Accounting Firm to certify Singing News Fan Awards

Southern Gospel was born in an era when men could go to the bank on a word and a handshake. Singing News was founded by men of this era. The magazine staff has always counted Fan Awards votes internally.

This was appropriate for that era, yet we are in a new era. We are in the era where the rare bad apple leads skeptics to question everything. Major awards shows in other genres have had external accounting firms audit and certify their results for years. Over the last few years, voices within Southern Gospel have quietly been calling for Singing News to do the same. It’s (typically) less that they question the staff and more that external certification is now the expectation for any prestigious awards show.

This, then, is the historical context for a significant announcement today on Singing News Publisher Les Butler’s blog. He stated:

In other Fan Awards news, today we are announcing yet another first. The 2011 Singing News Fan Awards will be certified by Rayburn, Betts and Bates Accounting of Brentwood, Tennessee. Danny and I have been working on this for a while, as this brings yet another layer of professionalism and accountability to a magazine and an organization that will not have it any other way.

Bravo, Singing News. Great move.


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34 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Well now we’re not gonna win anymore!!!!! Geez!!! I’m kiddin’….. Great move, Danny and Les. I know it’s expensive but I’m sure it’s well worth the investment.

    • LOL! Michael, you guys are awesome!

  2. That is a good move. Remember the debacle with the Dove Awards being invalidated one year. I think people perceive the SG industry as being backwoods and unprofessional. Also, there have been some dishonest people in the SG industry, so although they are in the minority, it is good to have someone with no stake in it to validate the awards. It protects everyone and does give them a higher level of professionalism

    SG has been slow to do such things and resistant to change. Sometimes that was due to people thinking their honesty was being questioned. I can understand that. Part I am sure is expense. Even before SG was SG, the Oaks were the first act to sign with a booking agency. I think it took someone with their stature to say you have to book through them if you want us. It probably did cost them some bookings, but they were popular enough that many put up with it since they wanted them and had no choice. Others followed and now such things are common.

    Understandably, in a perfect world such legalities would be unnecessary. However, not only the few bad apples, but even the appearance of dishonesty or people questioning makes it a good move.

  3. Funny Michael, and also funny that we independently mentioned the expense factor. I never saw your post first I presume because I came by way of my reader which had scanned prior to your post I think.

  4. Why didn’t they get Wilburn & Wilburn?

  5. At least it wasn’t the accounting firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe!! :))

    • Teeheehee, I’ve got to find a way to slip this phrase into a conversation. 🙂

      • I was under the impression that the results were kept in an empty mayonaisse jar on Funk & Wagonell’s back porch.

  6. As someone really enjoyed a class on auditing a few years ago, I think this is great! I had thought this ought to be done ever since I heard someone (DBM?) suggest it, but I didn’t expect it at all.

  7. I applaud Southern Gospel for taking this step. As an auditor myself, it really excites me. It will bring to the table the assurance that there is no “monkey business” going on. LOL! Southern Gospel was founded in a time when a handshake was good enough and you knew when that man shook your hand, you could count on what he said. My grandfather always had a saying, “Son, you are only as good as your word!” I have never forgotten that. But, as Daniel said, we are living in a different time now.

    I will say that bringing in an independent auditing firm will help prevent any type of fraud (for lack of a better term. It will help especially in situations where the same person or same group continues to win every single year in every category. A great example is Michael Booth and the Booth Brothers. As Michael has already joked about, there are people in the industry I’m sure that have had the thought running through their minds that something fishy was going on. LOL! The fact of the matter is that Booth Brothers are class acts!! Each member of the group are at the top of their respective categories! Every year, they have a chance of winning. Now, with the audit process, no one will be able to question that. I think that it is a “win-win” situation for everyone! Thanks for the update Daniel!

  8. In some ways it would probably be good that there aren’t any big changes in winners this year just so people don’t think that is the reason they have been winning.

    • Great point. Agreed.

      • Very good point indeed!

    • Even if Rodney Griffin has to hand off his songwriter of the year award to someone else, I’m sure he will be the first to say it’s all good. No worries.

