Publicity in a post-radio genre

I hope Southern Gospel radio never goes away.

Testimonies abound about how people were introduced to the genre through radio. And, though fewer, there are testimonies out there about how people were introduced to the Lord through hearing a Southern Gospel song over the airwaves.

So this post is strictly hypothetical—a hypothetical situation I hope never transpires.

But here’s the question. Should we reach a point where 50% or fewer of Southern Gospel fans are within reach of a radio station, what online or other methods might we see groups using to introduce new projects to current and potential fans?

Of course, this discussion doesn’t really require the hypothetical. That’s because it’s probably fair to say that at least 25% of Southern Gospel fans already live outside the reach of a primarily-Southern Gospel station. But I believe the hypothetical helps frame the issue better.

There are a number of options.

Streaming 30-second sound clips. Virtually every group already does this. It’s a convenient way for someone who has already come across a group’s music to find a specific song they heard on the radio or in concert. Also, it’s a way for someone who likes a current CD to see if they would like the older material—or for someone who came across an oldie to see what they think of a current lineup.

What it isn’t is a way to bring in new fans. And that’s due to the nature of the genre. Thirty-second clips might mean more in a genre where it’s mostly about the music, but in this genre, it’s mostly about the message, and thirty seconds generally isn’t enough to really get a grasp for the message and delivery of a song.

Perhaps more than in other genres, Southern Gospel depends on the artist/fan connection—that the artist delivers lyrics a fan can relate to in a way that persuades the fan that they’ve been through a similar experience. And thirty seconds just isn’t enough to build that bond.

Streaming a complete song. This is an option we’re starting to see more often. Many groups are open to it, and I haven’t any trouble finding groups willing to feature a single (complete) song for streaming on this site’s relatively new mp3 player.

Streaming a complete project. This is something we rarely see—though two examples this week helped prompt this post. The idea was already percolating in the back of my mind, but pondering those two stories helped the scattered thoughts congeal into something readable.

Offering a complete project for free download. With the cost of producing projects running into the tens of thousands of dollars, I just don’t see this as becoming normative at any point. It might work as a good one-time publicity move for a new group—Daybreak Quartet being a recent example. But groups will not be able to make giving projects away a regular practice unless they come up with an entirely different model for funding both the studio time and the rest of their ministry. Not that that’s impossible, but it would require quite a bit of creativity.

Offering a single song for free download. This could be the future. Granted, labels, songwriters, and all other creative content owners would have to either give permission or be properly compensated. Provided the group has a track record of including several songs as good as the free track on the project, this would spur the group’s current fans on to prioritize purchasing the new project. And it would give potential fans an opportunity to give the group a test drive, to see if they like the song’s message and the group’s soundtracks and vocals enough to make it worth the $10-$15 for a project.

It might make sense to make free downloads available for a limited time (say a week), coupled with a limited-time special pricing for the complete project. This would limit response for the first and second times around, but would in the long term spur more listeners to subscribe to the group’s mailing lists to hear when the new single comes out.

Some groups may focus on hosting the song downloads on their site; others, especially those with smaller fan bases, may want to make the download available to a variety of news websites and blogs, in the hopes of attracting new listeners.

Likely enough, the solution for the future won’t be one-size-fits-all. But some of these avenues should help Southern Gospel grow in a future where either radio shrinks or the fan base grows in areas where radio still doesn’t cover.

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9 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. Daniel,

    You state two difference percentages of Southern Gospel fans being able to hear a S. G.-oriented radio station. If you discount enLighten, my consensus is that the number today is less than 30%.

    However, if you consider enLighten … it’s close to 100% of all S. G. fans in all of North America being able to hear their music via radio 24/7. Of course, there’s the factor of having to have/subscribe to XM Radio, Sirius Radio, DirecTV or Dish TV – with a fair chunk of the U. S. population already having access to one or more of these services.

    I can tell you that we hear from listeners in most states and several Canadian provences with some regularlity.

    • Less than 30%. That’s interesting.

      The need to have/subscribe to one of the options you mentioned is a factor. I don’t have any of the four, so I can’t get enLighten … hence why I am more likely to just forget to mention it in a post like this.

  2. Enlighten is great. Well worth the cost!

  3. We gave away our last three singles (“Big God,” “Naaman,” and “Absolutely Free”) – but not our latest since it was with a label and we didn’t have those permissions. Giving away those singles – and especially by the time we gave the third one away – really drove traffic to our site and boosted sales of the album as well. It’s a marketing technique that everyone should try at least once.

  4. Daniel,

    I think there might be a couple of options you forgot to mention. Internet radio and satellite radio seem to be increasing in popularity. I frequently use both to listen to SG because where I live it is difficult to pick up the one broadcast station that does play SG.

    The disadvantage to satellite radio (at least with Sirius) is that there is only one SG station on there at this time.

    Internet radio, on the other hand, gives you a much better choice. Live365 (which I often use) has dozens of free SG stations to choose from and several pay stations as well.

    With the internet being so wide-spread now, maybe the SG industry needs to do a media campaign urging followers of SG to take advantage of the internet radio stations in areas where no SG broadcast stations are available.

    There are many outlets out there for the SG fans to listen to their favorite music. We just need to get the word out to people as to what those outlets are.

  5. I am currently giving this thread posted by Daniel Mount more attention than it previously received.

  6. There is a fine line for groups that take the approach of offering their full album for people to listen to… They need to make sure that it is something that will draw people in and not turn them away… The Dove Brothers have been using this method lately to great success but other groups may not be as successful at this approach… As I said groups have to be careful it could burn them in the long run…

  7. Sad thing is the fcat that groups had to resort to this to get the message out. To most people in my church, the only quartetes that travel are the Cathedrals (did travel), GloryBound, and DayBreak. Most people don’t even know DayBreak’s website.

  8. Myself, I was thankful that Signature Sound streamed 30-second clips of their old material on their website, because in some cases I couldn’t find sound-bytes anywhere else. Now granted I’m not exactly a new fan, but it was a practical help for me as I decided which old projects to invest in. I’m one of those people who likes to listen to as much as I can of an album before I spend any money on it. Several complete songs is ideal, but I’ll take what I can get.


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