On Removing Singers from Covers (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday, we looked at the Southern Gospel phenomenon of airbrushing replacement singers into group’s album covers. Sometimes when this is done, the original member’s vocal appears, but sometimes replacement vocals are taped. Sometimes this takes place after the original version is released, and sometimes before.
Why do groups do this? Looking at the long term, someone who collects all a group’s albums might prefer the original singer’s voice, or might wonder why it was worth the time and the effort. So why is it done?

I do not believe I’ve ever had a group manager, one on one, tell me personally why he made the decision to re-do vocals. But from the bits and pieces I’ve picked up from various press releases and message boards, to the best I can tell the most common reason for re-doing vocals and album covers is to have something to sell at record tables that features the new member.

In a genre such as CCM where a majority of sales presumably comes from store and online store purchases, this is not as much of an option; whoever is a member at the pressing date is a member for the album. But in a genre where store sales make up a proportionately smaller proportion of total sales, and ongoing table sales are a major source of income, this is more feasible.

I recently noticed a comment where someone asked if it was fair for someone who had put months of work into an album to have vocals or just their face on the album cover removed. Though it strikes one as odd in a sense, in another it is a logical move. When someone leaves a group, they often forfeit whatever contributions they have made to a group’s success. When a group accepts a Singing News Fan Award for Group of the Year, they never bring their members at the start of the year in which they won their award; they bring their current members to the stage. There are exceptions to this rule, of course; a long-term member who has spent forty years touring with the group and is retiring from road life would not be treated in the same way as someone who spent four years with the group before moving on or moving up.

And that leads me to my final point. Group turnover is a common fact of life in Southern Gospel. Most groups, even professional groups, will have numerous personnel changes over a thirty or forty year history. A group like the Inspirations with only fifteen to twenty members over forty years is the rarity; more common would be groups like the Dixie Melody Boys, with probably forty to sixty members over forty years.

With frequent group turnover, and the Southern Gospel norm of releasing an album a year, people just sometimes leave at the wrong time. Groups cope as well as they can, and sometimes this involves re-doing aspects of their upcoming release.


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