NQC Thoughts: Booths being torn down early

Danny Jones has a thought-provoking post about how most NQC booths are torn down early on Saturday (or, in 5%-10% of cases, Friday).

Though this might matter less to people there all week, like me, or people who are there Thursday-Saturday, he pointed out that this keeps the Saturday night attendees (well over 1/6 of the total), many of whom can only come for Saturday night, from being able to purchase projects by many of their favorite artists.

Fact is, it can cost artists sales from people who are there all week. Gold City inadvertently lost a sale to me (and not just a $10 one) by leaving early; I was hoping all week to purchase their Heritage Collection Vol. 2 DVD set, but had to wait till the week was over to see if I had enough money. By the time I made it to their booth early Saturday evening, they had torn down and headed out for the week. Maybe I can get it next year, but I have no idea if I’ll be able to get Tim Riley’s autograph then.

Understandably, many groups want to schedule weekend dates to recoup the costs of an NQC booth. And it would be hard to force them to stay–short of posting armed security guards, an idea Jones suggests and rejects as implausible.

If it’s worth encouraging artists to stay, there is a simpler way. NQC could charge artists $200 extra for a booth (roughly 50% more than the current rates, I hear), and announce and put it in the contract that the directors will walk around immediately after the finale ends and refund the deposit to groups that stayed it out.

Even then, it physically won’t be possible for many groups to stay. But perhaps a $200 refund would be an added incentive.

Agree? Disagree?

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36 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. I wouldn’t mind paying $200 for the right to leave early so I can have a Saturday night concert plus two services on Sunday.
    I would mind if the NQC to do what is the norm in the juried crafts shows industry by the following words “If you leave early, you will not be allowed to return.”

    Take it a step further!
    Leave early on Saturday, won’t be allowed to display in the exhibit hall the following year.
    Leave early on Friday, you won’t be allowed to display in the exhibit hall nor to perform at NQC’s sanctioned events on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds the following year.

    Do you really want to do that?
    From what I saw on Facebook this past weekend, I would not because the applications would have to be made to many of your and my favorites.

  2. I think they should do something similar to what the CMA did with Fan Fair a few years back: move the event to Thursday – Sunday, and add the showcase prices to the general admission, making it a flat rate of $35 each. Here’s my logic for this suggestion:

    1. Instead of a 6-day, week-long event, you have a 4-day, long-weekend event, allowing more people to make the trip (it’s a lot easier to take two days off instead of an entire week).

    2. Artists have more flexibility, only losing one possible weekend, and gaining the ability to work a few weeknight dates leading up to the convention (not to mention saving on hotel rates).

    3. Smaller showcases that don’t see much attendance can be eliminated, and with the remaining showcases included in general admission, it encourages more attendees to stay the duration.

    4. It avoids a common complaint among both artists and attendees alike….exhaustion/burnout by the end of the convention. Many artists, by the end of the week, have been standing at their booths for hours on end.

    There will obviously be those who disagree, but from a financial standpoint, the Convention wouldn’t have to spend as much money, artists would have to spend as much money on hotels/travel expenses, and attendees wouldn’t have to buy tickets for as many days; it would seem that all would benefit.

  3. My initial comment needs a positive response for a solution to the issue at hand.

    Why not start the Fans Awards at 7:30-8:oo PM EST, aka prime time, which would serve several purposes.
    Incentive for more people and our favorites to stay.
    Bring the Award Show into prime time with the web cast in mind out on the West Coast..
    Groups would sing before the show so groups singing following the show would not be an afterthought.

  4. I have only been to NQC once… I wasn’t able to stay until Saturday. I am sure that I would have been disappointed if I could have only come on Saturday and didn’t get to see the groups that I wanted to see.

    That said, I am somewhat torn because I understand that they need to make some money. Sure, they might make another 100 bucks by staying (and they might not), however, many of these groups are making $1500 at a concert. The “stay for the fans” argument is also tough to make when they are going to leave to see others fans. So I’m not sure I have a problem with them leaving early.

    The timing may be another issue. Pack up the night before.

