American Gospel Music

That’s the name of a new franchise being promoted by the NQC and Christian Music Presenters to remake the white gospel music landscape. It’ll be unveiled, I gather, at NQC next month, but the idea has been bouncing around the inboxes of southern gospel via a somewhat loosely written but ambitious proposal for “a new brand” of southern gospel music – a franchise, in the business sense of the word – “that would be available only to upper-echelon artists, the best quality recordings, the best quality events, yet unavailable to artists, recordings, and events that do no meet high standards of quality.”

If I were a PR writer working for NQC I’d probably call this a bold initiative, and it does think big, which is both insightful and commendable. There are a lot of moving parts to this thing, but the basic objective is to grow the fan-base for southern gospel music primarily in large protestant denominations (mainly, it seems, the Southern Baptist Convention) and in the process combat “The Problem” with southern gospel, which is that “The Southern Gospel Music brand has become irreparably tainted and damaged by the custom recording industry and years of producing poor quality products under that brand. The ending result is a climate whereby doors are closed to the upper echelon professional of our industry because of being lumped together with the poor quality of the custom recording amateurs.”

In order to be a franchise member, artists would have to pay about a thousand dollars a year in franchising and other administrative fees (and concert promoters, magazines, radio stations, and other related enterprises would have to pay from another fee schedule to be officially certified as AGM approved), meet certain criteria primarily based on numbers of fans a group sings to each year and how much they sell (certification requires a concert review in front of 5,000 or more people; must perform in minimum of 15 stages a year; minimally, 15,000 units of product must be pressed each year etc), and – perhaps the most, uhm, innovative plank in this new platform – artists will be spiritually certified by CMP staff.

Having undergone this approval process, franchisees — some of whom may be invited to buy non-contolling interest in NQC as well — would then be part of an elite group of “upper echelon” (that word gets used a lot) artists whose membership would set them apart from the big hair and Tammy Faye stylistics and PTLs and spiritual charlatans and religious hucksters that any fan of gospel music or TBN is familiar with. I gather from what I’ve read and heard that the goal here would be to create a menu of top-notch acts that could be shopped around to denominational leaders who would in turn endorse that roster to and for big metropolitan and suburban Southern Baptists churches that don’t typically invite southern gospel acts. “Get the approval of the approvers,” essentially. NQC would be the primary owner of the franchise and in turn outsource administration of the franchise brand – selecting, screening, and maintaining a roster of franchise artists – to Christian Music Presenters.

Where to begin? I’m not sure, not least of all because it’s not all clear to me this thing is getting much traction or that the “critical mass” of 10-12 artists that Clarke Beasley, vice president of the National Quartet Convention, thinks is necessary to launch the brand will solidify around the idea in the coming months (I’ve heard but can’t confirm that the Kingdom Heirs and the Pfeifers have expressed the most interest). Beasley – who has answered all the questions I’ve asked of him with patience and thoroughness – told me that the plan was presented initially to record companies and talent agencies, and they in turn identified a core group of artists whom each talent agent and label “believed would qualify under the criteria listed.” That yielded something like the following roster:

Brian Free (BFA)
Daniel Riley (GC)
Ed O’Neal (DMB)
Jody Brown Indian Family
Karen Peck (KPNR)
Les Beasley (FB or maybe not, since LB’s also the president of NQC)
Libbi Stuffle (Perrys)
Lily Isaacs (Isaacs)
Mark Bishop
Mark Trammell (MTT)
Michael Booth (Booths)
Ray Reese (KM)
Ruben Bean (McKameys)
Scott Fowler (L5)

The first place to begin, after reading this list, might be to say that “quality” is itself a slippery term on which to hang such a big enterprise. Or, as I said to Beasley, “With all due respect to their faith and commitment to gospel music, how can you talk about quality and standards of musical performance and then include, say, The McKameys” (or for that matter, the Pfieffers)?

