“Everybody from the bartender at the Moose Lodge to a twenty-something lady with multiple tatoos”

Daniel Mount says EHSSQ will top a few charts that really matter soon with sales of their new release, Get Away Jordan. Good for them. Mount notes that the cd/DVD is “catching some eyes,” which I imagine was just a figure of speech, but it’s apt in this case, perhaps more than he knows. It’d be interesting to uncouple the cd from the dvd - or detach both from the Gaither megaplex - and see what happens to the sales. Another way to say this: is the music on the cd driving sales or is it the dvd – i.e. the doing of the hokey pokey and the shaking of it all about - sprinkled with the Gaither pixie dust that sends product flying off shelves?*

Mount supplies the joyful noisers’ answer to this question, which basically amounts to “anything for Jesus.” And though I’m on record as being skeptical of the (to me, dubious) proposition that gospel music is primarily about conversion and evangelizing, I’m sure for his part Ernie Haase means every word of his statement about sellling “a gospel tract.” But let’s not kid ourselves. Plenty of people like EHSSQ’s brand of gospel music because it comes with a generous helping of strutty, jiggly eye candy wrapped in a postmodern-retro style that manages to both revere and exploit the male quartet tradition. As RF puts it, EHSSQ’s act has something that appeals to just about everyone - “From the bartender at the Moose Lodge to a twenty-something lady with multiple tatoos” - if they’re inclined to stop and listen, or just watch.

For my part, I’ve got the cd in my car (see here for an explanation of why the dvd is still in its shrink wrap and likely to stay that way for a while), and there are a few tracks on it I can’t stop listening to, especially “Until We Fly Away” (which is pure GVB circa Testify, only with a real bass singer and more reliable lead, and more generally the direction I’d like to see them go consistently). It’s a good album with a few great moments on it, but there’s a spastic quality to the song selection that makes it difficult to know what – beyond being a group that sells gobs of records – EHSSQ wants to be musically, artistically (there’s traditional quartet numbers here, contemporary style pieces, a few power ballads, some patriotic stuff, a strange frolicsome thing that reminds me of an Alvin and Chipmunks cut, a live reprised “Get Away” and two covers of old Cats’ standards). Listening to the cd, which is very well sung but stylistically restless and suffering from a kind of artistic ADD, is like trying to look through all three ranges of a tri-focal lens at once.

Whether intentional or just the default position that a charmed life with Gaither has evolved into for EHSSQ, this trifocal vision of themselves works just fine, obviously, so long as the group’s eclecticism carries Bill Gaither’s blessing. Indeed, I’m sure the Homecoming seal of approval – and all the sales it brings – accounts for why EHSSQ is willing to risk being typecast as Gaither’s dancing monkeys.

*Update: Here, a bit more specifically, is what I mean by this remark: EHSSQ’s Gaither connection means their sales are atypical of those generated by other traveling quartets of their stature and type. Units-of-product-delivered for EHSSQ comes not only (and maybe not even primarily, indeed this is the question I have) from direct purchases of their cds/albums but also from Gaither promotions and product bundles tied to popular compilations of Homecoming music: buy the best of George Younce, for example, and get an EHSSQ Get Away Jordan dvd as a bonus (or vice versa). So if EHSSQ is selling, say, 100,000 units of product (and this is just a big round number I’m pulling out of the air for the sake of discussion), the really interesting number to know would be the one disaggregated from Homecoming specials. This number would begin to measure how much of EHSSQ’s sales come from straight-ahead direct purchases of their music as opposed to product sales tied to some kind of Homecoming merchandizing, which as we know creates its own ecnomic weather.

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  1. www.southerngospelblog.com » Humbard and the Cathedrals / Gaither and Signature Sound on 05 Feb 2007 at 10:27 pm

    […] Quartet-man made an interesting comment on the Averyfineline blog: The sales and exposure from the Gaither machine can make a huge difference. The smart groups are ones who take advantage of this, but don’t put all of their eggs in the Gaither basket, because no one (except God of course really knows how much longer Gaither will be doing the videos or singing itself. If groups put all of their dependence on him, they could find themselves in the same boat the Cathedrals did when the deal with Rex Humbard fell through. […]


  1. Tony Brown wrote:

    Batten down the hatches, Avery. I forecast a storm coming in!

