AVFL’s third anniversary

It quietly came and went a few weeks ago. I note it only fwiw, which varies wildly depending on whom you ask, of course. The usual stuff applies about what a great bunch of readers I have on the whole. A friend of mine emailed the other day to remark that the average intelligence of the collective discourse on the site has markedly risen since those early days. And even the cranks and crack pots are entertaining most of the time. I think he’s right.

Anyway, I’ve always assumed at some point I’d run out of things to say, and some days I come pretty close to taking a bow and heading for the bus. But then I find myself getting up on a sleepless night and pounding out three or four posts and getting that strange bloggers’ jolt of excitement and anxiety and expectation and fear and then I hit PUBLISH, only to wake up three or four times during the rest of the night to monitor my blackberry for a flame war or comments cat fight.

I blame you, naturally. You keep coming back, more and more every month (and evidently, a few artists read this site, … “more than you’d think,” to be exact, at least according to Madison Easter. Who knew?). Last month was the best yet: a total of 250,000 hits on the month, almost 4,400 daily page views, 2,500 daily visits (76,000 for the month), and 8,300 hits a day. Thank you.

As for reflections on the journey thus far, it would perhaps be overstating things to say blogging makes any kind of measurable difference, despite the most noble goals. At best, I think blogs offer an alternative site for free-wheeling discussion and open exchange of perspectives that might otherwise go unvoiced in a subculture like southern gospel, where the powerful and prominent come into their power and prominence assuming deference to their opinion as a kind of birthright.

But to value dissent and critique and give-and-take is not nothing. When I read on Adam Edwards’s site the other day that Libbi Perry Stuffle had created a line on her personal profile called “dislikes about gospel music on the internet” in order to take a swipe at “message boards and blogs,” I couldn’t help but feel like some of the gospel-music uses of the internet must be getting something right. Which is to say, the diversity of perspectives and ideas that blogs like mine thrive on mounts a regular challenge to the kind of monochromatic thinking implied in Stuffle’s remark.

Whenever I read or hear things like this (and if you listen closely, you might be surprised how frequently performers make left-handed remarks about the internet from the stage), I’m reminded of two things.

One is that southern gospel may hold the worldwide record for thinnest skin per square inch of professional epidermis. After Gaither, there is probably no other group that bestrides gospel music right now the way the Perrys do, and still the family matriarch thinks it necessary to go out of her way to twit what is – in the grand scheme – a comparatively small (but also very devoted) subset of fans in gospel music who prefer to maintain their connection to sg online and dare to say more than “you and your group is sech uh blessin’.” As a critique of new media, the remark is just silly (given the lack of influence or prestige we the pajama mafia of the blogosphere can claim); as a PR move, it’s counterproductive (if there’s one thing you can say about message boarders and bloggers, it’s that they are diehards, so why poke em in the eye?).

The other thing I’m reminded of: a little bit of dissent, critique, candor, and plainspeaking goes along way in the intellectually brittle world of southern gospel music. The joyful noisers will probably always be the prevailing attitude. But then again, that just means the rest of us will have that much more fun baying at the moon, sticking in a thousand craws, and generally insisting on the joyful-noise absurdity that what motivates an artist must be the only reason to care about or engage with an art form.

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  1. RF wrote:

    I enjoyed this so much. The problem with sg artist is that they’ve never seen this before. It has always been that they did whatever they wanted and everybody smiled and said good things regardless of how they felt.

    I’m reminded of an old Harry Chapin song (God rest his soul) in which the fictional Mr. Tanner, who was told by everyone in his home town that he was wonderful, went to NY City to perform. The big city critics blasted him and he came home a broken man. Such is the case of the sg singer or group. Spending a lifetime “in the old days” being praised by everyone, it gets a little tough when someone says, “hey, wait a minute, it wasn’t that good.” And you begin to wonder yourself, especially if the Lord is involved and you lash out.

    I love the Perrys and they are a permanent part of my I-Pod, but to be so thin-skinned as to think your aren’t accountable to the folks who put out their hard-earned dollars just because you call yourself a ministry is kind of silly. Music is either good or bad. Oh, you get some “almost good” stuff from time to time, but bad decisions are made and people notice. Should everyone keep their mouts shut and just smile and say nothing. I guess that’s the Christian way. Doug, you have refused to do that and I, and may other commend you for it. I certainly hope that there are very few Mr. Tanner’s in the sg world. Hoepfully, you learn from criticism and do better. You do not lash out or quit.

