Thursday, August 13, 2009

Could Radio Stand to Play Multiple Singes By the Same Artist?

At Musicscribe's blog, where I also am a contributer, this discussion was brought up by David Bruce Murray. It is in relation to an artist releasing more than one single at a time. My response is this:

Interesting idea, David. The standard way of radio programming, and the way we program radio at Joy FM, allows for a very limited amount of slots for new singles.

Among that chunk of "currents" we have: a heavy, medium and light category.

As you can imagine, the heavy category is for a select few.

To keep a sound that is not focused too much on one artist, you'd have to limit an artist to one song in the heavy category.

If their second single was in a medium or light category at the same time, their heavy single would always usurp the right to be played first. Heavy is given priority. If the heavy song plays every 3 hours, more than likely, that artist would not be allowed to play much outside of that one song, without generating a rotation error.

If it did allow the second single to be play, it would negate any of that artist's classic songs from the past.

So... the focus would be 100% on the artist's two NEW songs with almost zero chance for that group's classic/recurrent/gold songs to play.

Hour 1: SONG A
Hour 2: SONG B
Hour 3: SONG A
Hour 4: SONG B

at this rate, we're playing that artist once per hour. Any more than that is probably oversaturated. Note that there is now no room for any other song by that artist. If you're a two-hit wonder, that's good. But if you've had huge success in the past, say goodbye to that brand recognition.

The risk there is this: we KNOW that Gold City's Midnight Cry was and still is a huge song. We're "not sure" about the next single they send out. *We* may like it, but who knows if will have the staying power of a Midnight Cry with the audience.

We'll take a chance on a good single to give it a shot to make an impact, but.......

Radio is going to bank on Midnight Cry as being a song we can count on getting a good reaction. Putting something else on with such exclusive airplay in place of Midnight Cry is a risk.

(having said all that, sometimes risks are worth taking!)

I still like your idea; it's thinking outside the box, outside of the current system, and asking the right questions. I think if radio thinks outside the box, too, we could find a way to adapt.

-Daniel Britt


Monday, April 27, 2009

5-Member Gaither Vocal Band Review

I don't know how to say what I want to say. There's not really any good way to put it into words. The Gaither Vocal Band is on fire. Mark Lowry jokes about it being the "recycled Gaither Vocal Band." I say: "Hardly!" I saw them for the first time in Greensboro, NC this weekend and could not believe the sound would be this good. I have heard from so many that this was THE best concert in a long, long time. Just when you think the Homecoming tour might be slowing, watch out! Signature Sound was great, Collingsworth Family is amazing, Lynda, Janet, Ben, Gordon, Kevin ... it's a great combo. Nothing but good things to say. Of course, I'm a fan - but this was "ridiculously good" as my co-host Melody would say!

Another thrill was having a private reception with Joy FM donors 2 hours before the show. Imagine the surprise on everyone's faces when Ben Speer, Janet Paschal, Gordon Mote, Kevin Williams, Rory Rigdon, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Bill Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band showed up!! GVB and EHSS even sang a few songs. I hope to have some video clips soon of that excitement.

-Daniel Britt (


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jesus & John Wayne

As I put pen to paper, at the radio station where I work, we have had to delete a song that has received a ton of complaints. (I did not like doing it, but the people really do have a voice.) At the risk of sounding self-righteous in my understanding of the song's meaning, and putting down people for being narrow minded Christians (certainly not my goal), I do have a few questions that are meant to be my attempt at understanding something that is so basic to the message of the Gospel.

The song is "Jesus and John Wayne," performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

The meaning of the song, in my mind, is as follows:

-Christians are just as human as non-Christians

-we live in a fallen world, so when you get 51% right, rejoice!

-our sin is not the issue, Christ's love, grace, and endless forgiveness is the issue. We obsess so much on our sin, when Christ took care of that on the cross. It's covered! We instead should obsess on Him.

-God loves us on our good days and He loves us on our bad days

-Sanctification (the process of getting better and better) is the work of the Holy Spirit, not ours. If it's up to us to get better, I don't have a prayer.

Now, maybe they don't like the sound of the song. Maybe it's not catchy enough. Maybe it sounds elementary. Maybe it's too country. But, why do some think the song is comparing Jesus to John Wayne (it's not) or giving a brief for sin (it's not doing that either)?

