“Daywind Deadend”

A few commenters have wondered what I meant by this aside in my discussion of Canaan Records below. The short answer is: see here. When I wrote there about “A&R” (such as it is) in southern gospel amounting mostly to “professional Departments of Ego-Stroking and Flimflammery, heavily invested in manufacturing the appearance of success and the trappings of accomplishment rather than the things themselves,” Daywind wasn’t the only outfit I had in mind, but it certainly was on the list.

The longer answer: Yes, DW has figured out how to generate Grammy nominations, and yes, they’ve sewn up a lot of big names in the industry. But you’d be hardpressed to show how the label itself has done anything to add value artistically to those groups that wouldn’t have been or wasn’t a result of the group’s own doing anyway. In fact, you might say the groups are adding value to DW.

As table sales have become the main source of product movement for most groups (which isn’t to say retail doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter that much to the artists themselves because their contract with the label ensures that all but rare few artists actually recoup the label’s investment in the project, at least on paper), the trend in gospel music is for groups to either take on their own producing and arranging or contract a la carte with people who will pretty much make them sound the way they want to. This is not true only at Daywind, but the phenomenon has intensified there especially since DW decided not to replace Wayne Haun as house producer when he left several years ago. (Karen Peck and New River is a good example of a group that has “risen” to “success” at Daywind on this model … this “success” hasn’t necessarily meant more market share for the group, just an institutional infrastructure dedicated to surrounding them with the optics of a successful career: awards, slick product roll outs, and of course this year’s Grammy nomination.)

For established groups like Greater Vision or Legacy Five or the Booth Brothers, MIA A&R really isn’t that big of a deal. These kinds of groups either have enough talent within the group to hold together a coherent style and sound, or are popular enough that the mediocre product they produce doesn’t impede sales/survival, or both. Essentially, these groups are doing table projects all the time, it’s just that every other one has a DW executive producer credit on it.

But for a new, young group like Austin’s Bridge, the situation is completely different. Here’s a group that needs a label to do more than handle distribution and optics. They need genuine A&R development, for reasons I’ve tried to describe here. And to whatever extent their first project shows signs of great promise, it shows just as many distressing signs of a serious failure of A&R vision and insight: namely, all those flat-footed songs written by group members who really need someone at their label who is insightful and honest enough to tell them that loving God and having a song in your heart aren’t enough, that your songs aren’t worthy of your own musical potential, and you may have to put your dream of being a double-threat slasher (singer/songwriter!) on hold for a bit if you want to do more than sell a handful of records to the southern gospel faithful and a few cliques of kids at youth camp nursing acceptably pious boyband crushes.

And one assumes a group like AB does want more than that. So if you’re that group with the potential to break out, cross over, or otherwise go anywhere meaningful, a label with an imaginatively moribund A&R department is probably not only not where you want to be (even though it may put you in good company and make you feel really spayshul). Indeed, it may well be a deadend for groups looking for, wanting, or needing more from their label than the easy encouragement of joyful noise-ism.

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Comments

  1. cynical one wrote:

    I’ve seen this diatribe from you before, and I still think you’re full of . . . let’s say “prunes”. Daywind (and the other major s/g labels) do have active A&R folks, who do what A&R folks are supposed to do. They also hire producers (either in-house staff producers or work-for-hire people) who work with the artists to select the best songs (no matter who writes them) and the best studio musicians, in order to get the best recording they can have for the budget they have. The A&R folks and the producers generally ARE honest with the singer/songwriters, and help steer them in the right direction.

    You are correct that many artists have egos that will not allow as much direction as they really need, but I’m not sure they’re the ones you’ve mentioned in your blogs.

  2. Kyle wrote:

    Point taken. Not much I can add here. Good job!!

  3. art wrote:

    OK, Avery, do this industry outsider a favor and tell me what A&R means. Sometimes it feels like your site needs a glossary for your various abbreviations.

  4. John wrote:

    To Art(#3)….

    Here is a definition of A&R(which stands for Artists and Repertoire)from Wikipedia…

    In the music industry, Artists and Repertoire (A&R) is the division of a record label company that is responsible for scouting and artist development. It is the link between the recording artist/act and the record label, generally to help with the artistic and commercial development of the label’s artists.

  5. Kyle wrote:

    “….in order to get the best recording they can have for the budget they have.”

    Whose budget? Daywind’s or the Artist? I thought a true record company was supposed to set the budget for the artist. Otherwise, the label is doing nothing more than, as stated above, handing distribution and optics.

    If an artist is coming to a record label and saying, “Here’s my budget, what can I get for this,” they’re not a record label; they’re a studio. If a label is coming to an artist and saying, “We’re gonna give you this budget for a recording, but here are the stipulations, then they’re a label.

    There is a difference between a distributor and a record company.