    Sermon’s over. Thanks be to God.

  2. Chuck Peters wrote:

    “I bet you think this song is about you,.. don’t you?”

  3. Rhonda Berry wrote:

    I watched a very popular regional group treat their fans really badly a few years ago. What we took from that was an ill will toward them. Their sound is wonderful, but their attitude off-stage isn’t. When we get too big for our britches, God can’t use us as well. Simple fact. Yes, there will still be people blessed but how many could have been blessed if we had a right attitude toward the people who do put their money into the pot (offerings or cd’s or even their church to pay for it)?

    One person’s opinion isn’t the end all and be all of SG, it is just that, their opinion and they are entitled to it.

    One of our members has the philosophy-”Believe in none of the compliments, and listen to half the criticism” By doing that you have less chance of becoming prideful and diminishing what you do through that attitude, and by listening to that half of the criticism you learn how you can improve.

    There is a difference between confidence and pride.

  4. Judi wrote:

    Congratulations on your blogging anniversary. I’ve learned so much about the craft of blogging from you, and I’m glad those midnight insomnia atttacks are still providing inspiration for AVFL. Write on!

  5. Steven wrote:

    Happy Third and i wish many more!

  6. David wrote:

    “…still the family matriarch thinks it necessary to go out of her way to twit what is…”

    This is why she is singing kareoke and not headlining any sort of major tour. This level of “professionalism” is absolutely astounding. Keep up the good work.

  7. Bill wrote:

    2500 daily visits. Wow! I manage around 75, but that’s counting all the RSS hits. That’s cheating really.

    As my writing opportunities expand, I’m learning more and more about SGM. I enjoy reading your blog and taking your recommendations when it comes to music and artists. Thank you for the references back to my humble offering.

    Continued success to you.

  8. FormerDJ wrote:

    Congrats on 3 years! As I’ve moved out of the SG industry, your blog has helped me keep informed and entertained.

    As for artists being intimidated by the Internet, isn’t it easier to keep your fans ignorant and excited about you rather than educated and bored silly?

  9. CVH wrote:

    First, congrats on the third anniversary. I think it was about two years ago I discovered it as a link from another site I was on and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly since.

    The perpetual smiley face mentality is sufferable but sad. I prefer the real-world dialogue and exchange of thoughts, ideas and critiques that the blog generates. It’s refreshing to have the variety of perspectives and viewpoints that are represented here.

    Keep up the great work. And thanks for providing an opportunity for intelligent discussion and conversation about topics we care about.

  10. AggiebassinTx wrote:

    Congrats on 3 years!! Keep it coming in fine form.

  11. Kyle wrote:

    Keep up the good work!!

  12. Doug Sword wrote:


    Your blog is always a source of intellectual honesty and insight in a field where that is not the norm. Keep fighting the good fight.

  13. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    I love this site. I don’t always agree with the opinions, but that’s okay. I’m always challenged to think a little harder and to analyze the music and the industry a little more closely. I find this site refreshing in that it is attempting to challenge the leaders of the SG World to strive for excellence in their music and in all the way they conduct their ministry/businesses.

  14. Karalyn wrote:

    Happy Third AVFL! I am one of the 2,500 daily visits people… LOVE this website!

  15. CG wrote:

    I actually check your site about every two hours (along with Drudge - but you’re first…for real). I admit it, I’m ready to confess: Hi, I’m CG. I’m a SG addict and a AVFL junkie.

    Whew, I feel better now.

    Thanks for all you do. Congrats on three years.

  16. Jim2 wrote:

    I’m with Doug #12. Intellectual honesty, willing to call the kettle black, and stir the pot if neccessary.
    Keep up the excellent work!

  17. Janice wrote:

    3 years! Congratulations! I do feel a little smug that I’ve been reading it since almost the beginning.

    I love SG music and I am interested in your unique point of view. Sometimes I disagree with you, but it is always interesting.

    I think that what I enjoy most about your blog is your amazing gift for expressing things in new words.

    “intellectually brittle” hahaha that’s great!

    “sticking in a thousand craws” hahah

    And much more. Just keep writing!

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