Spring Hill and Jason Crabb

So as you’ve probably seen, Jason Crabb signed with Spring Hill. Brandon Coomer (whose avfl welcome to the blogosphere is long overdue) makes some salient points about the signing. David Bruce Murray follows up here.

First, I’m not sure why anyone would sign with a label that has a website as badly out of date of Spring Hill’s (the latest “newsflash”? Crossway ends the year with a bang … in 2004! And then there’s the roster of artists, many of which haven’t been with Spring Hill for a long time). Ok, maybe it shouldn’t keep people from signing with a label, but honestly. Do bonafide businesses still think the internet can be treated like an afterthought?

Anyway, I gotta say the deal was a little surprising. First I really had hoped that Crabb would sign with Canaan for reasons I’ve alluded to elsewhere. But my own sugarplum visions aside, Spring Hill is a hard outfit to figure out. As far as I know, it’s still owned by Gaither, Mark Lowry, and a couple of others (though correct me if I’m wrong here). But it hasn’t exactly shown signs of great life lately. In fact, I had always thought that when Gaither’s son-in-law Barry Jennings took things over a while back, it was to basically clean the place up (a work in progress I guess, since obviously no one has gotten around to that “update website” item on the to-do list) and then move back to the Gaither mothership.

But maybe Gaither has other plans. Why, I can’t imagine. He has the Gaither Music label to play with. Then again, Jennings is a super smart guy by all accounts and he’s obviously not just parachuting in for a quick clean up, so maybe there’s something else going on here.

All that said, there are plenty of reasons the deal makes sense, especially if you’re Jason Crabb. With Spring Hill he gets connections to the Gaither Music distribution network. And we should probably start looking for him on the fall Homecoming tour as well.

For Gaither and Co., Crabb brings with him an abiding popularity among a country/holiness demographic that Gaither could want to make inroads into. How Crabb’s Pentecostalism would play on the Homecoming stage is an open question, as I imagine it won’t be easy to control or contain the guy when he gets on a holy roll. But then again, Lynda Randall, a long time Homecoming Friend who came from a pretty heavy holiness background, exemplifies how an artist’s performance style can be Gaitherized into the mass-market Homecoming aesthetic. So who knows.

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  1. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Spring Hill’s negligence with regard to their website is notorious.

  2. Chuck Peters wrote:

    DBM - Wow.. that’s pretty bad.. I only know one person at SpringHill.. Celeste Winstead.. I am surprised she lets this happen.. Celeste seems to be retty sharp and sends out pretty good PR to news outlets. I checked their “NEWS” page on the site.. the last story posted was: “CrossWay Ends 2004 With A Bang”

    Come on.. SpringHill should be better than this.

  3. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    A thread like this does make things happen.

  4. Practical Fellow wrote:

    I’ve always been baffled by Spring Hill’s website. Why even have one? I think it would serve them better to remove the site altogether than leave it up in such an outdated state.

    But I’m glad to hear that Crossway ended 2004 with a bang. That’s nice.

  5. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    To be fair, the MOST recent news item on the Spring Hill page is dated March 2007. It looks like they just failed to update what appears when you click the “News Flash” link…for the past four years.

    Regardless, it’s pretty lame to treat your website as an afterthought when you have artists as famous as the Oak Ridge Boys on your roster.

  6. Kyle wrote:

    Last I heard, the majority of the Spring Hill staff was wiped out (this was last summer).

  7. natesings wrote:

    Gordon Mote’s “Don’t Let Me Miss The Glory” was on Spring Hill.

  8. cynical one wrote:

    It appears Spring Hill is now just a step-child of the Gaither organization. They can’t decide whether they’re in the southern gospel business or not. I’m sure most of the staff are great detail people, but if they’re over-worked and under-paid (like most in this industry), they don’t have the manpower to do everything that needs to be done.

    So it doesn’t matter that you have a wealthy man’s money and name behind you, if it’s not enough money to pay enough people to do what needs to be done.

    Or it could be that all the salary money go to the top, instead of where the work gets done?

