Quote of the day

I’m not sure I agree with the business plan referenced in the most recent dissent. I know it wasn’t the main point of his message, but I think it is the financial reality for many fledgling (and many not-so-fledgling) groups that they sacrifice everything, buy a bus and make mama worry how they’re going to pay the bills. Touring in a SG quartet or family group is not a sure-fire way to make your fortune, no doubt. But for the groups out there who get in over their heads in debt before they’ve even sold a single Thomas Kinkaid woven throw from their merch table - I don’t think they should necessarily be applauded for their sacrifice. I think they should be counseled for the poor business decisions they may be making.

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  1. JM wrote:

    Christian musical groups, Evangelists and Missionaries (not just SGM groups) all have the classic “double-bind” excuse ready and waiting any failed attempt at ministry. If they experience success (and I’m speaking primarily of earthly success), they humbly point at their achievements as God’s own validation of their calling. If they are forced come home and “sell the bus,” they can point a finger of condemnation at the price of gas or poor support from God’s people or, in an emergency, the Devil. Few failed ministries accept their portion of the blame. Truth is, more often than not, they did not have a business plan that would sustain them during lean times and downturns in bookings. I was once a member of an up-and-coming male SGM quartet. However, when we reached a critical point and had to assess our prospects for full-time success, our eyes opened wide and we understood that our likely destiny would be failure. Were we less Godly because we chose to “pull back” and continue a successful part-time ministry vs. risking our families and financial futures on an effort that few groups can sustain? I think not. God did not strike us down because we chose to remain part-time; rather, he blessed our efforts with years of continued success and ministry.

    While other may disagree, I’m thankful that in over ten years of ministry, we never set a price on a performance, we never said “No” to singing at a small venue or in front of a modest congregation and never had to embarrass God’s people into providing us with a larger love offering. However, in the reality of a full-time ministry that has to pay salaries and benefits and keep the bus running, I understand the need to assume a business posture. Thank God he calls all of us to various types of services.

    We never sang at the NQC, but we never had to spend time with “well-placed SGM insiders” rather than ministering to some neglected soul; we never had top-notch Nashville musicians on our releases, but we also never heard of the ones who did lay down tracks on our projects, playing songs of infidelity or spouse abuse or adultry the very next week for some other Music City artist; we logged more than a few miles in a cramped Winnebago, but when we knew our ministry had come to its’ conclusion, we walked away without any debt and never “stuck” anyone with an unpaid bill. God was good; God is good; God will continue to be good.

  2. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    This thread makes a lot of cents and sense to me.
    The host of this blog should be applauded to bring this situation up onto the radar screen.

  3. Kyle wrote:

    I have seen some VERY good groups disappear due to poor business decisions, and this is all over the music industry, not just SG.

    Does anyone remember a group called the Clark Family Experience? They made a few blips on the country charts, had a CD produced by Tim McGraw, and all kinds of publicity behind them from Mike Curb. Within 2 years of making their splash, they filed bankruptcy and vanished. Since then, they have popped up on reality shows like “Making The Band,” and at least one of them is currently on tour with Carrie Underwood (a GOOD business decision if you ask me!!), but as a group, despite their talent, they bombed financially.

  4. thom wrote:

    I understand that many groups are in a continual financial struggle and that high diesel fuel prices have made it even tougher than it used to be to make a living.

    With all the sympathy and concern in my heart let me offer this viewpoint. To forsake your children’s education, put your families security at risk by mortgaging your home, bury your family in overwhelming debt, and become a slave to the almighty bus payment does not honor the Lord or the teachings of the scripture. “the borrower is slave to the lender”

    I believe that if God intends for you to be in fulltime music ministry he will make a way for it to become a reality without all the schemes of man. Where He guides, He provides.

    The other day I had lunch with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We used to sing together in a little local quartet. He, unlike myself, has studied music and is a classically trained vocalist.
    While we were signing together he and his wife learned that they were soon to be parents. As much as he loved singing he had felt like God wanted him to give it up for a season and to put his wife and family first.

    He did what he believed God was telling him to do and put the singing on the shelf so that he could be the best husband and “Daddy” that he could. God honored that decision and blessed him in so many ways.

    As we had lunch he shared with me all the wonderful things that God was doing in his life. Over the last 12 months or so God has opened some incredible opportunities for him including causing his path to cross with some of the best known people in the Christian music industry, performing with the symphony at the Schermerhorn, being approached by Amy Grant, being introduced to well known producers, etc.

    He told me how he and his wife have always been faithful to tithe on everything that God put in their hands. In the last year alone God has provided over $30,000 to completely pay for a professional recording project, photo sessions, and website design.

    Because of my friends faithfulness to do what God was leading him to do and put his family obligations first, tithe on everything they make, seek God’s presence, stay humble and open to God’s leading in his life, there are amazing things happening in his life that no scheme of man, elbow rubbing, name dropping, or politicking could have done.

    He didn’t “mortage the house, lease a bus, forsake his family, go into debt” or any of the other traps that many people get into. Actually, he was not “Seeking” to be a “Star” and had no driving selfish ambitions of visions of granduer, but was simply and faithfully waiting on the Lord.

    Let me encourage all you singers and musicians out there to be faithful to what God says in His word and to follow His leading for your life.

    Is your group tithing on everything you take in?

    Are you tithing personally?

    I know from my own life that when I tithe God somehow makes everything work out and gives me unexpected blessings and provision.

  5. JW wrote:

    Bravo, JM!

    One of the most common sense posts I’ve ever read here.