  5. Sitting on the outside – I have “lots” of answers…

    I am not in the music business – but I have much experience working a booth at trade shows. It looks easy but is incredibly hard work and extremely tiring. There comes a point in any trade show or convention when you’ve taken advantage of 90% + of the opportunities and you’re exhausted – and just pack up. I have been guilty in the past.


    1. I participated in one show that would not allow you back the next year if you packed up early. This is the most effective way to do it. Exceptions are emergency only – such as Archie Watkins’ wife suffering a heart attack. Leaving to sing at a concert when you had this “pior commitment” is not an emergency.
    2. Shorten the time. Three or four days is a gracious plenty. Since Saturday is the prime $ night for SG groups – perhaps it should wrap up on Friday night and let the groups hit the road for Saturday and Sunday concerts. I bet the SG groups would endorse this!

    Realize any schedule will please some but not all. There may be some who will not come – but others who will come that have not in the past.


  6. Disagree.

    First off, I may have got the wrong impression about your money situation, but it seems like the real problem was that Gold City simply fell to the bottom of your list. Did you buy any other CDs? I couldn’t take home all the music I wanted to either, so I just chose what was more important to me.

    As for the people who didn’t get a chance… well, you can’t expect to have a fair shot if you don’t come for the whole week. Groups have to stay afloat as well as take care of their members, and if you don’t have a millionaire paying for everything, including your exposure… well then that really matters.

    I can understand if NQC was paying a group to come. However, when you are paying them it makes things a little different. If I buy a booth, NQC is now doing me a paid service – exposing my group to everyone. If I want to leave early, I leave early. I’ve got mouths to feed and other people to sing for.

    Put quite simply… if a fan really wants to see a group, do them the favor. Find out when they will be there and go see them when you’ve got the chance, or the money.

    • David – the Gold City DVD set was $35 or $40. And I had to watch my finances very closely NQC week. By the last day–but not until then–I knew I could afford the expenditure.

      • I completely understand what you’re saying, but did you buy any other music that week?

      • Very little from Monday through Thursday. I think I got Legacy Five’s CD on Tuesday, if that was the day I found out Frank was leaving, just in case they pulled it from their table with plans to re-cut the tenor vocal.

        I *may* have done one or two others in the early part of the week, but I saved virtually all my music purchases for Friday and Saturday.

  7. When you lease booth space at NQC you sign a contract stating plainly that you will maintain your booth until the show has closed. This year our bass, Alan, being alone in the booth, and seeing others around us tear down, began tearing down our booth a bit early and was told about the contract. He put the booth back up till it was over. It seem to me if you sign your name giving your word that you will abide by the rules, then as a Christian, you should abide by those rules. That applies to us or anyone else choosing to sign their name on a contract.

    • I have the highest respect for Southern Sound, and it’s because of little things like that as much as anything.

    • Bravo Ben! I applaud you for this post! This was always my understanding of the NQC contract.
      Thanks for your input!
      Always a fan and friend of Southern Sound!

  8. I think the NQC is in a quandary because they already have lost a number of groups that didn’t get to sing on the main stage that just didn’t come at all to NQC. For the smaller groups, those weekend concerts are critical to their budget. They may have a presence at NQC, but don’t sell enough product to pay for their stay at NQC. The $200 “deposit” may make a small difference to some of the smaller groups, not likely to the bigger ones. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like more groups waited till the awards show started before taking down their booths, but around 11 pm that place was almost empty!!!

  9. I can understand the smaller/lesser known groups leaving early. They have to go to paying dates. I know for a fact that the Called Out Quartet did that. I believe the Toney Brothers left early too for the same reason.

    As far as the bigger more well known groups, unless they are having major financial problems then I don’t see why they can’t stay for the entire week. Maybe they can have folks man their booth for them as does the GVB and EHSSQ. Granted, those two groups have deeper pockets than most of the others but I know that die-hard fans of groups like Gold City would love to have the opportunity to help them out for little or no cost.

