What constitutes a national group?

About two weeks ago, we had a discussion on this blog over whether CD reviews of regional/local groups should be featured. Of course, that raises the question: What constitutes a national group?

It would be hard to define it strictly in terms of salary, since some groups that clearly aren’t nationally known manage to be full-time, while some full-time groups have members with other active business interests.

What criteria should be used to determine which groups are “national groups”?

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12 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 don’t think it’s any one criteria, and especially not salary, because that’s normally a private issue anyway. I mean, we may have a ballpark figure of what groups take in and pay their personnel, but that’s not a good defining criteria for what makes a group a nationally known group. Besides, you’d be surprised at how little some groups considered to be national pay their personnel, and at how many artists have sideline jobs to help supplement their income. Salary would honestly not be on the list at all because I just don’t see it as defining whether a group is known nationally.

    That said, there are several factors to consider, and a group may have one, some, or all of the criteria. Personally, I believe that a group can be considered a nationally known group if they consistently produce singles that end up on radio charts, are seen on the stages of our larger promoters and major concert events, work venues that are more than just a 3-4 state area surrounding their home, devote at least the average number of days to traveling and singing (at least 3-4 per days per week), utilize advertising in national media outlets (Singing News, Solid Gospel, etc) in promoting themselves nationally, and have the attention of the general fan base of a large number of average southern gospel listeners. A major national group should be expected to be doing more than just one of these things, too. In other words, it’s a collective process of multiple areas that makes a nationally known group. You have to be clicking on all cylinders, so to speak. I believe if you were to rate a group using these criteria, you’d probably be getting pretty close to establishing a fairly accurate list of those major groups considered nationally-known.

  2. Renown – being known throughout the country via the usual outlets for the genre. Sales, record contracts, etc do not matter. You are a national group when everyone knows your name.

  3. It is simple…national groups tour the nation…and regional groups travel a region.

  4. Well, trying to define a national group on salary is a terribly misguided notion. Most times money matters are private, and you’d be surprised at the number of nationally-known artists who make consideribly less than 2o-25K per year. Some even supplement with side-line jobs on their off-travel days.

    That said, I don’t think it’s any one criteria. I think it’s a combination of things. I’d say a group could be considered nationally known if they are consistently releasing songs to radio that get played and charted, they frequently perform for the top promoters and at major concert events, travel consistently outside their 2-3 state area on a regular basis, spend what is considered the normal amount of time for the average full time-artist on the road (at least 3-4 days per week consistently), market themselves in national media (Singing News, Solid Gospel Radio, etc.), and are at least recognized by a large portion of gospel music fans in general. I think a nationally known group will be found doing at least 2-3 of these things, if not all. I think if you go down the check-list of what I’ve mentioned and look at the groups out there consistently doing these (or most of these) things, you’ll be able to identify most, if not all, of what most knowledgeable fans, artists, and industry personnel would call nationally known groups.

  5. That’s a good definition, I think.

    Sometimes it’s awfully hard to quantify by that standard, though. Has pretty much everyone who pays attention to the genre heard of the Collingsworth Family? the Dixie Melody Boys? Greater Vision?

    If you view the national Southern Gospel market as inclusive of those fans who occasionally buy Gaither DVDs (quite a few in my acquaintance) and have only a passing familiarity with even those artists, only Homecoming Tour artists and past artists could even approach national status.

  6. This is going to be an exercise in futility if you ask me. Unlike other genres, you can’t draw a line between the “big guns” and the “wannabes.” This is a whole other blog in itself, but if you are looking for a criteria, I would go based on this: Are they getting routine airplay? There are groups like Total Praise and Cross4Crowns who get regular airplay, but have no national retail outlet.

    The biggest thing is this – if you feel it needs to be reviewed, then review it!! I have heard music that some people have not, and I take the time to let them know about it. That’s kind of the point of a review. It’s not just to offer your own opinion on a product, but to give the reader advice as to whether or not the product is even worth purchasing. If it weren’t for some reviews, I would’ve bypassed certain products because I was unfamiliar with them (a perfect example would be Shane Dunlap’s solo CD, which I had heard quite a bit of positive buzz about before I bought it).

  7. Paul, supposing a group had 90% of its dates in (say) Georgia, 5% in northern FL, and 3% in in SC, and one concert each in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Hawaii during the year.

    In other words, does doing occasional concerts outside of a home base area make you a national group?

  8. Excellent post–I think your criteria hit the nail on the head.

  9. This my criteria is as follows:
    On the Interstate. you know that even numbers travel east-west, odd numbers travel north-south, routes ending in “0” are major east-west routes, routes ending in “5” are major north-south routes, exit numbers go up from south to north and down from north to south, exit number go up from west to east and go down from east to west.

    The rotary around Nashvile is I-440 is the intersection for I-40, I-65 & I-24.

    You have been lost many times in your travels on the highway of interstate.

    You know that it is more important to worry about your tracks ion the bus than the railroad trracks.

    If you know all of the above without checking this guide:
    You are national group in my book.

  10. Daniel, I feel an occasional date outside a groups region does not make them national.

  11. Yup, I like #8 … I would suggest, Daniel, that you let him make you up a questionnaire to email out when a group sends you a CD.

    Seriously, I’d have a hard time giving specific criteria. I’d say that it’s kind of like “you know it when you see it.” The things mentioned in #6 are pretty good.

  12. That is also how I feel, but I was curious to see if you felt the same way.

    GospelMusicFan, that’s a funny and great viewpoint!