Kudos to Gerald Jones (http://www.DaGospelTruth.com) for the “open letter” to The Stellar Awards. Dialogue is always good; apparently lots of people in the beloved industry have the same sentiments. Thanks Mr. Jones for initiating the conversation.
First, congratulations to Central City Productions for staging The Stellar Awards for 32 years. That’s a milestone; I can only imagine the challenges they’ve faced over the years. I know how hard they work to do the production annually. Let me be clear…it ain’t no joke. Tons (plural) of financial responsibilities, contracts, music clearances, union demands (for the crew working the show) and other woes that most could never imagine. #APPRECIATE the staff @ CCP and its massive group of volunteers for producing the show.
It would take GIGANTIC, MAJOR dollars to do a better Stellar Awards. Whether you realize it or not “gospel music” CANNOT and does not demand the same ($$$) from advertising agencies as The Grammys or Country Music Awards. Why? Glad you ask. To many folk pimping the industry in one way or another; minimizing the value of black gospel music to advertisers. This is a business (not a church program) and until we learn that “gospel music” won’t get same kind of advertising support as other similar awards programs.
What’s the remedy? “The saints” need to learn to make advertisers feel the impact of their spending or lack thereof. Can’t tell you how many corporations and media buyers perceive the church audience as a religious group and feel if they “contribute” to one religious group (without expecting anything in return) they’re obligating themselves to contribute to others too. That’s the wrong perception; it needs to be changed. We need more experienced people passionate about selling the church crowd as a viable, conscientious consumer group with measurable, disposable income. Most advertisers think if they sponsor events with the big urban station in the market that they’re reaching the lion share of the audience. That’s not true. I know from grassroots marketing experience that their are folk who aren’t interested in hip hop or r&b programming but they’ll listen to gospel music programming 24/7/365. In fact, Nielsen radio data consistently shows gospel music radio stations typically have great (tsl) time spent listening ratings which significantly increases the possibility of hearing the commercial (with the good deal) and it translating into sales for the business.
Another MAJOR issue is way to many “church folk” still looking for a handout or sneakin’ in the back door and NOT supporting gospel music enterprises with ticket sales and buying merchandise. Y’all know what I’m talkin’ about. Some of you promoters reading this have gone out on a limb (lost your shirt) staging gospel concerts in venues that seat 1000+ people and only 50 folk showed up. #SMH #DOA (dead on arrival).
The Stellar Awards is a privately owned entity; cannot be compared to BET’s “Celebration of Gospel” (owned by Viacom/CBS Television Network) that has access to tons of resources and money to produce a glitzier TV show not to mention their access to artists with bigger “star power”. If you want to see a better Stellar Awards then tell Central City Productions in writing (that’s always more impressive) “what” you want to see, support the show and even more important patronize ALL the sponsors.
Furthermore, there’s a reason you keep seeing the same folk performing on The Stellar Awards. These artists with MASSIVE CD sales nationwide and are recognizable to MAJOR advertisers willing to sponsor a national awards show for black gospel music. Name recognition is a big factor in getting financial support. When The Stellar Awards starts securing sponsors would your name ADD any value and help convince a sponsor to write a big enough check to produce a better show? Would your name on the marquee convince a major television network or even the local affiliates to air the show? Nothing personal. It’s all business and name recognition is key.
Let’s talk about “Independents” for a moment. The Stellar Awards job is not to put unrecognizable, independent talent on TV to make them famous. Truth be told that’s what a lot of y’all want. One hit wonders with absolutely no track record of success in CD sales. #STELLARAWARDS task is to showcase those artists that have built successful national brands and have sold a lot of product. I know you might not like what I just said but #TRUTHISPOWER. Additionally, TV audiences typically don’t watch a show with unrecognizable talent. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. We’re all guilty of (with remote in hand) flipping through the channels and running across something on television and saying “Who’s that?” and keep flipping the channels until we find something we recognize…right? The Stellar Awards has to book celebrities on the show to create a TV audience particularly for the sponsors selling product and services; looking for a (roi) return on the investment for advertising. Also, recognizable talent absolutely determines whether or not a TV One Network or any other television station for that matter will air the show. Been in the broadcasting business for over 30 years; perhaps my knowledge is helping you understand how this thing works. I hope so.