  2. RF wrote:

    Since (I think) that this is the first time anyone has ever quoted me in a headline, I feel I should respond. I think you hit the nail on the head. I don’t think the bartender or the tatooed lady will miraculously show up at First Baptist Church on Sunday. Oh, I’ve got a couple of examples of folks who got into sg music and it changed their lives for the better–maybe more than that, but the typical EHSSQ concert is an entertainment extravaganza. They put on a good show. They can sing, try to dance, and look like they’re having a heckuva good time. What’s not to like?

    The bottom line is this. Look at EHSSQ when they first started with Garry and Shane Dunlap. Still a good quartet, but no pizzaz. When Garry and Shane left, they started changing to what you see now. They still were just a new quartet and they worked a local church nearby. Bill Gaither comes along and all of a sudden, they are a household name and selling out big venues.

    Never, ever underestimate the power of Bill Gaither when it comes to promotion. I submit that most of what you see is “Coach Gaither” giving them advice and them taking it.

  3. Doug Sword wrote:

    I saw on the Billboard website that both the CD and the DVD were in the number one position on their respective charts. It is not surprising to see it as the number one music video. Many Gaither videos have ended up in the top spot on the music video chart. In fact, I believe that the last EHSS video placed there.

    The more significant fact is that the CD is at the top of both of Billboard’s Christian music charts. It is somewhat amazing to see a SG quartet outselling Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, Patti LaBelle, Kirk Franklin, etc.

    As to how much the Gaither effect adds to the sales, who knows. Clearly the Gaither releases have sold better than their earlier releases. However, how much is attributable to Gaither’s exposure and distribution channels and how much is attributable to their style that appeals across demographic lines is difficult to determine.

  4. KB wrote:

    My question is this….how long will it take before people begin to say, “We’ve seen your dance moves, now give us something meaningful.” Yes, SSQ has become the quasi-boyband of the southern gospel world, but look at how long boybands last….

    Another concern is the size of the egos. Ernie, by far, seems to have the biggest, but the others may wind up screwing themselves big time if they’re not careful. Duncan already seems to be getting a big head, but the one that worries me the most is Ryan Seaton. He’s still fairly young, and being thrown into a group like this just as they’re on their way through the roof could result in his desire to strike out with his own group (with disasterous results).

    I envision, within the next 5 years, an implosion of SSQ due to egos. Their sales will stay strong thanks to the marketing genius of Gaither (who could put out a video of an 80 year old woman eating a pickle and make it go gold), but the group itself will be in big trouble if they don’t drop the gimmick and build a stronger musical catalog.

    Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but if a group can’t sing, what’s the point of the dancing? Might as well be watching Milli Vanilli (which I sometimes question anyway, since the tracks seem to be quite full of vocal assistance). When Garry and Shane were in the group, they may have kept the gymnastics to a minimum (”Stand By Me” was always a crowd pleaser), but Shane is MUCH better of a singer than Ryan, in my opinion, and the focus was on trying to be a group of good singers, not trying to blast the audience with confetti. To this day, one of my favorite DVD’s is “Live In Indiana,” which includes Shane & Garry (and combed hair). The reason was the simplicity. Just a piano, four mics, and a curtain, and the singing carried the show. Was it as exciting? No. Was the audience as enthusiam? Somewhat. Could they sing? Yeah.

    [side note: SSQ filmed their first Gaither DVD at the same theater as the “Live in Indiana” DVD was filmed, and just look at the difference with the set]

    Comparisons are constantly made to the Gaither Vocal Band, saying that this is what SSQ should be going for. Guess what: the GVB RARELY MOVES!!! Sure, Guy has been known to get on his knees, and Mark could bounce off the walls, but their main focus was singing. I’d think, if anything, Coach Billy would be pushing their singing ability.

    One can only wonder whether or not Gaither is aware of the “flash in the pan,” and is taking advantage of the gimmick to give his video series a boost following the deaths of so many “Homecoming Friends” (their last few Homecoming DVD’s have NOT sold all that well, which would also explain why he has invited everyone and their brother to the next taping this month). Vestal, Howard, George, Glen, James, & Jake, Hovie, & JD have all passed on. The “anchor stores” of the “Homecoming Mall” are no longer there, so Gaither has to switch to “specialty stores” to keep the business going.

