When A Promoter Does Everything Right….

by | Nov 18, 2017 | Commentary & Observations, Rant

I attended a concert last night that featured three top Southern Gospel quartets, and when I say top, I mean three groups that would appear on most anyone’s Top 10 list of current male quartets. The concert promoter has a weekly Southern Gospel show on one of the area’s largest Country FM stations for four hours every Sunday morning, so any fans who listen to the show would have heard about this event on a regular basis for the past several months. He had also promoted the event rigorously on Facebook. I had seen his ads in my feed several times in recent weeks.

The regular price for general admission tickets was a mere $10. To give you an idea of just how long the event had been promoted, back in May, they ran a promotion for a few days offering general admission seats for just $5. I took advantage of that deal and paid just $25 for five tickets. For anyone who wanted to be sure to sit close, they had a section of reserved seating for $25 per seat.

The weather was a bit cool, but nice otherwise, and the venue itself is a well-maintained, historic auditorium with convenient, free parking.

I should also mention that the seating is not only padded, it’s also noticeably WIDER than the seats you’ll find in many auditoriums and/or arenas. There are no ganged-together chairs like at NQC where you’re practically in your neighbor’s lap. I’m not particularly tall, but I am a bit wider than most, and I was comfortable.

And yet, in an auditorium that seats 3244, there were perhaps 1200 in attendance. Balcony seating was roped off and at least half of the seats on the lower level were empty.

It’s easy to play armchair quarterback and speculate, but from everything I was in a position to observe, the promoter did everything right. It seems like every possible box was checked that should have ensured a crowd exceeding 75% of the venue’s capacity, considering the size of the market and the degree to which the event had been advertised.

If you call yourself a Southern Gospel fan and live within a 45-minute drive of Spartanburg, SC, I’d be curious to know what else this promoter might have done to convince you to come to his event last night.

I don’t see how he could have cut his ticket prices any more. $10 is cheap!

I don’t see how he could have advertised any more effectively than his weekly radio show plus Facebook. I’m sure he probably did other advertising I didn’t see as well.

I don’t see how he could have offered you a considerably better line-up of artists, given that it was a single evening event lasting approximately 3 1/2 hours.

I’m not aware of any other venue in the area that would have been better situated or accommodating for this type of event.

Help me understand.

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David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com.


  1. David McGan

    I don’t live anywhere near there, but I sure will be interested in some of the reasons people give. Surely can’t fault the lack of a quality line-up or the ticket price. I would have been there at twice the distance.

  2. Robert York

    David that is happening everywhere in the South. Folks are finding other things to do than attend a gospel concert. It was Friday night and High School Football comes first. If it’s Saturday night it’s College Football, if it’s a week night, I’ve got to work the next day. I don’t think ticket prices or advertising had anything to do with the small crowds, IT’S FOLKS PUT OTHER THINGS FIRST.

  3. Jason

    I’m dealing with high school football playoffs. I have events that my own dear friends & family will miss because of supporting their kids & grandkids in the playoffs. I don’t fault them. It’s their personal choice. I also am getting more comments that our genre is not “real music”, it’s karaoke. I have some acquaintances that don’t even consider vocal groups with tracks to be true musical artists. This is just responses that I’m currently getting.

  4. Daniel J. Mount

    Chances are each of the three artists also performed a freewill offering concert in that region within 6 months and 50 miles. In fact, chances are they performed a combined total of 10 concerts with 50 miles and 12 months.

    Artists and booking agents would like more concerts that pay flats, as this promoter probably did. But if they book their schedules like the usual SG national artist, there is more supply than demand for them in their key regions. And if a promoter ends up in the red, there’s a decent chance that their flat from that promoter will be a one-time matter.

    • David Bruce Murray

      It’s entirely possible.

    • comehomeforcomfort

      Actually, the opposite is true for me. I haven’t been able to see Tribute in concert (other than the Quartet Night in America tour) for several years. Mark Trammel was here for a love offering concert in March, but I gladly paid for two tickets just to see Tribute!

  5. Allen

    There was also another concert that same night an hour away in Greenwood South Carolina. The Gospel According To Girls & Guitars tour which features The Talleys, Karen Peck & New River, High Road, and Emily Ann Roberts were in Greenwood and sang to a crowd of approximately 800 people at Rice Memorial Baptist Church. Admission was $10 at the door plus a love offering and some people were turned away due to not enough seating capacity. 24 people were saved at the event and it was a great night of gospel music.

    • David Bruce Murray

      Yes, that’s a tour I hope to get out and see. I have other plans on December 1 when it comes to Hendersonville, NC just 45 minutes away from me, but I might be able to make the trip to Yadkinville, NC the following night.

      It’s a bit of a drive for me, so I may have to contact one of my artist friends on the tour to ensure I can get in the door and get a seat. (Hint, hint!) :)

    • Robert York

      Most of the groups that were in the area on the same night was booked by the same booking agent. This should tell you something when they are booked so close on the same night.