  9. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    You cannot put a label on the the kind of music they produced in the past.
    Check out this link:

  10. Ron F wrote:

    Springhill does a poor job and they are not very Professional. They need to take lessons from, Crossroads, Daywind, and ECC on how to deal with SG Radio.

  11. Ron F wrote:

    One other thing, I am on a 100,000 watt FM station and some guy who worked with Springhill tried to sell me some music to play on my station. I was shocked, This was a couple of years ago. I cant remember his name.

  12. Trent wrote:

    The real bummer about Spring Hill’s exit from SG is the hat dropping of the “Shout” compilation CD series. Those comps were the best thing since sliced bread. I wish someone would pick the ball back up and put out some great comps like these again.

  13. sockpuppet wrote:

    I’m happy for Jason - of all the labels out there, this may be the one to help him reach all of his audiences. They have a great track record in the Southern Gospel world because of the Gaither connection - Spring Hill has recently been heavily involved in the Praise & Worship genre and with the EMI Distribution aspect they can fully reach the Contemporary Christian market.
    As far as their website goes, the staff was decimated by layoffs (as mentioned by Kyle) last summer - I was glad to get the press release from Celeste - happy to know she kept her job as it was my understanding that even most of the bigwigs were laid off.
    I have no experience with Spring Hill’s radio department, but their retail division has always been top notch.
    Looking forward to finding out how Jason’s new CD sounds - wonder what producer they will hook him up with?

  14. Tom wrote:

    Your thesis in the last paragraph–that perhaps Gaither is looking to make inroads into the pentecostal demographic–is interesting, but it’s also quite confusing.

    I’ve read what you wrote a couple times, and the best I can tell, it appears that you are somehow conflating the holiness tradition and the pentecostal tradition in ways that make absolutely no sense to your argument.

    The holiness tradition arose in the early 1800s and stems from the Methodist tradition and John Wesley’s teaching that Christians can be so filled with the love of God that there is no room left for sin–and thus a Christian is able, by God’s grace, to live a life free from willful sin. This tradition is rhetorically in debate with Christian traditions that say that a Christian inevitably sins every day in word, thought, and deed.

    The pentecostal tradition developed in the early 1900s when some Christians, drawing on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, began speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and understood this practice to be evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit.

    The holiness tradition has historically been vigorously opposed to glossolalia as practiced in the pentecostal tradition, and even today in most holiness churches even a hint of glossolalia can get you kicked out on your rear end. Thus your seeming conflation of the two traditions starts to look bewildering.

    This conflation is even more bewildering because Gaither himself IS in the holiness tradition. He was raised in the Church of the Nazarene (the largest of the holiness denominations) and has spent his adult life in the Church of God (Anderson, IN), another large holiness group. He’s had a close association with the Speers (Church of the Nazarene) from the very beginning of his songwriting career, and has had the holiness tradition (Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodists, Wesleyan Church, Church of God [Anderson, IN], etc.) in his back pocket from day one. There’s no need for Gaither to try to “make inroads” into the holiness demographic; they’re part of his core base.

    Your confusion arises, perhaps, from the fact that some pentecostal groups have also embraced a Wesleyan understanding of holiness as described above. The pentecostal tradition as a whole is comprised of three distinct theological traditions: (1) those who have an orientation shaped largely by the Reformed tradition, with the Assemblies of God as the largest example; (2) those who adopted a Wesleyan understanding of holiness and tied this to the practice of glossolalia, with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) as an example; and (3) the Oneness Pentecostals, who reject trinitarianism, with the United Pentecostal Church as an example. All three of these traditions are well-represented in sg–lots of Assemblies of God groups; quite a few Church of God (Cleveland) groups, including the Crabb Family; and several United Pentecostal groups (most notably, the McGruders and, from an earlier era, Lanny Wolfe). All of these pentecostal groups are similar in that they consider the practice of glossolalia (speaking in unknown tongues or a “prayer language” as a gift of the Holy Spirit) to be a central component of spiritual life.