But there are several larger problems of logic in the proposal that I want to focus on:

Logic problem No. 1: The NQC corporation as an arbiter of “quality.” The 14-page AGM proposal devotes extensive space to summarizing a market research report done in 1999 that focused in part on sg. The report is fascinating and baffling in many respects (and I plan to write more about it later), but it does get one thing right: NQC, the event, is an anthropological dig of southern and rural religious culture. The market researchers (who clearly weren’t familiar with gospel music) wrote in slightly appalled and shocked terms about the poor quality of sound and dress and stage presence, the unattractiveness of many performers and vendors, and the general “flea-market” tendency of the whole extravaganza. Harsh, you might say, but fair enough all the same.

So how can the corporate entity that allows, controls, and – by annually inviting plenty of low-quality, poorly dressed, unattractive and untalented performers with no stage appeal back to NQC and the NQC main stage year after year – how can the corporation that controls NQC be the solution to a problem represented and embodied in the convention? With the AGM franchise, NQC seems to be saying “the fleamarket (which we run) is a huge problem … and we have a new solution!” Huh?

When I asked Clarke Beasley this question, he replied: “If what you are saying is that the NQC should be careful about what artists they put on the main stage and should make sure that the vast majority of artists that appear on the main stage are top-tier, upper echelon artists, then I say point well taken, and I think you will see the NQC demonstrate a commitment to that in the future.”

Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was sayig (I actually wish NQC would boot all the junk peddlers out of the exhibit hall and prohibit anyone with a blinking device of any kind appended to their clothing or with more than one spritz of “better than brand name” cologne and perfume from entering the building at all). But no matter. Time will tell, I suppose, and I hope NQC is serious about ramping up quality and shutting out the no-class hacks and amateurs (there is a push at NQC right now to put “top-tier” acts at all the major entrances of the exhibit hall to essentially hide the money changers). But the NQC fleamarket makes a lot of money for its owners, and a cynic might say that AGM in its early stages looks like a way for the left hand (NQC) to create a problem that needs to be solved by the right hand (AGM).

Logic problem No. 2: “The Church” is clamoring for top-tier sg acts. The AGM plan study seems to assume “the church” is this monolithic thing that thinks and acts in unison and that it’s just waiting to book GV and L5 and the Martins for Sunday Morning worship if only these groups had a bureaucratic mechanism to certify them “clean” and “pure” and “good” and disassociate them from the detritus of the custom-recording, fried-chicken-bucket-passing crowd. But this is being terribly naïve about how entrenched and strongly protected Sunday morning worship is in the lives and culture of evangelicals. The quality problem may be one part of the issue, but surely another part is that mainline evangelical churches hold fast to the primacy of the “preached” rather than the “sung” word and consider it a denigration of the Lord’s day to put a group of sangers on the podium for a fee and thereby forsake the preaching of the word etc.

Beasley says he has no illusions that sg will be the only music presented as part of Sunday morning worship, but he does think “it is an achievable goal that we can become a more significant component of Sunday morning worship. LifeWay Christian Resrouces, which services 46,000 Southern Baptist churches as well as other mainline denominations, has done a survey of a significant sampling of the churches they service and the results expressed that there is an appreciation as well as an open door for traditional, harmony oriented, Biblically narrative, evangelicalistic music.”

Ok. But you don’t have to doubt the Lifeway survey to also see that evangelical churches are trending in the opposite ideological and theological direction from southern gospel. SG is still largely about the blood and the cross and visceral unworthiness of the self for Christ’s salvation. Mainline evangelicalism may be politically sympathetic to same red-meat causes that get a gospel audience on their feet, but theologically and culturally these churches are becoming, as a friend of mine put it, “more user friendly” in a way that makes sg an unlikely candidate for front-and-center bookings. User-friendliness accounts for the decline of Sunday evening worship services, for instance, in many large suburban and metropolitan congregations. This is not just a response to shifting cultural values and priorities among church members; it has also meant the loss of the primary time slot for sg acts to get into churches. A franchise like AGM can do very little to reverse or otherwise affect these trends.

Logic problem No. 3. Artists will want to pay for spiritual certification. Enough said.

