Whether we want to admit it or not (and some of us definitely don’t), southern gospel music is not what could be considered a “large” genre. We really are a bubble in which we enjoy, recognize, and promote our music. Our artists may be well-known within our circles, but move outside this SG bubble, and they’re not necessarily recognizable for the most part.
For example, most SG folks at least recognize the names Elton John, Michael Jackson, or Madonna, even if they’ve never listened to a single note they’ve performed. I’d even venture to say that a large chunk of southern gospel fans could at least name one member of the Beatles. Flip that, however, and I doubt most mainstream music fans have ever heard of the Speer Family or the Statesmen, let alone be able to name individual members.
This can become quite the obstacle when trying to promote SG music to a non-SG audience (even Christian audiences). Case in point: one SG promoter recently took to a modern worship leader Facebook group to promote upcoming concerts featuring three nationally-touring gospel quartets. Their post included the phrase, “Look who’s coming,” to their church, attempting to drum up excitement over the names they had booked.
The first comment below the post (and I quote): “Am I supposed to know who these people are?” Keep in mind, this comment came from a church worship leader.
The promoter seemed a bit insulted at the comment before proceeding to explain that these names are actually “well known known in the…area. Maybe not your exact genre but are widely known in many churches.”
My first thought was, if you have to explain who someone is in order to promote your concert, maybe you’re not promoting in the right areas, or at the very least, should include that information in your original post. Secondly, I would question the phrase “well known,” as they obviously are not as well known as you had originally thought or claimed.
That’s not to say that you can’t promote to non-southern gospel audiences. It can be done in a number of ways; the point that the worship leader was trying to make (albeit without much tact) was that you can’t promote something as if it’s well known and expect people to know what you’re talking about.
This is moreso an indicator as to how small our genre really is compared to even other Christian genres. If music leaders in our churches have no idea who two or three currently-touring quartets are, then how good of a job are we really doing of promoting our music outside of our little bubble?