The Music, Inside, and Beyond
19 June 2017

The REAL Problem with Gospel Music Conferences and Seminars

WHAT IS WRONG WITH MUSIC CONFERENCES? OK, so I’m back from my trip and had time to process my thoughts, PLUS i want to respond to some posts on this particular subject. I’ve seen people saying things like “the same old information”, and “should not be charging these artist all this money” amongst other comments. So here’s what I have to say about this subject.

Major shout to Arvetra Jones Jr. for putting on the NCGAG (North Carolina Gospel Announcers Guild). The connections and the info I gained from conference were PRICELESS! Why? Because I chose to use the opportunity and access I had to network with people who have been in this business much longer than I have. Which means their knowledge and experience is of much worth to me, someone who has been in the broadcast side of the industry just under a decade.

I spoke to program directors and media managers from Major market stations about actual practices, learned the reason WHY certain things do and don’t happen in radio, and most of all met with people in the back end of the music business to learn about the legal side of things from both a procedural and financial aspect.

So if I’m saying all of this, What’s wrong with Gospel music conferences? It’s not the price to go (most panelist pay more for their education of their area of expertise) It’s not the information (not everyone knows ALL the info), but what’s wrong with these conferences and conventions are….. THE INDEPENDENT ARTIST WHO ATTEND!

This year’s NCGAG cost $150 to register and an additional cost of you wanted to perform in the showcase. Now while there are a few people who are against putting fees on events like this, I have a regular saying when it comes to growing as an artist, business, or any other career driven idea. YOU MUST INVEST IN YOUR SELF!

It’s easy to say $150 is a lot a money for a weekend of seminars and masterclasses but lets take a look at it from another perspective. An entertainment lawyer comes in to run a seminar for a couple hours. This person spent anywhere between 8-12 years in college/grad/law school to obtain their degree, they lay down some basic foundations and principals for you to be able to self sustain your music career with a clear legal conscious, and that’s only ONE of the many panels you will attend over a 4 day event, and $150 is too much money?

So here’s why I blame the artists who attend these conferences for being what’s wrong. (Note: If you’re offended from what you’re about to read I’m talking about you.)

1. FANDOM – Let me say first. It’s ok to be a fan of a person especially if you get a chance to meet them, but at the same time you have to remember why you are at such a setting. I witnessed a majority crowd hang on every word of a panel full of well established and notable gospel artists as the spoke on the subject they were there to speak about… being an artist. Yet, when the artists were challenged by an industry professional the artists could not answer comprehensively. That’s a problem. If this is an industry you want to be in as a full-time participant you have to realize that most of the established artists have people working the ins and outs that you don’t see for them. With that being said they have great knowledge of the business to a certain extent. Meeting your favorite artists is good, but you have to be careful of how tight you cling to their every word.

2. ABSENCE AT EDUCATIONAL CLASSES – The reason I made #1 fandom is because I saw something I’ve seen before but never caught onto it until now. When you go events such as Stellars, GMA,GMWA, and countless others. You get panels from those who are famous, and those who are successful. The problem is no one is going to the panels from those who are successful. What I witnessed at the NCGAG this year was outrageous! Almost a packed room for the panel mentioned in #1, but barely 15 people showed up for the panel about music copyrights and registration. I found this to be insulting because in the previous panel (which had the celebrity artists) people were complaining about the lack of radio play, and sales in their genre of music. It’s one thing to be upset about your lack of progress but it’s another thing to not show up when someone is trying to show you HOW to change that status. But I get it. You’re there to meet your favorite singer! Not be where they are in a few years.

3. UNDERSTANDING THE BUSINESS vs MINISTRY – One of the biggest things I am noticing is in today’s age, people have either one or the other when it comes to this subject. The purpose of these conferences is to show you how to have one compliment the other. What do I mean? An artist in ministry who does excellent business is considered to be “Integral”, while a person who is ALL about ministry and has poor business will either get screwed over, or talked about by their peers (yes, this happens) which diminishes your ministry because no one wants to work with you. On the other side, a person who is ALL about business is really in it for the money and/or fame, and the talent will only take you but so far before word gets out that you’re not as “Integral” as people think which will ultimately ruin your business.

This is a huge thing as I watched a group of esteemed radio professionals give straight talk to the (very few) artists in attendance and one of them got offended because the truth was told that just because she sings gospel music doesn’t mean she will get on a major market radio station. The statement of reality was labeled as being “Cynical” because they wanted to hear “Send me your music and I’ll get it in rotation” It doesn’t work like that and we were there to learn that because the majority of indie artist believe that every song they make is radio ready and should be played right after a Kirk Franklin song.

The bottom line is most gospel artists have an UNREALISTIC expectation of what a music conference is supposed to be and do for them. This year’s Elevation Conference in Boston dealt with the Hip Hop side of the gospel spectrum and the artists were listening to the panelist with more than an attentive ear because they wanted to know the “how” and “why” of the industry they wanted to be in. There are other music conferences such as NYC’s INAXXS Music Business Conference (IMBC) which brings in Industry professionals who have major accomplishments in the entertainment industry, but for some reason cannot reach a reasonable attendance despite the wealth of knowledge that is there every year! These conferences (when done right) should start you off on a path of better business practices which in turn should ENHANCE your ministry because it shows that you that you take your ministry seriously. But the conferences are ineffective at most because they’re either not attended they way they should be, or the cherry picking of panels and classes based on who’s teaching is happening and all the indie artists got from the event was a Selfie with a celeb!

If you decide to attend a music industry conference or event, actually attend ALL the events. In the end it can only help you the more even if you’ve heard the info before! People take refresher courses all the time. It’s ok to invest in your self and the events you attend. Who knows the support you give might bring in more prestigious professionals you might actually stick around for!


8 Responses

  1. Good stuff Dre. I couldn’t agree with you more. It could seem as though artists what something for nothing. Let me say it this way. If you do something worthy of sharing trust me we’re going to come to you from a media standpoint.

    But, if your emerging, pay your dues and invest in yourself to receive the necessary exposure. From the management standpoint we know there are things much more costly than the price rates mentioned for exceptional insight.

    Nae’ Thompson, ELEV8 Magazine

  2. Attorney Chrystal Redding

    I really enjoyed this article. Your insight is spot on! Thanks for taking the time to educate and be real!

  3. Sybil

    I have 20+years in the Consulting Business and the information that was offered was information that can cost 350.00 or more per person, but the individual must see the value. But this is where the industry/society is today and unfortunately mindset must change.

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