    It is true, then, that there is one segment of the pentecostal tradition that considers itself to be “pentecostal holiness”–and the Crabb Family, as well as several other sg groups, do come from that tradition. However, by most denominational classification systems, the “pentecostal holiness” churches are a subset of the pentecostal tradition rather than a subset of the holiness tradition. One would not usually refer to such denominations as the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) as “holiness” churches without some further nuance.

    Also, the Church of God (Anderson, IN), of which Gaithers are a part, and the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), which the Crabb Family comes from, are totally unrelated to each other–which is why it is standard practice to use the city of headquarters in parentheses as a way of identifying what group one is talking about.

    I’m uncertain what you mean when you say that Lynda Randle comes from “a pretty heavy holiness background,” especially since you don’t seem to recognize that the holiness tradition and the pentecostal tradition are entirely separate traditions within Christianity, and the context of your statement seems to imply that you mean she comes from a pentecostal background. I don’t happen to know what Lynda Randle’s denominational background is, but I do know that both Lynda and her brother Michael attended Liberty University, a school that is about as Baptist as they come. And I’ve never seen anything in her Homecoming performances that would strike me as being pentecostal, so I’m confused by your inclusion of her in your example. I’m sure there is someone out there who can tell us what Randle’s background is, but my best guess would be Baptist.

    With all that said, I take it that you are suggesting that perhaps Gaither might be trying to make inroads into the more heavily pentecostal oriented parts of the sg community, and that signing Jason Crabb might be evidence of this. It’s an interesting thesis and it is a possibility to consider, since the Homecoming concerts have never had any overwhelmingly pentecostal orientation to them (with the exception, perhaps, of Jessy Dixon).

    But Gaither has always included pentecostal artists who have a large pentecostal fanbase. The Crabbs themselves have been featured on several Homecoming videos, Jessy Dixon is all over the place, and it would be hard to imagine the Homecoming concept without the Goodmans front and center until their passing.

    It is true that sg artists whose live performances have been characteristically “holy rollin’” in nature have not been included in the Homecoming phenomenon (e.g., the McGruders). But from the beginning of the Homecoming series Gaither has included artists from a pentecostal background, so long as their live performances wouldn’t be characterized as “holy rollin’” in such a way as to turn off the non-pentecostal base–for example, the Goodmans, Russ Taff, and even the Crabb Family.

    In an excellent post that you wrote in November 2005 (which apparently has not yet migrated to the archives on your new site), you wrote about the Crabbs and the pentecostal / charismatic company they were keeping [http://web.archive.org/web/20060429143857/http://www.averyfineline.com/archive/2005/2005_november_2.htm#crabbs_holyland]. After taking the Crabbs to task for hanging around Rod Parsley and Benny Hinn and Paul & Jan Crouch too much, you pointed out that the Crabbs really seem to be playing to the “health and wealth” / “prosperity gospel” / “name-it-and-claim-it” strands of heavily charismatic modern televangelism, and that perhaps the Crabbs were targeting those folks as their core audience. BUT in the very same post you also wrote:

    “The Crabbs have indemnified themselves against [the risk of coming across as hillbilly eccentrics like the Goodmans did on PTL] to a great extent by learning and applying the “when in Rome” principle of performance: if the place you’re singing is full of folks who worship with bulletins and say “Amen” quietly under their breath at the end of the “special” music on Sunday morning instead of clapping, you’re probably not in the right place for a fiery sermon from a Crabb twin or for a fit of holy shouting from Jason. By toning it down when need be, the Crabbs have capitalized on the willingness, indeed the eagerness, of fans of almost every religious stripe to the right of Pentecostalism to chalk up the Crabbs’ holyrolling tendencies (they can never be fully suppressed) as the energy of youth and talent.”

    Thus, even in that highly critical post, you argued that the Crabbs had mastered the ability to tone down the holy rollin’ quotient when necessary, based on their ability to read their audiences. And I think you were right about that.

    I doubt that Jason has lost that ability, so I’m not sure there’s any reason for concern regarding your question now about how his pentecostalism would play on the Homecoming stage. The Crabbs have been on the Homecoming stage before, and I’m sure he can still apply the “when in Rome” principle.