A lot of gospel singers are clueless about good business. Won’t return phone calls or respond to emails in a timely manner or if they do respond they make totally ridiculous demands. Now, far be it for me to point out certain issues in our industry and not offer solutions. Perhaps in addition to being a great minstrel you should take a class to learn good business principles so you can grow your music enterprise to the next level to get better national recognition. No offense, but some of y’all are legends in your own mind and aren’t recognizable beyond your own city limits. In fact, how many CD’s have you sold at home? If we pulled up a Sound Scan report (indicating number of CD’s sold nationwide) would your name be anywhere on the list? Have you invested in a bar code and the digital equipment to collect legitimate data & keep up with how much product you sell at gigs monthly? Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Some of you “boot-leggin”, rippin’ yo self off and wondering why you’re no further along than you were 5 years ago. Until you’ve sold 15-20 thousand units to your local audience (and have the real data to prove it) you’re not ready for a national platform. And for every church that knows you I guarantee their are probably 10-15 more churches in your area that aren’t acquainted with you. Win at home first, then regionally and perhaps someday you’ll be ready for a national platform. It’s a process; that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build. Are you committed for the long haul?
Here’s what I know will work to help get you to the next level. Produce a “good CD”. Find various writers so your project won’t sound one dimensional. You probably can’t be the artist, composer, musician and producer too. That’s way to much YOU and not enough variety. Consumers are very shrewd with money and won’t buy a poorly produced CD. Plus, no way radio will even consider airplay for you. I know. Been programming radio over 30 years; know a hit instantly. On the other hand I know poor production and packaging too. FYI, you standing in front of a ficus plant as the cover on your CD probably won’t sell. #TRUSTME Remember, the music business is very competitive including packaging. You’re required to think out of the box; come up with a concept that’ll compel interest and sell the CD. So, test it thoroughly with a group of unbiased consumers who have nothing to lose by telling you the truth. Take their advice to heart (nothing personal) before releasing it to be absolutely certain you’ve created something that will sell. It amazes me how many industry veterans (who should know better) don’t test and wonder why the project fails. Once you’ve successfully tested & tweaked your product then master it and find a good distribution that can put it in the big box retail stores. Along the way develop relationships with key radio personnel nationwide. Set up effective promotion on all social media platforms. Also, return ALL phone calls yourself (never know what the caller has to offer); work every weekend possible to establish and promote your music brand. Do that; trust me you’ll be on The Stellar Awards and a lot of other TV shows sooner than you probably could imagine.
What’d you say? That’s a lot of work. Surely you knew you’d have to “work” before you started this venture…right? Business, constructing good deals; planning Monday thru Friday and singing on the weekend is how you become successful.
(I’M ABOUT TO SHIFT GEARS NOW) The gospel music industry period is flat to me. Same ole same old day in and day out; doing the same thing & expecting better results. #CRAZY Black gospel music radio playing the same EIGHT songs “all day long”. Or worse, radio loaded up with a bunch of “block programming” with people who need to be “on the air” like they need a hole in their head. Is it any wonder the audience left gospel radio by the bus loads back in 2005 when audio started streaming on the Internet? And how about the major paradigm shift with people using smartphones? Definitely a game changer. And another thing that’s totally annoying is syndicated programs with “singers” trying to be DJ’s instead of experienced radio people who know how to finesse the microphone and go SELL ADVERTISING to support a gospel radio station. And we won’t even talk about concerts bombing nationwide with POOR ticket sales. I’ll save that conversation for a separate article.
Believe it or not this whole thing is connected on multiple levels and we all win or lose based on how we all conduct business in the industry. Your success is mine and vice versa.
We needed to begin re-inventing our entire industry twenty years ago. From better, more professional programming on gospel radio to revamping conferences, gospel music conventions and awards show models change is long overdue. Perhaps Mr. Jones’ “Open Letter” starts the process. Something definitely needs to happen or black gospel music will become even less relevant sooner than you may think. Instead of just running to a bunch of music showcases (singing to the choir…so to speak) how about we also run to seminars with “qualified clinicians” and do more educating; learning and not just socializing? Be great if that would happen NOW but as my Mama says “That’s to much like right”. Airfare, hotel and at least one meal a day exceeds $1,000.00 bucks on these kind of trips. No joke! If you’re gonna spend that kind of money at least come back home more knowledgeable on how to grow your music enterprise. #SERIOUSLY Otherwise, it’d be more responsible for you to use the money to pay yo’ rent or mortgage, car note and insurance, cable bill and puhleeze pay the water bill so you can be squeaky clean. #FOREAL
Doors always open for your comments, feedback and ideas as to how “we” can all work together to see noticeable and effective change. On behalf of the black gospel music industry too I am http://www.ReggieGay.com.