Rebranding Southern Gospel?
A number of fans and industry types have observed that the term “Southern Gospel” isn’t a particularly accurate brand. It’s a geographical distinctive, but it’s far from accurate. After all, the greatest group of the last quarter-century hailed from Stow, Ohio, and the most popular group today hails from Alexandria, Indiana.
A few years ago, there was an attempt to brand the genre as American Gospel Music, but that didn’t catch on, because it didn’t really say anything about the music that wasn’t true of certain other Christian genres.
How about Conservative Christian Music?
“Conservative” is more descriptive of the nature of the music and the nature of the genre than either “American Gospel” or “Southern Gospel.” Of course, conservative is often understood in the political sense, and a number of individuals in the industry are not politically conservative (though most are). And groups that pursue progressive arrangements probably wouldn’t care to be labeled “progressive conservative Gospel Music.”
If “Conservative Christian Music” is adopted, the genre’s acronym would be CCM, which is the current acronym for a neighboring genre, Contemporary Christian Music. That’s a minus in my opinion, but an industry friend pointed out that that’s a plus for some, since many feel that the contemporary world “kind of hijacked” Christian music and watered it down.
So I proposed another alternative, Conservative Gospel Music. My friend observed that Southern has been associated with Gospel for so long that “Conservative Gospel Music sort of says ‘southern’ parenthetically.” He thought this might be a minus, but I could see where having some connection to the current name might be a plus.
Of course, if neither of those quite works, we could always reclaim a brand Bill Gaither is credited with starting, a brand CCM largely abandoned about ten years ago. Plus, it brings to mind a certain style, which Southern Gospel artists like the Collingsworth Family, Greater Vision, and the Perrys are far closer to than anything else in Christian music. Inspirational.