  6. cdguy wrote:

    Art - A&R stands for Artists & Repertoire. They are the people who are supposed to help the producer match the artist with the song. I know some fine ones in s/g, including Norman Holland at Daywind, who do a fine job. They do artist development, as well as a lot of other behind-the-scenes jobs nobody sees.

    Some may not do all you think they should, but apparently they do what they’re paid to do, or their bosses wouldn’t keep them around.

    I would also add that not only does Daywind have a good track record of getting Dove and Grammy nominations, they also have a proven track record on radio hits and Singing New Fan Awards. Look at any airplay chart, and you’ll see Daywind artists consistantly at or near the top. Look at the nominees and winners of the SN awards, and you’ll find Daywind artists consistantly listed.

    And you can talk all you want to about Grammys and Doves being rigged, stations being added or dropped at will, but the fact is, their artists are loved by the fans.

    I’ve also noticed a few artists have left Daywind just before their careers died. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Is that what you meant by “dead end”?

  7. cdguy wrote:

    Kyle, you’re exactly right. And Daywind is therefore a record company. Read the credits on the cd’s and you’ll see listed an “executive producer”. That indicates whose budget. On most Daywind projects, Dottie Leonard-Miller is listed as executive producer. Daywind does lease some projects, as well. Those pieces would not list Dottie’s name.

    Clear as mud?

  8. Trent wrote:

    I think over the last year or two Crossroads has really started to overtake Daywind as the label of choice in SG music. Multiple radio hits, multiple Singing News fan awards…..

  9. SM wrote:

    I think the criticism directed toward Daywind that Doug and others (including myself) have had is not whether they market the artist, but in how they’re doing so. I remember a few years ago they released three or four LONG slow ballads by Greater Vision to radio, and by the third one, we were tired of that sound and thus didn’t play anything current by GV. One compilation released during ratings period even had 6 out of 8 songs as 4+ minute long ballads, which isn’t good for a southern gospel station that’s trying to compete with top 40 Christian and country stations for audience share. It’s almost like somebody assumed (and you know what that does) that because a ballad wowed a concert audience that it would be a great song for radio. Yeah, right, hardly the case. If the concert ballads are going to drive the industry, then sg radio will continue to fall short of every other genre.

  10. Kyle wrote:

    cdguy, I understand completely, and I’m not picking on Daywind. Just using examples. I could replace Daywind with Crossroads, Spring Hill, Canaan, Curb, MCA, and the same rules [should] still apply.

  11. Trent wrote:

    SM, great point. Everybody loves a good ballad, but SG radio is saturated with them. The biggest void in the genre right now is in the area of inventive, original up-tempo tunes. And I am talking about both lyrically and musically.

    I want to challenge you guys to step back and listen to up-tempo songs on the radio today. Do you remember the song by the Crabb Family called, “The Lamb, The Lion, and The King”? If you’ll just listen, there are an incredible amount of up-tempo songs that have come out in the past 3-5 years that have the EXACT same melody line in the chorus. Not only the exact same chord structure, but the EXACT same melody line. Listen to SG radio for one month and count them. It’s unbelievable.

  12. charles R. penberthy wrote:

    I have country gospel songs that are definately different from most of what we hear today. None of that line after line monotany that we hear so much of today. They sing to Jesus but they also sing to sinners and saved.My songs give people things they need to think about. Enough for an album. Ruben 314-223-XXXX.

  13. Eddie Howard wrote:

    If you have the guts, fortitude, creativity, friends, artists relations and the financial ability, you have the credentials to start your own label, run it for at least 5 yrs and have some good success, then you are qualified to discredit companies and/or A&R guys that have contributed greatly to many artists success with support, encouragement and $$.
    So many people look to a record label to get out their magic wan and do everything for them. Radio people tend to expect those kind of imaginary feats from labels. If you could interview the top 100 artists of all time, you would find that almost all of them will contribute their success mostly to their hard work, determination, help from people directly around them and very little will say they couldn’t have done it without X Label. You hear artists brag on labels when they are receiving a Grammy but they are typically still in the thicket with their label, otherwise known as politics.

    Norman Holland, although not internationally known because of the size of the SG industry, was one of the best examples of A&R at it’s best. Truly loved, encouraged and supported his artists in everyway possible with whatever company he was working with at the time. I’ve been involved in direct artists launching with his help from the Benson Company, Riversong Records and Daywind. He has in every case proved to be an extraordinary A&R guy.
    People like Dotti and Ed Leonard, John Mayes, Kevin McManus, Eddie Crook along with their labels like Daywind, also the Singing News, might be the only reason Southern Gospel hasn’t completely disintegrated as an industry.
    So, if you want to contribute to the Southern Gospel industry, change your format to an uplifting, promoting platform that every artist would want to get in on.
    There’s a country music radio show that runs nationally every Sunday night that has an artist in the studio with him “live.” Major artists are standing in line to be on that show. He gets to pick who he wants.

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