Medicine shows and concept videos

One of my many scouts on the ground brought to my attention this article by Dale Duhl (isn’t this the same guy whose worldofgospelmusic.com was going to remake the sg landscape but is now idling in the parking of lot of forgotten and un-updated websites?). Anyway, in this piece, Duhl extols the virtues of “concept videos” as an alternative to the hard work of breaking through to wider fame and recognition by producing a solid studio project. I think the air of hucksterism that leaks out on all sides of this kinda thing is pretty self-evident. One real problem seems to be that Duhl is proposing to replace dashed off studio projects done on the cheap for dashed off concept videos done on the cheap, the only difference being (I’m guessing) that concept videos seem sexier and edgier right now, so their production value won’t be that important (what happens when concept videos are no longer edgy and new?). Or maybe Duhl is suggesting expensive, high-quality concept videos to replace cheap studio projects, whichA) seems counterintuitive (why would a group trying to break onto the national sg scene sink a ton of money into a concept video for which there is, as David Bruce Murray smartly points out in the comments section, no real reliable distribution network) and B) makes me wonder if Duhl doesn’t have some kind of interest in a video production outfit somewhere (much the same way Nick Bruno often has business interests in many of the kinds of professional development he urges in his sogospelnews columns). Duhl’s success story is an unnamed performer whose video “Prayer List” landed her on the 700 Club and eventually in a 911 memorial at the Pentagon alongside Andre Crouch (I couldn’t find the video by Googling, but I didn’t look too hard). The video sounds similar in its “concept” to that “Christmas in Kosovo” thing I saw advertised in SN a few months back (by the basically unknown group whose booth I passed at NQC). I haven’t seen the videos, so I can’t say whether either one of them is a “work of art in its own right,” as Duhl suggests these concept videos can be, but this model has one-hit-wonder written all over it. “Concept videos” is a nice way of advising artists to put some kind of gimmick or schtick ahead of the general excellence of the music itself (”Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle, … razzle dazzle ‘em”). And even if you do manage to gain recognition on the basis of these kinds of gimmicks and schticks, there’s a good chance - as is true with gimmicks and schticks generally - that you’ll be typecast in that role (”she’s the woman who kicks off her shoes;” “he’s the guy who does the patriotic recitations before singing jeremiads about the nation’s moral decline;” “she’s the one who does that song about 911″ and so on). It’s not impossible to go on to broader success once you’ve come to fame (or notoriety) this way, but it’s a lot harder. Plus, it cheapens the whole notion of Christian religious expression through music when performers or groups envision themselves and their work through the narrow lens of a single faddish or gimmicking “concept.” While there are many flaws to the radio market and the prominence of radio charts as the kingmaker in sg, there’s something to be said for a gatekeeping method that foregrounds the musical ability of a group or performer. Sure, studio projects can suggest talent where none really exists. But I’d much rather discover that a performer or group with a hit single can’t “tote the mail” (still love that phrase) in a live performance than be subjected to a spate of performers banging away in concert at this or that “concept” popularized by their latest video, no matter how well they can sing. One reader put it well when he said “This is the kind of medicine show that gives SG a bad name.”

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