Disbanding and cleansing

Citing the spate of dissolutions, retirements, and other destabilizing changes over the summer, a reader writes to ask: “Will there be more groups disbanding and is there a cleansing of groups going on in the industry because of the financial climate of sg?”

Answer: I don’t know and I doubt it. The Three Bridges and Florida Boys thing seemed to just be coincidence in timing. They have both been in the works for a while and my posting about them on the same day probably gave it a cataclysmic coloring that was misleading. As for the industry’s financial climate, I don’t see that improving any time soon. For every two or three successful and/or full-time groups that disband, 10 more hackilicious atrocities announce they’ve begun recording their vocals at Sticks and Stones studio under the direction of Hasbeen and Shameless.

As I was reminded recently, industry leaders do seem to be trying to regroup, but how well is still wide open for question in any direction. AGM may be floundering but it’s not dead. If NQC wised up, lanced the boil of religio-bureaucratic cronyism hobbling its ability to strategically place top-notch talent with the right congregational audiences (instead of creating a flakey upper crust of those artists willing to pay for spiritual certification), and spun it off into its own operation so as to eliminate the unavoidably conflicting interests that NQC faces trying to run two franchises that compete with one another, then there might be something to the AGM concept as a marketably different brand of evangelical music between the church/folk/homegrown stuff on the right and CCM on the left.

Can that be done without alienating too many groups or monied interests and so creating a tear in the delicately interlocking self-interests that are the warp and woof of sg’s economic fabric? Probably not. But (if you’ll allow me to torture this sewing metaphor just a bit more) let things get threadbare enough and some of these fine ole Southern Baptist gentlemen might rediscover their inner seam-ripper (these days, the knife typically comes out only when Gaither or homosexuals are involved). Whatever else that might mean for the image of itself as a peaceful fellowship of Christian brotherhood, it would probably precipitate better music on the whole.

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  1. Tony Watson wrote:

    I predict many more disbandings and continued personnel turnover. What will happen is the strongest groups will survive, those in that mid-line will continue to lose personnel because of financial issues and have great turnover - resulting in lesser quality singers who can work cheap.

    There will always be a ton of those groups who record in Drew’s garage - with prices of equipment at reasonable rates that will not change.

    What I do think will happen is there will eventually become a larger separation of the haves and have-nots - which I think is a good thing. We definitely are an over-saturated market with professional groups compared to the demand for same.

    Think back to the golden age, some 50 years ago. The groups didn’t make their total living on just personal appearances. They sang at radio stations, they worked for songbook companies, etc. This is not brain surgery nor are we re-inventing the wheel. Economics are eventually going to drive any industry and some will eventually have to park out of the flow of traffic.

  2. gc wrote:

    Many groups are on the tightrope financially. Some deserving and some who are trying to do it right but are ” lanced in the boil of religio-bureaucratic cronyism hobbling its ability” to survive.

    1) Gas Is High (which leads to #2)
    2) Sales are down across the board
    3)Very few quality SG promoters left in the country.

    My main problem is radio.How can Sig Sound, GVB, Gold City, Talley’s, Mckameys, Primitive , Inspirations, Austin’s Bridge, and Palmetto State all be under the same music genre of SG?

  3. Trent wrote:

    In my mind, we have three genres under the SG umbrella:

    1. Appalachian Gospel (McKameys, Inspirations, etc.)

    2. Classic Quartets & Trios (Palmetto State, Sig Sound, Gold City, Dove Bros., Greater Vision, Whisnants, Perrys, etc)

    3. Progressive SG (Austins Bridge, Crabb Family, Lordsong, Talley Trio, Hope’s Call, etc)

    Generally speaking these three categorizations work. All of them will bleed over into one of the other three categories on a few songs, but for the most part these are true to the group’s stylistic direction.

  4. Leebob wrote:

    I have often said that SG is one of the more varied genres in the music industry.

    Trent, I personally could do without number 1 but then that would leave out the hockey fans of SG now wouldn’t it. I never understood how radio stations could play 2 and 3 only to follow up with the “Hickatones” (after this I am returning to my anti-stone barricade). We wonder why SG has a difficult time making it in the Dallas market? Somebody stop the bleeding!

    I have also wondered about the constant changing of groups. Family responsibilities, financial stresses, and going to the mission field are understandable and will happen where people doing “the Lord’s work” are expected to survive on a pauper’s pay. Knowing the driven nature of an artisan, I can’t help but wonder if much of the changing of groups is due to personality differences. We Christians are afraid to tell the truth that sometimes people (personalities) just aren’t a good mix. In this line of work, personality mixes are important to stage presence, especially with our audience. If we can’t get along how do we talk about the love of Christ? Just once I would love to hear a group say that “Billy Bob and Buckaroo just don’t like each other and have gotten on each other’s last nerve. For the sanity of all involved we felt that it was best for (insert SG group here) to move in a different direction.”

    Give me about five minutes to return to my anti-stone barricade and then you can begin.

  5. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Sounds like the political world mentality is at work in southern gospel music.
    Why are we so quick to label groups into a box based on some action or actions?
    People use labels in the political world base on one issue all the times.
    What about the people who want to enjoy the music God have given us without going through a think tank?