Logic problem No. 4: It’s all in the name. Or, as a friend of mine put it: “We have to change our name, eliminate the word southern, because it carries baggage. Southern fried chicken is still selling. Southern Living Magazine is growing every year and sold across America. Three Presidents in the past 30 years have been southerners. The word “southern” isn’t our problem. If the Kansas City Royals changed their name to the Kansas City Winners, they’d still have a 50-110 season. To take from that great American philosopher, Forrest Gump, ‘bad is as bad does.’”

I don’t want to suggest there’s nothing redeemable in the AGM idea. But broadly speaking, AGM might be described as the wrong solution (a franchise) to the right problem (sg is losing market share all the time). White gospel music is in decline for a host of socio-cultural, historical, and demographic reasons that in large part can’t be changed. A pure-market economist might even say that what AGM and others identify as the main obstacle to industry growth and expansion – amateur custom recordings – has been the market’s natural way of responding to the declining sales and sagging, graying concert attendance. After all, custom-recording artists appeal to audiences that, on the low end, wouldn’t be inclined or couldn’t afford to attend “upper echelon” concerts and so might have otherwise gone untapped as a market.

Indeed the more salient view of things might look at sg, not as a tiered series of “echelons” and levels, but as a range of more or less creative and successful responses to the exigencies of the market. Custom recording is one response and it is, in its way, successful –because there are unsophisticated people willing both to make and buy that music. But so too is the Legacy 5 model or the Greater Vision model or the Ernie Haase model, or until is implosion, the Crabb model, or the Gaither Model a response to market conditions.

The success of these latter models suggest that there already is an “upper echelon” of artists succeeding pretty well, thank you very much. That doesn’t mean the ambition of getting gospel’s best talent into big Southern Baptist or non-denom churches isn’t a worthwhile or profitable initiative, but then again Gerald Wolfe is already doing that at FBC Atlanta. And the Hoppers and others have played the Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings. Perhaps these groups and others could save their AGM franchise fees and spend the money on a plane ticket to Nashville, hammer out their own recording and distribution agreement with the SBC’s Lifeway bookstore unit, and be done with it (which, I gather, has been an idea under discussion in some nascent way not so long ago).

To do that would be the very beginnings of a vertically integrated business model. And maybe in the end that’s what AGM could or should or will end up being: a Gaitherlite group of quality artists with their own dates and projects and distribution arrangements that harness their collective power and take advantage of cost savings and efficiencies that come with vertical integration. But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not at all convinced – and neither, from what I can tell, are many artists – that it will make much sense (common or bidness) to inflict a business model on an affiliated range of horizontally aligned artists and other industry services – and ask them to pay for the privilege of the infliction.

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  1. Gospel Music on 22 Mar 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Gospel Music…

    Some portions of this article sounds interesting. May be you have some links where I could read more about this topic?…


  1. Jim wrote:

    Well said! This is a great example of why I keep checking back to see what you’ve posted. Excellent analysis on a very interesting subject. I’m looking forward to see how all of this pans out. I’m afraid that all the pitfalls you’ve pointed out will just overwhelm the concept, but oh if it could only come true!
    I attend a “medium-large” Southern Baptist church in the Nashville area and just can’t forsee a Sunday Morning being given over to a singing group, no matter the caliber or genre. Friday or Saturday night maybe, but 3 songs is the most I’ve seen on a Sunday Morning, and that was from a group where at least one vocalist was a church member.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. RF wrote:

    EXcellent in-depth article about a subject that was unknown to me until now.

    I hate to be negative, but it sounds like to me this is another “money grab” by the NQC. Then everyone from the McKamey’s to the Inspirations get the franchise. I don’t buy into it at all. And my best guess is the Gaither groups will thumb their noses at it.

  3. judi wrote:

    Great article…your analysis helps educate those of us who are still largely naive about the world of southern (or white) gospel. Something about that word, “franchise” sends a chll up my spine. I’m spending a weekend in Arkansas, where a certain family’s name brands almost everything, from the basketball arena and arts center in Fayetteville to a hospital pharmacy in Bentonville. I’m staying in the middle of chicken producing country, where another family/corporation took a homely product like Sunday’s southern fried chicken and made it into a product that stuffs grocer’s freezers all around the nation. Wal-Mart; Tyson, American Gospel Music. What a concept!

