Juliet Fletcher gives her predictions for UK Gospel during 2015, and sees nothing but good things happening in the scene during the course of the year
Now, I’m not prophesying “Thus saith the Lord” but, according to the title of the classic Sounds of Blackness hit, I’m ‘Optimistic’ for British gospel music in 2015. Here are my top three expectations:
MORE UK GOSPEL IN MORE CHARTS
First of all, this year we will see more gospel in charts – not only in the UK, but in other territories of the world. In the short nine months of their existence aStepFwd.com give artists an excellent platform with their popular online Top Ten UK Christian Chart. It was great to see, in the last quarter of 2014, Seth & A.N.T. (Midnight Oil Summit) and Ricardo ‘Rocstarr’ Williams both reached No 2 (Official Christian and Gospel Album Chart and ITunes R&B Chart, respectively).
This makes Premier Gospel’s plan – to run a campaign called #GotGospel – an exciting prospect. It coincides with HMV’s promotion to the public – yes, THE PUBLIC – encouraging them to buy – yes, B-U-Y – more Christian and gospel music products. This is so brilliant!
To have a high profile brand, with main high street stores all around the UK, decide they are going to encourage consumers everywhere to buy music from artists based in our churches, because an official Christian and Gospel Album Chart exists, is phenomenal. Jesus said: “A city set upon a hill cannot be hid.” We must lift high what we do – for all to see and glorify God. Get it?
The Premier Gospel campaign ties in beautifully with the GMIA’s brand new rolling programme of monthly webinars and workshops for helping artists to be Chart ready. You can contact GMIA to book a session at your church. The quality of products, both sonically and in physical presentation, must be matched by what the audience experiences, and this brings me to my next expectation for 2015.
BETTER AND BIGGER EVENTS
We will have a recognised gospel circuit for performance and ministry, because we need it. Everyone I have spoken to says it’s a necessity – whether it’s amongst the churches (highways) or in venues, coffee and wine bars (the byways), this vision must come to pass. How will it work? That is yet to be revealed, but it must have the cooperation of church leaders, music ministers and performers, promoters and event organisers.
However, events need to be better planned, promoted and delivered. People are taking notice of how good or bad events are. It’s quite rightly getting harder to have an excuse for failing. Producing shows that are both spiritual yet well presented by performers, as well as the technical aspects, is what most audiences expect their ticket prices to reflect.
There are those who consistently do well – like GL360, SoulCure, Gospel Central and Adelaide McKenzie’s Blessed Souls. More specialist monthly music events are developing: I recently learnt of a promotions outfit, called TKR, which focuses on a reggae monthly, and JC&Friends, which is a smooth MOR jazz. Annual initiatives are making a mark again this year; for instance Premier Gospel Week, iGospel’s Singspiration, and the music industry business event Gospel Summit. Throwback and tribute concerts will become more prominent, particularly in light of marking the memory of key leaders and artists, like Derek Wade, George Dyer and Andraé Crouch.
SIGNATURE SONGS THAT WILL RESONATE
This year, we are set to have an unprecedented number of songs, which become anthems that transcend Black Majority Churches and capture the mind and hearts of congregations everywhere. Throwback concerts will remind us how much songs are at the heart of what we do, and therefore successful British gospel songs and songwriters in our time will truly matter. There are quite a few individuals who are closer than others to achieving this in 2015. Noel Robinson’s recent signing to Integrity increases that likelihood, but I also think that we will experience some wonderful surprises in this direction.
Over the years, British gospel performers have not been in the habit of re-recording each other’s material. This has to change. It is standard in most music circles, but in ours… Uh-uh! Why that is, I do not know. If you have any ideas it would be good to hear from you. It would be easy for a song written in our community to go viral across churches, if we took to re-recording – as well as singing – the best songs.
With the churches registered with a license through the music agency CCLI, and the writers registered correctly, it would create a circular economy that would benefit all involved. What if 20% of all UK Gospel releases contained a cover of another British gospel artist? You’d be amazed at the effect on our scene. 2015 is just getting under way, but we can declare the end from the beginning.
As the Sounds of Blackness sing, “Don’t you give up, don’t you give in, hold to your goal!” I’m lifting up my “head to the sky”, and I’m saying that this year will be a year of major achievements, greater unity and improved relationships on many levels. So help us, Lord!