wpid-mobo_gospel_vertical.pngI decided to not say much on the MOBOs for 2015.  That was deliberate.

To be honest, the UKGospel.com team’s excellent 2014 #MOBOGospel specials had pretty much said much of what was needed, articulating a whole range of issues around the complexities of the UK Gospel scene’s relationship with the country’s biggest Black Music awards platform.

In my view a new opinion piece would have been extraneous.  Besides, the fundamentals remain unchanged: MOBO announce awards.  MOBO announce nominees. Consternation ensues. Lots of navel gazing, meaning-of-life-ing and hand-wringing follow.  Furore dies down.  Rinse. Repeat following year.

Curveball

MOBO Pre Awards Show 2015Then last week – and completely out of the blue (for me anyway) – MOBO threw a curveball and announced a new format: a Pre-Awards Show, celebrating Jazz, RnB/Soul and Gospel, uncoupled from the showcase TV broadcast. and now reinvented as a dedicated standalone event.

The press release pitches it as a red carpet gala, and despite the inevitable second-guessing around the reasons MOBO made this move, the genuine intention to make this new strand something of a serious thing can’t be denied.

To wit: performances scheduled from some of the UK’s best-known and credible Black talent (Courtney Pine, Mica Paris and Omar to mention just three) plus Gospel’s own Faith Child and Annastasia Baker is – in my book at least – a serious statement of intent.

Shaky Ground

We start to get on slightly shaky ground when MOBO feel the need to have an American host the event (in this case Marvin Winans Jr, who – to those in the know – comes from American Gospel royalty).

Brand Extension

However, with my brand extension hat on I can see why MOBO would make this kind of play: for one, this could be the beginning of a new, strong spin-off, a separate but complementary awards strand.

It’s also built (at least with this prototype version) around legacy music genres which traditionally have a deeply passionate follower base, but don’t pull in the mass audience that TV channels like ITV2 or BBC 3 will need to justify the airtime bill.  Besides: everyone loves the Americans, right?

Without putting too fine a point on it, I’m happy to wait to see how this all plays out.

Amazing Opportunity

For me the crux of the matter is this: UK Gospel once again stands on the cusp of an amazing opportunity: the chance to fully engage with the process, participate in the conversation, and at the very least have an input, and ultimately, influence.

Credible

When all is said and done it’s in MOBO’s best interest to make sure the category is credible.  And – with all due respect to many of the nominees we’ve had in the Gospel category over the years – that hasn’t always been the case.  I think we’re all agreed on that.  I’m sure even MOBO knows this.

MOBO’s Credit

Where I disagree with much of what I suspect is conventional thinking in the Gospel industry is the amount of blame that needs to be laid at MOBO’s door: from where I stand (and to their eternal credit), MOBO is consistently reaching out, looking for ways to engage the community.

I live in eternal hope that – at the very least the UK’s official industry body, the Gospel Music Industry Alliance (GMIA), will play some role in this new dawn.  I made this same point back in 2012.

Good Omens

MOBO Pre Awards Show 2015 - Faith Child Performing LiveIn the meantime the omens are once again good: the lovely PR people at Outside (who, in conjunction with Black Grape) have created significant buzz in the Gospel media community: I don’t think I’ve seen this much anticipation from a wide range of bloggers, radio folk and website publishers in, well… Ever.

So I along with a few the UKGospel.com team will be breaking out the glad rags and heading out to Under The Bridge in Chelsea London, on Tuesday 27 October 2015.

Voting for Best Jazz, Best Gospel & Best R&B/Soul closed yesterday (Friday 23rd October) so we’ll find out who picks up the Gospel gong for 2015: CHOS3N (Birmingham/Midlands), Olaedo (London), Leroy Johnson (Leeds), Ni-Cola (Manchester) or Faith Child (London).

For me, the real work begins now.  Regardless of who picks up the Gospel 2015 award, the UK Gospel scene has another chance to become real winners by actively engaging with the MOBO process…

It looks like I’ve just signed myself up for writing #MOBOGospel 2016, God spare life…

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