"Jesus and John Wayne" is simply an expounded illustration in lyric of Paul's frustration in saying "the good I want to do, I don't do and the evil I don't want to do, that's what I do."

This quote from a Bible teacher I heard the other day, Dr. Brown, is quite profound: "The only people that get any better are the ones who know that if they don't get any better, God will still love them anyway."

That truth is freeing.

Didn't our guy say that?

"You shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free."

So my original question: why are so many Christians afraid of that message? Why so much hatred of this song?

I'd honestly like to know. It's times like these that make me want to run! Or, to quote another line from Dr. Brown, makes me consider going into vinyl repair for a living!

-Daniel Britt


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Southern Gospel added to Sirius lineup, survives XM merger

It's no longer a mystery or secret to keep. Tell the world! Southern Gospel programming not only survives the Sirius-XM merger, but flourishes on BOTH satellite platforms!

enLighten and its programs, including Daniel Britt & Friends and The Gospel Greats, will continue to be heard on both XM at channel 34 and on Sirius at channel 67.

In addition, the Gaither Homecoming Radio show is added to the enLighten family of programming.

Early estimates that I've seen for the combined Sirius+XM audience ranges as low as 17 million, and as high as 19 million. (The official number released by Sirius XM PR is "18 million.")

Another byproduct of this merger is the continued partnership between XM & DirecTV and Sirius & Dish Network. These satellite television services provide a simulcasted audio feed to their subscribers.

Certainly unofficial, I did a quick tabulation of subscribers to XM, Sirius, DirecTV, and Dish Network, and came up with a ballpark just under 50 million subscribers.

While that's strictly a very quick ballpark, it shows that Southern Gospel has a real chance to prove itself to an incredibly large number of people. Let us not disappoint!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sinning Singers: Aren't They All?

I was thinking and reading and formulating my thoughts recently on Christian artists/entertainers and their personal lives and struggles (read: sin). The biggest challenge to what I'm about to write is to not come across self righteous about self righteousness. And it's really hard. But here goes:

Fact 1: We all have sin in our lives. We all have secrets that would horrify us if word got out.

Fact 2: Your most favorite Gospel artist is a sinner. Regardless of how it is rated in our minds, he or she is still a sinner.

I believe that if you are going to be in the professional music scene, then you have to accept the “celebrity” baggage that comes with a successful career. That is, if you get divorced, people will find out about it and you can't hide it. If you cheat on your taxes, and get caught, the industry will know. If you abuse drugs and get caught, your fans will hear about it. I also believe there are some things even celebrities have the right to insist on being private -- some things are built in to "human decency" and should always remain private. (I don’t need to know which artist had a fight last night with their spouse and all the details therein. I don’t need to know what brand of underwear so-and-so wears or even how much money they really make. Those things are really, truly, none of my business).

But, at the same time, if I never knew one ounce of "dirt" on an artist and even though they may be the most "dirty" one of us all, if I'm not distracted by that, his or her music can still minister.

And some may be totally turned off to listening to anything a "known sinner" has to say or sing. I can understand that to a degree. (Sometimes I think it may be more of "our" problem with putting singers on a pedestal of holiness than anything else, although that's another topic for another day).

I hope, on the other hand, that we can be honest to know that we've got secrets just as bad as the artist has. Ours just may not have been "found out publicly" yet.

I like the advice of Spurgeon when presented the problem of a pastor who sinned publicly. The advice: Let him sit on the back row of the church until his repentance becomes as notorious as his sin.

Maybe we should look at the definition of "public sinning." I'm not sure what all would be included, although, in the case of Imus: that would be a "public" situation.

If a SG artist blatantly sinned in front of a crowd on stage, that would be a "public" situation.

And the time needed to sit on the back row certainly would vary. For some people, it may take longer to make the repentance known.

(And by the way, as a side note, I’ve been taught and believe the Greek word for repentance is metanoia which is not change but instead to change one's mind; knowing who you are, who God is, what you've done and going to him with it. God does the changing work.)

No matter how much some artists repent, they're still shunned from the larger Christian community.

So, the problem still is and probably always will be: God will forgive & forget, but his people don't always.

God doesn't put "level" on sin. We do and there are some things we're willing to put up with and “allow” more than others.

Christians are supposed to be accepting of sinners (we’re still beggars, we just found bread). We’re supposed to love to each other (again, even the really bad sinners). The church is to be a soft and safe place (it has drifted from that in many cases).

