Google Trends: Southern Gospel

Google recently released Google Trends. While it does not give actual numbers of searches, it shows whether searches for a term or topic have gone up or down.

In the trend for the search term “southern Gospel,” the trend is steadily downward. Trends for several Southern Gospel groups (Signature Sound, Greater Vision, Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band) generally show an initial peak followed by a gradual downward trend.Β [EDIT, 6/18/12: Broken links removed.]

Is it that Southern Gospel’s internet audience is shrinking? Or could it be that Southern Gospel fans are as loyal to websites as they are known for being loyal to groups, and that once they visit a site once or twice they bookmark it or remember the domain?

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31 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 believe the audience is shrinking as the music becomes less and less like traditional Southern Gospel. I know I don’t listen, nor care, as much as I used to.

  2. I think Southern Gospel’s diminishing popularity as a genre (not even including the fact that most listeners of any other genre, Christian or non-, have no clue what SoGo is) is much to blame. Although it is kind of cool to see that (when I looked at the site) that Charleston, WV (my former area) was #1 in the cities searching SoGo. We have a lot of weekend warrior groups and soloists, tons of church singers. It is infrequent to find a major artist except for the Capitol City Sing and New Years’ Sing.

  3. Hey Levi, good to see another West Virginian around. I grew up outside of Charleston, my parents sang in a “weekend warrior” group all around the Kanawha Valley and beyond. I do remember seeing Perfect Heart at the Mountain Mission when I was in Jr. High school right after they started, but you’re right, aside from NYE, there weren’t a lot of national groups that came through.

  4. I’ve messed around on Google Trends before. I don’t have time to go back there right now, but I don’t imagine that the initial peak for the different groups comes at the same time. I have usually noticed a peak corresponding with big-news items. In EH&SS, that probably corresponded with the news of their starting up. Not sure about Bill Gaither … I think it’s as you suggest, though. Many of us – at least myself – don’t Google an artist every time we want to find them. I wouldn’t necessarily don’t think the internet audience is shrinking.

    (Sorry to bring this up, but to illustrate what I said about news items, check out my favorite tenor singer on there. Look up George Younce, too – you’ll find, if I remember, a tremendous peak when he died, one which I’m sure I contributed to!)

    #2 – I find the geographical breakdown interesting, too.

  5. I missed some typo’s after all … Sorry, I’m in a hurry.

  6. I agree with #1.

  7. I don’t think that the SG internet audience is shrinking, I think it’s just that the internet audience just knows where the websites for their favorite groups are, and typically just go there and look up info on their favorite group(s). I normally only go to a few SG websites, myself, and when I DO google something SG, it is typically to look for pics of a group/singer, or to look up the website address of a new group that I heard sing on the radio.
    LeviSJ and Wes, it’s nice to see that there are other WV SG fans around here, besides me. I thought I was all alone. I live in North Central WV, and I agree that there are VERY few SG groups who come to our area. The only ones that I have actually seen in WV are: Greater Vision, Squire Parsons Trio, Anchormen(All 3 in Summersville), The Journeymen, and most recently Forgiven. I think that the reason that many people don’t know what SG is, is that SG artists have never been in there area. I know that if it weren’t for me being so nutz about SG half of my friends would’ve never have heard of SG music.

  8. I’m not sure of what it says exactly about the trend of the Southern Gospel genre itself. But speaking about myself, I know that I browse several sogo websites daily, but I have them all bookmarked for quick and easy access.

  9. #7 I have to agree. I came from rural, southern WV, so group names weren’t really as widespread, but just about every church in Lincoln Co. does only Southern Gospel. To get away from the rural areas though, even by a few miles, it’s amazing how little anyone else knows about it. You mention SoGo and they either think you mean the Gaithers or Mahalia Jackson.

    On a side note, I did get to see the Kingdom Heirs perform at UC when I was a student there. They parked their bus right behind my car–I was excited! Oh, and Greater Vision and the Steeles were there, too. (Paul’s Promotions, I believe, was the promoter). It was in February and there was a blizzard that night, so it took me an hour-and-a-half to drive the 30 minutes home.

  10. #7, don’t feel too bad, I live in Memphis, TN now, and concerts are not much more frequent here. Also, we have no SG radio in this area. At least you guys have 100.3 (if I remember correctly) that is Solid Gospel.

    I have a lot of family in Morgantown, even make it back up there occasionally to visit.

    #9, my parents sang a lot in Boone Co., and at the time it was the same way, most all of the churches did SG/hymns. Their bookings were relatively few in the immediate Charleston area and suburbs. Mostly they ended up singing in rural areas of Kanawha Co. or ventured in to Boone and surrounding counties that were primarily rural. That was 15+ years ago now, so things may have changed since then.

  11. #10 I live in Clarksburg, and we DID have 100.3 until about a year ago, when they stopped airing. Now all we have is 88.1 for about 2 hours in the mornings, and the internet radio broadcasts.

    #9 It’s true in this area as well, that the only SG that most people know of is the Gaithers. When I go to music stores, in this area, more than half the SG music I find is Gaithers.

  12. Google is not the only game in town – so it does not really tell the entire story. I personally use Google on occasion – even have an address there. But I use almost exclusively. There are hundreds of non-profit ministries that get a little $ for each search. At my business – I designate Prison Fellowship and at home Lois Lodge, a local (Charlotte, NC) Christian based residential facility for women with unplanned pregnancies. Visit for details and consider using on a regular basis.

