At this time of year, it’s customary for columnists to write a typical “the year is ending” article that reflects on the events of the last year. I could wax philosophical about how things have changed over the past year. I could even put down in chronological order all of the events that have taken place in the Gospel world during the last twelve months.
For example, during 2009 Eva Mae Lefevre went home to be with the Lord, and a name that had been prominent in Southern Gospel music for decades was retired in her honor as the Lefevre Quartet changed their name to “Priority”. Ralph Freeman, founder of “The Freemans” also went home, along with Bill Hefner and Calvin Hunt. I’m sure there are others whom I have missed that went on to Glory. 60 years of gospel performing came to an end in 2009 for the Lewis Family, who decided to retire.
So you can see that there is plenty of inspiration to write a typical year-end article. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, I don’t like to write typical articles. I prefer to stir things up a little. Without taking any importance away from the history of the last year, for if we don’t learn from history we repeat our mistakes, I prefer to look forward into 2010. I think that in 2010, a wealth of opportunity awaits those who look for it and aren’t afraid to make the necessary changes to acquire an opportunity.
I’m not talking about some pyramid scheme that you have to buy into. I’m also not talking about personal family finances or wealth, for that is another article altogether. Rather, I speak about the opportunities for our beloved genre, Southern Gospel Music. Prepare yourself; the things I say here will not be popular and possibly not well-received. However, at some point we have to get off of the milk and get on to the meat in order to properly grow and thrive.
In an editorial entitled, “The Answer to Our Problems” on sogospelnews.com (http://sogospelnews.com/index/content/articles/the-answer-to-our-problems/), Deon Unthank writes:
“We do have a major problem though. Somehow, we have let some very important things slip right through our fingers. Do you remember when we were filling auditoriums? We were on major television stations. How did we lose that foothold? Don't tell me that it can't be done, because Bill Gaither is doing it rather successfully. People will run across three towns to see someone in person that they just saw on television. Country music does it. Black Gospel does it. Rock music does it. Spanish music does it. Why aren't we doing it? We can't do it just making videos of us singing in churches. We need to hire some real professional video producers and listen to their ideas, and then follow through. We also can't do this on a $50.00 budget. Maybe we should sell the bus and invest that money in other areas of our careers.”
I feel as if I have just heard the voice of one, crying in the wilderness! Such a simple statement, and yet it is so profound. Why can’t we draw more people to concerts? Why can’t we get more people to come to revival? Why can’t people in our industry make enough to have a decent living? OUR MARKETING, QUITE SIMPLY, STINKS. People can’t come to a concert or revival that they don’t know about.
Unthank goes on to say,
“Another problem is radio. We have some great stations and we have some really bad ones too. Nothing disturbs me more than listening to some really poor Gospel music right after the hog reports. I wish I was kidding, but it really does happen. Like I said, the good ones are really good and the bad ones are really bad. We need some professionalism in our radio stations. Our commercials need to compete with the big secular stations.”
OUR COMMERCIALS NEED TO COMPETE WITH THE BIG SECULAR STATIONS. Those ten words should be shouted from the rooftops. Hey, concert promoters or church pastors: I’ll bet you $100 that some of the people you are trying to draw to your concert, revival or event are LISTENING TO SECULAR RADIO STATIONS. Why, then, can we not make high-quality commercials advertising our events, and run them on these stations? I’m not saying don’t patronize our gospel or religious stations, but you have to widen the net sometimes if you want to maximize your catch. “Cast out your nets and prepare for a bunch of fish.” Sound familiar?
I wish I had a dollar for every concert poster I have seen that has a group picture placed over four black lines that venues/churches fill in the information with black markers, or for every website I have seen that looks like it was done by a child, or for every CD that has been sent in for review that has an insert so poorly designed you can’t read it, or for every full or part time artist who thinks “if we schedule it, they will come”. Folks, these things SCREAM amateur, and they don’t pique anyone’s curiosity about you or your ministry.
As I read these last paragraphs I can almost hear your computer keyboards clicking as you write your burning responses to me. “We can’t afford to be on those stations.” “We don’t want to give secular stations the Lord’s money.” “We just believe that the Lord is going to fill our hall/church/ (insert your venue type here).” If you can’t afford to advertise an event properly, then you shouldn’t be having an event. If you don’t step outside of your typical Sunday morning box once in a while, you’ll never see big returns for the Lord. Faith is a wonderful thing, but according to the Word “faith without works is dead. You show me your works by your faith; I’ll show you my faith by my works.”
All I’m saying is that if we want things to turn around, then we better take hold of the wheel and start pulling right or left because we’re sitting in the seat watching the brick wall get closer and closer.
Unthank closed his article with the following:
“You say "but this is a ministry". That's fine, but if a church or any other ministry is not treated like a business, it will fall apart and cease being because it couldn't afford to keep the lights on. We need radio stations that are concerned about professionalism and keeping the station in the black by making a profit. The best way to do that is to hire someone to help you with marketing, and then hire some DJs who will attract listeners to your station. Of course there is the issue of playing bad music. Someone at the station has to be responsible for quality control. Sometimes you just have to say no. I don't care if it's Gold City or the Goldenaires, if it's bad music, don't play it. You, the radio station management is responsible for quality control. Not all compilation discs are equal, just because you get a disc in, doesn't mean you have to play everything on it.”
Any business that doesn’t properly advertise will fail. That is not a statistical probability, it is a proven fact. Are we ministries? Yes, but ministries have two sides, a ministerial side and an entrepreneurial side. Even the disciples had someone in charge of the money purse. WE MUST INCREASE THE QUALITY OF OUR ADVERTISEMENTS. We must do a better job of marketing. Try it – and see how it will improve your attendance, your stature and your take at the door.
What do you think? I’d like to know!