    As for the idea that Gaither might now be trying to expand his fanbase by making inroads into the pentecostal or charismatic subculture–I would be surprised by that. I don’t think Gaither himself would go for that, nor would the Homecoming base. But it’s an interesting thesis and it’s something to keep an eye on . . . especially since the Homecoming base doesn’t seem to be gaining many new adherants, and attendance seems to have plateaued if it’s not already in decline. It wouldn’t be surprising that Gaither might be looking to make new inroads somewhere.

    I would argue that Jason Crabb got signed to a Gaither-owned label because Gaither thought there was sales potential there.

  15. LW wrote:

    Or could it be that Gaither just likes Jason Crabbs singing? Does it really make a difference how these singers/groups worship God behind the scenes? What they do at a concert is Sing! Hopefully well and in a pleasant manner.

  16. joe wrote:

    #14: Wow. Does Avery have a twin?

  17. Steve wrote:

    Tom (#14)

    Thank you for pointing out the conflation between the holiness and pentecostal tradition. I also appreciate how willing you
    are to point out Doug’s “confusion.” Please keep your condescending posts coming. It’s snowy and cold here and we need more hot air.

  18. CVH wrote:

    Tom (#14),

    Very well put. Good analysis. I agree with your ‘bottom line’; Gaither doesn’t really need to try and expand into every nuance of the evangelical subculture. He already has enough penetration and exploring the sales potential of sub-genres probably wouldn’t be worth the time it would take to develop. His broad-brush approach, albeit with the politically-correct hat tips to various strains of evangelicalism, is working well. So with signing and developing any artist, the question is, will it sell?

    I agree with most of the comments on Spring Hill. They’ve had a split personality for years all the while putting out some very good product. I can only hope SH redevelops into a viable label with a clearly defined mission and the resources to back it up.

  19. Tom wrote:

    Steve (#17):

    Sorry if it sounded condescending. No condescension was intended, only a vigorous argument on a level playing field in good academic fashion (a format with which Avery should be familiar).

    There’re lots of things I don’t know, either. And many times I learn from Avery.

  20. cynical one wrote:

    #15 — No, singing is not all they do in concert, and the fact that Bill & Co. like Jason’s singing is not the main factor. Jim’s comment was right: “sales potential”.

    To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “By all means, that you might sell some.”

  21. thom wrote:

    I agree that the motivating factor had to be sales potential. Most of you have alluded to Spring Hill’s recent struggles. Signing Crabb as a new “headline” artist may be one way to get the label back on it’s feet and to a profitable status.

    As for adding Crabb as a regular on the Homecoming tour - I don’t see that happening. It would probably help with the attendance and add to the longevity of the series by attracting younger fans, as has the whole EHSS phenomenon, (as contrived as it is), But, I don’t see much upshot for Crabb. Does he really need the dates? Maybe so, but I doubt it.

  22. Steve wrote:

    Tom (#19)

    Thanks for the reply. Sometimes I read the posts in a tone that the author may not have intended.

  23. cynical one wrote:

    Steve - #22 — You’re right, it’s difficult to read any letter, email, or blog, and know the tone the writer intended. I’d much rather talk to a person on the phone or face-to-face, so I can get the inflections and nuances in their voice (or in person, their body language). A prime example is the recent post by Torri Taff. If you didn’t know her, you might think either she was very serious in her reply to Doug about his “bobble head” joking, or a real smart aleck. Same with the recent thread on Pamela Furr. Had she made those same comments in person, she may not have offended NEARLY as many folks.

    In a psych course I took years ago, the prof made the comment you could call a person a liar (or worse) to their face, and get by with it, as long as you were laughing. But if you had a scowl on your face, it would not be taken so well.

    Aren’t people strange?

    (That was said with a smile on my face, my tongue in my cheek, and 3 fingers pointing back to myself.)

  24. BUICK wrote:

    Tom (#14) - WOW!! And Thanks!! I learned a tremendous amount from that post. Some of that, I knew. Much of it I did not. And you put it all together in a comprehensible way. I’m impressed (not that that matters); I am grateful (that might matter) and you have helped me understand where some of my Christian brothers and sisters are coming from (and I’m certain THAT matters, at least). So thanks again.

