The UK Gospel scene frequently has to endure unhelpful comments about the state of its health, typically in the shape of (mainly uninformed) comparisons between it and the more mature US market: nothing ever happens here. Apparently.
Yinka Awojobi makes the case for exciting developments and continued optimism in 2016.
I haven’t done one of these annual forward-looks in so long it’s actually taking serious effort to get back into the swing of things.
The main reason? I hadn’t felt much of a need. And that’s a good thing, trust me.
Let me explain: these days, getting your UK Gospel music industry news is nowhere near as challenging as it used to be. There are lots of good places to get it from.
It’s also why I seriously considered shutting down UKGospel.com in 2014.
Deeply Excavated Information
So, what to do..? I designed the annual UKGospel.com forward-look to be very comprehensive but this time around I didn’t feel I had enough time to do decent research.
It’s now February, and while I’m bang on schedule (I always publish my forward looks in February) you’ll soon spot that I actually started writing this much earlier.
As far as I’m concerned if I can’t publish rich, deeply excavated information then there’s simply no point. It’s New Year 2016, and you know how it goes: thoughts turn to renewal, reinvention, and, of course, future gazing.
My brief to myself with these is to write the best-detailed projection piece I can (with a little retrospective thrown in for good measure).
As with many things in life, the solution to my problem was elegantly simple: go down the avenue of least resistance, but this time around do one thing differently: it was time to cheat.
And just in case you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking: get off your high horse. In this context cheating simply means asking people in the know to share what they know about what’s going on 🙂
Under typical circumstances reaching out to people in the same field as I am could actually be rather awkward – some might even go as far as suggesting they are my competitors in the news/media space.
But something fantastically awesome happened in 2015: a group of media types, promoters, publishers and content producers gathered with a single intent: see how we could work together for the good (and promotion) of the UK Gospel scene.
This is easily one of the most exciting collaborative projects I’ve been involved in in all my years of doing this. And while it’s early days yet, the potential impact of this type of movement on the UK Gospel media landscape and beyond is massive.
You’ll hear more about this as 2016 unfolds – and as a matter of fact I think I might have said too much already 🙂
Anyway: I put a call out to a few of my friends and asked them what – as people with ears to the ground and eyes all around – they saw as 2016’s most exciting prospects.
Be Careful What You Wish For…
Back when I was thinking about shutting the site down, the single most common response I had came from people who said they didn’t know where (or how) to find these other platforms I kept saying were coming up with good work.
Well, careful what you wish for: here’s my UKGospel.com 2016 forward look, with more than a little content help from a few of my media friends.
UK Gospel Forward Look: Exciting Trends for 2016
First up, me:
Name: Yinka Awojobi
Job Title: Content Development
I’m Excited About: UK Gospel News Reporting
I’m really glad to see the maturing of UK gospel media platforms, news feeds and sites that have been steadily evolving over the past 12-24 months.
A few of my favourites include AStep FWD (their amazing 2015 Kickstarter campaign and subsequent relaunch was historic), Jermaine Dallas (aka DJ Fireman, publishing from The Sound Doctrine), Flock Point 7, 2BReal Magazine, and of course, the awesome, awesome, *awesome* work Lavinia and Adaeze are doing with Vinejuice.
AND: one of the most exciting pieces of news I’ve heard this January: the confirmed return of MBrio Music to active news reporting. Totally can’t wait.
Live Events, TV, Radio and Social
2015 was fantastic for live music, and Guvna B kicked off 2016 in grand style with his Secret World live gig (with a surprise guest appearance of none other than Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams).
Michelle’s air miles account no doubt has London as a regular destination because she’s going to be back again later in the year as a guest on YolanDa Brown’s Reggae Love songs tour.
And up north, Manchester’s Festival of Praise event (photo above) was once again exceptional, featuring the likes of Muyiwa, Sinach, Twelve-24, Chevelle Franklyn, Israel & New Breed, Phillipa Hannah and Noel Robinson. Staying with Manchester – Ni-Cola and David B have also just announced a joint headline gig for April 10.
Moving on to another UK Gospel music capital, Birmingham: Roger Moore and the GL360 gang will no doubt continue to do what they’ve done incredibly well in recent years: put on regular, well organised, well-supported events. You need to stop by if you can.