And the church is to apply discipline in the case of non-repentance.

I'm afraid it seems there is too much "discipline" being applied to those who have already repented.

And by the way, why are we so concerned with how much the singers are sinning anyway? I mean, if you really, really, really get down to the heart of the matter: not sinning isn't even the point.

Jesus is the point.

We can't even sit together at his feet 'cause we're too worried about who has disappointed us lately with their scandals.

The scandals aren't the "main attraction."

Jesus is.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Take on "Quality" Radio

Averyfineline recently posted his thoughts on "Quality" in radio programming. (I am starting to enjoy reading the reader's comments just as much as I do Avery himself). A comment by Tim was posted, to which I had to respond. Here's what Tim said:

I program music across three formats and chart nationally for SG and AC. I find that SG music can me the easiest or the most difficult music to program.

The easy route is to take about 6 -7 of the comp discs that come in each month and throw them in the trash immediately, without even listening to them.

(Hey, make it really easy and stick with the Big Five Comps and chuck the rest. NO ONE WILL MISS IT, become better by omission. I'm all in favor of "Southern Gospel Hit Radio" for the musically challenged DJ/MD.)

You and your listeners will never miss the music. You will be able to establish "brand identity" in your market and with your listeners. You will have less of a chance to play a dud. Remember, it's not radio's primary goal to give exposure to unknown groups.

The more difficult path, which requires an ear for entertainment (not necessarily an ear for music - there is a difference, you can sing with perfect pitch and bore the socks off of people), is to give these lesser known groups 15 seconds of your time. That's all it takes to determine if a song has a chance - that's all the dial scanner listens to before deciding to stay or go. You might find something interesting. However, remember the words of Shrek, "better out than in, I always say".

The average listener doesn't need a huge playlist of 1000's of artists. They would rather listen to groups that they know - friends along the way. Too many "strangers" makes people uncomfortable. People like familiar faces.

Boy, I resonate with what Tim had to say. I agree that if you really have an ear for the "entertainment factor," then you can take more risks in that direction and break molds, get creative and do some really incredible things for your station.

However, If you don't have that ear of discernment, it would be best to stick to the stuff that will give you the brand identity and become a "top 40" SG station as opposed to another cheap sounding station.

Bottom line is to play better music, which is subjective I know. But at the most basic level, even if you aren't a good judge at what "good" is, then follow the known success stories in SG.

In time, you should recognize the patterns that create successful songs and you can recognize it in other, new, up-and-coming artists too. Don't try to scout out talent if you really aren't a good judge to begin with. (And I realize we all think we know best... this is where it's also very important to look at retail, the marketplace, and at solid research).

We certainly need more of a Simon mentality in what we allow on the air. Too many of us are sweet and insipid when it comes to giving unknowns a chance. Everything these days is so watered down, everybody wins, everybody does a good job and nobody is a loser.

And I've been so guilty of letting stuff slide through myself....

I repent.

It has been said that SG audiences are a weird bunch. I agree. The audiences demand a lot of low quality stuff at times. It boggles the mind at what people will buy and go crazy over. But what's the cause of that mentality? Could it be that if you're spoon fed stale rice cakes all your life, you may learn to love it so much to a fault where you become turned off and repulsed by the smell of prime rib and roasted potatoes?

Radio needs to lock up the rice cakes and save it for the times of famine and pestilence.

(And in the words of Chuck Peters, let me know if I can help!)


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

PR Photography: Spit Out Your Gum!

I'm honestly not doing anything here but having a good laugh. No hard feelings are meant by this post; please don't read that into this.

I opened a Press Release via email recently with this high-resolution, professionally photographed image of Eighth Day announcing a talent search to replace a member of their team. This image is what I saw:

A closer look, thanks to such high resolution, shows that Mr. D in the middle likes his chewing gum!


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Does the 'Christian Music Genre' Still Exist?

We talk a lot about putting labels on the "style" of music, but consider this question:

Does the 'Christian Music Genre' Still Exist?

If the answer to this question is "no, not really," then what is "Christian Radio" to do? No longer is it a choice between "sacred" and "secular." And frankly, God has always used whatever and whoever he wants anyway.

Is it a day of reckoning with this dichotomy of life we live?

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Does the 'Christian Music Genre' Still Exist?
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

There is a real catch-22 with it and I could argue both sides.


