I the only one to see the benefits of the booking agent getting together with their artists and putting together a tour to offer promoters. It could be limited to 20 to 30 select dates to not take away from the artists individual bookings.
You would have a headline act (the major draw) and build no more than two other artists around the headline act. Instead of paying each artist individually, the promoter would pay one price for the entire tour. For an industry that is already struggling to put people in the seats, I understand that the money that could be lost from this venture outweighs the likelihood of this becoming a norm for Southern Gospel music.
- Offer Free Concert For Promoters: With promoters struggling to break even on concerts, booking agents along with artists should offer a free concert promo every so often to allow promoters to enter to win a free concert with the artist holding the contest.
Imagine if promoters could enter to win a free concert with, say the Booth Brothers or Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. The promoter could offer lower ticket prices to offset their other costs and not fret over putting enough people in the seats to cover the artist’s flat.
How would the artist be paid for the date. The booking agent would cover the artist’s flat for that particular evening. While booking agents may not like this idea, there has to be some creative marketing tool that someone can come up with to not only help the promoter, but ultimately get more people in the seats.
- Ticket Sales: Individuals are more inclined to purchase an item if they believe they are getting something in return. One way a promoter could try to get more people in the seats is offer a two for one special. For every two tickets an individual purchases they get one free.
Promoters are probably cringing reading that statement but hear me out. Let’s look at this scenario: your plan was to sell individual tickets for $8 a piece in order to try to break even on the concert. Instead offer a two for one special but charge $12 a ticket. That way, as a promoter you’re still getting the $24 whether you sell three tickets at $8 or two for $12. Again, people are more inclined to purchase an item if they feel they are getting something in return.
Individuals may be more inclined to come if they get a free ticket by purchasing two. Also, the person attending the concert using the free ticket may have never come otherwise. By getting them there and offering a great concert experience, that individual may be inclined to attend a future event.
***TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK…***
Multi-Blog Merger Announced
MusicScribe, Southern Gospel Views From The Back Row, Southern Gospel Concerts, and Phil on Southern Gospel will merge next Friday, March 15, 2013.
On March 15, readers will be asked to submit suggestions for a new name for the combined blog. Once an identity is established, a permanent site will be launched where readers can read and react to articles by several writers in one convenient location.
During the transition phase, Steve Eaton, Kyle Boreing, David Bruce Murray, Diana Brantley and Phil Boles will be posting their articles at Eaton’s current website,
Steve Eaton started Southern Gospel Views From The Back Row in July 2010. Steve’s regular features like “Ten On Ten,” “Most Influential” and “Smack Down” have been a hit with his readers.
Phil Boles launched Phil on Southern Gospel in July 2009 at the age of 19. Based in Northern Ireland, Phil brings a valuable international perspective to the new blog.
Diana Brantley took over Southern Gospel Concerts (SGConcerts.com) in May 2009. She will continue to contribute her popular concert reviews and videos to the merged blog.
Kyle Boreing started blogging in February 2007 at Southern Gospel View. He moved to MusicScribe two years later.
David Bruce Murray was one of the first bloggers to cover Southern Gospel music when he started MusicScribe in September 2004.
I have now discussed nine different talking points regarding the potential irrelevance of Southern Gospel music. If you need to catch up they can be seen here, here and here. This week I want to begin adding my thoughts on what I believe will keep Southern Gospel music relevant in the 21st century.
With technology advancing every year, Southern Gospel music needs to keep up with every piece of technology and social media in order to keep fans while also trying to capture new listeners. This week, I will look at three things that will keep Southern Gospel music relevant in the 21st century.
- Don’t apologize for what you are: This can hearken back to the over saturation and the level playing field argument I brought up in part two of the series. Many outsiders don’t take Southern Gospel music seriously because of all the mediocre music that infiltrates the Southern Gospel marketplace. Listeners have to weed through mounds of mediocre until they find that nugget of Southern Gospel greatness.
The artists recording/releasing the best music of this genre should not have to apologize for being labeled a Southern Gospel artist. At its best, I would stack Southern Gospel music up against any other Christian music genre and be proud to do so. It is time for the industry to take back the Southern Gospel moniker and proudly market it with the best musical artists in the industry and show new listeners what Southern Gospel music really sounds like.
When Southern Gospel is participating in non-Southern Gospel related events or to a non-Southern Gospel listening audience (GMA week/CBA/performing on Christian TV outlets comes to mind), be sure to offer the crowd the best musical experience you can. You want them walking away talking about your music and performance. Also, when participating in these type of events, use live musicians. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Using tracks on these type of events is an immediate dismissal of your music.
- All Southern Gospel music in 2013 should be available digitally: No more excuses. If you want listeners to take you seriously as a recording artist there is no reason your music should not be available digitally. Whether that means offering your music through Amazon/iTunes/Rhapsody or providing the option of digital downloads via your own website. It is 2013 folks.
Some artists would argue that the majority of the Southern Gospel listening audience are grey hairs that don’t use computers/internet and still want hard copy CDs. I don’t totally disagree with that statement, but internet use among the 50+ crowd is at an all time high. Also, the goal is to open up your music to new listeners. I would venture to say that the majority of the under 50 crowd purchase their music digitally.
