Race for the gospel bottom

I’m talking, of course, about the contracting influence and reach of two of gospel music’s most historically important reputational events: NQC and the Dove Awards. The former, as we all know, is about to open next month for its final stand in Louisville before downsizing from the the convention equivalent of a plantation estate at the KFEC to a 2bd/2ba condo in Pigeon Forge.

Meanwhile, the Dove Awards, after having somewhat desperately vacated its prestigious home at the Opry complex and moved to Atlanta’s Fox Theater a few years ago, has packed up the UHaul again and is now headed back to Nashville … for Lipscomb University … to the school’s Allen Arena (no word yet on whether ticket holders will be allowed to at least park in the Opry complex for old time’s sake and then take a shuttle over to Lipscomb).

As with the NQC, this is no real surprise, at least not the general drift toward regional venues and the scaled-back scope of programming. The GMA has been in full-blown declensionary contraction for a while now (I’d be surprised if you’d need more than one hand to count the number of full time GMA employees), and it’s not unreasonable to wonder if it will survive the decade in any recognizable form. When neither fans nor artists seem to need or care much about investing in organizations that are increasingly seen in the digital age as outdated and ineffective reputational protection rackets, the future is decidedly not uncloudy.

I don’t have anything witty or insightful to say about this. It just seems worth noting when one watches the long slow dissolution of entire quadrants of an economic and cultural infrastructure with such a vast and rich history.

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  1. jimcomo wrote:

    As it looks is that the BOD’s are trying to get a few of there hand picked friends to attend the NQC

  2. Jim M. wrote:

    I turned 60 this year and remember well the exciting nights of driving to the Scottish Rites Cathedral to listen to Lloyd Orrell’s gospel music extravaganzas. They were all there…the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen, the Happy Goodman Family, the Speer Family, etc. As SGM moved into the 70’s and 80’s, other groups seized their moment on the stage. But, no matter who the groups were, no matter who wrote the music or produced the records/8 tracks/cassettes/cd’s, we all knew that SGM was bulletproof and would always be available in a comfortable little niche somewhere between country & western and barbershop quartet music. We falsely assumed that the great singers, conventions and awards would be with us forever; after all, this was the Lord’s music! Most of the evolutionary changes which have occurred in my lifetime have happened gradually and without much fanfare. So too, as SGM sinks under the weight of its’ own inability to identify and hold a new and eager fan base, it’s sad to reflect on what it once was and what it has become. In the words of Shakespeare, it was a “poor player which struts and frets his hour upon the stage, then is heard no more.” And though SGM may indeed be going down for the final count, I have been a lucky soul to have lived through SGM’s golden days. Despite the inability to adapt and survive, I’ve loved every minute of it!

  3. LightkeepersJournal wrote:

    #2 - Jim M. Very well said. Thank you.

    A critique that I’ve made before…..

    Social Media:

    Southern Gospel Music performers have not made the complete social media transition in interacting with others not in the immediate bubble of the SG community.

    Yes, the SG singers will retweet the “gushing and fawning fan” who exclaims:

    “I just held “so & so’s” Sharpies!”

    But, that’s about as far as it goes.

    And yes, that was an actual tweet.

    Notice how many fans follow the singers, but how few people they follow. They usually only follow those who are in the immediate SG community. This won’t work in social media. That’s why it’s called “social”. They’re not using it to the fullest extent. Again, not trying to be critical, and definitely not trying to be mean-spirited, just trying to be helpful.

    Facebook seems to be the social media tool of choice for SG singers; however, if they desire to reach a younger crowd, they will need to embrace Twitter. A lot of them do, but a lot of them don’t.

    We have personally found Twitter to be more effective than Facebook, but it’s completely different for everyone. Some find FB more effective. FB works really well if someone is already very well-known, a celebrity of sorts.

    Twitter works much better if you’re virtually “unknown”. However, it’s necessary to follow and connect with everyone, unless it’s a spam account or machine-generated account.

    We’ve been on Twitter for close to a year now and we have noticed that most SG singers, churches, pastors and Christian ministries mostly connect with folks they’re comfortable with. That doesn’t work on Twitter.

    Even though we’re writers and photographers, we connect with as many different people as possible from all over the world. Everyone from writers to restauranteurs to Conservatives to Liberals to folks who install air-conditioning units. You never know where the path made lead or what connections you will make.

    This may sound a little repetitive, but if an industry is dying, so to speak, someone needs to step out of their comfort zone and make connections with folks not in their immediate community. One thing leads to another and may actually lead to another booking. Again, think outside of the box.

    I hope people can hear what I’m saying. This is not a closed world, but SG singers tend to live inside of a closed community. Frankly, when I see a Twitter account of someone who has 30,000 followers, but they follow 500, I considered that person to be predominantly ego-driven and not willing to communicate openly with others.

    Many in the industry will not even respond to a compliment or a comment. Some do, but some don’t. This would be called rude. You can’t expect people to take you seriously if you only respond to those you know personally. The fawning fan will always be around; however, if you want to expand your audience, you will need to look for new and inventive ways to promote yourself.