  4. Tim Good wrote:

    Thanks for the update, but I think the real issue is the definition of “quality” Many churches will define quality as the singing group living what they sing (e.g. McKameys), and use the Crabbs and Kirk Talley as an example of the opposite. Although I believe in redemption, the SGM elite/power structure avoided (ran from) addressing any of these messy issues. “Franchising “quality” as defined by the SGM elite is a joke. (JD Sumner’ tremendous voice; but cover up the alcohol, smoking, and other misbehaviour). Bill Gaither, by using the Homecoming venue as a means to minister to a few broken “has-beens” has done more to address the real issues in SGM than any of the elite. And look what Singing News and the SGM elite did to Gaither until his operation became so big they could not ignore him. (Helps that Singing News was bought out also).

    As a few of the “big” acts go Christian mainstream, SGM will continue to ignore the elite.

  5. KD wrote:

    Great observations about this potential organization. My first reaction was one of hesatation to learning that NQC was behind this. Yes, NQC is the major organization behind promoting SG, but as you pointed out, they haven’t done the best job of putting the best stuff in front of people during the main shows of their annual convention.

    I saw the prospective list of initial artists, and I noticed the glaring absence of the name and/or affiliation of Gaither. How can you eliminate or disclude perhaps the single most recognized name in Christian music.

    It’ll be a tough sell.

  6. Charles Brady wrote:

    The glaring omission from those who prepared this study and those who have bought into it is a clear one. The ones preparing the study couldn’t understand the response of the crowds being the same to those they considered “average” performers VS the ones they considered to be of a more “professional” nature. It is because they, like many in our industry haven’t learned that it’s not about the “presentation” or the “presenter” or even the “presenters” credentials or the ability of the crowd to tell a good performance from a bad one. It’s about the message of the song! Until one enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ they will never understand that.

    When our industry understands it’s about the “Message” and not the “Messengers” song selection will become a critical factor again and we will enjoy the return of God’s favor to our industry. Until then it’s just ( Not Quite Christian) enough to worry about.

    Charles Brady
    Caraway Media Group

  7. eddie crook wrote:

    Where can I read the multi-page proposal?

  8. Trent wrote:

    The elitist mentality of NQC in this instance is comical. The idea that they can superimpose their own “best” groups onto and into the “best” church venues is also comical. The condescending idea that custom recordings are all bad is comical. Many of these very groups were independent artists looking for an acorn a few years ago making….yes, custom recordings. Now, they have gotten so self-righteous that they are bent on sqeezing their own life-blood lines out. I hereby deem this proposed travelling circuit of gospel singers the NQC Louisiana Hayride.

  9. Gerry wrote:

    Interesting stuff. I can’t help but feel that there are several top groups missing, notably the Talley Trio, Greater Vision and the Hoppers. But the McKameys and Jody Brown Indian Family are on the list? PUH-LEEZE. My question is, who is getting rich here? Someone is making money. On the other hand, it is true that SG is tainted with poor quality products; there are so many truly terrible part- and full-time groups out there, it is pathetic. Some of them really give SG a bad name!

  10. Rob wrote:

    The SG honchos seem to finally be grasping what a very real–if the chief–problem of the genre is today. Here you have a musical genre–SG–that exisited commerically for over 50 years, yet there is no significant measure of quality.

    Radio airplay does not signify quality (have you heard some of the stuff that somehow makes it onto the air?).

    Record sales do not provide an accurate measure of quality (quick…can you tell me how many units Greater Vision’s last album sold?).

    Industry and fan awards don’t signify quality (don’t get me started!).

    Access to the stage at the premier industry-wide concert event (NQC) doesn’t signify quality.

    Concert ticket sales aren’t counted in such a way as to denote quality.

    I’m not sure you need a new designation such as American Gospel, which might stand for something meaningful for a couple of years before getting watered-down like everything else in SG. What you need to objective standards and quality control in what are the standard measuring sticks in almost every other genre.

