AGM in Dallas

So the inaugural American Gospel Music Festival was held in Dallas recently. I haven’t seen any post-event press other than some photos here, but my track record in paying attention to recent news isn’t that great at the moment, so trust me on this at your own peril. Anyway, I hit up a couple of contacts I have who were at the event to get a sense of how things went. One of them wrote:

Dallas … hmmmmm … let’s see. An unbelievably incredible program. The Prestonwood Church Choir and orchestra were insanely awesome, as was Larnelle Harris, though half of the crowd didn’t know it.

However, “abysmal,” “catastrophic,” and “disaster” do not adequately describe the attendance. I am in need of another language to verbalize how bad it was.

Ballpark estimates from my contacts put the attendance around 400 on Thursday, 600 Friday, 500 Saturday, and 200 Sunday. I guess it takes the measure of my cynicism about AGM that I had expected the attendance numbers to actually be worse than this. But no matter, given that these estimates and reactions came from performers at the event, the main point seems to be that whatever it was, attendance fell far below what at least a few of the artists had been led to expect. I dunno. Maybe some promoters out there (and, of course, anyone who was there) can weigh in on this.

Anyway, looking forward to AGM’s New Yark Sitty daybyew in November, Carnegie Hall’s main auditorium seats roughly 2800 people. That’s a lot of seat fillers.

Update: a fan’s comprehensive (and refreshingingly blunt) review of the event is here (hat tip, Bob). There’s some especially insightful stuff about the idiosyncracies of the Dallas market for sg promotions and the compounding effects of (not so) Little Things, like expensive parking and inadequate options for meals and bad sound, on ticket sales.

Later update: Reader GC, who was at the Dallas event, offers another perspective:

Tough weekend but let me give some positives. The program was good..Friday night was incredible with Prestonwood and the lineup was nice. Larnelle was Larnelle–incredible singer! The sound was not great, Don’t know who was in charge but the screens,backdrop were awesome for the small room.

I really believe that Clarke has many great thoughts and sincerly wants to improve and grow this industry and has stepped out on a limb to accomplish that goal. Yes they have made some mistakes(Certification,location,price of event were just a few) but the line-up was excellent and the addition of the Choirs was a nice touch. It also bridges the gap with the Church that Southern Gospel has created over the years.

Listen carefully—For SG to become a major part of mainstream christian music, the churches have to sing and be a part of the music! I don’t know this but I assume that Clarke and the other gentlemen who stuck their pocketbooks out know that and are trying to fix that problem.

Many problems occured but I do believe it was a nice concept that just went south for many reasons. before you bash it, there are only a few people in this industry who put money behind their thoughts. This group of men did that and took it on the chin. I am usually one that would jump on the negative wagon, but in this instance I feel like it was a positive effort and sorry it did not work from a financial standpoint.

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Comments

  1. Bob wrote:

    There is a good, thorough review of the AGM from the perspective of a fan here:

    http://allthingsgospel.blogspot.com/

  2. thom wrote:

    wow - allthingsgospel posted a very candid review. it sounds like the event was a big flop. i would be interested in hearing from others who actually attended the event, if any of the other 400-500 people happen to be on here!

  3. gc wrote:

    Tough weekend but let me give some positives. The program was good..Friday night was incredible with Prestonwood and the lineup was nice. Larnelle was Larnelle–incredible singer! The sound was not great, Don’t know who was in charge but the screens,backdrop were awesome for the small room.

    I really believe that Clarke has many great thoughts and sincerly wants to improve and grow this industry and has stepped out on a limb to accomplish that goal. Yes they have made some mistakes(Certification,location,price of event were just a few) but the line-up was excellent and the addition of the Choirs was a nice touch. It also bridges the gap with the Church that Southern Gospel has created over the years.

    Listen carefully—For SG to become a major part of mainstream christian music, the churches have to sing and be a part of the music! I don’t know this but I assume that Clarke and the other gentlemen who stuck their pocketbooks out know that and are trying to fix that problem.

    Many problems occured but I do believe it was a nice concept that just went south for many reasons. before you bash it, there are only a few people in this industry who put money behind their thoughts. This group of men did that and took it on the chin. I am usually one that would jump on the negative wagon, but in this instance I feel like it was a positive effort and sorry it did not work from a financial standpoint.

  4. DRIP wrote:

    I have not seen weather mentioned here either—did they not have tornadoe warnings every day and a few actually die from storms in the immediate area??

  5. Doug Sword wrote:

    I was concerned about how the AGM festival would fare in Dallas. As a lifelong Dallasite, I have seen the interest in SGM dwindle to almost nothing. Dallas has several of the strongest CCM radio stations in the country. However, there is almost no SG radio presence. If my wife and I want to see live SG, we either drive to smaller East Texas towns or occasionally to Fort Worth.

