I’m happy to admit I found 2012’s MOBO Gospel category difficult to call.

The one thing MOBO Awards is pretty much guaranteed to do with Gospel every year is generate consternation and anger (even outrage) among those who feel they have their finger sitting much more firmly on the industry’s pulse than the folks at MOBO HQ.

Get it Wrong

And – almost inevitably – it would seem MOBO ‘get it wrong’ every year.

Still, as an observer myself I’m always interested to see how people with no direct connection to our industry understand and interpret it. There’s much benefit in seeing things from an outsiders’ perspective.

And on the plus side – if you can call it that – MOBO seem to have settled into dancing an unrecognisable  annual jig, calling shots (perhaps that should be more accurately described as rubber stamping what they’ve been spoon-fed) based on the merit of what its advisors (whoever they are), have presented them.

The ‘plus’ bit comes in because it shows up our weakness as an industry, uncomfortably highlighting the fact that we need to get our own act together and own a voice that MOBO can tap into and interface with.

In the coming days and months, that will hopefully be the GMIA (the Gospel Music Industry Alliance).

Secondly, it can also be argued that for better or worse, MOBO’s picks show us how the ‘outside world’ think our music should be represented.

But that’s a huge thought convoy to be rolled out some other day…

Good Numbers

For 2012, all the nominees had the potential to deliver good voter numbers, no doubt doing MOBO’s marketing database a whole world of good in the process…

  • Manchester’s Ni-Cola could (and did) play the regional card to great effect (elements of her campaign even centred on galvanizing northern voters to have one of their own pick up the award).
  • Nottingham-based Ram 1 – the only Reggae artist in the running – also played the specialist genre (plus the ‘regional’) card to good effect.
  • And down in London V9 Collective tapped into their network, putting out the rallying call to the RnB/Soul faithful.
  • I think it’s also fair to say the UK gospel music industry is rather Midland-to-South-centric, meaning Edinburgh’s El Mafrex was more than likely both a rank outsider and a surprise entry.

Still, if his statistics are anything to go by he deserved his place in the MOBO nominee number (over 6,000 followers on Twitter, and the video to his track ‘Jehovah’, [featuring Scotland’s Royal Foundlings and Miss TemZee] has had well over half a million views on YouTube. Potentially, that’s a lot of people for him to call on).

  • And finally Rachel Kerr (already nominated in the same category for 2011) has had a fantastic 2012.

She increasingly features outside usual ‘Gospel’ circles (which – if we’re being honest – also means the ‘100% Gospel’ set no doubt have views on it).

On the flip side, that meant she had both gospel and mainstream fans to tap into.

So that all meant that on the surface of it at least, 2012’s vote was wide open.

MOBO Music Panel

However as the voter numbers only accounted for 50% of each artist’s vote block, the ‘MOBO Music Panel’ still held sway with a veto (big disclaimer at this point: I’ve no idea who they are, and I’m not one).

Winner

So, on Saturday the 3rd of November 2012, Rachel was announced as MOBO’s 2012 Gospel Award winner.

Real Work

To a very large extent, this is where the real work begins.

I’m happy (and even hopeful) to be proved wrong on this, but I get the feeling that in previous years many a MOBO Gospel winner has been uncertain about what to do with their win.  That’s not necessarily a criticism, just a reflection of where we are as an industry.

Could MOBO Do More..?

MOBO could arguably do more, but their modus operandi has always been to dish out awards and essentially step back after that. What happens from there on in is entirely left to the recipient.  To me that’s fair enough.  After all they are an awards organisation, not an artist promotions outfit.

No Use in Insular Gospel

To be quite frank (and feel free to completely disagree with me for saying this) a MOBO Gospel win is unlikely to be much use within the insular confines of the ‘gospel’ marketplace, anyway.

Its stock is much more valuable to gospel artists willing to risk the ire of the church faithful and take their brand of gospel music – whatever that might be – to the wider, mainstream music scene.

After all, isn’t that where we’re called to be..?

This is the model quite effectively employed by Black Grape Worldwide in the promotion of jazz artist Yolanda Brown, for example.

Music Week, The NME or any media platform of significance is likely to give you that bit more time, and take you a bit more seriously if ‘MOBO Award winner’ is also bouncing around in your promotional material.

Team Rachel

From that point of view things have played rather nicely into Team Rachel’s hands (shout out to Ayo and the rest of the gang).

The award bookends a year that has seen her travel extensively internationally, playing to an ever-growing number of appreciative non-Gospel audiences.

Trajectory

If her career trajectory maintains this path there’s a good chance we’re seeing the beginnings of someone who could be a serious ambassador for UK gospel, reaching far beyond our industry (or if you prefer, scene), and quite possibly beyond our shores.

Of course only God knows (and time will tell), but make no mistake: Miss Kerr has got a great shot at making this work.

And now with her MOBO award in tow, things have just got that little bit easier…

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