Friday, March 16, 2007

The Risks of Creativity

At, the topic of Table Sales came up. Throughout the comments on that post, the topic shifted somewhat to "custom projects" versus "record label projects."

One poster said that the custom, table-projects are often great projects in their own right, once the artist is free from following the wishes of a label executive.

I replied with my thoughts on the subject:

You have a point, Ron. I thought about this some during the conference at Crossroads. Because I've often heard the complaint from artists that record companies dictate what you record and, in their opinion, stifle the artist's own creativity (which is probably what attracted the record deal in the first place).

How often has one heard the complaint that "I liked them better before they 'made it big' and were signed? They were producing better, more original creativity on their custom/table projects."

HOWEVER, I tend to agree with how the record companies think, too. IF you have an artist who really is a creative genius and innovative with his music, then the record company probably is smart enough to let that artist run their own show. Realistically, though, how many artists are good talents, so-so at creativity, but still need a bit of seasoned help from the record company with whom they are signed? I think this may be the case for the majority.

So, just as remixes are popular, I'd like to see both angles and, from a fan's standpoint, choose for myself: "do I like the record company version of the artist or the artist's version of the artist?"

For the sake of good business, you'd probably have to side with the record company.

For the sake of variety and possibly a surprise-success, you'd look forward to see what the artist can do on their own.

Risk is risky which is why we don't see more of it.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Yes, Virginia. We are taking over Southern Gospel.

As most of the other participants have already acknowledged, there was a summit of sorts in Asheville, NC on Friday.

I was a part of it; so were Mr. Averyfineline, Douglas Harrison; Mr. Musicscribe, David Bruce Murray; Mr. SouthernGospelBlog, Daniel J. Mount; from Crossroads: Mickey Gamble, Chris White, Jim Stover, and Scott Wagner; from Vine: Kevin Ward and Wayne Haun.

It was 1) a good dialogue of ideas, both from the record industry reps and from us guests and 2) filled with examples of how the business really works and what is really going on in the current state of the genre.

Key points, rhetoricals, and topics that I took away (although not necessarily in agreement with them all) include the following:

-Record companies are the financiers of the industry and are often last in line to get paid

-Song writers are, probably, the most important piece to the S.G. puzzle

-Without good songs to sing, the best singers in the world are (for the most part) useless

-Most albums today are filled with filler instead of outstanding songs; this is due to how often a new record is churned out, and lack of artist direction by the record companies

-Suggested changes to the album problem: let a record last for longer than 18months and only record songs that are individually, stand-alone hits in their own right; or, if you must record a new project more often, only cut a handful of GREAT songs that can receive the proper amount of dedication (read: spend more $$ on a few good songs than spreading your budget out over more tunes).

-Radio needs to play more currents to better the industry

-There may be no compelling reason to convince radio to play more currents, unless the audience absolutely demands it or ad revenue rates increase as a result of it

-There are almost no major market radio outlets representing S.G.

-There is a cashola/payola case currently being taken care of in S.G.

-Chart reform is necessary

-Performers need more "candy" to offer the fans of today's "A.D.D.-give-me-more-more-more culture"

-Gaither did not necessarily revive a "dying" industry in the early 90's

-The industry was not necessarily "dying" in the early 90's

-Gaither is a great example of quality; his success is based on quality; no one can deny it

-Gaither's success benefits Gaither more than it benefits the genre as a whole

-SoundScan monitors sales from major retailers

-SoundScan prohibits monitoring of record table sales in church settings

-Most groups appear to care less about retail (other than their own record sales)

-Good ministry is achieved best when there is good business

-If you're into ministry only and don't care about anything else (quality, business, popularity, etc.), then stay out of the business side altogether. Go minister, get your eyes off the $$, keep your calls away from radio, and don't hire a producer to enhance your sound

-Don't go 7 hours in a meeting with record company execs without taking a bathroom break

-The Southern Gospel feast is spread over a long, long table and there is room enough for you (if you sing correctly, hopefully)

-Good is usually subjective when speaking of music (e.g. Inspirations, Russ Taff, and Cynthia Clawson are all good singers; they sing notes well and can follow a beat. The fact that you may not like one sound over another doesn't make them bad, just different)

-I related S.G. to Polka. There isn't enough demand to warrant an individual radio format for their sub-genres. In other words, to create a Bluegrass S.G. format to please those fans, a quartet S.G. format to please those fans, and a progressive S.G. format to please those fans would be great, but I just don't think the marketplace would support them individually. One industry-ite admitted to being treated (albeit professionally) like "Polka" when representing Southern Gospel to the larger music community

-If S.G. were not as varied as it is, however, would it appeal to as many (different kinds of) people?