I ditched purchasing hard copy CDs several years ago. I only purchase my music digitally. I understand I am only one listener, but if you are an artist who is not offering your music digitally you just lost a customer. Also, there is no reason that songwriter credits are not listed on your website for each album.
- Use social media: The amount of time people use in their daily lives scouring the internet is astronomical. Artists should be using social media to promote themselves. From Facebook to YouTube to Twitter to Social Cam. All these tools can only enhance your presence.
There are some artists who have legitimate copyright concerns when talking about the posting of videos on YouTube. Control the content by having your own personal YouTube channel. I know artists such as the Hoppers have their own YouTube channel as does many other artists. The Nelons have also found a way to promote themselves with videos of their dog called the Sam Cam. While this may have started as something fun, it has turned in to a marketing tool to not only have fun but also promote their group. Clever.
***TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK…***
Last week in continuing the Southern Gospel’s potential irrelevance series, I covered three industry topics (over saturation, the Southern Gospel recording industry and the lack of availability of classic albums in digital format). As I suspected, there wasn’t much feedback on this particular post. While it wasn’t my intent, stepping on some toes, I guess keeps people quiet.
This week I wanted to cover three final topics that may be leading to Southern Gospel’s potential irrelevance. Next week will begin the bright side of this topic as I begin laying out my thoughts on how Southern Gospel can/will survive in the 21st century.
- Southern Gospel Radio: This topic has been discussed on many occasions. The main frustration by many Southern Gospel radio listeners is the lack of quality music and an over saturation of artists rarely/never heard of, on radio. Just like any musical genre, there is a guideline that radio program directors use in determining what songs get placed in rotation. Many mainstream musical genres are extremely strict in what and what doesn’t get played. For example, country radio is good at only playing top 40 all day long. In the long run, does that help or hurt?
While some may not consider it the most reliable radio chart source, Southern Gospel music does have a radio airplay chart that has been around since 1970 in the form of the Singing News. For any radio program director, there is at least a starting point, but even I wouldn’t place in rotation some of the songs that land in the top 80. I know several country music radio stations use independent listening panels to determine what potential new songs will get added to rotation based on listener feedback. This sounds like something that could work in Southern Gospel music.
For anyone wanting to look at a model for how Southern Gospel radio should be done should listen to JoyFM. I am blessed to live in their listening area and there is not one song I hear that isn’t quality enough to be there (also personal tastes and quality are two different things, so let’s not confuse them when talking about what songs should be on radio). My only complaint is there are some strong radio singles that may not make their rotation. There are other Southern Gospel radio outlets that are providing listeners with quality music as well, maybe not to the degree of JoyFM but quality nonetheless (Solid Gospel and Enlighten).
- Radio Promotion: To build on the Southern Gospel radio argument, one reason many don’t see the radio charts as reliable is the influence of radio promotion. While I understand the need for record labels promoting their artists at radio, the Southern Gospel radio promotion business has turned in to a shark infested ocean of how quickly can I get my artist to #1.
Artists need to understand #1 songs in 2013 don’t hold the same merit they did 20+ years ago. Chart topping hits used to help emerging artists find a foot hold in Southern Gospel music and gain a larger fan base. I believe the change has more to do with technology and individuals becoming their own radio stations with iPods and music players. For me personally, I have Southern Gospel playlists created for each day of the week. I fill them with current radio singles, non singles and classic songs. I listen to that playlist each day while I work. I understand I am not the normal Southern Gospel listener but this is an untapped market that Southern Gospel hasn’t even attempted to target.
Radio promoters shouldn’t be focusing all of their attention on radio program directors, but to the individual listening audience. If I was promoting an artist’s single, I would be targeting the Southern Gospel listener as well with crafty little advertisements: ”If there is one current radio single that you need to have in your iPod this week, it is ‘this song’ by ‘this artist’. Provide a clip and then make sure the single is available for download. At the end of the day it will be the listener that will determine if that artist your promoting will be successful in Southern Gospel by ultimately purchasing their music and going to their concerts, not that #1 position you’re trying to attain on an airplay chart.
- Business vs. Ministry: Oh no, not the old business versus ministry debate; please no. I can already see everyone cringing but hear me out one more time. Working in the business world (yes I am an accountant by day, Southern Gospel blogger by night), I understand the components needed to make sure a business operates successfully. Those same principles need to be used no matter what you do in life.
If you would sit down and talk to any of the group owner’s of the major touring artists in Southern Gospel music you would understand quickly that they operate their group as a business. If they didn’t they wouldn’t still be on the road. There is a sub set of Southern Gospel fans who believe that it is a ministry only and God will provide you with what you need. This same sub set of fan believes that concert goers shouldn’t be charged to go to a Southern Gospel concert; that the ‘Gospel’ should be free.
As much as this sub set of fan doesn’t want to hear this, Southern Gospel music is a business. God will provide you with what you need, but he also expects you to be good stewards of what you’re given. In the case of these artists touring week after week, if they didn’t treat their finances and the money they bring in as any good business owner would do, then they wouldn’t be a good steward of those finances. Group owners that are unable to run their group’s as a business will not be on the road long.