Noel Robinson’s annual Kingdom Worship Movement event returned again to London, and he must be feeling equal parts excited and nervous: his album Outrageous Love had its US physical product release in January too.
And by the time you read this Ekklesia would have wrapped their own Atmosphere Live headline gig, as would Grammy nominee Jonathan McReynolds on his first UK visit (hosted by IDMC’s John Fisher, and by all accounts a fantastic night out at London’s Hackney Empire).
Sticking with artists visiting from the US, Grammy winner Hezekiah Walker and Lamar Campbell are both rumoured to be visiting these shores soon. Other international acts that have already been and gone in January include Nigeria’s Sammie Okposo.
It’s also worth flagging Gospel’s increasing presence on mainstream TV: 2015 was particularly good.
That was the year TV judges actually encouraged acts to go big on their Gospel roots (as opposed to the usual ‘inspirational’ flag many artists tend to fly under). Bazil Meade even got roped in to an obviously pre-planned ‘spontaneous’ moment on X Factor – but I’ll let that one slide… 🙂
It was a particularly good look for Jennifer Phillips (and it certainly isn’t oversell to suggest her Reggae-infused cover of Mary Mary’s ‘Shackles’ was a highlight), Melody Stone and BEKLN Mile, all featuring on X-Factor, despite arguably premature exits.
2016 continues the run, as Janine Dyer, pictured (excellent vocalist in her own right, and formerly of the awesome Raymond & Co) is in this year’s The Voice (Series 5). And while I don’t know him personally, it seems Efe Udugba is a Christian too.
While this might not seem to be that much of a big deal to you, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that participating in a competition like this was frowned on by many. It probably still is in some quarters.
Think about that for a second.
As the UK Gospel social media market evolves, it’s great to see field experts springing up to provide solid services.
To anyone that needs to wrap their heads around social media marketing: check out Dot at 49p Social Media, and tell her I sent you. She does incredible work, and is already handling key personalities including Mercy B, executive producer of Time 2 Shine.
Speaking of people doing good work (and I know it doesn’t really fall in the ‘social’ category) I also have to give a quick shout out to Lucas Langdon, a true soldier and veteran of the scene with fingers in so many great pies down the years. If you haven’t already, you need to check out Luv316 Radio.
And on the UKGospel.com front, version 3 should finally surface sometime this year. More on that in a separate update, but watch (or, more accurately, listen out) out for a whole series of new UKGospel Podcasts (there should be at least three brand new ones by the end of February).
I’ve gone on longer than I intended, so I’ll stop here.
Next up: Vinejuice
Name: Adaeze & Lavinia
Job: #JuicyLadies, the founders of Vinejuice
We’re excited about UK Gospel artists raising their game in 2016.
Throughout last year Marcia Dixon and Juliet Fletcher from Gospel Music Industry Alliance (GMIA) held seminars and workshops teaching artists about various aspects of the music industry so it’s great to see that coming through in how artists like newcomer Sarah Téibo are stepping out and stepping up.
Some big events coming up this year.
We’ve already seen Guvna B start the year off with a sell-out concert. Manchester has the massive Festival of Praise headlined by Israel Houghton. Jonathan McReynolds will be live in London – and that’s only January’s calendar! 2015 was good for events but we’re anticipating 2016 will be massive.
A #juicy year ahead for Vinejuice.
The Juicy Ladies have got some exciting developments in the pipeline starting with the launch of our very own Vinejuice Radio Station – Manchester’s Positive Playlist, playing the best Hip-Hop, RnB, Pop, and Dance for today’s Urban Christian.
More on Vinejuice:
Name: O’Neil Dennis
Job: Founder & Operations Manager
I’m excited about the amazing abundance of creative talent in the UK Christian community.
More and more creatives are stepping out, challenging traditional mindsets and engaging with a generation.
Now more than ever before we have an increasing number of dancers, graphic designs, artists and some excellent videographers to name a few.
I’m also excited about an emerging network aiming to service an emerging industry.
By that we refer to the Christian Media Network of forward thinking YouTubers, bloggers, journalists, music, media & event reviewers, broadcasters and content developers that have dedicated time and resources to promoting and shouting about artists, events, live activities and just about anything and everything newsworthy.