There was more, but for now, this is what comes to mind. Again, check David Bruce Murray, Averyfineline, and Daniel J. Mount for more perspectives on the summit.


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Southern Gospel look-alikes

This link is a hoot. It's on Steve Weatherford's website (Steve is the son of Earl & Lily Fern Weatherford). Be prepared to laugh a lot as you note the resemblance and see the side by side pictures of secular celebs next to our beloved Gospel singers.

...And I KNEW Danny Jones looked a lot like George Costanza!

(in case you wonder, Peter Furler of the Newsboys is NOT a SG artist, but he is the grandson-in-law of Eva Mae LeFevre)


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How much can radio "risk?"

In the radio world, there's a never-ending debate on how stations should choose new music and new artists.

I think it comes down to how much your station can afford to risk adding "unknown" artists to your airwaves.

I thought about this some more yesterday and here's the debate I keep having with myself:

If your station is in a ratings game, about making money and being successful -- then the station cannot afford a lot of opportunities to "break in" new artists. That's why I believe in playing only known, recognizable groups or artists. Granted, there are no guarantees anywhere, but I'd wager a whole lot more on a Gaither Vocal Band song, Gold City song, Greater Vision, or Hoppers song. These groups have hard numbers that tell me they have done extremely well in the past, so I have more evidential reasons to trust these winners. After all, if you're into ratings, success and playing the songs that people are buying, how can you lose?

Sure, if you have a really strong gut feeling on an unknown, then roll with it -- but again, it goes back to how much your station can afford. I think that it is a risk to start airing a group/artist that has no proven track record of sales, following, hit songs, etc.

Now, the other side of the debate is if your station has a lot of room for error...if you're a non-profit and don't care about ratings, and can afford to play possible "duds" and have a patient audience who will sit through lesser known stuff, even if they don't like it -- then, you have far more freedom to fill your playlists with good quality new music by people we've never heard of. This thought would also apply to stations that are totally ministry oriented and only want to focus on the messages of songs, not the messenger. If a station is that extreme (like some stations that won't even announce the singer's name), then what does it matter, so long the message and quality is good?

By no means do I know it all or have it all figured out, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this. As someone already said, we'll probably continue to debate it 'til the cows come home and still not have one definitive answer, but discussion is good for creativity and growth. Send me an email or leave a blog comment. I'm willing to stand corrected!

UPDATE: I know my thoughts may sound extreme, but I really do agree: there should be a balance. I just think the scales should lean heavily to the side of "known" artists and only a few of the exceptional unknowns that blow your socks off should be aired (again, this philosophy is for stations that desire the broadest audience).

One issue that keeps coming up is the attitude that "if radio doesn't break an artist, how will that artist get played?" Is it really radio's job to be a talent scout? Radio doesn't HAVE to allow that music a chance. What rule is there that says we're obligated? Our job is not to find new talent and give a break to up-and-comings, unless that's what your station's success model is based on. Maybe I'm not cynical enough yet, but I still believe that if you're doing good music and have some savvy business skills, you should be on your way to success (including radio airplay). It may not be overnight (probably won't be), but a grassroots movement starts to take hold and soon you become one of the successful, proven track record artists that is profitable for radio to play.

(Lest you think I'm catering to big labels, I'm not. That is only one of many measuring rods. I don't play a song/artist just because it's on a major label, but it does make a good impression).

Some have even said that by only playing the top sellers, you're playing a game of follow-the-leader. With all due respect, I'd rather follow a leader than follow a one-hit wonder.

But, having said all of what I've said, I think it boils down to this:

If you're talking about creating a "revolution" within the Southern Gospel music industry (in other words, SG stations competing against other SG stations to attract listeners), then take a radical approach of putting EVERY ARTIST on an even playing field, irregardless of popularity or past commercial success and consider every single song that crosses your desk. You air the songs that are of high quality and have good messages, period. Then, you'll have a library of new artists and legendary artists and you honestly are not discriminating based on name recognition at all. I really do think you would have a fresh, new sound -- one that is so different I'm sure it would be successful in that environment. Yes, there is more risk, but if it works - it's incredible!

