Mild dissent of the day

After reading my post on the death of Christian music, Glenn demurs:

I think that you try to make much more out of Southern Gospel music than it really is. You only attend the concerts you feel are relevant, the NQC or Mark Lowry, etc. However, there are many, many people who attend the small concerts in a Church or they attend the ones who have multiple artists, like the Bill Baily three days in Palmetto. I think that the real question is can these people make enough money to either support their lifestyle or their families? As long as they can do that, hey, we are going to be there.

I have attended concerts for several years in Clovis, New Mexico of Greater Vision in which there are less than 200 people. They absolutely love them there and as long as Greater Vision is willing to come there, Southern Gospel music in Clovis will survive forever.

Are we judging Southern Gospel music by the success of Bill Gaither (believe me of whom I love and travel many miles every year to see)? If we do, sure it is dying. We seem to be so concerned about the fact that attendance at his concerts has decreased over the years when he is still drawing 8 or 10 thousand people.

That is not Southern Gospel music as we know it. I personally think that Southern Gospel music will always be judged by the groups who are still willing to travel all of those miles to provide it to us, and to those of us who attend and enjoy those concerts.

Believe it or not, we don’t need for them to be perfect in every performance or to have exactly the right people participating (good example is your criticism of Joseph Habedank of the Perry’s). I am anything than a good fan of the Perry’s, but he has really developed, has a great voice, and is doing a great job. That is coming from someone who may only see the Perry’s twice a year in concert.

I absolutely love your blog and your perspective, but when it comes to our kind or music, I think you overanalyze (that may not be a word, but spell check didn’t reject it). I hope you continue to do so.

I think there’s a lot truth to what he’s saying. If my earlier post left the (erroneous) impression that I thought sg would cease in all but a few parasitic forms like theaters or cruises, I should have been clearer. As Glenn says here, as long as there are churches and gospel acts willing (or able) to get there, there will be southern gospel concerts. I still think it’s inarguable that white gospel music has declined in market share and influence, independent of the Gaither variable. And I continue to believe that increasingly, the most successful survivors will be those who anchor themselves in some way (whether with a music theater or seminar franchise or a self-sustaining festival or concert series or some other similar sort of arrangement) that fuels national tours, rather than relying on touring as their primary activity. But on the ground, at your average concert, things will probably look much the same for a very long time (even if there are fairly significant structural changes or contractions going on within the industry). There will, after all, always be someone willing to sing to those few hearty souls in Clovis, New Mexico, and gospel fans long ago proved themselves not very picky about who that someone is.

As for overanalyzing, guilty as charged. Blogging lends itself to wormholing, overanalysis, and snowglobe-ing (you know, where you put something in a tiny glass globe, shake it up vigorously, and then look at it from all angles), especially for someone like me who finds deep satisfaction in trying to figure how something like gospel music works and generates the pleasures it does. I don’t plan to stop trying any time soon, and/but/so it’s probably good to be reminded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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  1. Irishlad wrote:

    Count me in as one of the ‘overanalysisers as i asked in a recent post how someone(in this case me)be so captivated by a naff and often corny sub-genre of music?Someone without the culture who doesn’t necessarily hold with the core values of the fundamentalist mindset. What’s the big attraction?Btw ,how can Clovis afford GV’s flat with only 200 in attendance?

  2. DD wrote:

    Perhaps Clovis is actually willing to pay for a southern gospel concert? Money may not grow on trees, but there are some out there who are willing to put their money where their mouth is!

  3. Alan wrote:

    I can’t really be called SG per se, but I grew up with it, and still love it when it’s good. But, I do travel a lot, and the thrust of both Glenn’s excellent post and Doug’s equally interesting blog holds true with any kind of itinerant ministry.

    I figure that with the generator running to power the a/c units, it costs me 55 cents per mile to run our coach. That’s $550 every 1000 miles. This is more than twice the expense of even two years ago; and while diesel fuel has come down a few cents, it’s still rugged. What it means is that the majority of us will have to restructure the way we travel, no question about it. I don’t mean this to sound wrong in any way, but we’re blessed to own our coach outright. For those who have mortgage payments on theirs, when added to operating costs these days, things just have to change. It might mean regular tours - out for a longer stretch, with fewer weekends of travel for some. We’re all in it together, and with a few exceptions, I’ll almost guarantee that you’ll see more regional travel with a few longer tours per year. As a soloist who travels with his wife, I check flight costs against that 55 cents per mile cost, and have to do the math in planning every trip. With flying being so heinous these days, and the airlines increasing their fares exponentially, it’s just a worrisome fact of life that we’re going to have to make adjustments. We also have to be aware that most of the folks in our audiences are also struggling financially now as well. The well is only so deep. But, we serve a really great God, Whose promises are that He’ll meet our need. He does, but we also have to be a little more shrewd than we were in the days of $1.65 diesel fuel.

