In 2013 I seriously considered shutting down UKGospel.com
It was an easy enough conclusion for me to reach: when I started the project back in 2000 it was one of quite literally only a handful of sites dedicated to featuring news, reviews, opinion and analysis on the UK Gospel music scene.
But now, almost 14 years down the line, UKGospel.com is just one of many platforms serving the incredible efforts of what – in my view at least – is still one of the most exciting gospel music industries on the planet.
To put that statement into some kind of context: this is a scene that produces great (even world-class) music and live content at a fraction of what the world’s leading market, the USA, does.
Diverse Musical Pallette
I’ve said this many times before: in some respects, not having a fully evolved industry framework has worked in our favour.
It’s meant that comparatively speaking we enjoy a more diverse musical palette in our Gospel mainstream as compared to the American setup which is dominated primarily by the three main flavours of the Gospel sound: ‘Traditional’ and ‘Urban Contemporary’ (read: ‘Choir songs ancient and modern’), and RnB.
‘…comparatively speaking we enjoy a more diverse musical palette in our Gospel mainstream when compared to the American setup…’
You can also make a strong case for another catch-22 argument: larger players (artists, labels, broadcasters, etc.) are likely to be more risk-averse, sticking to what they do best.
And this is almost always at the expense of pushing the creative envelope, as concern about the cost of failure (more likely financial than creative) engenders an industry output that leaves little significant bandwidth for anything outside well-established parameters.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d *love* a bit of that US infrastructure action right here in the UK, and I know many people are working hard on finally (and firmly) establishing those building blocks (so hopefully: soon, Lord…)
In the meantime: what the scene currently lacks in broader industry investment and infrastructure it more than makes up for with a truly varied scene and sound.
This is almost certain to include music that – in addition to the expected ‘Gospel’ output – also offers everything from Hip-Hop to RnB to Reggae to Soul to Singer-Songwriter to Latin to African and more.
‘…In the meantime: what the scene currently lacks in broader industry investment and infrastructure we make up for with a truly varied scene and sound that…offers everything from Hip-Hop to RnB to Reggae to Soul to Singer-Songwriter to Latin to African..’
Crucially though, much of this content will almost certainly find its way into our ‘mainstream’ with comparative ease: you’re likely to read about, hear or see this diversity at play on a wide range of platforms from blogs to radio, TV and websites.
Never Been Stronger
And with the happy confluence of the incredible power of search (thanks to the likes of Google and Bing), cheap and even free, easy-to-use publishing tools, audio and video streaming, full-service and micro-blogging websites and platforms, support for UK Gospel music has never been stronger.
Websites and social feeds like London’s A Step FWD and Birmingham’s recently relaunched GL Records, plus other sites like Snowdrop Online, M-Brio Music, BeeSuareZ Blog (which – somewhat ironically given the context of this piece – was offline for refurbishment at the time of my writing), and even American websites like Rapzilla and Gospel Innovation all play a part in the promotion of the UK scene.
And in spite of all our inevitable annual complaints about its choices, even the MOBOs has been resolute in retaining the Gospel category in their events of recent years, boldly serving up 100% UK gospel nominees in lieu of the arguably easier American option for the past 3 or so years.
‘…in spite of all our inevitable annual complaints about its choices, even the MOBOs has been resolute in retaining the Gospel category in their events of recent years..’
Unsurprisingly, online radio is also very robust at the moment with two of the strongest brands in this space being the London-based, Dave P-owned UGN Jamz, and Nottingham’s DJ Proclaima‘s SoulCure Radio.
And outside the Gospel scene things are beginning to look up again: after a few years of vicious culls of Gospel shows across a whole range of broadcasters, gospel programming is returning to mainstream radio…
Just last month respected RnB and Soul station Mi-Soul (pronounced ‘my soul’) announced Tony Tomlin‘s ‘The Soul Feeder Show’ (Mi-Soul founder Gordon Mac was happy to be persuaded by Tony about the need for Gospel) and Wayne Marshall is on Colourful Radio in London, specialising in Gospel House Music.
‘…as important as London is to UK Gospel, radio is in rude health right across the country…’
And – as important as London is to UK Gospel, radio is in rude health right across the country: shout out to DJ Mello holding it down on community station Peace FM in Manchester, Mel & Carmen Carrol‘s Soul2Sole on Ujima FM in Bristol and Ibe Giantkiller on Jamrock Radio in Luton for representing gospel music on shows on mainstream platforms.
Things are healthy offline as well: radio continues to grow apace with the excellent work that UCB and Premier Christian Media do (in UCB Gospel and Premier Gospel respectively).
And we’ve seen the launch of the relatively new ‘church-branded’ radio format, typified by Ruach Radio and Jesus House radio in London.
It’s a fairly safe bet that there are others around, and no doubt there will be more to spring up in the coming months and years.
It could be much better, but UK Gospel Music TV is arguably in something of a good place too, with the best example by far being the resilient Uprise.
It was very encouraging to see Uprise‘s strong resurgence in 2012/2013, not just with entertainment programming but social issue initiatives (see the Uprise Sleep Out).
We no doubt need significantly more content and platforms in this space, but I’ll take what we have at the moment, thank you 🙂
Of all the emerging Christian media platforms television arguably has the biggest challenge to deliver Christian programmes that aren’t cringe-worthy. We’re on the way, but there’s a way to go yet.
‘It could be much better, but UK Gospel Music TV is arguably in something of a good place too’
Here’s to hoping more brave souls bring more TV production companies to a sector that deeply needs not only hugely passionate individuals but people who really do have a long-term vision and dedication to the medium.
And speaking of passion, OHTV also deserve a huge hat-tip as a TV channel still going strong in the incredibly expensive, free-to-air satellite TV space, supporting Uprise and other UK Gospel programming.
Shutting Up Shop
So this all means I’m increasingly having to seriously consider the word ‘no’ to the question I frequently ask myself:
‘Do I still need to keep doing this..?’
‘…I’m having to seriously consider the word ‘no’ to the question I frequently ask myself:
“Do I still need to keep doing this..?”‘
More and more, people can get their UK Gospel news from more places and across more platforms than ever before.
When I’d speak to friends about shutting up shop, many would (very kindly, to my mind) point out that there is still nothing like UKGospel.com out there.
I’m not sure I agree with that. This piece hopefully goes some way to not only show, but prove otherwise.
The platforms strongly supporting UK Gospel do exist, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, you soon will.
Trust me on that one.
Too Much Passion
How can I be sure? Well, there’s way too much going on in this industry.
Way too much passion, way too much music, way too much vision, way too much belief, a whole lot of negativity (yeah, I said it), counterbalanced by an infinitely larger number of folks working hard to prove the naysayers wrong.
‘There’s a whole lot of negativity counterbalanced by an infinitely larger number of folks working hard to prove the naysayers wrong…’
Ultimately there’s way too much power in the Gospel for platforms in this industry not to grow and prosper.
I’m convinced that over time we’ll also witness the birth of new trends and platforms.
I’m still not sure how much longer I’ll continue running UKGospel.com in its current form, but that’s a good thing.
To my mind the simple truth of the matter is this: if this site disappears tomorrow I believe there won’t be much of a vacuum to fill. I’ve already stated my reasons why.
And I strongly believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This thing has always been bigger than any one platform.
‘…This thing has always been bigger than any one platform…’
In the meantime: onwards and upwards