Solid Gospel, minus the gospel

So Solid Gospel 105.1 in Nashville dumps southern gospel in favor of 24 hours of “Sunday morning worship music” and the hopelessly focus-grouped name, Life 105.1. Wow. And ugh. “Sunday morning worship music”? Whose Sunday morning worship, exactly? If the answer is, everyone’s, I guess this means Nashville is in for a bunch of the white bread and diet soda insipidity that is the staple of so many praise and worship teams on Sunday morning these days.

I don’t know enough about the radio bidness in general or the Nashvile radio market in particular to comment intelligently on the bidness strategery of the format change. But as a bystander, this strikes me as momentously disappointing. Whether or not it’s a surprising business decision will have to remain for others more informed than I to say.

My guess, though, is that the answer is no - straightahead southern gospel simply doesn’t sell. This isn’t Salem’s fault, but that doesn’t make dumping Solid Gospel any easier to take. And sad as all this is for southern gospelites by itself, the unkindest cut is what IS - evidently - selling in its place. According to the 105.1 website, songs like

Here I Am to Worship, (the #1 most sung song in churches today)
How Great Is Our God
Lord I Lift Your Name On High
Shout to the Lord
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever

Might I propose a slogan for the new station? 105.1: spiritually vague, religiously obtuse, and purposively undemanding music for today’s lifestyle Christianity.

Update: Commenter Chris writes:

As a former Solid Gospel employee, I may can lend a little perspective. It appears the main reason for the switch was to give Salem a Nashville flagship for their Praise-themed satellite network (I think it’s called “The Word in Praise” or something like that). They have “The Fish” for their “Today’s Christian Music” network and had two separate stations airing Solid Gospel. The 105.1 frequency is actually licensed to Burns/Dickson, TN,about 40 miles west of Nashville, while the 104.9 frequency is licensed to a small community near Murfreesboro. I really don’t think this has anything to do with removing Southern Gospel per se, just giving Salem an outlet to be able to hear their Praise network in the Nashville area. Bidness…’s all about the bidness.

As RK says in another comment, I hope Chris is right. But even if he is, it’s telling that sg was the go-to genre when it was time to make room for more themed programming in the lifestyle network. I think it’s entirely possible that this wasn’t, as Chris suggests, a comment at all on southern gospel, at least not in a direct way, and still the loss of what was arguably one of sg’s flagship stations - and in music city, no less - makes the cut sting more than it might if this was some Solid Gospel affiliate in Cornpone, Kentucky, or Mammyville, Missouri.

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  1. Chris wrote:

    As a former Solid Gospel employee, I may can lend a little perspective. It appears the main reason for the switch was to give Salem a Nashville flagship for their Praise-themed satellite network (I think it’s called “The Word in Praise” or something like that). They have “The Fish” for their “Today’s Christian Music” network and had two separate stations airing Solid Gospel. The 105.1 frequency is actually licensed to Burns/Dickson, TN,about 40 miles west of Nashville, while the 104.9 frequency is licensed to a small community near Murfreesboro. I really don’t think this has anything to do with removing Southern Gospel per se, just giving Salem an outlet to be able to hear their Praise network in the Nashville area. Bidness…’s all about the bidness.

  2. RK wrote:

    I spent some time working in Western Kentucky in the late 90’s when Solid Gospel was getting up and running (with a big signal that could reach quite a distance beyond Nashville). It quickly became my favorite station on the dial.

    I considered it to be a flagship station not only for Cumbee/Salem, but also for the Southern Gospel genre, given its far-ranging signal, quality programming, Nashville-centered access to industry insiders, etc. For sentimental reasons more than anything else, I hate to see it swap formats.

    I hope Chris is correct that this change is more of an effort to meet the needs of Salem’s new radio venture than any evidence of the failure of a top-notch, professional sg station in a large (and very impportant) market.

  3. THOM wrote:

    Stayed tuned………..there may be more to come. The Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet. This frequency is owned by a business concern in the Dickson area and like all businesses it is interested in making a profit. The folks at Salem Broadcasting simply offer an affordable option for those people in the radio business. And let’s be honest about what these radio station owners are looking for - the best programming choice that will meet the demands of the bottom line and the owner’s expectations on ROI
    ( return on investment). If the owner’s happen to be Christian - which I have no knowledge of one way or the other - then their programming choices would be limited to Christian Music in Some Variety- HELLO isn’t that what SG is? Christian music of the “southern variety?” BUT if the radio station owner were not Christian then they could have also switched the format to hard-core rap or alternative Death Metal! At least they chose another Christian choice. BUT _ Stay with me - I PREDICT _ “THIS FORMAT WILL FLOP AND SG WILL RETURN!”

    Thom Rawls

  4. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Not to gloss over the loss of a major Southern Gospel station, but if you owned two stations that had the same coverage area, would it make practical sense to program both of them with the same style of music? People can only tune to one at a time, after all.