  4. Ward Hodges wrote:

    I recently walked by the dollar store in a strip mall and saw a flyer that looked liked it had been printed on plain card stock, photocopied a thousand times in black and white, and then scotch taped on the window. The flyer was advertising a professional wrestling extravaganza at a local high school gym. The cost to enter was $4.00 and promised the greatest wrestling show on earth. I wondered how these little outfits compete with the WWE but I assume they do alright, sense I continue to see them from time to time at various and sundry venues. I wonder thought at what point, do they quit being called successful? Just because they continue to get gigs, does that mean they’re still succeeding? If the ___________ (insert surname here) quartet have 10 bookings a year, can we say that their genre of music is thriving? If one is tempted to say, “well, but that’s just one group,” what if ten of those groups had just 5 or 10 bookings per year? I guess my question is, how do we really gage whether or not a genre of music is dying or not?

  5. Jim Gerdes wrote:

    Some of you are missing something: Music reaches beyond your brain to your innermost being. I can’t explain it, I just accept it. Some like P&W, some country, some SG, etc. I sing in a quartet which does 15 or so dates during the summer months. We enjoy the music, the message, and the people we sing to. We fill a niche in small churches who can’t afford the big flats. We ask for no guarantees of $’s. Most of the time we are surprised at the generosity of the audience. This is what we are supposed to do at this stage of our lives. We just have that comfortable feeling which can’t be explained only by logic. There are many other groups who do the same, and this style will continue as long as the message and messanger are in synch.

  6. Chris wrote:

    In the end, groups that rely on the generosity of promoters will continue to be booked (as long as the promoters have money to burn). However, those who have burned their bridges with promoters by promoting themselves (EH&SS, and soon the Booth Bros) will find themselves looking for a theater…to stand outside of and hold out a cup with some change in it.

  7. Rhonda wrote:

    Where are the Booth Brothers promoting themselves without the use of a promoter? That is a new one to me, especially since I am in the middle of corresponding with their booking agent to get them here for a date in the future. I started by contacting their office and no one but their booking agency handles their bookings period.
    In addition, I know that they have a strong relationship with promoters in this area and work with them to ensure the success of their dates as well. I have never heard any of these promoters say anything about being undermined by them, in fact just the opposite.
    I would be very interested in knowing where you came up with this observation.

  8. Chuck Peters wrote:

    When I read Glenn’s letter.. I was reminded of an entry from my “short lived” blogging days:

    Listen like a fan, might like what you hear.


    Sometimes it’s good to just be a fan. I am not smart enough to analyze the performances of southern gospel artists the way many folks can. I am not such a music perfectionist that a less than 100% technically perfect performance will disappoint me. I am glad that I still get great pleasure from seeing the folks I admire.. doing a great job.

  9. Trent wrote:

    “Success” can be measured umpteen ways. I feel like many times our group might have been successful on any given night, and I didn’t even know it–and never will know it unless God chooses to reveal it some day in Heaven.

    Let’s say there’s a man or woman in the crowd who came in on the 3rd song of the set and sat there for 45 minutes listening to us sing, then got up and left. He never said “hello” or “goodbye” to anyone, including the singers. Let’s say he has been having an awful week….his marriage is in trouble, nothing went right at work, he had a contentious verbal exchange with his teenage son right before the concert, whatever. If we sang one song in our set that the Holy Spirit used to give him comfort or increase his knowledge of Christ or give him joy, then the group–with Christ at the helm–was successful. Forget about the offering, forget about the size of the crowd, although we certainly love a generous offering and really love a big crowd. Success really doesn’t have much to do with money or masses of people. It has to do with changed hearts. Success is measured by the workings of the Holy Spirit.

  10. jbb wrote:

    Well said Trent…A big AMEN!!

  11. Leebob wrote:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Trent! Excellent!!!!!

    Rumormill starting among us. Since when have the Booth Brothers started booking for themselves? Personally I would rather deal directly with them than a booking agent anyway. I maintain the agent “bookies” are some of the problem with SG.

  12. cdguy wrote:

    The Booth Brothers’ website still lists the Harper Agency.

    The site also lists “Carry On” as their newest cd. They don’t list ROOM FOR MORE, which released last week, and should be in stores, now. And the latest newletter shown is from May of this year.

    So, maybe someone hasn’t updated the site recently.

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