The new astepfwd.com website launched in October 2015 which caused our incoming correspondence to triple. The Step FWD UK Christian Chart is now fully entrenched after 21 consistent months of Top 10 tracks.
So much fresh music from new artists alongside established acts we are grateful and ‘gassed’ to be at the forefront of it all!
Year 1 – we engaged. Year 2 – we supported. Year 3 – we intend to empower (watch out for our Music & Media Conference coming up each quarter in 2016 plus lots more)
More on Step FWD
Facebook: A Step FWD
Next Up: Tash
Name: Natasha Ferguson
Job Title: Editor-in-Chief
I’m Excited About Events.
In 2015 we had a diverse selection of events that were really inspiring.
It was exciting to see the creativity, not just how the artists minister in music but the way they looked at it from a different perspective – for example Icie had his book launch as well as an EP release, Volney Morgan and New Ye did their live recording…
I’m excited to see live events that raise the standard and show the quality of UK Gospel music.
I’m also excited about New Music
Last year I was really impressed with the quality of music that was released, not just from a hype perspective but lyrically.
I believe in fully understanding an artist and what they say, because at the end of the day the Gospel is about the Good News reaching people through these artists’ individual stories and testimonies.
There were a lot of stand-outs for me last year including A Star: he spoke about his aunt having cancer, and in his latest freestyle he revealed that his aunt was healed. Lyrically that’s what the Gospel should be about, regardless of the Genre.
There were quite a lot of albums that stood out for me lyrically, like S.O.’s ‘So It Ends’.
I’d like to see a lot more females come up this year and release EPs and albums. I’m behind Becca Folkes: she released her debut EP in 2015, she’s someone definitely to watch out for, as well as Naomi Parchment and the Zoe Grace Twins.
I’d also like the diverse genres of Gospel we have to step their game up and make their sound as beautiful, excellent and consistent as possible, and raise the bar so much so that however they perform or minister they ignite and intrigue their audience to know Christ more…
The third thing I’m excited about is 2BRealMagazine
We found out the other day that we’re known in 98 countries. That’s amazing to me. I didn’t even think we were known worldwide like that. We were just busy working.
I’m very blessed and humbled and grateful that I have heard what God has required me to do and am following in the vision he’s given me. In 2016 2BRealMagazine just wants to focus on building a community and a platform for those who may (or may even not) be Christian, where we bridge unity, information and content all over the world.
We’ve also got a few things up our sleeve, but nothing that I can talk about just yet!
More on 2BRealMagazine
Next Up: Jonathan
Name: Jonathan Rowland
Job: CEO of MyChurch.Events
Platform: Christian/Church Advertisement Service
I’m excited about Events and Artists
The great events that will be put on by churches throughout the UK and UK artistes stepping up and releasing awesome inspirational UK Gospel music.
Some of my favourites this year include: Fiona Yorke, Desola, Annastasia Baker, Volney Morgan and New Ye who supported Tye Tribbett and not forgetting Saxophonist YolanDa Brown who has been touring the UK all through 2015!
MyChurch.Events had a great year advertising over 100 Christian events! We “live streamed” a number of events too including a debate titled “What is God like?” which has so far generated over 8000 views on our YouTube channel.
We also brought over Bishop Wesley Wiley from New York, USA which was received so well when he toured with us that he is coming back later this year to do it again!
What event are we really looking forward to for 2016?
It has to be Big Church Day Out which is happening at the end of May 2016 in West Sussex. This event has over 25000 people attend and has different genres throughout the event and massive headliners!
This year MyChurch.Events will give free advertisement to all customers who just want to advertise on our website, which is a big thing for us.
We also in the final stages of getting a sponsor! Praise God! We have two massive events that we are currently planning which doesn’t include our Time2Worship events, as well as Bishop Wiley’s comeback tour and other events with charities such as ACLT and Sickle Cell Society. 2016 will be an exciting year!
More on MyChurch.Events
Facebook: MyChurch Events
Name: Lady T
Job: Radio Presenter, Artist Manager, TV Presenter
I’m excited about new albums from a number of artists: Lurine Cato, V9 Collective and Andrew Bello.
I’m also excited about seeing more events. There’s a new format of events which I know of that will be launching later on this year. I can’t really say much more at this stage but I’m really excited about it.
