Friday, December 28, 2007

Southern Gospel for the Next Generation

By Mike Cook – VA Southern Gospel

If you go to a typical Southern Gospel concert you will notice that most of the audience is from a generation that was born in 1945 or earlier. It appears that some of the most recent marketing of Southern Gospel is targeted to the next generation called Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) with artists like Russ Taff, The Gaither Vocal Band and The Booth Brothers performing songs from the 1970’s.

In order to preserve the heritage of Southern Gospel we must promote it to a new generation in new ways. Gone are the days when an artist can rely only on Radio, Television, and print to promote concerts and album releases. Generation X (born 1965 – 1976) and The Millennial Generation or Generation Y (born 1977 – 1998) will require a different approach when marketing to them. Here are some New Media outlets that artists and promoters can use to connect with X and Y.

A Web Site
Statistics are showing that most of generation Y and some of Generation X are spending more time each week surfing the web than watching television. It’s no wonder that most every ad you see on TV or in print includes a web address. It’s not enough to just put some information out there like a billboard, it must be done well and change often to keep users coming back. Some young artists like Crabb Revival, Valor, and The Lefevre Quartet have their music begin playing as soon as the web site opens up. The online store should also accept some form of credit card. Pay-Pal is a very secure way to accept payment and no credit card information is exchanged, just email addresses. A lot of the Talent Agency web sites provide high quality photos, biographies, and concert posters available for downloading by local promoters that are bringing the artists in to their area.

Social network Web Sites
Social Network sites are very popular among X and Y. and offer users an opportunity to connect with each other through chats and message boards. Young artists like The Imperials and Driven Quartet have My Space pages that link to their web site.

Email Marketing
Email Marketing is a great way for Talent Agencies and artists to stay in touch with fans. I receive an Email once a month from Greater Vision that is created through a service called Constant Contact. It has templates that can be customized with photos and logos. The service also allows users to put a sign up box on their web site where fans can sign up for their monthly newsletter.

MP 3’s
Just when we were getting comfortable with the compact disc instead of cassettes, along comes the new format of MP 3’s. Apple brought us the iPod MP3 player and iTunes software for the computer that allows users to convert their CD’s to MP3 format and load them on the iPod for listening. The iTunes store provides an opportunity to preview the albums before buying. You can also choose to buy one song instead of the whole album. There is a universal database at that has artwork, album and track names for most every kind of music available. This is where we need some work in the Southern Gospel area. Not all Southern Gospel albums are recognized by this database. Artists and record companies should submit this information to the database and make the albums available on iTunes the same day that the CD is released in stores. This will increase album sales and provide more recognition for the artists among younger users.

A Podcast is an online radio show available on web sites and through iTunes. Daniel Britt of XM Radio and Joy FM in Winston Salem, North Carolina hosts a podcast with artist interviews. Mark Lowry and Mark Bishop also have podcasts available.

Ever since the early 90’s when Bill Gaither released the Homecoming series, Video has played an important part in the spread of Southern Gospel. Now You Tube is available to allow users to search and view videos on the web. Artists can take clips of concerts and submit them to You Tube and then link them back to their web sites for viewing. Jason Crabb features several You Tube clips on his web site.

Great legends of Southern Gospel like The Statesmen and The Imperials were known for thinking outside the box for ways to promote their music. We have the torch now and must continue to look for new ways to promote the world’s greatest music to future generations.


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