The ministry happens once the artist hits the stage. The ministry is the performance of songs which contain the “Gospel’ message, maybe a brief testimony or story to set up a song, some fun moments with jokes (entertainment) and a closing segment to allow anyone in the listening audience to accept this message (Jesus Christ) you’re presenting.
***TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK…***
I started a commentary last week regarding the potential irrelevance of Southern Gospel music. I touched on three points last week (church decline, more to occupy our time and the death of ‘live’ music). As I suspected the death of ‘live’ music garnered the most discussion.
I for one am going to make an effort to bring live music back to Southern Gospel concerts. Whether that means artists employing additional musicians or having current members pick up an instrument. A movement starts with one. I hope other’s will get on board. I will touch on how we as a listening audience can make this happen in a future post.
Speaking of adding ‘live’ music back in to concerts, I want to give a quick shout out to Greater Vision. I had the opportunity to watch Greater Vision online from Lake Gibson Church of the Nazarene in Lakeland FL on Saturday (02/16/13). The group did two songs with Gerald at piano and Rodney on bass guitar. Both featured Chris (“I Know A Man Who Can” and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”). If that wasn’t enough, Gerald called Mark Trammell and Pat Barker to the stage to do some impromptu moments with just piano and voices. They sang “Wedding Music” and “Master Builder” and then Pat was called back on stage to sing a verse and chorus of “How Big Is God”. Gerald, more of this in concert please!
For those who think I am just spreading doom and gloom about the Southern Gospel industry and its future, I will wrap up this commentary adding a few ideas on how Southern Gospel music can survive in the 21st century. And for anyone that knows me will understand that I want nothing more than for Southern Gospel music to be around for our children and their children to enjoy.
The next three talking points are more for the Southern Gospel industry than for the general fan. I wanted to add some items to discuss if certain industry practices are leading to Southern Gospel’s irrelevance.
- Over Saturation: For a niche genre that has a small listening audience (comparable to mainstream musical genres), Southern Gospel has artists in abundance. The problem is really not with how many artists are out there singing (or attempting to sing) Southern Gospel; the problem is the Southern Gospel industry’s mindset of a level playing field. The ‘I can sing just as good as you’ weekend quartet is able to throw some money together, record an album, throw money at a radio promoter to get a song on radio (and charted, if enough money is thrown) and all of a sudden they feel they are on the same level playing field as groups like the Booth Brothers, Triumphant Quartet, Gaither Vocal Band, Hoppers, Perrys, Etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for talented individuals/new artists getting discovered and eventually make it to a place where they are listed among the biggest groups, but one mediocre album and a song that charts in the top 80 doesn’t make it so. There is a time and season for everything. Emerging artists; if you’re to make it to the same level as ‘top tier’ groups, then stick with it because if it is to be your season will come.
- The recording industry is backwards: To add to the over saturation argument and the reality that ‘Joe Anybody” can go record an album and get a song on radio for the right price, we need to look at the Southern Gospel recording industry. For the little bit of knowledge I have (anybody that can add to this would be great) regarding mainstream musical genres, artists are discovered and then signed to a record label. The record label foots the bill in regards to all the expense to getting the album recorded, to the marketplace and ultimately purchased by the listening audience. The record label will re-coup their cost when the album finally starts selling. Once the label breaks even, then the artist starts receiving a percentage of additional record sales.
The luxury to that is weeding out artists who aren’t selling. When an artist flops, the label drops them and many times the artist is never heard of again. The model in Southern Gospel is; a new album is not recorded by the artist until they have the money to foot the bill to get the album recorded and to the marketplace. The record label will offer marketing/advertising, distribution and radio promotion. Under this model, I wonder why all Southern Gospel artists are not recording independently and releasing every album as a custom recording. That way the artist at least retain rights to their masters. I would like some insight from someone in the Southern Gospel recording industry on this particular topic. I ask this question, not to be sarcastic but in really wanting to know the answer. What benefit does a Southern Gospel record label offer an artist (if they are actually signed to a label)?
- Where are the classic albums?: How are new Southern Gospel listeners to learn about the history and enjoy this music if the best Southern Gospel albums of the past are not available today in digital format. I don’t want to sound harsh with this statement, but didn’t artists of the 1960′s/1970′s/1980′s ultimately want to retain the rights to their masters so their music would not be forgotten? Another question would be, are these masters even still available or did the record labels discard them?
If I wanted to go online to one of the many music sites and listen to Johnny Cash’s The Singing Story Teller from 1969, I can. Or since I’m a kid of the MTV generation (80′s), I may want to go listen to the Thompson Twins 1984 pop album Into The Gap and again I am able to do so. Why is it then I can’t go and listen to the Cathedrals 1983 Live In Atlanta album or the Oak Ridge Boys 1971 album Performance? The gospel record labels (Canaan/HeartWarming) showed how much they cherished this music. I believe a large portion of the HeartWarming record masters from the 1970′s were destroyed. How shameful.
**TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK….**