Then and Now

Jonathan Sawrie does some historical accounting to compare the earnings and expenses of professional gospel acts in the 50s and their counterparts today (h/t, again, NG). And because I find it singularly unilluminating to hear about the time when gas was [insert pennies-on-the-dollar-sum], as if only prices have gone up and everything else is the same, I’ll peel off some of Sawrie’s …erm,  money quote, which is adjusted for inflation, more and less:

In 1950 most quartets were getting around $700 (total) for Thursday-Saturday or a little over $200 per show plus sales³.  (Note:  They didn’t ordinarily work on Sunday.  Perhaps we’ll discuss that little piece of trivia sometime in the future.)  Hovie, not to be outdone, was getting $800 for the Statesmen. 

 A new Cadillac was $4,700 new, but most groups bought used.  There were no hate, er I mean, love offerings, so ticket prices were around $.75 for adults.  Each man could roughly count on $150-175 a week to take home. 

 Let’s see what that looks like in 2007 dollars:

                         $200 per show - $1,452.96 to $9,399.25

The whole thing is here. (You’ll want to chase his footnotes to understand those ranges.)

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  1. Kyle wrote:

    Heck, our group STILL only pulled $200-300 a show last fall, and that was on a GOOD night!!!

  2. Jim Aben wrote:

    there sure is alot of discussion concerning money that a group receives and the amount churches are willing to pay. God will sustain his work if it is done according to His will and with the right heart and attitude.

  3. Leebob wrote:

    If somehow we could pull off our best nights offering wise and put them back to back all the time we still would not be able to pull this off full time. People making broad claims about doing this full time on a love offering basis need to define what “full time” means before I could actually believe that is what they are doing. Or perhaps they are at a point they are independently wealthy and can afford to take a loss week after week and not feel the pinch.

    I see groups that are now getting their fans to support them on a monthly basis, not for a short time so they can go on a mission trip, but so they can do what they do full time. I still haven’t decided how I view that so I throw it out there to get other SG fans thoughts.

  4. Jim Aben wrote:

    We are full time, strictly love offering unless we have to fly and then we ask for a love offering plus airfare. Product is no set price, always been that way. God has sustained the group for this long, we aren’t going to change. I will point out that we are in N.C. which is very receptive to SG. We are in N.C. at least once a month and else where two more weekends a month. We take one weekend off.

  5. Ben Harris wrote:

    Jim, although I agree hat God is faithful and cares for His own, I do not believe for a second that all those who book groups are as faithful. I will quote myself here…”I trust God more than words can say. It is in mankind where my faith begins to wane.”

    God does not micro manage or lives nor our careers. There are some out there who take advantage of that very fact, and who on a regular basis, tend to cheat groups by promising one thing and not delivering on their promises.

  6. Irishlad wrote:

    Where did Jim Alben go??

  7. j wrote:

    Not to change the subject but…Guy Penrod on a Sabbatical? Whats up with that?

  8. jbb wrote:

    I cannot imagine how or why anyone would cheat a group, let alone a gospel group, out of anything that was agreed upon. We have groups several times a yr. and you can better believe that what my husband says, that is what they get. My belief is that God will not bless us if we are not truthful and faithful to him and to his servants. I will say this, there have been a couple times when we knew the love offering wasn’t going to the group, so we gave our love offering to them personally.

  9. Leebob wrote:

    So what exactly is “full time”? If all you are doing is travelling on the weekends then you are not full time. If you are playing semantics because you are a full time Christian then that is being unfair to the discussion. Most often, there is a supplement to the income, whether your own, your spouse, or retired.

    God does give us a brain to use creatively as long as it is used in an honorable way. What I always found intereting on the “faith promise missions” plan (which I whole heartedly support)from churches is that the churches would ask the parishioners to trust God for money that may or may not come in so they could “budget” their missions giving for the year.

  10. Chuck Stevens wrote:

    Concert promoter and gospel group owner Frank Arnold continues to recover after suffering a heart attack Monday evening. Reports say he is resting comfortably at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK., and doctors say Arnold may be released from the hospital as early as this afternoon. Frank will not be able to return to work for 3-4 weeks. Frank and his family appreciate all the prayers and calls that he has received.

    Arnold suffered a heart attack Monday evening. He underwent emergency surgery upon arrival at the hospital

  11. Jim Aben wrote:

    Ben, I agree with you 100%. I know what you are talking about. I see it from time to time. Though he may not micro manage us as a group, he has shielded us from the majority of those who are out to take advantage. But if God opens the door, we go. If you “LOOK” for the trouble and trouble makers, you will see more than you ever wanted to. Our churches are filled today with those doing the right things but for the wrong reasons.

  12. NonSgfan wrote:

    I think alot of people veil laziness behind ministry by saying “i’m full time”. I know a preacher that named his boat “Visitation” so that when people called his wife would say….you guessed it…”Hes out on visitation”. I also believe that artists should be duly paid for their hard work. I think people in the seats often mis-underestimate the preperation and draining efforts that are involved in a great musical performance..they just think “yur gittin up uurr and sangin”. It’s much more than that. It’s mentally, physically, and emotionally draining sometimes. HOWEVER…if your ministry is not being taken care of by God’s providential care, you need to re-examine things in that ministry, maybe even entertain the thoughts of a second career, partime job, or new investments. :) See, I can be positive.

  13. Bones wrote:

    Those guys back in the day had rolls of money from record sales. Does anyone remember that? Empty boxes were stacked to the ceiling after the concert. They had alot of people to support, sometimes not their family. Houses were cheap.

  14. Norm Graham wrote:

    Groups made a lot more money on a relative basis in the old days because SGM was much more popular and had lots of fans outside of the church-going base that supports it today. Records could be purchased in record stores and not speciality religious stores. No one commented on the fact that the groups did not have to work Sundays. That occurred probably because of greater income at concerts because of the wider fan base and because the groups were not interested in love offerings but a guaranteed amount.

  15. Jim Aben wrote:

    Call it what ever you may. Singing is our only income and Singing supports each family of the group. We are all very involved in different ministry areas as well but the only income we receive is from our work on the road. I guess in your minds you must be on stage seven days a week to be considered full time? There is writing, production, practice, booking, book keeping, etc.

  16. Jim Alben wrote:

    Jim Alben is still around. I have no idea who Mr. Aben is.

  17. Leebob wrote:

    Thanks for clarifying because the coincidence is uncanny. Both have full time ministries supported strictly by love offerings. The only thing missing was the ‘l’.

  18. Wade wrote:

    Jim WHOEVER… it’s getting to be not fun any more. Now I am leaning back towards LeeBoB. Either come out or go in!!!

  19. Bones wrote:

    It is a good thing thet made good money back in the day. They had girlfriends,as well as family to support.

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