  10. One member of a major quartet was once quoted as having said, “If they think I’m going to stay here for six days, they’re crazy!” That might be a little harsh, but considering how quartets struggle to make ends meet and at least 75% of them lose hundreds, even thousands of dollars after a week of NQC, I might understand why a statement like that would be made. NQC is all about the money. The main stage appearances are about the money. The time you get allotted is about the money. The size of your booth is about the money. Your general exposure there is all about the money. When you’re a full-time quartet that is most likely thrilled to get $1000 from a church love offering (if you’re lucky), the time and money spent at NQC adds up and the losses need to be recouped somehow. At the same time, a contract is a contract. A group that lives up to it certainly deserves respect. But will that group get any more respect at NQC the following year? Who knows. I guess I’ve basically typed a paragraph stipulating nothing, but I can see both sides of the coin here. If I were managing a group and I had the opportunity to leave a night early for a good date, I’d probably take it.

  11. Ben, I don’t think the contract states you have to stay all week, simply because I know groups like The Greenes, Gold City, Jeff and Sheri and several others have left early in the past, The Greenes for several years actually. There is one statement in the contract that is broken a lot, no wheels (dollies, hand trucks etc…) in the aisle until after 11 pm., of course then there are others who have sub-leased a booth and have no idea of a contract, happened to me once and I was approached by a NQC official, totally caught off guard. But to pay an additional $200 would definitely not be worth it when you’re already losing several hundred dollars just to be there. I would say with the NQC board probably making enough money to pay for the whole venue on booth space alone maybe they should just leave the exhibitors alone, and just give them a few simple rules to follow, and enforce them.

  12. I was under the impression when the Award were moved to Saturday Night, that was to keep the groups there until the end of the week. I can remember in the past, walking thru the exhibit hall on Friday, and it was like a Ghost Town. I would think, they would hang around for the Fan Awards, as there are some people that only come on Saturday Night, so therefore they do not get to see their favorite groups. But I guess if you are not nominated for an award, and you are in the need of the money that you can make on booking for that week-end, the pressure to leave early is great. That also sends the fans the message that money is more important to the group than seeing the fans. I realize that some of the smaller groups have families to feed and house, and are not making the money that the more popular groups are making.
    I really don’t think that $200 is going to keep them there as, they can make more than that on a Saturday Night booking.
    But there should be some kind of guidelines set, as I always felt when the Fan Awards were on Thursday Night, and the groups pulled out on Friday before the Exhibit Hall opened, that they were being disrespectful to their fans, as a lot of them only came Thursday – Saturday.
    I don’t think shortening the length of the Convention down to 4 days is the answer either, as some groups will then only stay for 2 days.
    The Board definitely has a problem on their hands if they want to rectify the situation.

  13. This may seem like an unlikely comparison, but I notice this at athletic events all the time. Vendors are in a big hurry to get out of the venue. It may be traffic or it may be getting home, but more than a few times, I’ve watched as people were very disappointed that that one thing they wanted (somewhat like Daniel, they wanted to see if there was enough cash to buy it) was gone. Those guys sign contracts also, but it seems no one pays any attention to the agreements. NASCAR vendors are famous for this.

  14. Most groups that are going to be at NQC should have it marked on their schedule. If they have bookings the same weekend as the end of convention, that should also be marked on their schedule. If you’re really a “fan” of a group and want to see them, you check their schedule. Is that NOT how it works?

    If a group is scheduled to be there Tuesday through Thursday and you mosey on up to their booth at 9:30pm Thursday night and they’re gone, who’s fault is it that you missed them?

    • Who are you singing with?

      • Blackwood Gospel Quartet

  15. If you go to a multi-day event with multiple groups on different evenings, why would I expect to find a group selling their product on a night when they weren’t performing? ie, if there’s a 2 night concert with the Perrys singing on Friday nite only, why should I expect to find the Perry’s product table set up on Saturday nite? I wouldn’t expect the Perrys to be just hanging around at the venue when they aren’t performing. I would expect them to have booked somewhere else. What makes NQC so special?

    If you want me there on the Saturday nite, then pay me to be there on the Saturday nite!

    If product sales are an issue, then NQC could easily set up a store in one of the empty booths to sell product of groups that aren’t there on Saturday nite.

    Also, I highly doubt the 1/6th figure. I sincerely doubt that over 1/6th of the total attendees ONLY come on Saturday nite. I’d wager well over 80% of the ppl there on Saturday were there on another nite as well.

    • Read more closely – that’s not what I said.