    Man, you opened a rant for me there!!

  5. Herman wrote:

    KB wrote:

    …Gaither (who could put out a video of an 80 year old woman eating a pickle and make it go gold)

    I saw that video once. I think it was called “Naomi Sego: Backstage at the Conn Center.”

  6. jb wrote:

    kb: You have said a lot of what I have been thinking and just couldn’t put it into words. Do I feel entertained after watching EHSSQ, yes, and I think that is what a lot of people want these days is to be entertained so they are not convicted by the Holy Spirit. However, if they reach just one soul, it is worth it.

  7. arnold wrote:

    Sword wrote “It is somewhat amazing to see a SG quartet outselling Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, Patti LaBelle, Kirk Franklin, etc.”

    Somewhat amazing? Not really. Have you listened to those recordings? Chanting, Screaming, Vocal Gymnastics and Rap Under Bad R&B Riffs. Thanks to Lari Goss, at least EHSSQ are musical.

  8. quartet-man wrote:

    I have thought for a long time that the Gaither promotions of putting DVD’s and CD’s together for a price that a DVD alone would pretty much cost is a huge reason for the boost in sales. To begin with the videos were $30. and CD’s $15 or so when bought in a Christian bookstore. Gaither’s telemarketing gets a lot of attention to the videos and the price get a lot of sales. If neither were done, sales would be MUCH less.

    Doug made a good point about the combining of them into sets. With that in mind, Bill’s solo CD (which has been added as a bonus to some of these sets) will probably show much better sales than it would be bought individually (even directly from Gaither himself).

    The sales and exposure from the Gaither machine can make a huge difference. The smart groups are ones who take advantage of this, but don’t put all of their eggs in the Gaither basket, because no one (except God of course :) really knows how much longer Gaither will be doing the videos or singing itself. If groups put all of their dependence on him, they could find themselves in the same boat the Cathedrals did when the deal with Rex Humbard fell through.

  9. John wrote:

    I am rather intrigued with some of the things I read about EHSSQ, not only in this post, but others as well. I have been a fan of theirs ever since the origiinal group was first formed. I was saddened when Garry and Shane left, not so much because of who they were (I wasn’t familiar with either of them before) but because it was a breakup within a group I was really enjoying. While Ryan and Roy are totally different from Shane and Garry, I think they have each added to the group overall, and as a group SSQ has long since “recovered” from the early changes.

    I guess what I don’t understand is why so many are trying to compare them with “flatfooted” groups and even wondering why they can’t just sing that way. Granted, we all have our personal preferences and tastes, but what is wrong with them being different? Frankly, from what I keep reading, it sounds like southern gospel music in general and flatfooted quartet singing is on the demise. Sure, there will always be flatfooted groups that “make it,” but SSQ seems to be reaching a new group of people that were not being reaching in traditional SG venues. For this we should all be happy. It is good for southern gospel, it is good for Christian music in general, and it is good is the spread of the message of the Gospel.

    It is true, they are different from the GVB. So what? GVB is different from Legacy 5, or the Florida Boys, or whatever group you want to plug in. Likewise, SSQ is different. Is there anything wrong with a group being themselves? God made us all different, and each gospel quartet has a unique sphere of ministry. Let the GVB be the GVB. Let L5 be L5. And let SSQ be SSQ. None of us are going to like all of them. What else is new?

    As for the “egos” that KB wrote about — my question is, do you have concrete proof that there is an ego problem? Have they said or demonstrated that they think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (which is what an ego problem is)? You want to be careful about making charges about something that is very subjective, particularly since Jesus taught us not to judge one another. If you are really concerned about their egos, rather than post opinions on blogs, you ought to get down on your knees and pray daily that God will keep them humble before Him so He can use them effectively.