  6. thom wrote:

    correction: …had no driving selfish ambitions -OR- visions of granduer, but was simply and faithfully waiting on the Lord.

  7. thom wrote:

    2nd correction: … or delusions of grandeur…is what I meant to say.

    (spellcheck would be a nice addition, Doug. hahahah!)

  8. Brandon S wrote:

    What a good statement. As someone who traveled in a family group for 16 years full time, I learned a thing or two about how to run a successful touring group.

    The real sacrifice is doing without the so called necessities until your ministry is profitable enough to afford them. The bus has become a status symbol in this industry to the point to where it’s one of the first things a rising group looks into. It’s also the reason a lot of groups fail. Stay in hotels, and travel in a van. Even if you have to huddle in one room for a while. Another thing that bothers me is over doing it with sound equipment. I know of a local group here who just spent $18,000 in sound equipment, to play churches with less than 200 members? And this is something that I see all the time.

    It would be perfectly acceptable for groups to take the stage using a $100 old reliable Shure SM58 mic instead of a $600 Sennheiser. It would also be acceptable to see a group pull in, in a Ford Econoline van. Because what really matters is what they do when they hit that stage. No amount of spending will make you good, if you suck.

    Until you’re The Hoppers, you don’t need any of these things. You don’t need to make a $50,000 recording, and you don’t need a 40 foot Silver Eagle. What you do need is a connection with the audience and the will to do whatever it takes until you can sustain large purchases. It’s hard to make it in this industry on any level, but I believe the success rate could be much higher with smarter buisiness decisions.

  9. Robert wrote:

    This topic is right on: I really can’t say it any better than I said it here:

  10. Robert wrote:

    #8 Brandon:
    Awesome comment! I hope you don’t mind me using it in an upcoming post on my blog about SG fads.

  11. CVH wrote:

    I got a chuckle out of Brandon’s post (#8), specifically the line, “The bus has become a status symbol in this industry to the point to where it’s one of the first things a rising group looks into.” That’s been true for a long time.

    I remember in 1971 an up and coming quartet from New Jersey was going to perform at the quartet convention for the second year in a row. They’d just signed with a national label and were clearly ‘on their way’. The only thing they talked about was getting an Eagle because when they went the year before in their 4104 they were practically laughed out of the parking lot. They bought a shiny, new ‘71 Silver Eagle…and had it for three years…until the group broke up. The group didn’t break up because of the bus, but I’m sure whatever the payments were back then, it put a financial burden on the group that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

  12. Wayne Kerr wrote:

    I think that some of these “up and coming” groups need to read a book by Bob Terrell called (I think) The Men of Music. Read in the early days how some of the legends in SG practically starved just to sing. They traveled in Buicks and Fords, not MCI’s or Prevosts. They didn’t eat at the finest steakhouses or China buffets. They ate old bolongna sandwiches or stole peaches from roadside trees just to survive. If memory serves correct, JD Sumner, whild singing with the most famous group in the nation (Blackwood Brothers) had to use duct tape to hold his britches together because he only had one suit, and it was nearly worn out.

    Yes today we see their plaques hanging in the hall of fame. But what we don’t see are the hardships they endured to get there. I get sick of seeing four guys go buy a PA set, a handfull of soundtracks, and matching suits at SEARS, then call themselves a professional SG quartet. Take away the stacked, studio tuned vocals and big orchestra arrangements, and you have four guys that are full of big dreams, but small on talent.

    Over the years, almost every month, there have been ads in the Singing News magazine introducing the newest and hottest group to ever step on stage plugging their new single. Quite frankly, I’m tired of them before I even hear them. They think just because they are the big fish in their little podunk community churches that the whole nation HAS to love them. Wrong.

    In my opinion, unless you can stand alone on stage with a piano, and out-sing groups like Gold City, Kingdom Heirs, Dixie Echoes, Legacy Five, or Greater Vision, please do yourself a favor and be content to “be uh blessin” in your own local region.

  13. bbq wrote:

    #12 Wayne….

    Good comment, but what do you do about those groups (quartets mainly) that think they can already outsing Gold City, The Kingdom Heirs, Dixie Echoes, Legacy Five or Greater Vision, but can’t?

  14. Radioguy wrote:

    Early Cathedrals members had to travel in an egg truck. Glen and George said in their book for many years it was plain the Cathedrals were not on the same level as some other groups. But they stuck it out, made good business decisions, worked very hard on their sound, waited on the Lord and eventually topped every other group in the business.

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    A friend of mine played piano and sang tenor in a popular regional quartet several years ago. They hired two men to replace him and talked about how they were getting an ad in Singing News and seemed to think they were on their way. Even then as a young man, I knew that an ad in the Singing News alone wouldn’t do it. Not that they didn’t have some talent, but even the most talented group isn’t going to get much results from an ad unless they are known. If you see a quarter page ad or even full page of group X and all you have to go by is their name and picture, it doesn’t mean much unless they have had some songs that are known that are displayed in the ad for people to associate them with. Anyone can buy an ad, bus, sound gear, suits etc. All that means is that they have managed to have money or get money to do these things or are in hock.

  16. 1 old fan wrote:

    Talk about travel in the “good ole days”, Wendy Bagwell used to talk about when they drove an old bread truck. He told that, even with the group’s name on the side (Wendy Bagwell & the Sunlighters), they’d stop for directions, and the gas station attendant thought he was the Sunbeam breadman.

    And you should hear the story of him driving that bread truck to NYC, to play Carnegie Hall. HILARIOUS!

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