      What I said was: “the Saturday night attendees (well over 1/6 of the total), many of whom can only come for Saturday night”

      Thursday (Gaither night) and Saturday are probably the two biggest nights, and many people–especially from the area–only come in for one or the other.

  16. I don’t know about other groups, but our sales are pretty consistent all week regardless of when we sing. There is a surge in activity right after an appearance, but as an average the per night total is usually about the same. An exception this year, Saturday night was our best night of the week, and usually Monday night is.

  17. This year (as with a couple years ago), I drove 90 minutes from Cincinnati on Friday afternoon, stayed until 11pm, then drove back home, mainly because I can’t afford to take a week off of work. If it were Thursday-Sunday, I could get away with taking off one day of work and still make the majority of the convention, and I know many others who could do the same.

  18. I was there Mon-Wed so this was not an issue for me. With my work schedule and commitment to my local church on Sunday, the first of the week is much better for me. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I would be very dissapointed if they took away Mon-Wed of the convention.

  19. Doing away with the first part of the week would be pretty stupid on the NQCs part… Lets see now…10,000+/- seats monday thru wednesday x ticket price plus concessions… Nope! Thats not gonna happen, and making it shorter won’t really help anybody at all … Asking the groups as Christians to honor their word? Might work, wonder if it has been emphasized?

  20. Like being stated in this thread, reducing the number of days would have big-time income ramifications.

    Naming groups/artists does no one any good.

    Talking fees in the public domain is a no-no.

    NQC is a trade show to the industry types just as Saturday is a one day concert event for the working concert-goers.

    The board of NQC should take some positive steps to make it very difficult for the vendors to leave early.

    Using my law and order approach advocated by some in the SGM industry, I would go around and write down the number of the booths that are vacant at unannouced times on Saturday.
    It is a common event at other type of trade and public shows.

  21. I know the booth space issue has been one long debate for years and years. I can certainly see both sides of it, and understand why the board and fans would want groups to stay until the end, but also can easily see why groups financially need to leave to go work paying dates to help offset expenses.

    This doesn’t have much to do with booth space, but as far as the Saturday event, I’d love to see the evening portion–Fan Awards and Concert–start about 2 p.m. and then be done by 7 p.m., so people could either start for home early or groups could feel like they could stay until the end and still be out the door and on to Sunday’s date at a decent time of the evening.

  22. How about leave whenever you want, but if you don’t stay through Saturday night, you go to the end of the line next year for booth space. So if you want to keep the 4-booth end cap, stay there all week.

    • That’s probably the best idea of all so far.

      Groups can hold their space till the next year, I believe, if they reserve again by a certain date. But if they don’t stay, I suppose they could forfeit that.

  23. Great suggestion by #22,
    Let add to the “end of the line” suggestion.
    The ‘end of the line” vendor might see a “less than desirable” booth assignment the following year.

    By the way, I know #22.
    Poster # 22 has done alot of hard work for southern gospel music with Gospel Music Today.

  24. big groups are not charged for their booth space.. ex… Gold City, GVB, Hoppers.. etc. They draw most of the crowd. They are not required to stay or continue to set up b/c they didn’t have to sign a contract for the booth. They choose not to stay b/c they are only given 1500.00-2000.00 to be there. As you know, fuel for the bus probably cost more than that! Some of these groups HAVE to book to stay on the road.

  25. Poster #24,
    That’s their business, not ours to know!

    Hire a person or get a SGM addicted friend to volunteer to babysit the booth the rest of the time.

  26. This is off topic I know, but I can’t find anyone that can answer my question. Why can’t you enter the exhibit hall without buying a ticket to the evening concerts? It’s not like you can see that stage or hear the music from the exhibit hall. Living in south Tennessee, we don’t get regular concerts from the “Big Groups” in Southern Gospel, so it is a hard choice if I’m going to watch the concert, or go spend money. Is this a new policy that was just started this past year? I’ve been to NQC other years and had no trouble going in and out of the hall. This past year, I was met by an older gentlemen who said I couldn’t enter the hall without a ticket to the evening performance. Calls and e-mails to NQC have gone unanswered.

    • Actually, I think that policy has been in place for a while. They just don’t always enforce it.