    As a member of the Prestonwood Church choir, I was pleased that our performance was well received. I was not there as I have been battling some health issues the last few weeks, but I caught some of the Friday concert on TV.

  6. Jamie wrote:

    Sadly, Dallas has become a no-man’s land when it comes to SG music. It’s painfully difficult to live in this area when you love Southern Gospel as much as I do. Even still, usually a good line up of artists or one premier group coming in will draw a large crowd. (Ex: EH&SS selling out Will Rogers auditorium last July.)
    I’m not sure why attendance numbers weren’t great this past weekend. It could be the location, the lack of real promotion, the weather; it could be the talent presented weren’t as popular as some other groups are in this area… who knows for sure. I know that the ticket price was a big reason I decided not to attend the event.
    I had not planned on attending at all (The Booth Brothers were the only group I was interested in hearing at all.) but when I thought “Maybe I’ll drive down and see them one of the two days they were there…” the ticket price immediately got rid of that idea for me. $35 for a Sunday afternoon matinee? And I can’t even imagine paying $35-45 each day/service, not including parking prices, etc…. I know I don’t make that much money and I can imagine a lot of others in this area who like SGM would be feeling the same way.

    I wish that love for SGM could be revived in the metroplex. I was hoping this event could help move this area toward SGM again, but from most all of the reports I’ve read, it doesn’t look good. Guess, for now at least, I’ll just have to keep my little Honda gassed up and on the road to see my favorite groups!

  7. Bob wrote:

    See, here is a great example of why this industry is dying. $35 + parking is CHEAP for most all secular events!!!!! I once pain over $150/seat for a very popular country act and never thought twice. the truth is SG fans are cheap and think their favorite group should work for peanuts and eat less. Until we start paying for QUALITY……

  8. Chris wrote:

    Bob…I like Kenny Chesney..therefore I would pay $75 a seat to go see him. However, I do not like Alan Jackson, so $75 a seat would be way too much for me. It’s all about the value of the dollar. The reason I didn’t go to AGMFF is because there wasn’t anyone there that could get me to pay $35 for one ticket. Does that make me cheap? Nope. I spend $35 a seat for each of the 3 concerts everytime Gaither comes to town, so I am at least willing to pay it. Sadly, with SG, you just do not have that many groups that can pull $35 out of me, no matter how many groups are on the program. Quantity does not equal quality. Out of all 4 concerts, I liked about 2-3 groups per night. And you figure that they’ll get about a 20 minute set. So I am basically paying $35 for an hour concert. That tells me that I am not getting value for my money. Now, when Kenny Chesney plays 2 hours himself, then I feel like I am getting a bigger bang for my buck.

    I don’t think it is people being “cheap” as much as it is people just following basic economic principles…”Am I getting enough value for my $35.” Unfortunately, for the lineup they had this weekend, my answer was no. If they had added a Gold City, EHSSQ or GV, then I would have been more apt to go.

    My understanding from the beginning was that AGM was supposed to separate the creme de la creme of SG from the regional artist. Well, Three Bridges, Shiloh or King’s Herlads are not the creme de la creme. The Pfiefers aren’t either. If you want the creme de la creme, then that weekend should have been all about the Hoppers, Talleys, Legacy Five, Perry’s, BF&A, Booths, Florida Boys…none of the other groups should have been part of it. I like the idea of Larnelle and Babbie and the choirs. But leave the groups to being top tier only.

  9. Bob wrote:

    Chris, you make my point very well. I never said anything about quantity.

    For an SG fan to pay $150 for a ticket - well, that would never happen……ever! There would be no combination of performers that would make someone pay that kind of money, period.

    Why exactly is that? What is the common thread amongst us all? I really think in the end is the ‘cheap’ nature of this business. Even the Florida Boys, EHSSQ, Greater Vision, Gold City, et. al. these days are putting on a pretty crappy show. Between the stracks and the horrid background vocals and the total lack of showmanship, poise and ability there is nothing WORTH paying top dollar for!

    I remember back in the early 80’s in Springfield, MO, the Kingsmen came to town. The tickets were in the ballpark of $20/head (pretty expensive back then (and unfortunately for SG still today)) and we felt REALLY GOOD about being there and paying the price for the entertainment we received. There was not a soundtrack used, not a strack, nothing but well written music performed wonderfully buy the ‘ton of fun.’

    Until SG gets its proverbial head out of its, well you know, there will NEVER EVER be the demand for our entertainment - or the ticket prices to go with it - even if it is your favorite group on the stage. No matter what their name is and who they are.

