Salem Shakeup

Like so many others lately, Salem Communications - or, as we sg provincials like to think of it, the Singing News mothership - has taken a beating in the stock market. In the past year, Salem stock has dropped from around $8 a share to, as of this moment, $.88 a share – well into penny stock territory. Ouch. Unsurprisingly, there have been personnel changes.

Among them: the president/COO and Jim Cumbee, the company’s president of non-broadcast media are both gone. Cumbee, of course, is an old hand in sg from way back – among other things, he started was  involved in Solid Gospel radio (before selling it was sold to Salem)*, and had a stake in the NQC for years. At Salem, he was in charge of publishing, which included not only the Singing News, but also CCM Magazine and the Gaither Homecoming Magazine (and a bunch of other stuff).

Salem is a vastly diversified company (for instance: it’s home to right-wing yakkers Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved), and I don’t know what, if anything, this means for the Solid Gospel network. As far as the SN is concerned, there’s no sign so far of any fallout in Boone yet, though the SN had a huge asset and ally in Cumbee that I can’t imagine they’ll have to the same extent in his replacement, whomever that is or turns out to be.

*The original company from which Solid Gospel emerged was initially called Reach Satellite Network and operated out of the Sonlite studios in Nashville. Chris White and Maurice Templeton were principals. Cumbee, as several of you have reminded me, came in later in the process and was involved in the sale of Solid Gospel to Salem, which included his joining the Salem team.

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Comments

  1. curious inquirer wrote:

    Any idea what Jim Cumbee is doing now?

  2. Extra Ink wrote:

    I agree. Cumbee was solidly in the SG court. If his replacement is not a fan of SG music, this may turn into a bumpy ride.

    There has got to be more (a lot more) to this story. Agreed that $8/share to 88 cents/share is quite a ride downward, but similar scenarios are playing out all over America right now. Why do the President/COO and Cumbee both get yanked? They certainly didn’t create the global financial see-saw.

  3. RF wrote:

    Interesting in a way. Salem comes in on a white horse, buys what seemed to be a fairly popular magazne and then falls on hard times, threatening the voice of sg. Oh well.

    For the record, I was enthusiastic about Salem’s takeover of SN at the beginning, but let my subscription expire last year. I saw no significant change in the publication after the takeover (except that DBM’s apparently sold his reviews to them, making them unavailable to the general public on his website–no offense DBM,I just found it inconvenient to wait for a publication to publish your reviews).

    The genre needs a magazine, so hopefully, Salem’s troubles will not endanger the Singing News.

  4. Irishlad wrote:

    I’m sure in these days of financial uncertainty and flunctuating share prices it must be very disconcerting for some to be a paper millionaire wannabe one minute to an ego-bustin’ paper non-millionaire the next. Store not up your treasures….blah blah..

  5. policital one wrote:

    Just in, we have been hearing a lot about young harmony on solid gospel. just today, I found out from a reliable source that Jonathan has purchased stock and will begin having a regular monthly article in singing news starting january 2009. I just thought it a little weird thats all

  6. No Mo Power 4 You! wrote:

    Yes Virginia.. There IS a Santa Claus!

  7. doesSGsell wrote:

    From a guy who knows enough to be dangerous:

    publishing has been a drag on salem for years

    singing news is not a magazine making money. most copies are given away.

    truth is, southern gospel has never been their growing format.

  8. Lynn wrote:

    the president/COO Eric Halvorson left the company because he only planned there to be short term in order to help clean up the stations hurting revenue. He’s still on the board. While Salem radio is facing hard times like EVERY other radio station, it’s refocusing on it’s non-broadcast outlets - it’s web network. While Salem net broadcast revenue decreased 6.9% last quarter, the non-broadcast revenue (websites) increased 17.3%. I would guess that you might be seeing some improvements in SG’s online presence.

  9. Chris wrote:

    Just one point of clarification. Solid Gospel was not technically “started” by Cumbee. He purchased it from a group that had purchased it from its founder in California. The group that bought it and moved it to Nashville in 1992 included Maurice Templeton, Claude Hopper, Chris White, Kevin McManus and a few others that were in-and-out of ownership until Cumbee bought it around 1996 or so.