    As for the question of whether or not Bill Gaither’s label and advertising enhances their sales (which it undoubtedly does) — so what? Gaither can’t help every group out there (or maybe he would). Ernie and SSQ had an opportunity to work with him, and they jumped. So would a lot of other groups if they had the opportunity. Life is not always “fair” or equal. There are plenty of other good groups out there as well that will never make it “big,” not because they aren’t good enough, but because they don’t have the opportunity. They will be just as “successful” — they will simply serve in a smaller circle and may not be as well known. I’m sure there are plenty of preachers out there just as good as Billy Graham. Just because they don’t have the same opportunities doesn’t make them inferior. But neither is there anything wrong with Graham having the opportunity to go places others cannot so. Likewise with musical artists.

    There are some southern gospel groups I don’t really care for, but I am not going to go posting negative remarks here about them simply because I don’t care for their style, dress, mannerisms, movements, etc. I don’t have to watch them or listen to them. I will continue to enjoy those I do like.

  10. quartet-man wrote:

    I can only speak about my comment, which is I don’t care if they have the Gaither connection or not, nor am I jealous. I was only commenting that the video / CD combined sales and Gaither’s network will surely skew the numbers. A lot of people are quick to point out that it is best selling etc. So, I think it only fair to say that true it is, but the Gaither stuff is part of that. That is not to say that because they are selling more than most, they are better or put out better product. No doubt though, they are successful and are bringing people to concerts who might not go to other SG ones.

    I also want to say that I am a fan, and I would have bought the stuff without the Gaither connection. I am just trying to compare apples to apples. :)

  11. Blessed wrote:

    First of all let me say that I used to be a fan of these guys until I eperienced first hand the “EGO PROBLEM” and let me tell you, you would not even believe some of the stuff that was said by leader of this group. Besides, if you have any questions about “EGO”, just look at the name. Why would a man have to change the name of the group from what it was before? I know that he they say that it was per Bill Gaither, but I have been at several Gaither Carnivals, and not once has Bill introduced them as Ernie and Signature Sound. Everytime it has been just “The Signature Sound Quartet”…… Enough said!

  12. Ethan wrote:

    I stumbled upon this blog by accident, but as I kept reading, I just don’t understand the need to keep criticizing EHSS. They are successful, popular, and great singers who can entertain and spread God’s message.

    For those of you who criticize, I would be interested to know if you have ever seen them in person at a solo concert? Yeah, they are about having fun, but they are also very serious about the message they are putting out. If you can’t hear the message of the gospel at one of their concerts, then, quite frankly, you don’t want to. I have a friend at work who was a declared agnostic. About 6 months ago, she got saved after watching my EHSS video and listening to their cd’s. Bash them all you want, but as a result of the Lord working throug them, I have a friend who will be in Heaven for eternity. Critique that.

    If you are excited about the Lord and what He’s done for you, I don’t see how you can just stand flat footed on the peppier songs. Have you ever seen footage of the Statesmen? They didn’t stay flat footed. They had moves and were great showmen. They were criticized in their day, but now, you don’t hear anyone saying anything bad about Hovie Lister, Doy Ott, or Jake Hess. There is nothing wrong with gospel groups being entertaining. In actuality, if you look at how many songs EHSS perform, there really isn’t as much choreography as people go on about. There definitely is more than GVB, but they do not “dance” on every song either.

    There was a comment about the confetti and streamers. That was just for the video. I have never seen or heard of them shooting off confetti and streamers at any other concert. It was just a novelty song. Heaven help us if we can’t have a light hearted moment or song at a gospel concert or on a video.

    Why do people care if they are connected to Bill Gaither? Most groups out there would love to have that connection. Sure it helps their exposure and sales. So what? There was a comment about the “bundling” of vidoes together as bonus items. I can guarantee that not one single item of EHSS has been offered as a bonus item by Gaither to another product as was done with Bill Gaither’s solo cd.

    As far as the name of the group, who cares? It was to give “credibility” to the group and to differentiate them from other groups with similar names. I never hear anyone criticize Brian Free and Assuance or question Brian Free’s ego. Have you ever been around EHSS before or after a concert? They will give you their undivided attention and make you fee like you are the most important person in the world to them at that moment. I have seen any ego trips by any of the members.

    I’m sorry to disappoint you, but they are not a flash in the pan. They will be around for a long time to come. Other than the ties, what do they do that is a gimmick? Maybe instead of looking for things to criticize, I think people need to get a life and be glad that they are brining new and younger people to southern gospel music.

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