Marketing Groups (and CD Reviews)

What is the value of a CD review?

Former Bishops bass guitarist Steve Perkins, who contributed to Mark Bishop’s Fields of Love project, proposes the question:

Either way, what can we (artists and record companies) do to better serve this SG internet community and translate their passion for SG into revenue? Do reviews from anyone (no offense to Doug, SN, or other print and online outlets) really have any influence one way or the other on your music purchases? What would you say is your main reason for purchasing a SG CD?

He raises several questions, but I wanted to look at one in particular. What is the value of a CD review?

Rarely does someone purchase a recording by a group he has never heard–a group that doesn’t already have a track record of producing recordings he likes–on the basis of one review alone. But CD reviews and word of mouth (from forums) can, over time, get people curious about a group. This leads them to check out the group when a chance arises, be it a sale at a bookstore, a concert in the area, or a showcase at NQC. That, in turn, can often lead to product sales.

Marketing a group–taking it from zero name ID to having an established fan base–isn’t an easy thing. It will typically involve some mixture of paid marketing (advertising) and free marketing (publicity–product reviews and press releases).

The first step is making people aware that the group exists. This is often done through some mixture of advertisements and press releases–the press releases being more likely to be printed if one or more members of the group come from an established group. The second step is making people curious enough to want to check the group out. This is where reviews come into play, a positive review, like this one, can make people curious enough to check out a group. Once you have their attention and they try a CD or concert, you get to the third part of the process, the make-it-or-break-it step: Delivering on the potential and landing someone as a fan.

Of course, the same principles apply to marketing other things, such as this website; you had to find out about it, perhaps through a link somewhere, and be curious enough to click the link. But getting you here wasn’t enough; I had to come through with content that made it worth your while to stay and keep coming back, or else you wouldn’t have come back.

While I’ve marketed this website and other projects, I have never marketed a group. Those of you who have done so undoubtedly have more insights about the process; if you are so inclined, feel free to share those in the comments.


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22 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’m just old fashioned enough to believe that our first purpose in singing or supporting SG is to promote the Gospel. What I’m about to say is in no way meant to be incriminating or belittling to anyone. But I find it a bit disturbing when one asks how the fans can “translate their passion for SG into revenue”. It seems to me that we fans have a higher purpose than to fatten the pockets of our favorites singers.

    We now have a generation of people who think that we should be fully supported, yet prosperous, for proclaiming the Good News. The Apostle Paul was not even full-time. He was a tentmaker. Given the economy of the times when many Americans are feeling the financial pinch, it might bring us home to reality if we were to go back to the tentmaker mentality and promote the Gospel for the Gospel’s sake.

    Like most everyone else, I have no gripe against success. But I cannot rationalize judging my “success” by finances. I’ve been in this thing for over 50 years by virtue of a divine calling. While there have been financial highs and lows, as is common to us all, God has never failed to meet my need.

    And I have often thanked God for not making me rich and famous. I’ve seen the baggage that comes with it, and it tends to taint and distort a sense of purpose. That is not a broad brush stroke against success. We have highly successful people in our industry who have kept their integrity and perspective. But I’ve often seen it sour the lives of the very ones who are deemed successful.

    Bottom line? First things first. Jesus commanded, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Apostle John said, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

    Priorities determine character. Let’s all take the high road. If we do our calling right, the Caller will meet our every need.

  2. Great comment Neil. All christianity is becoming pressured by the same thing. Refreshing to see someone from within making a first class comment of condern. God Bless.

  3. Neil, you make good points. Sometimes it is too easy to focus on the business perspective and forget the ministry perspective.

  4. Neil said, “I’m just old fashioned enough to believe that our first purpose in singing or supporting SG is to promote the Gospel.”

    Amen, Amen and Amen!

    This past week, our latest project received several reviews – one was very positive and complimentary – and the other was quite ambivalent. That reviewer was clearly “underwhelmed” by our project.

    So what?

    When I started singing with my first group as a teenager in 1964 and then went to Bible College in 1968 to prepare to answer God’s call on my life, He never mentioned to me Reviews, Charts, Focus Groups or Marketing. He just told me, through His Word to, “Go into ALL the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

    So, is radio important to us? Yes. Let me explain.

    We are US based, and have been coast to coast and to Canada and Mexico – but that is hardly “all the world”.

    Our CDs can go anywhere. Though some pan Internet radio – I love it – because our music goes everywhere in the world – without limitation – so we have the opportunity to minister everywhere.

    Are the charts important to us? Well, our last song reached number # 95. If charts were the goal – that would make us failures, I suspect. But, we are releasing another song tomorrow, June 10th – not to “wow” the radio world – but our ministry will again reach out beyond the boundaries of our travels – and God can use that.

    Maybe it will reach # 94 on the charts (Ha-Ha). Again – so what? I hope it charts (who wouldn’t?) but that is not a worthy enough goal to present before my Lord – after what He has done for me.

    On Judgment Day, I do not expect God to ask me about Ratings, Charts, Marketing or Flats. But, I do expect Him to ask me what I’ve done with what He has entrusted to my care – and what souls have I brought to heaven with me? And I won’t saying, “But Lord – Have we not charted in Your Name? Have we not marketed ourselves very successfully, and become a household name?” His rating, on that day, will be more important than any reviewer’s – and THAT’s what’s in focus.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly.