  6. Tad Kirkland

    I think the fact that it was 3 male quartets may be part of the answer. Admittedly, I’m not a huge male quartet fan, but I think the same thing could happen if you promoted a concert with the Collingsworth Family, the Hoppers and the Nelons. All 3 are great, but diversify the types of artists you bring in for a multi-group concert. Have a top male quartet, a top mixed group and maybe a top trio, countryish SG group or soloist so you draw from 3 types of fans. The people who paid to hear those top 3 quartets may have paid the same price to come hear one of those quartets.

  7. Andrew

    Someone mentioned the “Gospel with Girls & Guitars” concert earlier. There’s a bit more behind this than just being promoted by the same booking agents.

    Mark & Jerri Ferguson promoted the Spartanburg concert and advertised it extensively on their radio show and Facebook. Their show is as DBM stated – 4 hours every Sunday from 6-10AM. However, Rodney Baucom, station manager for the LifeFM, also based out of Greenville (Upstate SC) area, advertised the Gospel with Girls & Guitars concert everyday for 2-3 months – multiple times throughout the day. They also have an on-air morning show from 6-10 everyday Monday-Friday as well as live dj work in the afternoons and Saturdays where they discussed it frequently. While Rodney wasn’t the concert promoter, Abraham Productions was. (More well-known name across the South = potentially larger turnout)

    I’m not complaining that either promoter used their methods of promoting their events.

    Another issue with the Spartanburg crowd may be because this was a re-scheduled event. Mark & Jerri have continued the long-running New Years concert series at the auditorium. However, this year, there was ice & snow(?) which prompted a rescheduling. To keep the concert line-up as close to original as possible, this date worked the best. For those wondering, the original concert line-up was Tribute, Kingsmen, and Legacy Five. The final line-up was Tribute, Kingsmen, and Mark Trammell Quartet.

    BTW – Considering that the Spartanburg concert was booked well before the other concert tour was announced, I’m surprised the booking agency put those artists in such close proximity.

  8. David Bruce Murray

    All things considered, I still maintain that a $10 ticket is CHEAP and both events should have been packed out. If there are only 2000 fans of Southern Gospel music surrounding Spartanburg and Greenwood total willing to pay $10 after concerts have been extensively advertised, that’s pitiful.

  9. Sam 'n Ella

    I live in an area of the continent where 1200 bodies showing up to a southern gospel concert would be a dream! I have no idea what a typical concert turnout would be in that area, but I’ve never been to a southern gospel concert in my life, excluding NQC, where there were more 3244 people in attendance. Is there a history of crowds of that size this coming out to concerts like this?

    I’d also like to vent one of my concert pet peeves … Why are there 3 major groups on the bill? Wouldn’t you rather see just 2 groups and give each of them more stage time? Did the 3rd group sell any extra tickets? (Obviously not.) The best concerts I’ve ever been to have been billed as “An Evening with …”, featuring one major act and a smaller regional group to open the night. Obviously, having fewer groups on the bill wouldn’t increase turnout, but it would save the promoter costs. (Just a peeve of mine.)

    And yes … 10 bucks is what you pay to see a couple of local singer-songwriters with their acoustic guitars at a bar around here. I wouldn’t expect a ticket price of less than $25.

  10. J E Butler

    Sam ‘n Ella make lots of sense. I live in a major city less than 90 minutes from this concert – but I choose to attend concerts with one group – or at most, two… Hearing a group rush through to get only their very best mostly older songs does not appeal to me. I too prefer “An Evening With.” 45 years ago, I remember seeing a billboard in my fair city advertising “An Evening With the Bill Gaither Trio” and choosing to attend. In my car that afternoon were Joe Thrasher and London Parris and they commented about their desire to do the same if in an area they could draw a crowd. Seeing the Cathedrals anytime was a treat…but it was always best when they were alone.

  11. David Bruce Murray

    Yeah, there was nothing really rushed about the evening, though. Each group did 35-40 minutes on the first round followed by a 15-minute intermission. After intermission, each group did two more songs, then the entire cast did a couple more with an encore. The show was advertised to start at 7:00 PM and we got out after 10:00 PM. By contrast, most single group concerts I’ve attended last about 90 minutes total, and some fans won’t come to a large theater like that if they think it’s going to be a 90-minute show.

    The promoter also added an unadvertised group to the beginning of the concert starting at 6:30 for fans who got there early to have something to do while they waited. That group suffered from awful audio mix issues, sadly, but it was a good idea…probably didn’t affect attendance much one way or the other, but again, at least the promoter was thoughtful enough to do it.

    I have no idea what anyone was paid or what the venue charged, but I can’t think he came close to breaking even on the event.

  12. comehomeforcomfort

    I was at the concert in Spartanburg on Friday night – and almost everyone that I usually see in attendance at a local gospel concert was there. I too was surprised that the venue wasn’t more full, especially with the excellent ticket prices. I will say that it was pretty difficult to secure advance tickets unless you wanted to pay the $5(?)/ticket upcharge from the website. I wonder if people assumed it was too popular a concert to purchase tickets at the door or didn’t want to buy tickets online?


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