  5. Chris wrote:

    Just to clarify on a few things:

    Salem owns both of the stations in question, unless they have sold them in the last year or so. Cumbee bought the stations not too long after he acquired what was then known as Reach Satellite Network, and sold the two stations along with the Solid Gospel network and website to Salem in what was more or less a package deal.

    As for the coverage question to which DBM referred, these two station’s transmitters are some 50 or so miles apart and have a very small area in which the signals overlap. 105.1 covers areas mostly west/northwest of Nashville, while 104.9 covers southeast/south of town. In the Nashville Metro area, you usually had to flip back and forth between the two to maintain a listenable signal.

    Finally, the Praise network isn’t a new venture for Salem; they had it, as best I remember, when they acquired Solid Gospel.

  6. RK wrote:

    If memory serves me correctly, the reason they broadcast the single feed over two stations was that the allowed power wattage (by the FCC) for the two stations was limited to the point that neither one alone could cover the Nashville metro area and the surrounding region. The extremely hilly terrain of the region may also play a factor in limiting the range of the respective signals.

    The Dickson station could cover north and western areas of greater Nashville (and even extends into western Kentucky) while the Murfreesboro frequency covers south and east of greater Nashville, into the populous suburbs that direction, and on toward Alabama. The combined reach of the two stations creates an economy of scale by using a single broadcast feed and being able to draw the ratings and advertising $ that reaching the entire region allows.

    By having both 104.9 and 105.1 frequencies, they have easily marketed both as a single “Solid Gospel 105″ megastation with a wide audience.

  7. Phil wrote:

    Those two stations did not have the same coverage area. The station they are changing(WVRY) is actually licensed to Waverly TN(yes about 50 miles west of Nashville) Its primary signal(50kw) does not even reach the western part of Nashville, a very weak signal gets into Nashville while the other station(WBOZ a 5kw station 45 SE of the heart of Nashville licensed to Woodbury TN) barely reaches the East side of Nashville. Taking WVRY off of Southern Gospel basically takes FM Southern Gospel out of the Nashville market as it is now(with WBOZ) barely covering the East side of Nashville. The AM station they mention is owned by Grace broadcasting and has a weak listenable daytime signal in Nashville coming from the west.

  8. RF wrote:

    The trend away from traditional southern gospel music is alarming, especially in Nashville. If anyone understands business, it’s me, but I have a tough time with this one. If this is the flagship station (and I have no idea whether it is or not), it may be that Salem is moving away from sg music, regardless of whatever other intentions are out there.

    The signs are not good for sg music in my humble opinion. More and more se see the “words on the wall” group taking over the industry. It’s sword to the heart of harmony and emotional music that have been the hallmarks of sg music. I can’t imagine anyone listening to choruses over and over that make up modern praise music, but with the lack of music education in our schools since the “no child left behind” craze, nothing surprises me.

    I shudder to think this music will go away, but I feel it coming and in the name of “business” we see it.

  9. KD wrote:

    RF, I have to disagree with you about the demise of sg. Salem would not have purchased the SN and kept improving it if they had plans to dump sg music.

    I wouldn’t get too upset just yet about WVRY’s format change. If Salem can ever find a way to up the power at WBOZ (which would require a frequency change), sg will return to Nashville. Who knows, Salem might even try to swap stations with another company. Time will tell.

    Now, as far as WBOZ goes, I think the new format will be a big success. I believe there is a market for this style of music. It is the format I would chose if I were starting a station.

    But, to be successful, the Sunday morning worship format needs a very wide variety. Without a wide variety, folks will get burned out on it very quickly. (Let’s face it, if you sang “Amazing Grace” 100 times in a row, at some point that song will lose it’s emotional appeal.)

    You can knock the songs all you want about their substance, repetition, etc., but right now it is what people appear to want.

  10. RF wrote:

    Oh, I agree, KD. It is popular, but that doesn’t make is especially good, at least in my opinion.

    Locally, we had CCM station that was popular among some folks but fell on it’s face. Why? Just what you mentioned - the worship hour was the same every week.

  11. Marcia wrote:

    I live in Nashville and I am NOT happy about this at all! It is true what the others have said. The coverage is not the same. I don’t know why exactly, but you can be on one street in Nashville and 104.9 comes in clear and then on the next street, you have to switch to 105.1. It was annoying, to say the least, but at least we had continuous coverage. Now, it’s not possible to listen consistently, so I just removed both of them from my preset buttons. We already have the more contemporary, praise & worship music on other stations here and didn’t need one more. Solid Gospel is all we have here for Southern Gospel. This is a great disservice to the listeners. I am through with them now unless they switch back!

