The Future Is Now: Making Money In Southern Gospel Music

MoneyToday, in my commentary on making money in Southern Gospel music in 2016; I wanted to offer a counter narrative on what you should avoid in order to save money.

25 to 30 years ago, the Southern Gospel industry found a money-making scheme with artists that still exists to this day; radio promoters to promote an artists current radio single to try to get it to chart.

I am going to admit to all my readers now, that twenty years ago I was stupid in terms of how to handle these radio promoters.  Being young and naive in an industry that is looking to score money where they can find it; an artist friend I had, was bamboozled.  He had recorded an independent recording of ten songs he had written and wanted to get his music out to radio.  We were both young and naive and thought our only option at the time was to use a radio promoter.

I contacted said promoter on behalf of my artist friend.  They had me send them the recording and they mentioned they would get back to me with which song they felt should be singled.  That was the first mistake because ‘they’ ended up choosing a song that wasn’t even the best on the recording.

Let’s just say, by the time this whole charade was over, my artist friend was out $2,500 with nothing to show for the money and effort he made to just get someone to hear his music.  I can only answer for one experience, but as a new artist, the BIGGEST MISTAKE you will make early on in your career will be spending a couple thousand dollars to try to get a song to radio and chart.

While the charting system (having a hit record) may have made a difference in an artist’s career 25 years ago; the same doesn’t hold true today.  One thing the Singing News could do immediately to curb some of the bamboozling of artists is to eliminate the top 80 chart and move back to a strict top 40.  Less mediocre song material to muddy up the quality songs trying to push through for a little recognition.

The music industry’s most noted chart publication, Billboard Magazine, have reduced all of their genre charts to the top 25, understanding the way listeners get their music nowadays.  Southern Gospel music have to begin understanding these shifts in the way listeners get their music.  With Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube to name a few.  I guarantee, your reach on these platforms as an artist is greater than the few people who still listen to traditional radio.

Also, the excuse of the older generation not understanding these new platforms no longer holds weight.  The 40+ age group have taken over Facebook from the younger generation.  It has become the social media platform of parents/grandparents.  The younger generation has left Facebook to go to apps like Twitter and Tumblr where they can associate with their own age group.

Lets run a little test.  Here are ten songs on the Singing News February top 80 chart.  How many of these have you, as a listener, actually heard.  I am not asking if you have heard of these specific artists, but have you heard these songs?  Now don’t go trying to find these songs and listening to say you’ve heard them.

  1. #73 – “Difference Is The Cross” – Page Trio
  2. #71 – “To Be Forgiven” – Sherry Anne
  3. #61 – “If Not For The Old Rugged Cross” – Spoken For Trio
  4. #58 – “Jesus On The Mainline” – Bates Family
  5. #56 – “A Good Place To Turn Around” – Mercy’s Bridge
  6. #54 – “I Believe, Help My Unbelief” – Knight Family
  7. #53 – “Because He Loved Me” – Kelly Coberly
  8. #47 – “Halfway Down The Aisle” – Shellem Cline
  9. #35 – “Greatest Of All Miracles” – Dean Hickman
  10. #28 – “It’s Time” – Keith Barkley & Family Tradition

 

 

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8 thoughts on “The Future Is Now: Making Money In Southern Gospel Music

  1. A couple of the songs look like covers. So, yes, I’ve heard the original, but I’ve never heard any of these artists do these songs. In fact, I’ve never even heard of most of these artists. However, I did listen to a lot of music on Spotify and YouTube today.

  2. So, you’re not suggesting radio and the chart should go away, just that it should be dominated by the top labels, right?
    And today’s new SG artist shouldn’t bother with radio promotion. They should wait until there’s enough buzz on social media and online music outlets for a major record label to notice and promote properly to radio?

    1. Success in Southern Gospel music doesn’t hinge on being with a major record label. Throwing away thousands of dollars for a radio promoter to call radio stations to either play or chart your song is ludicrous.

      Does having a song in the top 80 really beneficial to a new artist’s career? Highly doubtful. I tend to harp on the Collingsworth Family never having a major chart hit (a couple top tens, but never a #1), but they prove that radio success doesn’t translate to audience appeal/popularity.

    2. I sang with a quartet for about 3 years here in Michigan. Shortly after I joined the group, they decided to send a single to radio. For 6 months the group paid a promoter to push the song to radio stations. The song ended up charting, going up to #56 or so on the Top 80. You know how many extra dates we got out of that? Zero. The song may have been a blessing to people who heard it on radio, but the group gained no exposure from the song. It was a lot of money wasted, in my opinion, for no good reason other than ego.

      Another point that people may or may not know is that the number of charting radio stations has decreased substantially in the last few years. Not sure on exact figures, but the change has been significant. If your song gets played on 10 stations, your song will chart. It’s very misleading.

      1. Brian, thanks for providing insight from an artist’s viewpoint. Someone will need to explain it to me but I don’t understand the reason for the radio promotion business.

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