But, if you're trying to pit your SG station up against secular counterparts (which I believe is the case with most SG stations -- there aren't many who are competing with another cross-town SG station), then I believe you've got to attract them with the commercial success stories like Crabb, Gaither, Cathedrals, Booth Bros, Martins, Easters, etc... I imagine it's a lot like promoting a concert in your area. Which concert is more likely to sell-out: no-name indie group or a big-name million seller? That really is the only point I'm making here.

-Daniel Britt


Friday, December 22, 2006

How does the rest of the world see Southern Gospel music?

I work at a station in Atlanta that, musically speaking, is hard to define. We play a mix of Contemporary Christian Music, Southern Gospel, and Inspirational. It really is a schizophrenic/A.D.D. variety, but people love it since most have tastes that are fairly eclectic when it comes to music.

So, since we're not easily defined, one of the biggest problems we have is this:

Die-hard CCM fans categorize us as Southern Gospel and
Die-hard Southern Gospel fans categorize us as CCM

Which brings me to this question: How loosely does the non-Christian world define what Southern Gospel is?

As I've said before, progressive Southern Gospel may upset traditional fans, but the world still will file it away as Southern Gospel. We can define the genre any way we want, but will that make any difference in the way the world sees it and makes it their reality?

-Daniel Britt


Friday, August 04, 2006

Programming Radio

I was once taught throughout my radio career that you should only play the best of the best. And one aspect of that is not having way too many songs in the library. You are not playing the absolute best songs if you take too long to come back around to something familiar to the listener.

It may contradict the "variety" type argument, but to that, I was told that people don't know what they want. They say they want variety, but they really want what they know (the solid gold songs they can sing with).

I once programmed a station this way:

---I only played artists that were recognizable to our audience (Gaither artists, major quartets, the ones creating a buzz).

---I rarely added songs that were not by a major name and if I added a lesser known group, it was after much prodding from that feeling in my gut.

---Quite often, even if the group or artist was well known, if the song wasn't a great song, it didn't get added. Again it comes in to play that if you have thousands of songs in your library... big chance they all aren't great or the best of the best. And if you adopt that principal, then you begin to think in terms of "limited real estate" and you ask yourself "is this song really worth filling up library space?"

Radio is not a talent scout. It's not our focus to search out and find young, new talent. If outstanding new talent shows up and is amazing, run with it and beat the masses. But, I would dare say that risking more than 1 or 2 horizon groups a year is too many for a successful station.

By the way, the Singing News didn't like it that I limited my new releases to such big name artists. They said I was not representing Southern Gospel as a whole. They eventually disqualified me from reporting ... (and this was Atlanta!) I learned fast that if you aren't allowed to honestly report what you play, then the dissolved charting relationship is best.

I found more time in my day, too!
-Daniel Britt


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Crabb Marketing - not bad!

I just received an email from the Crabb Family's newsletter. Here's a screen shot (click to enlarge):

The email went on to say:

We are excited to announce CCM Magazine's growing coverage as The Crabb Family's ministry grows into new territory. CCM has devoted space in at least two of the next issues to present the lives, music and ministry of The Crabb Family! Show your support by purchasing a subscription to CCM here.
Plus, in a partnership with CCM Magazine, a portion of your purchase will go to benefit The Crabb Family ministry! And you'll be sending a message to CCM that fans of The Crabb Family are ready to Blur the Lines!
Here's what Jason Crabb has to say about CCM Magazine: "I can't wait each month until I get my copy of the latest CCM Magazine. The whole family enjoys keeping up with what our friends on the road are doing. Plus, we like the pictures."
Subscribe Today!

Not bad when you can actively sell Singing News AND CCM subscriptions... I have previewed the Blur the Lines project and remember making a comment that it is going to be big. For those who complain and say that it's not Southern Gospel, I say: Play the Crabb Family for contemporary music fans and they'll call it Southern Gospel all day long.

I love the traditional sounds--it's what attracted me to the music! But everything changes and the 1950's style of Southern Gospel is different from the 1980's style. What we're hearing from these "progressive" groups today is simply the natural "evolution" of Southern Gospel.

I think the different flavors of Southern Gospel has given the genre a wider appeal. Kind of the "if you don't like this song, just hang'll change in a minute" philosophy. The Isaacs may be too bluegrass for you, but hang on...Gold City is next.

