Music Business:The Gospel

First Things First So you want to be an independent Artist or Record Label? Good for you and welcome to the crowd of others that aspire to do the same. One thing is certain, your journey will be full of excitement and sorrow from this day forward so be prepared to endure the ups and downs, successes and failures, good times and bad, that will undoubtedly test your resolve to still be standing when all others have left the building.

Why write a book about the music business and call it the gospel? Well I’m glad you asked. The idea for writing this book has been in the making for a few years. My initial focus was the Gospel Music Industry, I wanted to highlight its nuances and concentrate my attention on how one could be successful within that segment. As things began to unravel for the recording industry it became clear why. Now this wasn’t an epiphany of sorts but it made sense. Pretty much all of the recording industry is linked by distribution channels, retail outlets, manufacturers and media formats (CD/DVD/Cassette). Additionally, marketing and promotion strategies are employed to reach consumers with varied music tastes. Gospel is just one of those tastes in the food chain of music genre. The word “Gospel” in the Greek means “good news”. It’s also used conversationally when someone wants to validate their credibility by adding …”and thats the Gospel truth” to a statement. You can judge for yourself whether its “good news” but it definitely will be the truth.

Much of the conversation today about the changes and opportunities available are applicable across the [music] business spectrum. Your understanding of the market demographic you’re attempting to reach will determine how to develop a working strategy though not all methods or technologies can be applied unanimously. Out of a “to do” list of hundreds of things, what’s first? Well, “To thine own-self be true”; familiar words spoken by Polonius to his son Laertes in the play “Hamlet”. Who are you? What makes you smile? What are you passionate about? What or who motivates you? What do you have to talk about, say or express? Yea, these sound like the kinds of questions your therapist might ask or you may find in a self-help book. But understanding these and similar questions and actually answering them may help define and refine your message and your music.

Better yet, what style of music do you like, Classical, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Punk or Electronic? Is it important that you stick with recognizable chord structures, riffs, beats and song patterns? Music has evolved over the years and as it’s been shown does not always stay within the ranks of the easily definable. In fact, Michaelangelo Matos (the Guardian Aug 2011) wrote an article explaining where some of the category jargon came from and how we’ve come to know terms like R&B, Rock N Roll, Glitter Rock and Gospel. In most cases they were named by artists who thought of themselves as original and explained their style with an artistic flare some of which stuck. The Recording Industry seized on this trend and with retail outlets commercialized these one word adjectives for describing a style of music as good for business. Suffice it to say the exact number of music genres lie somewhere between 100 and 1000 but who’s counting?

Music categories have become a necessary evil and we’ve all learned to live with and appreciate the idea of established name [style] recognition. Additionally, categories defined our audience, if your writing style was Rock N Roll, you probably wouldn’t appeal to a crowd that favored Classical. However music, being the universal language it is, often transcends the labels we apply to it. Something radio DJs often referred to as “cross-over appeal” but not every artist enjoyed that kind of success yet, there appears to be a return to the days of music appreciation for the sake of the music itself. Whatever style you adhere to, own it but, don’t let it be the sole definition of how your creativity is expressed.

Back in the 60s and 70s there was a term called “blue-eyed soul”, that was used to describe R&B and soul music performed by white artists. The unfortunate reality is similar thinking still plague us today. What comes to mind when you hear the term “Southern Gospel” or simply “Gospel”? While there is greater acceptance of intercultural exchange taking place we still labor for an inclusiveness that continues to break down walls and penetrate stereotypical behavior. So to repeat the title of this chapter, First things First”, be true to thine own-self.

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