There are going to be new tours that I’m looking forward to…
Guvna B kicked it off and Faith Child’s is on it’s way. I’m pretty sure there’ll be more as the year goes on…
However: I’d like to see more events that cater specifically for men in 2016.
There are usually quite a few for women, but hopefully we’ll see a few more that are geared towards men this time around.
I’m also looking forward to people maximising their online platforms.
Great job from A Step FWD. Looking forward to their TV side growing. Vinejuice will continue to grow and looking forward to the relaunch of UKGospel.com
I’m also excited about more collaborative efforts in 2016, with everybody rallying together to build something great.
More on Lady T
Facebook: Lady T Presents
Image: Premier Gospel
Name: DJ Fireman (Jermaine Dallas)
Job: Writer/Radio Presenter/DJ
Platform: The Sound Doctrine and Premier Gospel
I’m excited about marquee events…
Last year we saw some UK artists perform on some big stages with other people. This year, we’ll see them bottle up that success and stage their own high profile events for large audiences.
Exhibit A: the forthcoming Faith Child tour.
I’m also looking forward to honesty.
No, seriously. We’re starting to see artists tell their own ‘warts and all’ stories.
The time for pulling punches is done! I think we’ll see more tracks where artists say what they feel led to say, as opposed to what they think people expect them to say.
And: New Music…
And good quality music at that. Top of my list is the V9 Collective album which is in the pipeline. I honestly think they’re the most musically complete group in the UK. I can’t wait to hear the finished product.
More on DJ Fireman
Name: Audrey Gray
Job: Artiste and Industry Developer & Consultant
Platform: AG Consultancy & Services
I’m excited about being part of UK industry and working with industry developers towards various projects.
Already on the table are projects with Juliet Fletcher (GMIA/ GreenTree), O’Neil Dennis (aStepFwd). 2015 was a busy year for projects I was involved in
There’s also a label development in the works.
We’ll be formally announcing and launching a new talent agency soon. Talking of new talent, for me 2015 presented and highlighted new and rising talent, mainly via UK Christian Charts. My top 5 new acts from 2015 that I will be watching in 2016 (in no order): Sarah Téibo, AStar, Becca Folkes, Possible P and Samm Henshaw
For AG Consultancy, 2016’s main focus areas are:
(a) Getting key series of planned projects funded (b) marketing within overall Christian/Gospel entertainment environment. (c) creating a tour development program and (d) working International talent
More on Audrey
Name: Emmanuel Adeyemi
Job Title: Freelance Preditor (Producer / Production editor)
I’m excited about the unashamed youth coming through the scene.
It has taken some of them a while maybe but at least they are here and not afraid to let it be known the Kingdom of our God is near.
In 2015 we started blogging and we have come across a line of great talent that need the encouragement and the push to help build the platform to make Jesus known in these streets.
And what do we have planned for 2016..? I don’t want to say too much… Actually nothing at all… But you’ll see 🙂
Also a big shout out to all the platforms and great people we linked up with in 2015. Things will ONLY GET BETTER!
More on Flock Point 7
More on Flock Point 7
Name: Kelechi Amadi (DJ Kelechi)
Job: Christian DJ, event promoter and Artist Management for J Vessel
I’m excited about the way the urban gospel music scene can grow when the various facets grow and compliment each other.
For the scene to be vibrant we need not just great music from great artists, but we also need strong media destinations, a great social and events scene, clothing…
Online media destinations raising the bar. I’ve been hugely impressed with Vinejuice and AStepFWD‘s efforts in 2015. They work hard showcasing the artists and events and being a focal point for fans to see what’s happening. This year I expect 2BReal Magazine and Flock Point 7 and many others to continue to grow also, not forgetting the forthcoming re-launch of UKGospel.com.
I’m looking forward to a vibrant events and social scene for 2016…
After the success of the Ultimate New Year’s Eve Praise Party, my team at PraiseParty.co.uk are planning many more club nights. This is a long missing but much requested addition to the calendar giving Christian music lovers a great night out and artists an additional platform.
And also: quality debut projects from new artists.
Really looking forward to the much anticipated release from 19 year old MOBO nominee J Vessel in the first half of the year, amongst others.
More on DJ Kelechi
So, there you have it. It’ll be interesting to see how 2016 pans out.
See you, God willing, in 2017…