  25. Steven wrote:

    I checked Jason’s website today and on the press release it said that “gaither” signed jason…spring hill doesn’t seem to be the focus. Now the link in the press release does mention spring hill, but its a release on the gaither site…but i’m sure its more about the gaither brand than springhill’s distribution (which is under “new leadership”).
    Another thing i found quite amusing was a church that Jason is singing/ministering at soon…word for word “Flippin Church of God” Too many good punch lines in that alone.

    However, as a big Jason Crabb fan, i’m happy that he signed on with gaither…congrats jason!

  26. Tori Taff wrote:

    Um… #23, cynical one? Sadly, I AM a real smart aleck. I keep trying to pass it off as my ministry, but so far no one has offered to ordain me. (In the spirit of Pamela Furr I actually started to say I was a real smart a**, but I reread that post got scared.)

  27. philo wrote:

    Tom#14 notwithstanding all that theological blinding by science gobblegook you can plainly see by Bill’s inate grinning, out of sync dancing and general sycophantic reverence(when some of his heros are performing) the man’s just downright gobsmacked.

  28. FormerSpringHillGuy wrote:

    As a former Spring Hill employee most of these posts are just assumptions. You did not work on the inside of the company and have no idea of how the company is run.

    Just because an artist is on Spring Hill did not mean that the artist was automatically a Homecoming artist, although most were on the videos not all were on the regular tour.

    Furthermore from what I understood the reason why they left Southern Gospel was to be more profitable thus going more towards Praise and Worship and Christian Rock. When I was at the label the sales figures from Sound Scan did not lie. Scott Krippayne, Wayne Watson, Al Denson and several others sold more units than most SG releases outside of the Gaither Vocal Band and The Martins.

    Also it was very rare to see Mr. Gaither at the company. He did come to the offices but that might have been once or twice per year. While I am involved in Southern Gospel Music I think from what I have seen that Spring Hill does not even involve themselves in Southern Gospel any longer. I could be wrong but most likely the Jason Crabb release would not even tend to be anything like we have heard his music from the past.

    When talking profits, if a SG artist sells 10,000 units in one year on a project they would be considered to have done well. Do that in Secular say like for Sony, Curb, MCA or others or maybe in CCM say like for Provident, Word or Sparrow you would not be invited back next year. We all need to have the priority that we are in this for ministry, but keep in mind you also have to manage your business.

    Put $20,000 dollars into a SG recording. Then sell the recording to the artist for $2 per unit. The artist only orders 2000 and you only sell 1000 units to retail. You do the math

  29. wackythinker wrote:

    Former — I know another former Spring Hill employee who told that, in the 3 years he worked there, Bill never made an appearance. Even if Bill was there, but never walked around to say “hi” to the peons, it could make you feel like the red-headed step child.

    You’re right, though, about the economics of the Christian music bidness. That’s exactly why you see little or no s/g coming from the 3 major labels you mentioned. And since they are owned by major secular entertainment companies, the artists and sales & marketing people can tell you it’s still about ministry, but the owners (if honest) will tell you it’s about profits. Like most corporations, it’s whatever gives the stock holders the biggest return on their investment.

    And that’s the way it is.

  30. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    I really like the thought process of poster
    I do not see the difference between a local Christian focus business and a national Christian focus business.
    Delegating responsibilities and make sound business decisions in your business translates into being good stewards of what God has given you.
    Your time is an asset to your financial stability.
    Staying in God’s business means watching the bottom line.
    Nothing wrong with making money in a Christian business when you keep you focus on the message of Jesus Christ.

  31. Betty Strawcutter wrote:

    I just found this site and I have to say that I have gained some insights and engaged in some “laughs” at the comments posted here. I’m a Christian (holiness-pentecostal brand) and I would like to humbly make this observation. Pentecostals listen to and purchase gospel music from various groups and soloists. It is the music and the message that we are drawn to, not whether the group is baptist, holiness-pentecostal or oneness-pentecostal. Maybe we could all enjoy the gift of music - whether it comes from Jason Crabb at Spring Hill or a roster of artists at other companies. Let’s just magnify the Lord!

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