In related Crabb/Blur-the-Lines news:

XM Radio Announces Crabb Family Day - WASHINGTON, DC--The Crabb Family is set to be the featured artist for Tuesday, May 2nd on XM Satellite Radio's Channel 34 (enLighten) . The day will include excerpts from the brand new album, Blur The Lines, along with numerous other Crabb Family hits, commercial free. Crabb Family Day will begin at 10:00am ET and conclude at 9:00pm ET with the best of the Crabb Family being featured at the top of each hour. The Crabb siblings are the first Southern Gospel artist to have a featured day on the station. "The Crabb Family is very honored that XM Radio would believe in our music to the extent of adding a station that plays only Southern Gospel music 24 hours a day. There is added enthusiasm knowing that Blur The Lines and the Crabb Family will be featured during their broadcast this Tuesday. Many of the Crabb Family members are XM subscribers. How exciting that Southern Gospel music and the Crabb Family are now part of the XM Satellite Radio world," stated Kelly Bowling, the Crabb Family. "Dan Dixon and I are looking forward to doing many exciting things here on enLighten," says Program Director Marlin Taylor, "now that we are truly America's Southern Gospel music station, including setting aside a day from time to time to salute one of Southern Gospel's leading groups. We feel it's significant that we kick off this series with the Crabbs, who are leading the way in exposing Southern Gospel to new audiences." For more information on XM Satellite Radio, check out

I'm glad to see such creative promotions on XM and not just a seldom-updated juke box format.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

What is Southern Gospel?

My father-in-law is writing a paper on the history of Southern Gospel Music. He asked me for my input on 1) the different styles of SG and 2) SG today. I sat down and, in basically an hour's time, came up with the following. Keep in mind that I didn't do any formal research for this, I simply sat and wrote based on my opinion and what I would tell someone if asked about these topics. Disagree if you'd like. More "scientific" works have been published, such as "Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel" written by Dr. Jerry Goff, "Music in the Air: The Golden Age of Gospel Radio" written by Mark Ward, Sr., and "Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music" written by David Bruce Murray. There are also biographies of many beloved Gospel legends available, such as Vestal Goodman's and Bill Gaither's.

Here are my thoughts:

Styles within Southern Gospel

  • Traditional is what many may associate with a quartet style or standard mixed-group sound that features unique four-part harmonies with high tenors, low basses and a 4/4 time pattern. Songs are usually straight-forward and simple: several verses with a familiar chorus that is referred back to several times throughout the song.

  • Convention-style is what is referred to as a branch of the traditional style that focuses heavily on shape note singing. It's a very cut-and-dry way of singing. The songs may contain emotion and passion, but usually do not exhibit any "fancy" deviation from the written music. (One usually sticks to the notes on the page and sings as-is without adding or improvising).

  • Progressive Southern Gospel incorporates or borrows from a contemporary sound and matches it with one of the more traditional styles. The most common "borrowed" sounds are pop, progressive country (often referred to as a Nashville sound), inspirational, and urban. The best way to describe how an otherwise traditional sound is made "progressive" is to think of a song being given a pop flair (or an urban beat, or use of new technology to produce more of an electronic sound). Usually, groups that fall under a progressive sound also fit well under a traditional sound when given the opportunity to "just sing" with a piano and bass. Some examples are The Gaither Vocal Band, Gold City Quartet, Karen Peck & New River, The Nelons, Signature Sound Quartet, The Crabb Family, and Janet Paschal.

  • Bluegrass has been closely aligned with Southern Gospel, although there is a difference between the two. Usually the twangy mountain bluegrass sound is replaced with tighter harmonies and a more polished delivery, while the instrumentation and bluegrass-style of composition sticks. Groups that have used their bluegrass heritage to produce a popular new sound of Southern Gospel are The Isaacs, The Bishops, and The Crabb Family.
    Mountain Gospel music is a bit different than bluegrass. If you take the traditional Southern Gospel sound (especially the conventional sound) and marry it with the less-polished delivery of bluegrass, you'll have an example of down home mountain Gospel singing. Two groups that immediately come to mind are The Inspirations and The McKameys. Their talent is no less than the other styles; you'll just notice their sound is uniquely "mountain."