    But before this becomes strictly a ministry vs. business debate, do let me clarify that I did not mean the post to be taken as presenting an exclusive view of everything needed to start a group. I recognize the utmost importance of a ministry purpose and goals–that needs to be central to all planning.

    But there is a business element involved in introducing a group to the Southern Gospel genre, and that is what I was addressing in the post.

  6. I understand, Daniel.

    My wife and I had dinner with Neil Enloe about a week and a half ago. We were talking with him about what a group like ours can do to grow. Being a member of one of the all-time best loved groups, The Couriers (with a fan base that still exists after 50 years – they are still singing to those who were teenagers when they started in the 1950’s), we were eager to get his advice.

    He explained that dates come from “friends telling friends who tell friends” about your group. Pastors and promoters getting excited about your group and then telling their fellow-pastors and promoters about you has got to be the best marketing and promotion that there is.

    And, we never know where those “friends” will be and who they are. So, we dare not turn down a date because the pay will be low or because we think it is insignificant. We may fail to meet the person God wishes us to intersect with that will be used to open many doors for us.

    We spent an afternoon at the Alzheimer’s Unit of a large nursing home a few weeks ago – just to bring some comfort and cheer to those poor souls – and to let them know we value them. On the way out, we bumped into a bi-vocational pastor who was working there (we didn’t know he worked there). He had booked us several months earlier as the entire program for an up-coming Association meeting of all of the Southern Baptist churches in his county, to be attended by the pastors and ministers of music of those churches (which will be coming up June 21st, in a week and a half from now).

    But, when he learned why were there at the nursing home, he broke into a big grin and voiced his approval of our taking the time to go there. Then, we have since gotten another booking due to him – and he is clearly a “friend telling other friends”.

    Our marketing plan is very simple. We are going to sing as much as we can for as many as we can – and meet as many “friends” as we can in the days ahead, without regard for “big dates” and “small dates”. There are no small dates – just opportunities to spread the Gospel in song.

  7. I really appreciate the comments by Neil and Cliff. Somehow, I get the feeling that they mean it. 🙂

    In regard to the aspect mentioned by Daniel … My take on it would be that a lot of the battle is that “awareness” factor. If folks like what you sing, it will practically sell itself. Let me give an example.

    I first heard the Primitive Quartet on the Gospel Greats several years ago (2002 or 2003?). I mentioned them to my dad, as I liked their sound, and he jokingly asked if they sang in tiger skins or something. Before long, they had a giveaway on the Gospel Greats, and on some crazy whim, I did what I _never_ do – I sent in a postcard, and got one of their CDs. I guess I was on a little bit of a bluegrass binge just then. (j/k)

    I actually got one, and when it arrived at our house, my dad fell in love with it. I believe I’ve purchased every CD they’ve put out since then, except the last one or two, and I realized today that there is my Father’s Day gift, if I can still get it in time.

    So that’s my story of going from never having heard the group to “devoted fan” – anyway, my dad’s the biggest fan, but i do like them myself. 😀

    P.S. How on earth do you format on this blog, anyway?

  8. Do you mean bold and italics? Use the same b and i surrounded by brackets as you would in HTML.

  9. The same way as on the [b]Singing News[/b] forums? We’ll see if that works…

  10. LOL, not for me.

  11. No, not those–use the brackets above the comma and the period. I typed them in my comment above, but they disappeared into the code. Sorry!

  12. I’ll try it again if I get desperate enough. 😀

  13. Come on, go ahead and try it here. You can do it!

  14. OK, here goes.

  15. You did it!

  16. Hey, it actually worked!

    (Sorry for taking this thing off-topic, but I’d been wanting to know that for quite a long time. Thanks!)

  17. No problem. Hopefully a few other people reading it will find it useful.

    Now back to topic…

  18. Please, I didn’t intend to infer that selling a lot of product was an indication of misguided purpose. Many times throughout my life I’ve had to remind myself of the underlying purpose of my being in this music ministry.

    Had I been more intuitive and vigilant, I could have moved much more product than I have. That’s not God’s fault, it’s mine. So how can I fault those who promote their recordings? Nor do meager sales make one holier.

    Like you Daniel, I didn’t want to start a discussion of marketing vs ministry. I only hoped to bring to light the purpose of many of us in SG, and refresh our memories of our basic original commitment.

  19. Please, I didn’t intend to infer that selling a lot of product was an indication of misguided purpose. Many times throughout my life I’ve had to remind myself of the underlying purpose of my being in this music ministry.

    Had I been more intuitive and vigilant, I could have moved much more product than I have. That’s not God’s fault, it’s mine. So how can I fault those who promote their recordings? Nor do meager sales make one holier.

    Like you Daniel, I didn’t want to start a discussion of marketing vs ministry. I only hoped to bring to light the purpose of many of us in SG, and refresh our memories of our basic original commitment.

    Sorry if I was misunderstood.

  20. I believe I did understand your first post in the light you meant it–it is a good reminder.

    I just wanted to be sure I hadn’t been giving the wrong impression myself with the blog post.

    Thanks!

  21. Me again. I’m on the road on someone else’s connection and accidentally posted essentially the same message twice. Sorry.

    I’m outta here.

  22. No problem!