    For SG – I rarely go to new sites. I check several blogs on a regular basis and on occasion go to specific groups’ sites to check their schedule.


  13. After checking out the stuff that Daniel linked to, I think my explanation is a little too simplistic. There are spikes here and there, true, but the general trend does slope down.

    I would be interested in knowing the actual numbers. If there are too few inquiries, Google Trends doesn’t show any graph at all (if it’s like it used to be), so is it really starting with 0? I saw a graph the other day that made 85 appear to be twice the amount of 82 by starting at 80. So how significant is the decline?

    It’s an interesting question.

  14. Just a thought….if there is less attraction for SG music, could it be that it’s become such a “business”, perhaps out of necessity, that it has lost some of its genuineness (is that a real word?) And, it doesn’t pay it get too attached to any one group because the chances are the members will change sooner rather than later. As for me, I’ll always be partial to SG music, but I don’t worship it now for reasons stated above, plus, we have access to so much information that while I esteem the singers, when I learn of their “human” side, it is often disappointing and doesn’t reflect the music they sing. I’d have to say my “feathers have been trimmed back” and I am more practical about it all.

  15. Since when has SG been scarse is W.V.?? You’re kidding, right?
    Seriously, most of the time multi-day sings up here have more groups singing from West Virginia than from Ohio. Anyone can go to the big sings in Canton and Cambridge to see that this is usually the case.

  16. Back on topic, post #1 and 7 raise very good points, which I personally beleive is the main answer to the blog topic’s question.

  17. [quote]#15(June 27, 2008, 4:04 pm)

    Since when has SG been scarse is W.V.?? You’re kidding, right?
    Seriously, most of the time multi-day sings up here have more groups singing from West Virginia than from Ohio. Anyone can go to the big sings in Canton and Cambridge to see that this is usually the case.[/quote]

    #15, are you talking about groups that are FROM WV or that come to WV? Because I think that I am not only speaking for myself but also for #2 and #3, when I say that we were talking about how few groups actually come and perform concerts in WV. I know for a fact that more SG concerts go on in OH than go on in WV, because I usually end up traveling 300 miles to Canton or Akron or Wooster, OH just to go to a concert. Now, some groups DO come to the WV area, (and I go to as many of those as I possibly can), but not as many as come to surrounding states.

  18. WV may have a lot of groups as exports, but we tend to have to export our groups to other states (like OH) for them to make ends meet financially.

  19. Ok, I see what you all mean. I was talking about groups FROM WV, not ones comming out of state into WV. It’s odd how that usually seems to be the case. A group’s geographic “home” , no matter where you are, generally isn’t as accepting of Southern Gospel as areas away from where they are based.
    An example, I know of about 2 or 3 groups based in Mansfield, Ohio’s general vicinity that very rarley ever get booked “in town”, or in Richland County. Mansfield is filled with many churches, but they just don’t book sings regulary.
    I personally have spent more time in Akron/Canton and Cambridge attending sings, which range between an hour and a half to a two hour drive or more from home, than anywhere else in the last several years.

  20. Ah well, I suppose the standard line for writers and speakers – “an ‘expert’ is someone fifty miles from home with a PowerPoint” – applies to SG. I imagine a lot of groups are like that.

    I will say, though, that Colonial City Quartet has done an excellent job maximizing its bookings in this area, singing at quite a few churches from different denominations.

  21. True, they are one of the few exceptions. They are fortunate indeed.

  22. I think it’s not entirely chance–after all, they have had 22 years to build up contacts in the area.

  23. Yes. They’ve had enough time to build up a solid reputation for quallity music.

  24. Hey, Daniel, I was just re-reading old posts, and saw that this was talking about traveling to the Akron/Canton area, and that got my mind working.
    I was in Massillon last week, cleaning out my grandma’s house, (’cause she died in Nov. and we have to get rid of it, and it’s full or JUNK) and we came across TONS of old Southern Gospel records. So, we found a guy to come take a look at them and buy some, and before he left we got to talikng, and he mentioned that he has a friend in the Mansfield area that comes to different singings in the Canton area sometimes, and then we got to talking about THIS guy. So, BTW, Nathan says “Hi!”. LOL!

  25. Oh, BTW, Daniel, some of those old records had never been opened, including some old Cathedrals ones.

  26. Neat! I remember Nathan–if you talk to him again, say “hi” back!

    Boy, I wish I had a bunch of extra money right now! πŸ™‚


  27. I’ll tell him if I see him, again, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to go back up there, ’cause school starts in a couple weeks.

    LOL! I wish I had a record player. πŸ™‚ πŸ˜›

  28. Look around at church rummage sales. Seriously. I got my old one and my older one πŸ˜‰ for less than $20 each.

  29. Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep my eyes open.

  30. I was just messing with Google Trends again, and found the Bill Gaither search interesting right now for another reason. (I’m not linking because the one in the OP still works.) South Africa is the largest originator of searches for him right now! The GVB one brings up both S Africa and Chile ahead of the US. Yet Signature Sound and Ernie Haase don’t bring up Africa at all.

    Just a random factoid. πŸ˜€

  31. That’s fascinating.