    Think about country music: you have Jim Bob and Danny Ray (fictional) who play on Saturday nights at the local honky-tonk. They are a country music act, pure and simple. You have Brooks & Dunn, another country music act. Do you need a country music college of cardinals to annoint B & D so that the average person will know the difference? No. You have every measurable standard possible (radio play, record sales, genre awards, ticket sales, etc.) that note an obvious difference.

    In gospel music, what would normally be the standard measures of quality would barely separate the Jim Bob and Danny Ray’s from the Brooks & Dunn’s.

    What we really need is a charting system that accurately reflectss the airplay of stations committed to playing top-notch stuff. We need an industry-wide reporting system for album sales. We are signature genre awards to reflect and measure true quality (even if that means a reduced role for the fans).

    Custom recording is not the problem. Custom recording is the lifeblood and key pipeline for development of new talent (with Elvis Presley serving as a huge example). Putting subpar custom recording artists on the cover of Singing News, on the radio airwaves, on the biggest concert stages, and on the product racks alongside top-notch talent is the problem.

  11. Sally wrote:

    What in the world is AGM thinking? Or maybe they weren’t! lol I wonder what the application reads for the ones who are going to determine if the person is spiritual enough? Is there a checkbox on there to check if you are God? How is man supposed to look on the heart and know? He can’t! ..and that is obvious how we’ve been fooled by ppl in SG.. a shame!

    Who is going to be determining what talents are part of AGM?

    Where is Greater Vision on the list? They don’t even get a mention?

    This is all just silly to me.. oh well.. bless ‘em anyhow.. LOL

    Anyway, great job, Avery! You rock!

  12. Sally wrote:

    btw.. Who is, what is and where did Christian Music Presenters come from? They just appeared out of no where! Have you read the CMP’s owners bio?

  13. anonymous wrote:

    Any list that deals with top notch groups would be incomplete without The Jody Brown Indian Family. Just because they are not a cookie cutter group doesn’t mean they are not extremely talented. There unique style and ability is quite refreshing. The sg “box” is way too small for where these guys could go.

  14. KS wrote:

    Wow very interesting…But the problem with SGM is not the world “southern” and is not custom recordings…it’s a stigma placed upon it frankly because SGM doesn’t have the circulation in the mainstream that CCM and Praise and worship does. Therefore, any weekend group traveling through your town and hacking up a song advertising themselves as SGM, the average Christian believes that this group is what SGM is and so therefore they hate it. I’d hate it all too and think all SG was horrible if I hadn’t grown up around the genre and known what true SG was (ala The Cathedrals etc…) There really aren’t as many hack Praise and Worship bands out there…and the image of Praise and Worship and “CCM” that people get is presented, professionally on television and radio etc…SG generally is not…(except Gaither and most people watching a Gaither video think that the people on Gaither were no one at all till Gaither found them)
    The problem with SGM being accepted in your large mainstream churches is lack of proper exposure pure and simple…

  15. shanjenkins wrote:

    I totally agree with Rob. The sg industry needs accurate charting systems, industry-wide album sales reports, and true genre awards besides the fan-based awards. Our industry can be so closed-minded when it comes to these things, or maybe the “powers-that-be” just don’t want change…I don’t know. In any case, sg needs to look to other successful genres, including the secular genres (that’s right - I said it), and pattern itself after them as far as it’s “bidness” is concerned. That is the only way we can ever reach a level of quality to match and compete with other music indistries.

  16. Damon from KY wrote:

    A great article and interesting comments to boot. I am wary of the whole AGM concept. As much as SG needs a fresh marketing plan, this just has two many questions. The idea of “spiritual” certification in order to be considered top-tier is ludicrous, not because spirituality doesn’t matter, but because it will inevitably be either too narrow (i.e. Republicans only) or unevenly applied (for example: one person’s divorce approved while another’s okay). I have little fear that SG is headed towards “uncritical acceptance” of artists who fail to meet minimal standards of spirituality.
    Another concern would be group turnover. Some versions of BFA have been better than others. While Brian Free rarely falters, the same cannot be said of his supporting cast. And the Kingsmen of the last 10 years are not always at the top of their game either. More than other genres, SG artists stay around for years (decades?) after they would have been banished to obscurity in other genres. Would ACM have the standards to kick groups out when quality dips even if those groups still pack the house at the First Baptist Church once a year? I doubt it.