  12. quartet-man wrote:

    When “Worship music” first came out, I didn’t like it at all. I love harmony music (particularly SG, but Inspo and CCM as well). I have gotten to like some of it. Songs like Above All, Breathe, Here I Am To Worship, Come, Now Is The Time To Worship, The Potter’s Hand (very beautiful), Shout To The Lord, Shine, Jesus Shine etc. However, a lot of it does sound the same, and to me is devoid of good melodies. What I object to even more though, is that so many write off anything but it. They act like it isn’t music unless it is that. However, many in SG are the same about SG. There is enough finger pointing to go around. I hate the move towards not using hymnals (even for hymns) and not reading music (if even for those who only look at the notes going up and down to roughly read it) Whereas you would not see schools give up sports, music seems to be the first thing to go even though kids still love music.

    However, when it comes down to it, right or wrong, a lot of people want this music and it is doing well. The fact remains though is that other than God telling me to get rid of SG, or it just not working at my church, I will continue to use it a lot. I do however, use some of the P&W. I also think that there are those at church who would love more. However, I do try to be open to any style that someone wants to do (as far as special music) and try to mix it up as far as what the congregation sings. We typically do two hymns and two choruses (although some are a bit older). The anthems for the choir are mostly SG and the sort, but I do put some others in the mix.

    The funny thing is, the first place I think I heard The Potter’s Hand was overhearing one of the Hagee girls singing it on TV. It was on (I wasn’t watching it), but it caught my ear.

  13. Rick Cody wrote:

    If you want southern gospel radio I invite you to move to Oklahoma. We have 5 24/7 FM southern gospel radio stations here with a sixth to go on the air this year. The format is really growing here. Come to Okahoma, we’d love to have you!! The new mecca for SG radio!! LOL..

  14. RF wrote:

    I’m with quartet-man on the use of hymnals and with the reason why American has become so music illiterate. In the rush to adopt “No Child Left Behind,” music was forgotten in favor of teaching kids how to pass standardized tests. Therefore, music was put on the back burner. Where I live, the high school chorus was cut in half and the band by two-thirds because they couldn’t fit it into the schedules when another requirement was added.

    Amusingly, our church stopped using the hymnals a few years ago when someone bought a big screen and computer projector for the church. Now, we have to sing the same three songs every Sunday for a month so we can “learn them.” When we learn them, we don’t need no stinkin’ hymnals, right?

  15. leslie wrote:

    As an educator, I speak for the masses when I say, we hate NCLB as it is called in education circles. Now I find out that it’s the reson for all of SG’s ills. Way to go! Another reason to ditch NCLB and those who passed it!

  16. leslie wrote:

    Before I get all of those educator comments- it was a typo at 3 in the morning; it should read “reason” LOL

  17. THOM wrote:

    As a music minister I find it interesting that I have heard an equal number of “love it” and “hate it” comments about the 105 format change.

  18. DH wrote:

    Personally, and I have told my DJ friend that works at Salem this very same thing about the new format, I think it sounds like “dentist office” music.

    I, apparently, am not alone in my sentiment.

    Don’t get me wrong…I like P&W…some of it. But not the kind that puts you to sleep while you’re driving. If I want to be relaxed while driving, I’ll turn it to the classical music channel. And if ONE MORE ARTIST covers “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” and releases it as a radio single, I will scream.

  19. Judith F. Johnson wrote:

    I am sad and disappointed that we can’t hear southern gospel in my area anymore. Neither of my ‘Bose’ radios will pick up 104.9 and I can listen to Praise & Worship music on any of many stations in the Nashville,TN. area. The southern gospel format has carried me and my husband thru the devastation of his worsening parkinson’s disease and the heartbreak of our youngest daughter’s drug addiction with our hands in the air as we tried to “praise God IN all things”. Somehow the P&W just doesn’t affect us the same way. Many of our friends and acquaintances are lamenting the station’s change of format along with us. Please, please…..BRING IT BACK. We are the (former) listeners and we aren’t happy.

  20. LuAnne Hicks wrote:

    I hear good news concerning SG returning to the 105.1 listening area. I have enjoyed some of the P&W music, but overall it was too repetitive, lacked variety, and would put you to sleep. And I also believe there is room for change in SG, and the old format had far too much repetition in advertising, ”how many times a day do I need to hear about the service offered– ‘We’ll tell you if a loan makes sense’ “. And I know advertising is neccessary, but too much is very annoying. Somedays I just counld’nt listen to one more commercial ad, and turned the radio off. But we need a good SG station, SG speaks to me and, and had oftened praised God while listening to SG so I was surprised that someone thought I needed “praise and worship music”. But rumor has it that any day now it is changing format -”I hope Southern Gospel!”

  21. thom wrote:

    see comment # 3 above,….like I said.. stay tuned!

  22. Jim2 wrote:

    Now that you’ve been confirmed as a prophet - any strong feelings about this weeks Powerball numbers?

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