  10. Rhonda Berry wrote:

    Doug,
    Thank you for your comments about my blog. I want to clarify to all commenters that I posted it from a Dallas perspective. I am like many here in this area who love SG and want it to flourish here. I, too, support the idea of trying-it just needs to be done differently here.
    As well as the choirs from the “megachurches” were received, I know for a fact that whoever was in charge of the push to get the news of this event out to the churches didn’t do their job. The few people at my church who attended got their informaton through Harold Marshall’s events in Terrell, and my church (avg attendance of over 500) and my brother-in-law’s church (also over 500) were never notified except by those of us who attend, which with our schedule doesn’t do much. But what Clarke Beasley and the others want to do is admirable and should be supported. That is why I mentioned it as well.

    Bob,
    My previous blog about stacks wasn’t very well received by some. I am glad you mentioned that. I was beginning to think I was the only one who likes to hear “genuine” vocals.

    And you are right about the fan support of the groups and industry. We hosted a concert last year that put us back over 6 months on our current project because of the cost of promoting it. We picked the best advertising venues, and spent the money and did have a decent crowd-enough to cover the group’s fee. We decided to invest in our project instead of bringing another group in, and have been receiving emails from people who want us to do it again. We want to, but the support that is needed to break even wasn’t there. And our price was only $10 a ticket.

  11. Rhonda Berry wrote:

    I forgot to say that my blog is usually the result of talking to several people who point out and express their opinions to me. I have never posted anything that has not been vetted with others in our area or even outside of our area.

  12. Tony Watson wrote:

    As another who lives in the area where AGM was held, but one who did not attend the event, I can speak from the promotion aspect and to the weather, but I did not attend the event.

    The weather was a non-factor. Though there has been some severe weather lately, Friday and Saturday particularly were not a problem weather-wise, nor was Thursday really. The severe weather was west of Fort Worth and a good distance from the Dallas Convention Center.

    The promotion stunk. It has been mentioned that the company in charge of pushing it backed out or something toward the end. If that’s the case, then maybe that would explain some of it. I heard about it in Singing News, as an attender of Harold Marshall’s concert series in Terrell and from a postcard mailed to me at church as a part of what I can figure was the only widespread promotion.

    I heard no cross-promotion on radio stations or any promotion in any media besides SG outlets. I’ve discovered as a concert promoter that you do not expect churches to take something you mail to them and promote it in their churches. It will just not happen. If the idea was to cross the bridges, then it was a flop. I would be willing to guess that of the crowd that was there, most all was a SG die-hard audience.

    From watching it on TV, the few segments that were actually shown, the stage was not big enough to accomodate the choirs and the groups. The groups couldn’t even turn around it was so crowded. It’s already been mentioned that the sound stunk. On TV it wasn’t too bad, but not great either. The choir music was so drastically different in style from the SG artists, maybe too drastic for a blend, maybe not.

    The point made earlier here is a good one that the top of the line SG was not all that well represented. Some are in the elite to be sure but there were some that didn’t belong if this was supposed to be the best of the best.

    I think it’s something that has a chance to re-group and start again. I thought LifeWay would have a bigger voice in it but I didn’t sense their representation all that much.

    The main reason I didn’t go, however, was the $35

  13. gc wrote:

    Lifeway backed out

  14. DM wrote:

    What about all the hype and help CMP was bringing to the table. ow they would lead SG to the promised land? Seems like CMP (Christian Music Presenters) will make their artists Chirstian Music Peasants unless they get their act together.

  15. RJH wrote:

    CMP was involved at the request of AGM to stimulate interest and involvement from the regional church market with the goal of expanding the base of awareness of the good things SG music has to offer. Many folks in the pew are simply missing out on the quality represented in SG, partly because of misperceptions and lack of exposure to the really good offerings/artists.

    CMP has never claimed to have the mission of “leading anyone to the Promised Land”. CMP’s core mission relates to artists in every genre of Christian music, SG being a part of that larger picture. CMP is, however, passionate about helping preserve, grow and stimulate support and interest in what many consider to be a cherished segment of Christian Music (SG), which is why they along with AGM/NQC are taking the risks and hits that others are unwilling to take to make a difference for the future of this music. Being a critic is easy…enough said.

    Here is what CMP did do to help in the AGM Festival effort:
    1. Brought LifeWay to the table; constructed a conference plan to involve church leaders. The promotion of that event did not produce the needed conference registrations; LifeWay cancelled; CMP planned a one-day showcase/music reading event for church music leaders and event planners.
    2. CMP recruited the most influential church ministries in DFW to participate in the Festival: First Baptist Dallas; Prestonwood Baptist; First Baptist Stephenville. Their involvement was a dynamic boost in the quality of the shows (you can debate that - those present did not).
    3. CMP recruited and involved the radio sponsor for the event (KCBI) a strong, ministry focused radio presence with a broadcast footprint covering most of TX and part of OK.
    4. CMP provided the connection with Daystar TV which led to the live broadcast decision.
    5. Assisted in other planning and coordination matters too numerous to mention.