  • Black Southern Gospel is characterized by artists like Charles Johnson & The Revivers, The Reggie Saddler Family, Jessy Dixon, Lynda Randle, Andre Crouch, Babbie Mason, Larnelle Harris, and Alvin Slaughter. Listening to very traditional sounds of Black Gospel like the Blind Boys of Alabama or the Fairfield Four will give you an idea of the similarities between white and black gospel music. Jessy Dixon and Lynda Randle have brought unique sounds, blending their personal roots in black gospel with the songs closely aligned with white southern gospel to provide a "country/western meets soul and blues" sound that is appealing to lovers of both styles.

  • Country Gospel music has probably one of the most straight-forward definitions: anything the sounds like what the secular country music genre is producing. Obviously it has a wide range as well. Some people associate "old country church hymns" as being Country Gospel, while others associate the sound of a steel guitar, southern drawls like Merle Haggard or Hank Williams, and story-songs that grab emotions to be what defines "Country." I think both associations are accurate: "On The Wings of A Snow White Dove" is just as much a Country Gospel song as is Randy Travis’ recent hit "Three Wooden Crosses." Examples of Country Gospel artists are: Jeff & Sheri Easter, The McRaes, Randy Travis, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Mike Bowling.

Southern Gospel Today

The music today falls into two main categories: concerts and churches. Most groups use both to expand their reach.

Concert venues are generally seen as more entertainment, usually charge an admission for the show, have concessions that are for sale, give time for an intermission and feature multiple groups sharing the stage while an emcee or host moves the night along. There is usually a heavy push for the artist's product available for purchase in a foyer or lobby.

The Bill Gaither Homecoming series is an example of a highly-successful concert production. Gaither has outsold other secular music acts in tickets sales, artists like Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.

Church venues are typically used more to aid in worship or to minister. These appearances are usually less showy and are more straight-laced than concerts. Admission is rare, but a love offering is common. Interestingly enough, product tables are almost always setup and promoted at church events as well. One common way for a church to land a big name in Southern Gospel is through connections and last-minute bookings where the group is traveling from point A to point B and has an open date in between the two. The group's booking agency will contact area churches and offer a low-cost booking option in exchange for the group to fill its schedule last-minute.

While there are some groups who only perform at concert venues, there aren't many who only sing to church groups. When given the chance to perform at a civic hall or on an arena stage, Southern Gospel artists usually take it. Since the music is Christian at its root, artists argue that regardless of "concert" or "church," ministry still exists and is the main goal. It is, as Bill Gaither's biographical title states it, "More Than The Music."

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


During a sermon recently at my church, our pastor was teaching from the book of Jonah. I'm sure I thought "another sweet sermon about this nice kid-friendly story about a whale."

But, then something in the scriptures jumped out at me:

God used Jonah - a man who didn't want to be used by God!

I've often heard the saying that "If you have the desire, then God can use even you...." But, evidently God can use whoever and whatever he wants, regardless of their say in the matter. He's God and we don't get a vote.


Friday, January 13, 2006


"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart." - C.S. Lewis


Friday, February 25, 2005

David Phelps: The Best Singer Ever

David Phelps This is by far one of the BEST male vocalists EVER! If you think I'm biased, partial, or kidding -- take this challenge:


Prove to me he's not and I'll send you a free CD...

...of David Phelps! :)


Monday, December 27, 2004

Trash Day after Christmas

It's garbage day in my neighborhood... which means you have to roll the garbage can out by the curb. It's also trash day... when the guys come around to pickup the big stuff along with tree limbs and leaves. On my drive this morning it was quite fun to see nearly every house with a ton of trash out by the roads. A lot of the trash as you can imagine is leftover from Christmas... like an empy television box... and even a box for a trampouline someone received this year... Who knew you could box up a trampouline? I started to think about it though - the trash that is - and it reminded me of a principal that Larry Burkett used to teach: You can learn a lot about a person by going through their trashcan. Larry used that principal to shed light on what is important to someone financially: where is their money going? Look at the receipts, junk food, and other packaging. But, in a day where it seems like you don't even know your neighbor – it helped me learn a bit more about mine. The house with the trampouline surprised me 'cause I didn't even know there were kids there. I would have guessed an older couple; maybe it's for their grandkids. Either way, when trash day comes around your neighborhood this week, take a look at the boxes on the curb – you might be surprised at what they can pack into them these days!


Thursday, December 09, 2004


Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas. And to those who teach us to say Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings, May I say Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!

So there.

Without Christmas, there'd be no Easter; there'd be no Hope.

Have a Merry one!