    Therefore, since social media and blogging seems to be the wave of the future, Southern Gospel will need to “take note” of the trends and move forward in a more progressive manner and style.

  4. Wade wrote:

    GOSPEL BOTTOM — Ha Ha!!!

  5. Curtis wrote:

    Is anyone actually surprised?

    Even Gaither finally diversified into Bible salesman and Cracker Barrel Country Western marketer. But, at least he is alert enough to realize there is a need to search for the future rather than lose yourself in a self-congratulatory little club.

    I guess the Golden Age of the Gospel Whine has been lost to its own brand of secularity. Me and my four and no more.

    It is sad.

    P.S. The message of Gospel music — that it will all work out by and by — does not play well with people who want it fixed now. Their tribe increases daily.

  6. Gospel Has Benn wrote:

    I believe one reason they have to have their ” private club as one has called it is that some so called Christian people cannot wait for some singer to have a problem or discrepancy in their life’s so that they can run and talk about that’s singers problem. Singers are human like me & you and are going to have problems but since they are constantly in the public eye they must keep these things as guarded secrets as much as they can before some good brother or sister rips them to shreads with their double edged tongue

  7. David wrote:

    Back in the 70s, two groups moved the needles to bring young people into the gospel music fold. I remember big singings with the top groups and when one group came on stage, everything stopped. The Oak Ridge Boys with their rock band, leather pants, and wild gyrations were great. Meanwhile, the other groups were snide with the comments and, of course, said The Boys weren’t doing the Lord’s work. Some of those groups are still singing … but singing for old and small audiences. I remember concerts where the Oaks were NOT present and these groups still tossed their darts: “Other groups may be dancing around with their long hair but we’re staying true…”. Oh brother. In a different way, the Imperials were bringing their progressive act to great success. I suspect the people who run these organizations are much like the old groups and can’t extricate themselves out of their sheltered lives.

  8. Wade wrote:

    David… and really all the comment…RIGHT on as I set here with my leather underwear and long hair!!!

  9. Alvin wrote:

    Did I actually see 22 songs nominated for Song of the year?

  10. Tommy Jones wrote:

    Certainly the Oaks can reach an “expanded ministry” with their varied direction” and a man must look after his family, but just once, I’d like to hear the Oaks, Dove Bros. Band, etc. come out and admit as J.D. did with Elvis and say, “It’s about the money.”

  11. scott wrote:

    I wonder if the relative mediocrity of a lot of SG combined with the accessibility of online music and youtube videos has diluted the need for going to concerts. If a new group is coming to town I might listen to some of their music online and determine if its worth my time and money. Often its not.

    Attended a Toby Mac concert a couple years ago (not by choice and had to leave). Hated the music / theatrics but the place was filled to overflowing with all the young people that SG is not attracting. Just an observation.

  12. leslie wrote:

    Most grow up and leave NQC, except for those who don’t–

  13. Singing Snooze wrote:

    6,If they are keeping a tight circle to prevent the info leakage it’s not working, things are being revealed by exactly the members thereof:
    a SG promoter claimed here that ALL groups cheat on their taxes; a former singer of a big group recently said that artists engage in many sexual sins, child porn, fraud, violation of federal laws, driving illegally and so on.
    This isn’t just ” problems of being human”- discussing mundane details is actually good and indicative of artists’ relevancy- this is illegal and immoral, imagine the fate of a politician being caught in such. If old farts want their artists’ to have a squeaky clean image they should throw away their comps, ipads and TVs. We won’t lie and hide the truth just so they keep their Depends dry and not in a bunch.
    Behold the good news, Benny :  most consumer choices are based solely on perceived quality and personal appeal of the product. I don’t care if Mr.Riley is having has sex with his wife, his neighbor’s wife, her husband, small livestock, or none at all. I love a few other bands and very excited to see GVB in mid November. God fearing Christians that are living their faith are rare in music world, yet that’s not the problem of SG, but that the music sucks!
    Being “shredded with one’s tongue” (oh, you dirty old man :) by fans never prevented lucrative musical careers of the biggest Gospel crooks of the past. So stop your wankery about “gossip”.  Your sort only dislikes a certain kind of it. A poster “Weber”, a passionate  hater of Dove Brothers, demanded to reveal the ugly on what they are “truly up to”, while bemoaning  gossip about others. Dirt on those you hate is “truth”.  Dirt about those you favor is “gossip” ;) 

  14. Sherrill Woconish wrote:

    I know this site is sadly shutting down , however I thought I would try and leave a comment. I think the problem with the decline in southern gospel is , it can be boring . It should be perfect Harmony , a message and fun. It is entertainment . That is the reality, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that . My husband sings in a group , tight harmony, country gospel , jeans& boots, they joke around& young people love them. They have had somewhat of a hard time breaking in, because they are different. However some wonderful people who are more well known have told them , ” don’t change , southern gospel needs this”. Have to attract the young or southern gospel will die out. No different than a church who only caters to the elderly. As far as money goes… Are you kidding?! Most hardly make minimum wage.

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