Quote of the Day

It seems my post “Could a traditional label make it?” sparked quite a discussion. My favorite comment so far: In answer to the viewpoint that people want to hear modern / progressive Southern Gospel, reader SV writes:

I wish that SG were bigger than it is, and I do my best to promote it, but in some fans eyes, if it isn’t modern or progressive they think it hurts the industry and people are tired of it… Well, tell that to the packed houses we had EVERY night this weekend.

His group isn’t the only group saying that, either.

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25 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. We see the same thing month after month. This mindset of progressive is the way to go is a myth.


  3. It isn’t a myth to those who do it and do it successfully. What is a myth though, is the thought that the two can’t be equally successful or co-exist.

  4. Why should they co-exist? They’re completely different. You can’t mix oil and water.

    The labels tend to push, push, push the more progressive style, and the traditional groups tend to get pushed, pushed, pushed aside. The funny thing is…the traditional groups are still making it. They’re selling out weekend after weekend, playing the biggest venues and selling just as much product……yet it seems like the “industry” is against them because they’re so “out of date” with the way they do things.

    I don’t have a problem with the more progressive groups being equally successful, but they’ll never co-exist. It’s just too much of a difference.

  5. We too have looked and asked our audiences at times what they want to hear. The overwhelming majority of the responses are traditional quartet music, and the difference is not even close.

  6. Ben, do you think that could be influenced by the fact that people who prefer traditional music would be more likely to come to a Southern Sound concert?

    I’m just wondering what kind of response (say) Brian Free & Assurance or today’s Gold City would get if they asked.

  7. LaShay,

    They have always co-existed. Why should they stop now?


    Wouldn’t you expect your fans to want to hear traditional? They are YOUR fans. 🙂


    I think that if you are polling fans of all groups you would get a different response than if you are only polling one group’s fans. That is why each group develops their own fans and stays true to their own style.

  8. They might exisit on the same level, but I don’t believe that they co-exist, relating one to another. There’s always been competition. Either one would be willing to give the other the boot at any time.

  9. I believe it can co-exist. I know this is not the case everywhere but I attended a concert last week that had the Down East Boys, Austins Bridge and Crabb Revival. The crowd enjoyed all three artists on the program. I am a fan that has always enjoyed the various sytles that make up Southern Gospel. It was variety that drew me to the music and the variety that keeps me listening.

  10. No I do not believe it to be only our dedicated fans. The info we received was far wider based than that.

  11. Ben, thanks for the clarification. I suspect that you’re on to something across the general spectrum of SG, but just wanted to clarify that point.

  12. If I wanted to hear a group singing a Praise and Worship song, then I’d logically go to a church/concert that caters to that genre. Likewise, if I choose to listen to “black” gospel, R&B gospel, country gospel, bluegrass gospel, contemporary christian music, christian rock, or anything else I would support those styles above all and most likely not even be on this, or any other southern gospel website.
    Yes, there are certainly exceptions, but generally speaking, southern gospel fans want to hear (gasp!!!) southern gospel, not something else. That’s why they support southern gospel more than other musical genres. So why is it that those other styles are so strongly influencing southern gospel??
    As noted elsewhere, this industry is killing itself off slowly because the groups are expanding themselves musically much faster than the fans will accept. So after some groups make a major musical transition, they struggle to exist because they drive off their old faithfull fans faster than they can attract new ones.
    Please correct me if my numbers are wrong. But I think it’s worthy of noting that last year, of all the groups that came off the road, disbanded, completley restructured, (as my memory serves) the majority were not traditional groups.Leads me to think then that the fans don’t support change borderlining with another genre.
    Why don’t the major record lables/radio promoters & stations understand these things?

  13. Excellent post, Quaid. And to answer the question….

    If anyone understood why the people you mentioned don’t understand that the true, blue Southern Gospel groups are where it’s at….we wouldn’t be having this conversation. :o) People are so accustomed to having changes shoved in their face on a daily basis. I guess they think that since everything else is changing, SG needs to change as well. Sad, really.

  14. Whats funny is that those “popular”, “progressive” groups are dropping off and they’ve had the assistance of the “major” record labels. So obviously the labels really aren’t helping anyone but themselves through financial profit. The traditional groups are surviving on their own, under their own power and support of their fans. So even without the help of labels these groups are popular. It seems to me that if the labels would put some effort into promoting these traditional groups they would see a greater long term return on their investment and the progressive critics would see that the traditional fans are still there and wanting that traditional sound. As of now the critics really only have the word of the independent groups themselves, maybe they’d believe it more if it came from a label they respected.

  15. #14–On your second sentence, don’t be too cynical. The labels, just like everyone else, are struggling to make ends meet.

