Young Harmony and the Dove Awards
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By now, the Dove nominations are old, old news. So I’ll let others round up general reactions.
For my part, I want to focus on what no one seems to want to say publicly and what a lot of people are saying (and have said to me) privately: that even among the board certified cynics who are no longer surprised to see down-list Dove nominations for groups that have very little name recognition and whose product few people seem to be buying - even among these hardboiled types it’s been especially surprising to see Young Harmony up for Song of the Year, an award that includes all genres of Christian music.
A friend of mine who was at the GMA press conference when the SOTY nomination was announced wrote to say that many people - “more than I could count,” to be exact - were whispering “Who?” when the list was read.
This is not just some average bunch of typical music fans, this GMA crowd. These are people who make it their lives to be aware of what’s going on in, around, near, and anywhere approaching gospel music and Christian entertainment. “Who?”
To be sure, this kind of thing happens occasionally; someone slips in under the radar of even the most informed insiders. Usually in these cases, in-the-knows caught unawares go back to their offices and pull out Sound Scan reports, radio chart summaries, and other records that would document a sleeper group’s history and discover that, lo, someone nobody noticed has quietly been building a grassroots fan base that shows up to support them in a big way come Dove time.
A gospel music bidness type wrote me about doing just this, and she picks it up from here:
So, after the press conference, I pulled up Sound Scan, radio reports, independent sales figures and soundtrack company charts on Young Harmony. Other than in hardline southern gospel magazines, I found very little evidence that [Young Harmony] even exist[s]. Of course, everyone who lives in Nashville has had a good laugh about the billboards they’ve placed throughout the city declaring them to be “Dove-nominated.”
Every other artist nominated for Song Of The Year has amazing sales and concert records, CCLI [Christian Copyright Licensing International] numbers, etc. and are truly affecting the industry, no matter what you think of their music. Young Harmony is not even making a dent in their own sub-genre - southern gospel. Sad.
Dove-nominated, indeed. The question is, though, by whom? I have no evidence of this, but my instincts (and the way the Dove Awards nominations are structured) tell me that someone is buying bulk memberships in the GMA and voting Young Harmony now; Young Harmony, tomorrow; Young Harmony forever. Lamon Records, YH’s recording company, seems like the logical coordinator here, since all labels do some of this. What makes Lamon’s case interesting is that over the past few years, Lamon has snagged nominations in a lot of different categories with artists who cannot be found anywhere but on the Dove nominations list. I’ve checked with people who work in the Christian Booksellers Association market, and who have access to data in all the areas where Lamon artists SHOULD show up if they’re more than constructs of PR campaigns. And they don’t.
Young Harmony does seem above averagely motivated, and there’s no law against working the system. Give them points for effort and strategy. I just wish they’d go about it all a little more legitimately. Just because some things are allowable doesn’t mean that’s the way to get what you want.
Last year around the time of a membership drive for NARAS (the Grammy people), I got an email from another Christian entertainment insider whose note I didn’t recall until this year’s Dove nominations came out and I saw YH on the SOTY list:
At the NARAS party, I was a little embarrassed at the way [Young Harmony] stood at the end of the buffet line passing out their cds. While on one hand you have to admire their tenacity, on the other hand you just wish they had a clue about propriety and how to go about things tastefully. It was not the time or place for that and everyone there was laughing at them.
Of course this could be their marketing strategy. I dunno. Certainly being undeterred in situations that most people would consider embarrassing to the point of humiliation will give you a strategic edge in self-promotion.
When the nominations came out, I didn’t own any of their music (do you? I’m really asking) and had only heard them on the radio too infrequently to remember much. So I went on iTunes and downloaded a coupla titles. “For Goodness Sake,” “Good Morning Lord.” That kinda thing. It was not as bad as I thought it would be (David Bruce Murray seems rather to have liked their latest album), but there’s nothing there that I heard to turn half-discerning heads. The generous interpretation (that YH really believes this is artistically excellent music on the order of SOTY) is almost as discouraging as the less generous one (that they don’t, and don’t care).
At least when The Crabbs did their if-you-build-it-they-will-come Dove Awards blitz in Nashville a few years back, they had sufficient talent to attract some fans and to back up their PR with top-of-the-line music. Listening to Young Harmony’s derivative melodies and boilerplate songwriting (”For goodness sake I’ll take up my cross / and follow you whatever the cost / I’ll trust in you with every step I take” … and so on) and serviceable singing, it’s difficult not to suspect that they’re wasting their money.
Rather than focusing on ad campaigns and awards-show vote-blitzing to create the appearance of artistic accomplishment (”Dove-nominated”), a group of Young Harmony’s abilities would be much better served (as would their fans) if the group spent their money on producers, stylists, vocal coaches and finding decent songs - all the stuff that’s necessary to go to sleep at night, be alone with your thoughts, and know that you can create music as slick as your PR.
Update: Jonathan Bond, of Young Harmony, writes:
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Hey guys, Rick Hendrix called me about this blog and I began to read. OH MY! I guess that I should start off by saying to everyone involved that I am truly sorry for anything that we have done to you. As for the actual question at hand, “The Dove Awards”, first I have to say that we were just as blown away as each of you when this was announced. You guys are right, we don’t belong in these categories. There are many other groups that should be here (Karen Peck & New River, Brian Free, The Freeman’s and The Hoppers just to name a few -not even counting the great songs that are in the contempary field).
We only use the ‘Dove’ logo because we are able to. We would do the same things that we do now, if we weren’t Dove nominated. We only advertise to get more concerts so that we can spread the wonderful message of GOD, like HE called us to do.
Without going any further, I am willing to answer any questions that you have if any of you will just email me at Johnathan@YoungHarmony.com or call my cell at XXX-XXX-XXXX [NOTE: I’m not comfortable publishing anyone’s personal phone number, even they are]. I don’t have anymore time to respond tonight, we are getting ready to go in to the concert. For those of you that don’t mind, please pray for us tonight, that GOD will prevail during the service. Ginger and I have been really hurt to think that we must have done people badly enough for them to write all of this.
Again, I am sorry.