      And it’s great that Les Butler is reaching for higher ground. Well done.

      • I have a distinct suspicion that Rodney wouldn’t mind seeing Joseph Habedank or Scotty Inman pick up an award, and that Kim Hopper wouldn’t mind seeing TaRanda Greene pick up a Soprano award. (She all but suggested it in a recent Fan Awards acceptance speech, in fact.)

        What quartet-man is saying, though, is that a large deal of continuity between this year and last would help quench any critics of the earlier tabulation process.

  9. I don’t think there will be a drastic change in the votes. The Singing News Fan Awards has had some “fishy” business going on over the years, but I believe that is finally passed. However, if Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Ernie Haase & SS, Kim Hopper, or whoever else that has been winning past awards do so this year, well those are some of the most popular groups in SG.

    And they are among the most popular because they have more fans. And since its FAN AWARDS, those fans are going to vote for the favorite artists no matter what…even if half the group left and they put out a mediocre album (that was not a shot at anyone, but purely theoretical).

    My only point is, I do think there will be some changes, albeit minor. But some credibility has been attained for the Singing News.

  10. This move just adds another layer of credibility to the entire process. Good decision!

  11. I guess I am the only one who is somewhat bothered by this change. I am not upset by it but I do admit to a certain amount of uneasiness when I first heard about it. My first thought was about Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…” Is Singing News now conforming to what others do? I really do not know. But, as I stated in my blog, I will give Danny and Les the benefit of the doubt and see how this goes.

    • Jeff,

      I find your argument very intriguing.

      Let’s look at it with one key assumption that we’re both making -that we’re doing an awards show. The Bible calls us to do what we do with integrity, to be above reproach, that we do not give unbelievers cause to blaspheme the Gospel.

      The core of your concern seems to be that we shouldn’t do something – because the world does do it.

      So let’s take it a little farther.

      The world has awards shows, and did before we did. Should we drop awards shows?

      The world has music industry magazines and blogs. Should we drop all music industry magazines and blogs?

      The world sells music. Should Christians record and sell music?

      The world has touring musicians. Should Christians ever tour outside of their local church?

      The world uses cars to get to concerts. Should Christians ride horses or walk?

      Please understand, I’m not disrespecting your concern in the slightest. I recognize it as a valid concern. Yet how far should it properly be taken?

      • Cross-posted with you.

      • Yes. Asking how far we should take it is a valid question.

    • I know what you’re saying, but the existence of an awards show in itself is pretty much built on the pattern of the entertainment industry.

      It’s just that it’s impossible for people not to wonder when we have a tie in a category. Was it exactly the same number of votes? Did someone make an “executive decision” that the difference was “statistically insignificant”? I’m not saying that would be a bad thing, but it raises questions. Resolving uncertainties about internal operations is what auditors DO for a living. It’s not infallible (Madoff had a CPA’s stamp on his work), but it helps.

      • Amy and Daniel,

        You both make valid points that I had not considered.

        Daniel,

        I guess my response to your award show scenario would be to ask “Are we doing an awards show because the world does awards shows or because we are giving glory to God?” Personally, if I were to start an awards show, it would efinitely be for the glory of God and not to conform to others.

        My concern about conformity was basically wondering if SN was going to the use of an accounting firm simply because “everyone else is doing it” (which, by the way, is an excuse that drives me nuts!) or if it was indeed for a legitimate reason to give glory to God. The truth is that I do not know the answer to that, and I doubt that many who post on here know the answer either. That was why I posted that I am giving Danny, Les, and the other decision makers at Singing News the benefit of the doubt. I hope it is for the right reason and I hope it works out.

      • Jeff, I’d have to agree – “everyone else is doing it” is never an excuse that has, by itself, one the day for me.

        On the other hand, assuming the Biblical legitimacy of an awards show in the first place, “we’re doing this to quiet the skeptics and prove that there are no irregularities in our methods” is an argument that does sway me.

      • Jeff,
        I don’t think Singing News would make this move because everyone else is doing it. I think it’s more to remove any stigma (deserved or not) of “foxes minding the chicken house.”

        Bringing an accounting firm on board assures voters that their votes will be counted.