  10. Irishlad wrote:

    Methinks MT’s a shrewd cookie,sold out at the right time. Also, he’s a very nice gentleman,gave me the time of day at the Nqc when he didn’t know who he was speaking to. A lot more than i can say for one particularly myopic underling who dismissed me with a wave of a hand. This was a good 15yrs ago when we were first trying to get groups over. Luckly that unhappy experience didn’t scupper any thing that was to unfold.

  11. curious inquirer wrote:

    Chris, thanks for reminding us about the Reach Satellite Network as it was first known back in the day.

    Butch

  12. No Mo Power 4 You! wrote:

    For Lynn:
    Halvorson is NOT still on the board. He resigned “effective immediatly” less than 30 days after Salem announced he was staying and Salem just filed the SEC paperwork. Go to salem.cc and click investor relations and you can read all about the bloodbath occuring at Salem.

    Word on the street is Cumbee is trying to get a group of investors together to buy the singing noose and homecoming mags from Salem. If at first you don’t succeed spend spend again! LOL!!

    Maybe Templeton can buy it back from Salem for 10 cents on the dollar and move back into power. LOL!!! I guess they’d have to refund Joe Diffie’s Ad money if that happens….

  13. No Mo Power 4 You! wrote:

    And Lynn don’t confuse the real issues. 6.9% losses on 40-50 million (broadcast) are not to be confused with 17% gains on 1-5 million (non-broadcast). That’s apples to oranges…

    It’s like the spin on Sirus/XM Sirus gets southern gospel music now (but the company lost almost 5 BILLION in the last 90 days!!)

    Maybe Sirus & Salem could merge and apply for a government bailout….LOL!!

  14. SGpromogirl wrote:

    Right on, Chris…You are absolutely right. This is indeed sad news for SG.

  15. Extra Ink wrote:

    I know this is a rabbit trail, but I agree about DBM’s reviews. Does SN demand that you wait until it’s published with them before you can publish it on the site? I doubt it.

  16. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    #3 RF, no offense taken.

    Your comment could be misleading, though. I don’t sell all my reviews to Singing News. Reviews are still posted at Musicscribe, including some on major artists.

    The reviews that I do sell to Singing News have a teaser posted at Musicscribe, which includes some exclusive info (like the star rating) not available in the magazine.

  17. RK wrote:

    Don’t be fooled here. Singing News is but a spit in the greater ocean that is Salem. And unlike many other magazines that rely on highly volatile advertising and subscriber sales as well retail rack/shelf sales, the SN business model is very stable. It only suffers at margins due to the economy (slight dips in subscribers/advertisers, increased shipping and production costs, and overall inflation). You won’t see the dramatic circulation and revenue swings.

    The only real problem for SN is that it’s owned by a company that is over-leveraged and bleeding red ink. Regardless of whether Salem keeps it or unloads it, it isn’t going away.

    As for Jim Cumbee, he is a class act gentlemen with a true love for southern gospel music. In every venture in which he has been able to exert control, quality and good taste have improved. He’s had a stellar career, from being a staffer in the U.S. Senate to working for Disney, and then Solid Gospel/Salem. As a man who’s around age 60, he’s certainly earned the right to retire, but I hope he somehow remains in southern gospel, whether with SN or otherwise.

  18. Derek Frerichs wrote:

    I was honored to work for the group of gentlemen who bought and brought RSN from Sacramento to Nashville. Not to brag but my one claim to fame is I got to name the format. My wife surely complained enough about my late nights at Oak Valley watching Kevin McMannus work his magic in the recording studio; sure my day was done but it was just so hard to leave all that great music being recorded at the studio and being played on the network.

    Yes! M.T. is shrewd, a great businessman and one with a strong heart for Southern Gospel Music and I have very fond memories of both he and Jerry Kirksey.
    Never did I ever get a “What do you want” from either of those men, I do recall many a “What can I do for you” though. It would be great to see Maurice publishing again.

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cumbee but I have heard some wonderful things about the man and I sure liked a lot of the chages I saw him bring; I pray for him the best.

    While it would hurt to see an end to Singing News and or Solid Gospel for that matter, God is still on His throne and in the words of Walt Mills, “I’ve got a feeling every things gonna be alright”.

    Hang in there kids.

