Doves in Atlanta, Cont’d

I suspect that most sg types could really not care less than they already do about the Doves (the SN hasn’t even bothered to post a link to the story on its site). If you’re one of those people, this is probably not the post for you. Otherwise, here we go:

If you want a round up the cross section of opinion about the Doves’ move to Atlanta, check out the comments section on the Tennesseean’s story (h/t, SS). There’s race-baiting, some Sister Bertha Better than Youing, some praise and excitement, some inside baseball critiques of the GMA and its utility and function, and one gloaty post about NQC’s success compared to the Doves’ perpetual self-embattlement and constant attempts to reinvent itself, to not much avail. You can almost see that last commenter giving the raspberry while typing. But the most insightful take might well be the theory that the GMA’s alliance with the Gospel Music Channel is as much behind this as any attempt to shore up the black (”traditional” in the GMA’s parlance) gospel audience. At least this seems among the more plausible things I’ve heard.

I don’t know CCM that well and have only a cursory knowledge of the GMA, so I’ll stick to what I know and say that the comparison to NQC seems to me both right and wrong. Right, in that, while it has its problems and faces some structural challenges to its sustainability, NQC obviously knows how to maintain a strong bond with its base in a way and to an extent that the GMA obviously has not, and probably can’t.

Which gets us to the wrong part. NQC is a niche event. Probably any one of the major genres included under the GMA heading could draw a similar crowd by itself (and of course a few of the major CCM artists can draw as big a crowd as any single night at NQC alone), but put them all together under one umbrella organization and you’ve got an impossibly diverse range of sounds and (sub)cultures intermixing in a way that inevitably tries, as one commenter notes, to be everything to everyone … and so leaves nobody terribly satisfied.

Not every genre within GMA has southern gospel’s fractious history with the organization (David Bruce Murray provides a useful summary if you’re just joining us; I have a lot more to say about this sordid past but I’ll save for it the book). But with the exception of the reigning pop Christian kings and queens who always get plenty of face time on the Doves, I’m sure fans and artists from most subcategories represented in the televised portion of the show have beefs with how “their” music is treated.

I don’t have a beef with how southern gospel is treated. If it sold more, it’d get better treatment. It’s that simple (plus, so much of the sg industry acting like southern gospel is owed something by the GMA because James and J.D. were founders of the organization half a century ago doesn’t really help, I’m sure).

No, my beef with the show is that it’s the Christian music equivalent of what would happen if you tried to combine the MTV Awards, the Country Music Association Awards, the Tonys, the Delilah Show (she actually has been a presenter at the Doves!), and a Sunday morning service at Joel Osteen’s church all into one two-hour broadcast of awards and performances and hosty chatter. In other words, the Doves are weirdly but reliably dissatisfying, and I say that as someone who always goes ready to be blown away or at least entertained by whatever … and yet I always leave feeling glad I got my overpriced tickets comped. That is, if you were someone not really sure what Christian music is about or wondering if you might like all or some of it, the Dove Awards would probably be a great introduction. But since the Doves’ audience is actually people who already have established tastes and allegiances within Christian entertainment, it’s almost destined to fail for the same reason that southern gospel artists consider a Singing News Fan Award more important than a Dove Award.

Moving to Atlanta will not change any of this. But it may make some sponsors and a core fan constituency of the GMA happy, and that’s not nothing  if you care about that little gold pigeony statuette.

Update: Jim Cumbee, former big wig at Salem Communications (Singing News’ parent company)  and a former NQC board member (among other things), writes with some salient insights on this issue:

Your instinct is right, in part.  The GMA does not have an “alliance” with the Gospel Music Channel, the Gospel Music Channel is — right now, anyway — the LIFELINE of the GMA.  The CCM industry has been absorbed in getting the Dove Awards on TV, otherwise the record companies wouldn’t force the artists to appear, and with no star power there can be no ridiculously high ticket price, and with no high ticket prices, the show loses even more money. It’s a vicious cycle from which the GMA could never extricate itself. Bottom line, getting the show on TV has always been the prerequisite to even having a show.  So when GMC says jump the GMA has to say “how high?”   The costs to tape in Nashville are ridiculously high and GMC is moving its programming away from music, so GMC has less financial incentive to stretch to make it work.  I imagine the message was something like this “if you want us to broadcast the Doves on GMC, you have to come to Atlanta where our cost to tape the show are much less.”  I am a huge fan of Ed Leonard; he’s the smartest guy in the SG business and he’s built a very fine company over at Daywind.  But, I can’t figure why he didn’t just say we are accommodating our TV partner.  In that context, going to Atlanta makes perfect sense.