  16. Labels and radio both clamour for progressive music, and it is a never ending circle as one pushes the other for more and more progressive music, while the core audience turns it off more and more every day. We have had contact with churches where people have told us, “We don’t have SG groups for they are too country, too rock and roll, or too untalented”. Take your pick. If we do not get our collective ducks in a row, we will lose what little audience we have. The reality of pushing for more youth in our genre, drives the core audience away. Why can we not strive for great music, well arranged, well written and well performed within the confines of what our core audience wants to hear? We do not need, nor should we be clonjes of each other, and in fact, if we try to simply be the best we can be, we will all be remarkably different yet still familar to the core audience. We also need to be far more stringent on what we call the professional. Just because I can show up in a bus with 4 other guys and sing gospel music, that does not prove that I am worthy to be held up to the world as professional. SG radio and SG labels have a very bad habit of presenting the worst we have as the professionals in our genre. Somewhere this has got to stop, and if it means Ben Harris is weeded out, so be it. When we cut the dead and non fruit bearing from the tree, the whole tree becomes more healthy. When will SG get serious about the industry and the ministry and do the right thing?

  17. Ben–interesting observation about “non fruit bearing.” If someone who can’t stay on pitch but is quite sincere is winning souls to Christ, are they fruit bearing? Should they be told to quit?

    There has to be a good balance somewhere.

  18. No Daniel they should not necessarily quit, that was not what I said. They should not be presented to the world as the best Southern Gospel has to offer. IN other words, labels, radio, and radio promoters should be willing to say no to those not ready for prime time. Is it a judgment call? Yes, very much so. Very much like the secular labels and secular radio have done for years. Every day of the world someone in Nashville gets turned down for a label deal because someone thought they were not ready, or not talented enough. Could they be wrong once in a while? Of course. But, still those decisions are the firewall between the fans and the not so talented struggling artists. Unless Southern Gospel begins to do the same thing, we doom ourselves. The problem is this, in SG money is tight, thus labels and radio promotion people will take virtualy anyone’s money regardless of talent level. They do that to survive. But it is very short sighted. If we were to raise the bar to the point it needs to be, the end result would be a far healthier genre. Yes, maybe at the cost of losing a few artists to national attention and also many radio promotion companies. But the end result would be an artists base that was truly professional, and worthy of the status of professional. It is not a matter of should we do it, it is a matter of we must do it to survive! Some fans could find themselves very disappointed, for their favorite group might not make it. Lets face it, fans on a regular basis embrace people based on mnay things other than true musical talent. But to grow our base beyond where we are currently at, some line in the sand needs to be made, and that line will be just like secular in scope, it will be flawed by human opinion. I did some work way back on the 1st recording of an artist that I never thought would make it, and I was very wrong….Randy Travis. Thankfully people far wiser than I saw through the rawness of Randy’s talent level at the time, and saw an artist waiting to be made. SG must get to that place.

  19. As to fruitbearing, those not so talented can still have a place in work of the Kingdom. My opinion, and it is just that, my opinion, is that those less than super talented people should continue doing what God wants them to do. I just don’t think they should be presented as the professional in our genre. It stunts growth overall in SG, and keeps us from growing our base. It also bothers me from this one point. If we are to do this for God, should it not be the very best we can do? Take for example the people who work the audio for church services. Most know very little about mixing music. Would ask one of these church audio people to record and mix your next CD? Of course not, it is not their profession. But they are doing a needed work in the church, and their service is very valuable in that capacity. It is the same thing. Ok, I have gone far too long.

  20. You said, they “should continue doing what God wants them to do. I just don’t think they should be presented as the professional in our genre.”

    Put that way, I could hardly disagree. Good point!

  21. “The problem is this, in SG money is tight, thus labels and radio promotion people will take virtualy anyone’s money regardless of talent level. They do that to survive. But it is very short sighted.”

    Thank you Ben, thats what I was meaning in my first comment. I wasn’t being cynical, you just phrased it better than I. In fact, you’re saying everything I’m thinking! Keep up the great work!

  22. Where do you draw the line between progressive and traditional? Many of today’s top groups would be thrown out of most of you all’s equation because they may not be traditional enough. From what I am reading groups like Gold City, Dove Brothers, Hoppers, Talley Trio, Booth Brothers, Gaither Vocal Band, Greenes, etc. would not make the cut because of their non-traditional arrangements.

    Are they traditional enough, are they not? We could run in circles all day trying to answer that question. Let the music be the music and the chips fall where they may as far as who is successful and who is not.

  23. We need to distinguish between a label “deal” and a vanity label that records anyone with the money. Unfortunately, in our genre both are considered labels, when that really couldn’t be further from the truth.

    There should be vanity labels for the artists who travel, sing and need product to sell but are not quite ready for a “label” deal, or for those who want to be independent of a label. But, the industry needs to recognize the difference.

    Unfortunately, where the cut should be made is in radio play, and it just isn’t being done. We have countless radio stations that use “pay to play” or base their airplay on a three month old chart, or they play mostly “oldies.” Radio needs to step up!
    Radio and Sales should be the gate keeper of quality.

  24. I do not believe that anyone needs to define the line, as the SG audience does that quite well for all of us. The concept here is to not to do away with progressive SG, but rather instead explore the concepts of what much of our core audience does not support it. There are certainly SG fans who do very much support a more progressive style of music, the disconnect comes when one weighs those totals against the totals of the majority of the core audience. And Susan, I agree with your statement about SG labels. Calling them “vanity labels” is a great term to describe exactly where we are at in SG Music as a whole. I worked for many years with true labels like RCA, MCA. Warner Brothers, and oters, and I can guarantee you SG does not have ANY labels that are any where close to those in terms of how to do business.

  25. Great points everyone.