  17. Sammi wrote:

    I know that you are very busy, but I wish that you had something new every day! I love to read your articles and share in the conversations! Although we all have our opinions, I’m glad that I have found ones out there who share my thoughts. Keep on! You’re awesome!„

  18. Faith wrote:

    The current Kingsmen band is THE best in the business, bar none. Each member is so talented, they should probably look at moving beyond the little SG world. Oops, did I say that out loud?

  19. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    “AGM might be described as the wrong solution (a franchise) to the right problem (sg is losing market share all the time). White gospel music is in decline for a host of socio-cultural, historical, and demographic reasons that in large part can’t be changed.”

    Did I just hear you say that we ought to give up on Southern Gospel and let it decline?

  20. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    I can’t help but notice that four of the five Fan Favorite traditional quartets in the SN Fan Awards didn’t make the list: Inspirations, Kingdom Heirs, Signature Sound Quartet, Triumphant Quartet.

    Legacy Five was the only one to make the list. Hmm.

  21. Chrystal wrote:

    Must move this many units, must perform before this many people, and must pay this much a year…. money, money, money….numbers, numbers, numbers….

    Next time they take the idea that this is all about ministry and try to shove it down your throats, quote this back to them. Saying it’s a ministry is just another PR angle for those who believe it.

  22. JW wrote:

    Man, that redneck SOUTHERN sport NASCAR sure is hurt being attached to the South!

    The “Southern” thing is not at all the problem.

    As for “spiritual certification”, is it really that difficult to determine? I know, I know, it sounds Pope-like, but it’s really not that hard to determine who is and who is not for us common, simple folks within a 5 minute conversation, usually.

    I don’t know what THE solution is for Southern Gospel, but as a fan there really is a huge problem with non-professionals being allowed on stage. I dunno, how about sending surverys to Singing News subscribers to determine the acts we want to see and like? Let the people works for Presidential elections.

  23. ckd wrote:

    This new rating/accreditation system is just another (yawn) in a loooooong list of feeble and feeble-minded attempts by those who control the SG industry to put pitiful bandaids on a festering, malignant lesion…namely, that what entrenched SG fans may like and think is good, because that’s all they’ve been offered for years, WILL NOT EVER be recognized as quality in the real world. The “name” groups in the industry are for the most part merely overgrown (literally and figuratively) church groups that have put out a few poorly produced tapes and CDs and believe their own badly written hype to the point that they now have the hubris to aspire to greatness way beyond their talent. Sort of like wanting to be the Dixie Chicks only with Christ-centered, mostly poorly written songs performed with ill-conceived arrangements on overly-amplified systems in front of non-discriminatory crowds. When I read some of the comments above and elsewhere about why people should or shouldn’t “make the cut”, I am amused and saddened. Just because a SG artist (and of course I use the term very loosely) sat and prayed with you and remembers your name at a concert or waves to you in some pseudo-caring pretense doesn’t make them a good singer, musician, or even a minister. And even if a song “ministered to your heart” doesn’t qualify it as being a good song. If the SG industry wants to ever be viewed by the world at large as more than a bunch of inbred phony non-ministerial and non-talented smoke-and-mirror wannabes, they need to start over from scratch. There are few, few, few groups (maybe less than 5) that could ever really make it according to real world standards. Just flip from a country station to Solid Gospel and back some time. The difference in vocal quality, production values, and level of musical composition and arranging is beyond laughable. The problem is that the industry serves as its own judge and can’t/won’t see the reality of its own inadequacies. It doesn’t want to see. Why do you think the really good groups and musicians either never join the SG world or leave as fast as they can?(Or are dissed in a pouting fit a la Gaither et al). Even most of the really big name groups (and I’m talking about some of the the award winners) wouldn’t make the cut if true standards were applied. So get real, SG folks…if you TRULY want SG to become a vibrant and valid musical genre in the real world, you’ll have to say goodbye to most all of the groups you currently listen to and start over. People with musical knowledge, impartiality and no relation to the groups themselves will have to set the standards and maintain them. But that will never happen. The inbreeding will continue until we have dumbed down the industry to point of absurdity and 50 years from now SG will be even more of a punch line than it already is.