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Comments

  1. Jim Cumbee wrote:

    Your instinct is right, in part. The GMA does not have an “alliance” with the Gospel Music Channel, the Gospel Music Channel is — right now, anyway — the LIFELINE of the GMA. The CCM industry has been absorbed in getting the Dove Awards on TV, otherwise the record companies wouldn’t force the artists to appear, and with no star power there can be no ridiculously high ticket price, and with no high ticket prices, the show loses even more money. It’s a vicious cycle from which the GMA could never extricate itself. Bottom line, getting the show on TV has always been the prerequisite to even having a show. So when GMC says jump the GMA has to say “how high?” The costs to tape in Nashville are ridiculously high and GMC is moving its programming away from music, so GMC has less financial incentive to stretch to make it work. I imagine the message was something like this “if you want us to broadcast the Doves on GMC, you have to come to Atlanta where our cost to tape the show are much less.” I am a huge fan of Ed Leonard; he’s the smartest guy in the SG business and he’s built a very fine company over at Daywind. But, I can’t figure why he didn’t just say we are accommodating our TV partner. In that context, going to Atlanta makes perfect sense.

  2. Chris wrote:

    The Dove Brothers have moved to Atlanta?!? Is McCray channeling Hovie more than normal?!?

    Oh wait, I only read the headline and first paragraph. :-)

  3. quartet-man wrote:

    There is at least a partial chance that people who like a certain style might find they like part of another. I believe I discovered 4Him and Basics of Life on it one year. I know that is the song that got me, and I believe the Doves was my first exposure but perhaps I heard it on radio first. I am not sure. I doubt that it would make a huge difference in that way, nor is it probably the reason it exists, but it might help and happen a bit.

  4. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    The GMA’s own website still states that the Dove Awards will be presented at the Grand Ole Opry.
    http://www.gospelmusic.org/events/summaryDetail.aspx?aid=9&pid=33

    You’d think when they make a major announcement such as this, they’d update the website as well…but I realize that’s probably the disadvantage relying on volunteers.

    Meanwhile, www.doveawards.com still invites you to tune in to watch the 2010 event on May 9.

  5. Charles Brady wrote:

    Atlanta is certainly a better fit for the GMA than Nashville. On a number of levels. I’m excited about attending for the first time in April. I hope it becomes the permanent home.

    If the GMA suffers from anything it is a lack of identity. And not the kind that can be created with a flashy logo and a marketing slogan. It must define itself and establish its purpose and then move to become an inclusive organization that artists can see real value in belonging to.

    The GMA is trying to be all things to all people and that rarely works. Especially when you get a bunch of church folks together. Between the us 4 and no more mentality of Southern Gospel and the head bangers rockin it out to lyrics which are so buried in the wall of sound you’d never hear them anyway to bluegrass and acoustic gospel to country gospel and black traditional gospel to you name it!

    Unless each group was represented and had its own evening or a set block of equal time you’ll never bring a consensus together for that bowl of potluck stew.

    GMC is going to be dealing with the same issue. What started out as a promise of equal programming for all types of gospel music quickly turned into something else.

    Taxation without equal representation has never worked very well. Until each genre of gospel feels it has an equal footing and equal participation I wouldn’t look for a lot of success in the future. But if anyone could pull it off I think Leonard could do it. I just think he needs to get away from the Nashville mentality for a couple weeks. Go south young man! LOL!!

    We are living in a niche oriented world. It’s why we have things like NQC -SG and the IBMA - Bluegrass and the Stellar Awards for Black Gospel and this one and that one…. We must all be able to “identify” or “associate” with something we “like” or “trust” or “feel good about” or “believe in” to really commit to it.

    While gospel music once was a more definable genre those days are long gone. I’ve even heard talk of breaking up southern gospel because who can call what the Inspirations do the same as what the Talley Trio does?

    The GMA has a tall order to fill and with the economic climate we have I doubt anyone has the time to invest into it on the level it needs to really define itself and then market that to enough artists to keep it thriving. So either an alliance with a partner with deep pockets or a “resurrection of real relevance” is about the only real answer. I’d love to see the later.

    One thing about it. Jesus is Coming Soon and all this will be mostly useless anyway. I for one can’t wait to learn if He ( Jesus ) even likes music.

    Here’s a thought I’m dealing with in my own personal world.. Why does 90% of all the prayers occur on the one known day off for God?? No wonder we have problems…

  6. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    All the talk about awards here and there gives me a throwback to the days in the 60’s and 70’s where it was a big thing to have a sports hero being a born again believer.

    The non-winners in that evangelical movement use great Christian rationale saying it doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you play the game that recounts.

    The gospel music industry has its own take of being a winner and non-winner.
    A well known gospel singer who could quite well fit in either CCM or SG at the top once stated that I do not get my awards here but waiting for my rewards in Heaven.

    Mention Dove Awards to the average local Bible believing, evangelical local church-goer would probably bring a reaction of relating the event to being a bar of soap in their bathroom.

    For GMA or the Dove Awards that a reality show in itself.

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    It looks like that isn’t the only change going on. It appears that NQC has made changes to try to be more modern and relevant, but I don’t think it will go over too well. I just found this on You Tube and was shocked.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvMkM2ZK390

  8. Bones wrote:

    #2 Dove Brothers couldn’t come close to being the Statesmen.

  9. cdguy wrote:

    Q-man — That’s a great video. I’d buy a ticket!

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