  19. Ron F wrote:

    Hey #7 you may know enough to be dangerous, But I disagree with you . They dont give all those SN magazines away. They sell alot of subscriptions and they do not give their advertising away either. Just any salesman cannot sell SG. You have to Love it, and believe in it. I know people who have SG TV shows and SG Radio shows and they are sold out with businesses. I cannot understand why Solid Gospel cannot sell anything but to groups. There are businesses that will buy Southern Gospel, You just have to go out and find them.

  20. Ole Gator wrote:

    The only way that the SN is not a profitable entity is if they employ more people than they need to get the job done. Their advertising to editorial ratio is amazing. Then when you take into account that it’s pretty much a given if you are not an advertiser you are not going to be in the editorial section either, the ratios look even better.

  21. Chuck Peters wrote:

    Indeed RK (post #17) Jim Cumbee is/was one of the best things ever to happen to SG radio. He is a class act.. I hope SG can hang onto him in some position.

  22. Lynn wrote:

    No Mo Power 4 You! - completely agree that it’s apples to oranges - that’s why i wasn’t comparing the two. I was saying that there IS a profitable branch of salem. As the advertising industry is heading online and away form radio and broadcast - this is where they need to focus on growth to ONE day rise about the broadcast revenue.

  23. Lynn wrote:

    Ole Gator - they’re also not profitable if they keep on poor performing stations, which is why they are selling off the stations dragging them down and just using up revenue without bringing any money in.

  24. MityCats wrote:

    I’m only afforded minimal opportunity to listen to Solid Gospel now as it’s not played locally here except an AM station that I can only pick up occasionally. But I, too, think the Singing News will be ok. There’s too many folks who still love this music too much to see it fall through the cracks.

    Warning … rabbit trail ahead …

    Hey #18 … that can’t the famous Derek Frerichs I see, can it? Wondered where you went - you were ALWAYS my favorite Solid Gospel DJ. I still call the Cathedrals “The Mity Cats” (hence the name) to this day because of you. Just wish you were somewhere local to me now so I could listen in again.

    And Chris - you wouldn’t happen to be Champion, would you?

    If these two guys were still at Solid Gospel, it would be the best radio station on the planet. You guys are legends in my book.

    Derek - if you are still on the air, do you still do the “Songs You Sing in the Shower” contest? :-)

  25. Lynn wrote:

    MityCats and everyone else :) you can listen to Salem’s Southern Gospel on their online radio stations either at crosswalkradio.com or christianityradio.com. There’s a Southern Gospel channel - it’s free but you do have to register.

  26. Derek Frerichs wrote:

    MityCats bless your heart, you are cracking me up and have made my day. Chris just so happened to hit me on Face Book just a bit ago and has inspired me to once again look for an old tape that we got Champ with on the Cats.
    We used to lay down vo’s in digital files and Champ had one that he came out of the song and tagged “It’s the Cathedrals and there number one song Wedding Music”. When we heard it playback on air, the cadence sounded like it was the same as the old Woody Woodpecker show theme, being that it was a file, Oliver and I went back and scarfed the file off the computer and sure enough it matched the song. So we popped him on the multi-track and ended up with Woody’s Wedding Music” performed by Chris Champion. Chris by the way did the baritone and tenor on “I’m In For Some Pain” which was our parody of Perfect Heart’s “I Wish It Would Rain”

    Those were some happening days! Thanks for the fun you brought guys like Chris and I. Look us guys up on Face Book, Chris has a nice page, mine however…..

    Long live Solid Gospel, Long Live Salem and certainly Long live the Singing News that brought us Mark Bishop’s “You call it moon walking, we call it back sliding”.

    End of the rabbit

  27. Old Gator wrote:

    Agreed Lynn. I was speaking more to if the SN (as a stand-alone) is profitable. Salem has all the right pieces, but you are exactly right, you can only keep throwing good money after bad for so long.

  28. Kyles Dad wrote:

    Let us all realize that SG Music is but a small sliver of the Christian Music pie. However as long as people continue to spend money to be heard on radio or to be seen in a publication the SN and SG Radio Network will continue to take it. Not that there is anything wrong with this concept, I doubt that either could survive if they depended on real sponsors. This business model has been successful throughout the industry with custom record companies, radio promoters, industry web sites etc. but where do we seperate amatuer from professional anymore?