  24. Scott wrote:

    Terrible concept!!! Most in the Southern Baptist and Southern Gospel are Republican. Correct? Republicans for the most part stand for FREE ENTERPRISE! Free Enterprise promotes competition and allowing the public to decide what they like and who should be considered professional. Right? Why does this not apply here. When we allow only a few self-appointed experts who want to make a buck to tell us who is professional and which artist represents Southern Gospel, we are moving away from free enterprise and a democracy. Instead we are moving toward a monopoly, socialism, communism, and dictatorship in the southern gospel world. I don’t need just a few self-appointed who think they’re high and mighty to tell me or the rest of the fans who the professionals are. Let the fans decide that!!!
    By the way I sang with a professional group for 3 years. Many times I’d hear group managers (mine included) say, “If these local groups would go home, we could make a decent living.” What they forgot was this: they used to be the local group! Second, most people did not even know the artists name - they only knew the title of a song they liked and were surprised when they found out who recorded it originally. Guess what most heard their favorite song at church by a local or regional group. I totally agree that sometimes promoters have way too many local and regional groups on a program; however, sometimes if it was not for that one local or regional group, we would not have had the crowd there. Why? Because two members out of that group belong to two different huge churches who came and supported that group no matter what. Most promoters put them on the program because it gave them insurance of a crowd especially when you bring in a pro group that’s never been to that region. If NQC board members would get their greedy monopoly hands out of southern gospel, we might have an industry based on MINISTRY!!! I’m tired of these popularity contests and politics. Thank God I’m no longer depending on Southern Gospel to provide for my family especially with a few dead heads telling everybody else who is good enough, who has the most money, and who can be certified to be a Southern Gospel Artist.

  25. Clarke Beasley wrote:


    Many of the comments revolve around this list of artists you posted. Being that the first AGM certified artist was announced today (the Hoppers) and they do not appear on your list clearly illustrates that this list is pure conjecture on somebody’s part based on inuendo gained through third and fourth hand information. It should not be regarded as any kind of reliable, much less official list.

    I think that is a point worth making.


  26. Daniel J. Mount wrote:


    Thank you for that clarification. I am glad to hear that the list is not final, especially considering that the fact that four of the top five quartets, as selected by the fans, were not on Doug’s list.

  27. TP wrote:

    Has anyone noticed that the majority of comments are negative? Pay attention AGM…pay attention….focus….focus….NOW FORGET THIS STUPID IDEA!

  28. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Comments posted on another blog or message board might not be as negative. It’s just that averyfineline has a reputation for being the place where you can get away with posting negative comments.

  29. Smells wrote:

    Getting away with posting negative comments on avfl is the beauty of this site.

  30. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    It looks like the Hoppers are the first certified group (according to a press release on the Singing News website). Interesting.

  31. Terry Barnes wrote:

    AGM will not last due to its inherently poor design. If it works as intended, the groups not quite good enough to make the AMG club will not be promoted as much as those in the “in” crowd. Their ministry, sales, performances, everything will be affected and their ability to achieve the sales, quality and “spiritual cetification” necessary to join the ranks of the AMG club will be seriously hindered.

    So, when the first round of AMG’ers retire, dissolve, die, or whatever, there will not be anyone left good enough, selling enough product, or spiritually certifiable enough to become a new member. Remember these “lesser” groups are not promoted as much, not advertised as much, and in general just swept under the floormat of the NQC as necessary burdens not worthy of their full support.

    Your comments about the CMP reviewers bios are dead-on. Anyone who has not taken the time to read their bios should do so. Also, signup for a free membership on the CMP site. Check the list of people they have “endorsed” in the past in the many styles of Christian music these three men claim to be able to certify and endorse. Look at the list of artists they have endorsed in the past. I think with enough money I could get Saddam Hussein endorsed and spiritually certified by the CMP.