    As for the 17 CMP artists that were showcased on the Friday event, they were able to perform before groups of decision makers who could potentially book them. CMP arranged for each of them to have a radio interview with KCBI and a received a commitment from KCBI to play their interviews and their music throughout the remainder of this year. They also were interviewed on camera by Gospel Music Television. The GMT team were wonderful in their desire to promote the ministries of these fine artists.
    Each of these artists were also recognized in the AGM program guide.

    Thankfully, some in the SG community are encouraging the efforts of those who are trying to make a difference and help the greater cause for SG music. The feedback presented here regarding price, location, timing, DFW market, etc. is all helpful and welcome input to AGM/NQC as they evaluate this effort.
    Cheap shots about “getting our act together” which provide no specifics, are not welcome or appreciated. Please provide details if you understand enough about the big picture to do so.
    Better yet, call our office and we’ll take time to hear all of your suggestions about how we can better help artists in their ministry efforts.

    What the “big picture” of SG music needs is more people who will get involved, restrain their prompt criticism, stick their neck out and try to make a difference.

    WAY TO GO!…to the NQC Board (AGM) for taking the lead and the risk for the sake of this ministry platform called Southern Gospel Music that we all love.

  16. JB wrote:

    I searched the artists who are “Certified”,
    Only a few who performed at AGM are signed up. As for SG The Hoppers were about the only full time professional group listed. The “Big Picture” is if the NQC and SG leaders would focus on ministry and who got them here instead of money the rest would be taken care of. A mere label will not provide a path to a new era in SG music. Right now when the average person hears Southern Gospel the first name that comes to mind is Gaither Homecomming, like it or not Bill learned what would sell and used it.

    I agree the church has to be a part of the picture, and that will only be accomplished when they are drawn to SG because of what it stands for and what it means. Allowing church choirs to be a part is nice but they have to want to be a part. They have to belive in it.

    DM, though a bit sarcastic, true.

    RJH, I bet you were working on this reply the first night of AGM.

  17. Leebob wrote:

    Dallas is a different ball game when it come to sg. I put sg in small letters because that is where it stands around here. This area is so CCM saturated that even as a local group, a huge amount of effort has to be made to just get in the door of most churches. When we break out into He Can, a past fun song of the Singing Americans 1987, among others, we actually get asked if we wrote some of the songs because they have never heard them. I can take a 5 year old top song, reconfigure it to fit what Ransomed does, and people look at it like a brand new song. Even more recently, we used Under God, and people still wanted to know how we came up with the words.

    Locally, until KCBI began their Sunday afternoon push, radio airplay was on the AM side and the DJs are still persistent in playing groups from the hills a disproportionate amount of the time. I love SG and still have to turn the channel. If I, a supporter of SG have to change the channel, forget trying to gain any new listeners.

    As for promotions, we had Crossway last year and had a very good concert. We got them at, what I would call, a fair price. We STILL placed our own ministry on hold for 6 months for the money we lost. We advertised, promoted, and only needed a crowd of 400 to justify our efforts. We fell short about 100 + people. Name recognition may have been a little bit of the problem yet I have seen the Booth Brothers play to a crowd of under 200 in this area and the Perry’s to a gathering of about 45.

    The issue may be that we are expecting this to develop over night. Harold Marshall in Terrell is FINALLY seeing the success he has strived for simply from persistence, 15 years of it. Even his crowds are about 1/3 from the Dallas area. The rest come from miles away in busses.

    The people I would like to address at this time are the AGENTS. You guys are WAY over pricing yourselves to expect promoters to build something in Dallas. When I have a church that runs around 900 + ready to have a group on a Sunday after the Gaither’s, you offer them to me at a full Friday/Saturday night price when we know they are driving 20 miles. Churches are not ready to charge admission for Parishioners to come to a Sunday night service at their own church and that is the only way that could have been pulled off. I know you are in it to make money, but the agents are taking the groups away from what they originally started to do, minister, for the sake of the bottom line.

    God has blessed SG music throughout the ages because the heart of the people that sang it were pure toward Him. I was hooked in 1974 because Les Beasley, Glen Allred, and a bass named Buddy took the time to speak to an impressionable twelve year old boy one evening. My brothers will tell you the same story and they are considerably younger. A great deal of Ransomed’s ministry can be owed to these men who took a minute to talk to us. Throughout the 70s and 80s, SG soared as the super groups appeared. Singing Americans, Cathedrals, Gold City, and the Kingsmen could still see the people they were singing too had hearts that needed to be touched. Now it seems that everyone is interested in money and putting on a show. The bigger the show the more the money.

    I am all for making sg, SG in the Dallas area but we, the promoters, have to have a little bit of help from the driving force behind the money, the agents. It is going to take a long term commitment from Agents, Groups, Promoters and churches to do this. Factor in the fuel, but don’t over estimate your name when it comes to this area.

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