AGM and Carnegie Hall
Not too long ago, I got a note from Roy Hayes, president of Vivici Inc., an affiliate of Christian Music Presenters, which is a big player in the American Gospel Music
boondoggle enterprise we’ve talked about from time to time here. Hayes was writing about the AGM Carnegie Hall event in late November and how much of a success it had been, yet very few people, he complained, are interested in “commenting positively” about it.
Now, this is an interesting complaint to send my way. No one who recalls any of my thoughts about AGM (see here, here, here, here, here, and here, among other places) should be surprised to find that I have not been a big booster of the AGM Carnegie Hall event. Nor would I be the first (or third, or tenth) person to whom it would make sense to lodge such a complaint. But the truth of the matter is, I mostly forgot it about, and Hayes’s email piqued my interested sufficiently that I did a little looking around and question asking. So I guess the email worked after all.
No matter. Even after only what I admit were modest inquiries, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that the Carnegie Hall event got little attention in sg because very few people in a position to be “commenting positively” see little value in what happened (though the SN’s publication schedule is such that they may yet be planning a big blowout on it; I simply don’t know). And I must say, I can’t entirely disagree with the skeptics.
Why? Well, here’s how I think the Carnegie Hall event worked (though please correct where you know I’m wrong):
There are many music “schools’ in
Add a “name” like Babbie Mason and maybe pay her to help the draw. Get your “partner” company (Vivici, Inc.) to promote the event and pay them. Maybe add a token sg group like Triumphity or The Imperials. And voila. One Carnegie Hall event (in the smaller Isaac Stern Hall), coming right up.
CMP looks good. Vivici makes money. An artist get paid, the quartets and their labels have reason to be happy with the exposure (because my guess is Triumphant and the Imperials got little more than travel expenses), and NQC, Inc. is somewhat vindicated. Translation: Everybody involved is either happy, paid, or both.
But the question is: How did this help sg (or any “g”)? The room, which seats about 2,800, was “nearly” full, whatever that means, but it’s not at all clear who comprised this crowd. Family and friends of all those choirs? Seat fillers? Did 2000+ diehard sgers spontaneously take to their RVs and descend upon Manhattan? If this was about promoting sg, why were Triumphant and the Imperials the quartets representing and genre (which gets us back to spiritual certification and the pay-to-play set up of the entire AGM structure), and more important, why were the sg groups, whoever they may be, singing downbill to an inspo soloist? As per usual, I’m actually asking, because the answer to some of those questions might help clarify the concert’s achievement. As it is, I’m rather at a loss to say. I guess it’s all well and good that “Carnegie Hall is better and holier place because of the American Gospel Music Concert,” as Clemente D’Alessio says in the press release Hayes sent me, but that’s pretty thin soup as claims to fame for an event go.
Reading some of the and other quotes in the press release (example: from Nyhl Henson, Founder - MTV Networks and former CEO of Country Music Television: “The fusion of Southern Gospel music with Black-Gospel music was masterfully orchestrated by Christian Music Presenters at the Carnegie Hall premier concert of American Gospel Music”), one gets the feeling the primary purpose of the Carnegie event was to burnish the image of CMP/AGM, which is … well … what exactly? I’m still not entirely sure in general. But in this case, it seems to be a rather bizarre mix of acts performing to a crowd of people that must still be wondering, “What was that, anyway?”
Update: I’d draw your attention to this response from AGM. Among other things, it sets right some of the structural details of the event that I got wrong (I stand corrected) and counters some of the arguments I made about AGM generally. I should say, the use of live instrumentation is of course a commendable thing that I should have highlighted earlier. And everybody got paid, great. I’m all for redistributing the wealth. Seriously.
At the end of the day, this AGM things comes down to what you perceive as the best way to invest in good music. The AGM approach is clearly one way to go about it. But I continue to remain skeptical of the bloated administrative overhead (NQC, Vivici, CMP, AGM), the spiritual certification silliness, and the immediate emphasis on big visuals and press releasable productions that have so far defined AGM. Instead of dressing everyone up in evening wear and hiring an orchestra, the Carnegie Hall money would have been better spent in the far less glamorous but also far more proven work of genuine artistic development: finding bankable talent and spending the time and resources it takes to turn them into marquis performers.Email this Post