    SGM is not just definable by pure musical instrumentation, chord progression, lyrical content, etc., but it is also somewhat an acquired taste, from an auditory perspective. The group of three CMP reviewers, decidely non-SGM, that endorses performers in 20-30 different Christian music genres, has no listed experience in SGM and can’t even determine what their own religious preferences are. How does this uniquely qualify them to “spiritually certify” AGM groups? Is this the correct group to help further SGM (or AGM)? I doubt they could recognize SGM if it hit them on their head. The advantage of having a non-SGM endorsement of SGM music may have its merit, but it sure doesn’t appear that CMP is the right entity.

    Unless, of course, you have money to spare.

  32. Gerry wrote:

    CKD is SO right. A lot of SG music today is so poorly done, it is embarrassing. A producer like Roger Talley, who is one of the truly talented producers out there, could teach these awful groups something. Look around NQC next week; MANY booths belong to groups that you have never heard of, and if you did, you would cringe at how truly terrible they sound. But these untalented groups have a following somewhere, somehow…so, the question is, are most SG fans unable to discern good music from bad? I certainly think so. No wonder many people (read: Christians) hear the term “Southern Gospel” and groan.

  33. Greg wrote:

    Changes have to be made and someone or somebody has to initiate the process.I don’t agree with some of the thoughts but I admire them for trying to give SG a much needed push. In case you have not noticed the SG Genre is struggling……we need a transfusion of positive marketing and consistent artist.

  34. Brad wrote:

    So the Hoppers were the first group “certified” by AGM, which is some sort of off-shoot of NQC, of which Claude Hopper owns a part….. His own bio on the Hoppers website states that he is one of the best businessmen in the country, so why wouldn’t they be the first certified? The only surprise here would be if they weren’t the first…..

  35. Mohsin Saleem wrote:

    Hello Dear Ministry,
    I greet you in the name of our lord who died for us and paid fine for our sins. God bless ur ministry . well my name is Mohsin and i am in Pakistan and i am a christian. i visited ur site and i really Appreciated it. and i am proud of ur ministry .well there are Many christian People here in our village we are living in a village.and all the People are in christ Jesus and they love Jesus and Jesus love them. and u can understand how it is difficult here in Pakistan for christians Peoples. but With Jesus Christ Blessing they all are in christ Jesus . But They all the Villages People Are Sad about Somethings, They are Sad Because they Want To Sing the Gospel Songs too. We Don,t have any Copyies of Gospel songs They all the Villages People Also Want to Sing The Gospel Songs Very Much. and They Love Gospel songs, But We Don,t have any Metrial Of Gospel Songs And They Love To Sing the Gospel Songs, We Want to Give them The Gospel Songs Copyies to Sing . But We Do Not Want How We Can give Them The Gospel Songs to Sing . When we will Get the Metrial Then We will Help Them To Sing the Gospel Songs, I Visited Ur Ministry and We Saw That Ur Ministry is Singing Gospel Songs and i am Sending U This Email and i have an Request.and we don,t have any work here too . Muslim people do not want to give us any kind of work here and to contiue our ministry activities is not possible therefore we need to work for u too. and that Translation work is Much Expencive also we need ur support also for Translate the Gospel songs for our Villages people and ur Ministry can work for Lord .
    Our Request is U Give us Ur Gospel songs Metrial . with ur Metrial They Can Sing the Gospel Songs too and they Can Serve To Jesus.Most of the people in Pakistan are not capable to understand the English language. It’s because our national language is Urdu. My suggestion for you is to create your Books in my language of Urdu and Punjabi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani Peoples.
    Dear Ministry Please Give us Ur Gospel Songs Ministry Metrial Work We will Translate Ur Ministry Gospel songs Metrial and that will Be Very Good For Us and For U Also, if u Like to Do Work with us then Please Contact us and Please Send us ur Back Email and Please Keep Contact us , i am Waiting For ur Back Email, God Bless ur Ministry Always,
    Mohsin Saleem in Him,
    From (Pakistan)

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