  29. wondering2nfro wrote:

    Isn’t there a new magazine out, that covers quiet a bit of SGM. It seems that I saw it on someone’s table recently. Maybe called the Voice or the Christian or something along that line. I would have bought one, but couldn’t get close enough to the product table. I believe that Greater Vision was on the cover. I intend to buy it next time I see it. Who publishes this, or rather who is behind it? Do you think it will take over the SN? In my opinion the SN has gone down hill in recent years. It’s not as good as it once was. Just my opinion.

  30. Old Gator wrote:

    That one is simple Kyles Dad. The professionals are the ones that have been taken by someone in the industry at least a few times. The amatuers are the ones that will get taken for a ride by someone, it just hasn’t happened yet.

  31. nashville ear wrote:

    now I may get some stones hurled at me for this one, but: I am not impressed with the programming on Solid Gospel radio. The song rotation is not good, the DJ’s sound amateurish, the bumpers and music beds dont sound professional, etc.
    Were it not for their vast network and affordability to the local station owners they would not be able to stay on.
    If a good professional program director could get a hold of them and do a total revamp where it didn’t sound like it was coming out of your neighbors garage studio then maybe the ratings would go up and the listenership would grow, so they could attract better national advertisers. I don’t listen to it much anymore. I can’t take any more flat singing soloists who bought their way on the air.

  32. Obeserver wrote:

    For what it is worth: Some of the stations owned by Salem play good ole SG music and the commercials are awful. Everything from Vodka to Birth Control. Anything to make a buck. I understand that they need $$$ to operate, but come on, do we give up all of our values for the almighty $? Oh yes that’s right, I guess we do, look who our president elect is.

  33. CVH wrote:

    Obeserver,

    The Salem properties are designed to do two things - maintain the company’s core values (which are conservative, not exclusively Christian), and turn a profit, not an easy thing to do in this economy. The quality of their products varies; their news service, SRN News, is one of the most poorly produced services on the air today. Parts of the company are bleeding profusely; others are holding their own, relatively speaking. Profits are down and that means one thing - cutbacks and spinning off marginal assets. I have several friends in the business who have recently been ‘downsized’ by media companies larger than Salem. It will happen there too as they streamline and reposition themselves, both in broadcast and non-broadcast operations.

    As far as your rather limp critique of President-elect Obama, what in your mind is the connection between his values and the “almighty $”?

  34. wondering2nfro wrote:

    #32, I may be the new kid on the block *blog* but I caught your point. I agree!

  35. Derek Frerichs wrote:

    Lynn, thank you for the links! I got to hear Greg for the first time in a long, long time. The stations in my area that carried the network no longer do so I’ve been a good bit out of the loop, it was nice to hear my old friend Greg again.

    #31 Nashville Ear, I’ll throw no stones but I would like to defend them a bit. Our old clock forced quarter hour breaks so the affiliate stations could make a clean break away for programs, this created a fill problem that hampered rotation a bit among other things. We also had to blah blah between every song which I thought was more talk than we needed. Mr. Cumbee made some good changes there.

    Now, since Lynn enlightened me to the link, I have only been able to listen to a little bit of the format, but in these four hours I have not heard any flat notes, and for what it’s worth I really like Gold City’s version of Casting Bread.

    Being out of the business for fifteen years now I don’t feel too qualified to be critical of what these guys are doing, especially after only listening for four hours but I think they could loosen up a tad, it just seemed a little stiff and busy if that makes any sense. The Beach Bum, Stoner spot reeks, sorry but that is absolutely the worst I have heard. That’s as bad as I am going to get here. With all that said, take it easy on the PD, we don’t know (at least I don’t) what he or she is up against. I got into a situation once as a GM/PD/MD where I had eight bosses with eight different ideas of how I should format, everyone of them had my office, pager, and home number, only two of them really believed in letting me do my thing so that left me with just six stress points to add to the listeners. My wife say’s this is what happened to my hair, I think it was our kids myself but I digress. I’m going to keep this one in my prayers.

  36. lynn wrote:

    anyone visit Salems SG site - http://www.southerngospel.com/ for videos ? pretty good stuff

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