  12. I wish they would abolish all of these award shows. I get more emails from groups reminding me to vote in some no name show than I get news on their ministry! Its the same winners, same speeches, same “shocked” looks on the winners faces.

    Our industry would be better served if fans would vote more with their pocketbook and purchase the music!

  13. Of course if I ever get nominated….I reserve the right to change my opinion and care!

  14. I think we should remember who gave us the gifts that we have in the first place. In my mind it seems so small of us to go around giving awards to each other. There is only one Super Star, and that is Jesus Christ. Let’s keep things in the proper perspective. May it not matter that we are stars, but that we twinkle. If you want life to run smoothly, grease it with gratitude, not pride. That is just my opinion.

  15. This move is long overdue. Yes, there is an expense in using an independent accounting firm, but the Singing News Fan Awards show is the most recognized in the industry…whether you agree with the results or not.

    Singing News should be commended for adding this extra layer of integrity to the process.

  16. Well I guess, IF I win another award, I’ll have to use a new
    “shocked look” and get a new speech… Daniel……can you write me a new speech?????

    I’m kiddin again!!

    Hey y’all please keep in mind that there has never been a Gospel group formed for the purpose of winning awards. There has never been a Gospel group QUIT because they lost in a category. We lost HORIZON GROUP three times and I can’t begin to list the times we lost trio to that other group…..:)!! Each time we lost those awards, or the MANY others, we got in the bus and went to sing. Each time we have won an award, we got back in the bus to go sing. Do you see the pattern? Win or loose, it changes nothing concerning the BIG picture. Oh, there are some tangible/intangible benefits that come with an award but not enough to change much more than perception. You see, the promoter cares about butts in the seats and the ticket buyers care about an effective program. The Pastor cares about how Christ is presented. Further more and most importantly……God expects a humble heart!!! As much as Rodney and Kim have won, they will not change one ounce should they never win again. It’s not what motivates them.

    I feel that award shows are most beneficial and most valuable to the fans that vote. Trust me when I say that singers/musicians are REALLY REALLY REALLY grateful for awards. To think that so many people would express such encouragement is overwhelming and truly humbling…… But ya’ll…..at the end of the day, win or lose, were moving on to the next program and recording.

    Oh… honest before the Lord…. I WILL be shocked if we win again!! I figure people are ready for some new winners…..

    Love you all in the Lord

    Michael Booth

    • Well, If I could find a Gospel Book/Music Shop anywhere outside the USofA that stocked anything other than old Gaither DVD’s or Hillsong…

      then this post might even induce me to go and buy a copy of “Declaration”!

      Half-joking :-)! Michael, that comment is much appreciated, and “honest before the Lord” is such a hard place for us to be – ordinary believers, that is, as well as high profile gospel singers.

    • When it comes to the credibility of the awards, let’s not put all the scrutiny on the artists; the fans bear a certain responsibility as well. Michael, the title cut from one of the last recordings you and Ronnie did with your dad was “Will You Love Jesus More?” That song addresses the fact that some fans tend to idolize the singers rather than the Savior they sing about, which I think may also be part of the reason for many folks’ concerns regarding fan awards. I have absolutely no doubt that you, the Hoppers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Triumphant Quartet, and all the others get out on the road every week for the Right Reason, but the motivations of we the fans may occasionally be somewhat suspect. Maybe y’all could consider re-recording this for a table project someday? I think the subject matter is still as relevant now as it was fifteen years ago!

    • Michael – I want to see a new shocked look on Tuesday buddy! The old won is WORE OUT! LOL!

  17. Michael (and anyone else who cares!)

    My comments are not coming from a “getting an award is sinful” attitude. It just has become a little silly with the amount of awards shows now. It seems everytime you turn around someone is asking for a vote:
    Singing news, absolutely gospel, diamond awards, branson convention, dove awards, grammy awards,SGMA awards, SEGMC awards…..and more.

    Like I said…..if we could get fans to vote by buying cds then everybody would win.

    I might vote for michael booth for every part- in every award show though! He seems to be an ok dude….plus he is a good drummer