  6. Felicia wrote:

    If the product is great (not mediocre, not pass-able, not good) people will buy it and people will come to concerts. I frankly can’t remember the last southern gospel CD I bought or the last concert I attended, or wanted to. So, I keep listening to my old CDs until something comes along that deserves my cash.

  7. gc wrote:

    I have said and practiced that SG should take the approach that other artist in other genres of music take. Work fewer dates, quality dates, lower expenses, only do quality projects that reflect what you do live. Improve radio and TV exposure..

    If you could implement these principles you would be home more,make as much profit, maintain stability in the group, could approach each event with a renewed spirituality that colud be seen in your presentation. Ministry is very difficult when your home life is not stable, your strugglling financially and you dislike your group members because you see them 250 days a year.

    The music nor the message is broken! The business model we (SG)use only works fo a few groups . I am not a Sig Sound fan but the business model they have is top notch////

  8. SPD wrote:

    GC- Your ideas are great in theory. However, the sg crowd is not paying enough for groups to do that! CCM however is booming! Phillips, Craig, and Dean require ten thousand a date and only do two dates a month. On top of that you fly them in and you rent the sound equipment down to the name brand that they require and pay the sound man. I know this because my church wanted them a year ago and couldn’t work it out! That’s the way to go! There is zero expense involed for the artist and who couldn’t live on 20k a month especially with no out of pocket expense! I could probably name 15 to 20 other groups in ccm that operate in the same manner! These artists’ are selling out 6 to 8 thousand seats in a stand alone type venue (no other groups in volved). No one in SG demands that type of crowd, except Gaither or NQC and there are more groups involved than just one. SG fans are cheap! The words love offering and pass through dates have killed our industry. Why pay Gold City’s (or name any one you like) flat when if you wait long enough they will be in your area and need a last minute date for less than half the normal rate. That along with SG hickatones singing on every corner in the south every saturday night just for a little gas money. Or you could stay home and see a Gaither Home Coming on PAX every saturday night (lol) why go pay for it! I agree it’s a good model but the sg crowd is just not willing to go there!

  9. Sam wrote:

    I remember attending a concert where the bass singer had recently left the group. It was announced that he “left because of illness. He was sick of us, and we were sick of him.” Quite funny, actually.

  10. Leebob wrote:

    SPD - Why does everybody go back to the $$? Let’s get it straight! The primary crowd for SG is on a fixed income and has limited cash flow. They also, because of their age, have a different priority atogether for their $. The younger crowd may not care about spending high $ to go to concerts because they have fewer financial responsibilities and are not too worried whether they pay their next bill or not.

    Apples and Oranges when it comes to comparing CCM and SG because of the age. Whether you like it or not, you have to know the majority of the audience you are singing to and what their financial status is.

    While Ransomed desires to go it full time, we also realize that, for awhile anyway, our crowd is going to be the over 60 variety. We have a combination of traditional and progressive songs that we hope to build a younger audience with, but until SG makes the music a little younger this just isn’t going to happen. The powers that be and the money behind SG are going to have to let the music go a little younger or SG will stay the way it is.

    I retreat back to my anti-stone barrier.

  11. SPD wrote:

    LeeBob- You’re right about the majority of our audience and their income! I was replying to gc on why dosent sg follow other genres business model :”I have said and practiced that SG should take the approach that other artist in other genres of music take. Work fewer dates, quality dates, lower expenses, only do quality projects that reflect what you do live. Improve radio and TV exposure..” The reason we can’t work fewer dates is because of the money! That’s it plain and simple! Money is not the end goal of what I do! But it takes money to do what we do! I can’t go into debt to ’sing for Jesus’. And more and more artists’ are getting in too deep! When you can’t support your family in a given job you change jobs. SG is no different! I believe with all of my heart that God takes care of His children. It’s biblical! I also believe that the ones who can’t make it :1. either aren’t called or 2. it’s not yet God’s time. Now there might be a can of worms I shouldn’t have opened! Any way, I also agree about reaching the younger generation! The industry as we know it is dying! The music will never die! The problem is the industry leaders are so scared of new comers that won’t drink the coolaid, that they are letting it die just to keep it out of the hands or pockets of someone else! I’ll hush! We’re a lot closer together than you might think!

  12. Leebob wrote:

    SPD - Thank you for your clarification. My thoughts are that due to the “pay”, the price of fuel, and family priorities, more groups are going to have to go to a regionalized ministry (i.e. southeast, upper midwest, southwest, deep south). This will allow for the “super groups” to still be out there nationally, but will also allow for personal tastes such as the “mountain sound” (trying not to offend anybody) among other things.

    I see so many groups wanting to go “national” from around here that just don’t have what I think it would take. While travelling, I have noticed so many churches in northeast and central Texas alone that if we could get into 1/3rd of them we would be so busy we wouldn’t know how to handle it all.

    While these groups are so entangled in the going national hype, they are missing the awesome opportunity of opening new doors and ministry right under their noses. The question for these would be how to open these new doors to churches that are entrenched in the CCM camp they are not “open” to other music. I used to be one of the ones called “not open” to new music. I embrace some of the CCM and P&W (still not buying into the 747 songs) but now these once “open to new idea of music” churches are no longer “open” and are rather VERY close minded about music.

    I respectfully retreat to my anti-stone barricade and await further comment. Especially from you “open-minded” church ministers.

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