Gospel music ministry & show business: Who is confused?

Gospel Music Awards It is a profit-making venture when you put charges on events, printing and selling tickets

Tue, 4 Jul 2017 Source: Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

Last week’s feature, ‘Joe Mettle & His Team Must Sit Up’ astonishingly did generate perplexity, especially among the gospel fraternity. Some responded to the article with some level of elocution, discernment and tolerance; they objectively raised genuine issues with some of the points and attempted to even offer education on the thorny subject of Ministry and show business.

Others, however, acted a fool over the subject and decided to show their true colours of how imprudent they are – a sharp contrast to a spirit-filled attitude they exhibit in their daily endeavours. A bunch of ignoramuses who have no inkling on what music, arts and the show business are all about. Let’s not waste time on such dilettantes!

Most importantly, the article also stoked a longstanding debate that has lingered across the world for years; the issue of Gospel Music, Ministry and Show business. There’s arguably a thin line between Gospel music and show business and while some gospel artists recognise it as such, others argue that Ministry has nothing to do with the business.

The Gospel Music Ministry

Some critics of last week’s feature on Joe Mettle argued that the artist is into Ministry – working for God, touching lives and should not conform to any standard. They asserted that the artist pays no or little attention to counsel that holds a probability of tilting his plan of ‘spreading the word’.

Proponents of this argument that gospel music is a ministry also maintain that the ultimate goal of gospel music is to propagate the word of God and to win souls for Christ. Once you veer off this task, you have lost the plot as a gospel artist.

They also say that the gospel artist is just like the pastor; while the pastor stands in the pulpit to preach the word, making him/her a Minister of God, the gospel artist fulfils the same aim by preaching the word via music – making him/her a Minister of God too.

Some even move the argument a notch and state, that there ought not to be any template in Gospel Ministry, one only moves by the direction of God; meaning, that gospel music is a special form of calling and one needs the anointing to qualify as a true gospel artist or, most appropriately, a Minister of God.

Gospel music should not be confused with show business, they say; it should not be perceived as a business. Any gospel artist who does that has lost the true meaning of the core mandate of Ministry and in essence, he/she has lost the way.

It is even opined that gospel music should not be classified as a career. The music must be driven by the mindset of mission and love for ministry, and not what we call money – an assertion that gets approval with the scripture that states that we should seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all other things will be added to us.

The Show Business

Show Business comes in two folds; one is the show, which represents the creative element – the music, the skill to belt out quality notes, the proficiency to put meaningful lyrics together and the ability to put melodies in place. The tendency to also mount any stage to deliver any some form of showmanship, yelling and running back and forth the stage also represents the ‘show’.

Here is where it gets interesting: the business side of the show business.

The businessdictonary.com defines business as – an organisation or economic system where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money. Every business requires some form of investment and enough customers to whom its output can be sold on a consistent basis in order to make a profit.

As an artist, once you do music production – getting a songwriter, producer/sound engineer and even backing vocalists and walking to a recording studio to put everything together, you are in business.

You are in business when you have an Executive Producer, Manager, Publicist, Agents and a Distributor, and a firm that produces CD covers, oh yes! You are in business when you put together shows, concerts and tours – contract advertisers and media to promote it while dealing with ticketing companies to produce tickets for sale.

You are in business when you contract event organisers, protocol, décor and security for all projects and events for anything related to the creative element.

You know you are in business when you sit in the Boardroom of that corporate firm to discuss that endorsement deal or the sponsorship money for your event and surely, you definitely know you are in business when you finish your event and contractors are chasing you for the balance of their money. Did I state the business in contracting a music video director to shoot videos and placing the videos and any other audio-visual products on major social media platforms?

The Confusion

Let me go back to the Joe Mettle article and the kind of commentary that came out of it, mostly from the gospel fraternity, which solidifies the level of confusion that persists with regards to the subject of gospel music industry and show business.

Some of the naysayers in exhibiting some inanity stated that it was foolish to compare Joe Mettle to the likes of E.L and Sarkodie in they organising their own shows. So, I ask; did Joe and his team not transact business with Vodafone in seeking sponsorship for the show, the same way the likes of Sarkodie and Shatta Wale do for their respective shows? Why did Joe and his team not fast and pray feverishly and wait patiently on the Lord to drop manna from heaven?

It is a profit-making venture when you put charges on events, printing and selling tickets and here, Joe Mettle, Sarkodie and Shatta Wale did it with their respective shows. (Mind you, we don’t care what they do with their profits). Joe could have prayed for energy from God and played his show for different sessions – all for free. After all, the scripture says, he gave it to us for free, so we should also go out there and project it for free. No?

One Executive from Charterhouse, organisers for the VGMA, in chiding the article on Sunny FM, agreed with some of the fans of Joe and stated that gospel artists should not be compared with the guys in the secular fold because they operate in a different zone. Very laughable, especially when you reckon that the rules, category definitions and prize packages for the VGMA are the same for all artists. How come, spirit-filled categories and angelic rules are not made for only the gospel artists? My brother, stop the joke!

It was ridiculous to hear and read some state that, Joe Mettle and gospel music should not conform to any standard. Please wait, then Joe and his posse of gospel acts should not rely on any standard of music production, promotion, publishing and performances. They should go to the lorry stations, Makola and Malata Markets; sing, sing and sing and win souls for Christ.

What was even more inane was the statement from some saying that Joe didn’t ask for the VGMA ‘Artiste of the Year’ tag and we should not use our worldly ways to dictate to him on what to do. One surely is doing the asking when he/she posts artwork of his nominee photo, voting code and his categories on his social media handles.

So, one is permitted to query and offer suggestions to E.L or Shatta Wale on their VGMA wins but same cannot be done to Joe Mettle because, he is anointed, chosen and does Ministry. Well, then Joe Mettle and his cronies should organise ‘Ministry Awards’ – that way, only Jesus Christ can make inquisitions about his winning. Stop the tomfoolery!

But wait, there’s another interesting theory in Luke 2:49!

“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” – Luke 2:49.

Why did Jesus not say he’s about his father’s ministry? Could the ‘Ministry’ and the ‘Business’ be the same thing, after all? The debate will linger but let tolerance and decorum lead in such discussions.

Columnist: Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo