[Last call for votes, poll closes today!]
[Note: I will close the poll next Tuesday, so get your vote in now!]
This week I’m taking a mini-break to focus on some other things (come back on
Friday oops, I mean Wednesday—looks like I forgot to un-schedule a post!) so I thought it might be a good moment to run a question by all you readers in the form of a poll. But first, some reflections.
As you all know, I love southern gospel music. A great gospel song, delivered well, never fails to stir my soul. It’s one of the only currently active genres where I can count on hearing something I like every year. At the same time, a part of me sympathizes with the choice made by people like Daniel J. Mount, who recently stepped down from his excellent daily blog. Part of his argument was that there are many outlets for southern gospel news, and increasingly, he felt his blog was becoming obsolete. Since then, sites like Lauren’s Views From the Pew have stepped into the gap with excellence, enthusiasm and to-the-minute energy. Meanwhile, Musicscribe’s panel of writers enables them to keep up a constant rotation of news, commentary, history and reviews. The frequent posting and high quality of these outlets sometimes make me wonder what I have to bring to the table that’s fresh and distinctive.
I’ve concluded that it’s my voice. I’m not from the south, and I don’t have a background in this music, so I’m approaching it with a different perspective from somebody who’s grown up steeped in it. People seem to value my opinion partly because I’m not afraid to offer criticism where I see room for improvement, be it in the realm of vocals, writing, or production. Artists know that I have their best interests at heart, and I genuinely love to see them succeed. Fans know that they’re getting an honest opinion when they look at what I have to say.
But the truth is that I don’t just love southern gospel music. I love all kinds of music. (Well, not all. Not metal, or hip-hop, or today’s CCM radio fodder. To re-phrase, I love all good kinds of music.) I love all great singers and all great songs. I love great movies. I love great literature. I love great human stories. I love theology. I love to discuss the role of faith in culture and politics. In short, I love many things. If I could sum up what this little corner of the web has become to me over time, I would say that it’s a repository of my attempts to preserve things. I preserve what is worth remembering. I preserve what is good and excellent and true and beautiful. Southern Gospel music, with its timeless qualities and rich history, is certainly a part of that goal. But it’s taken its place with other things that I feel are also worth preserving. This is partly because my own interests are so varied, but it’s also partly because I don’t want to repeat something that’s already been noted or said better by somebody else.
The difficulty is that I can almost palpably sense the decreased interest from my regular readers when I invest my energies in almost anything other than strictly southern gospel news and views. Meanwhile, over the past year I’ve received hundreds, if not thousands of visiting hits on two pieces that had nothing to do with southern gospel. One of them was about Steve McQueen’s conversion to Christianity, the other one about the late Christian minister Brennan Manning. Now I owe a lot to good timing and good publicity in those particular cases (the former was featured on some heavily trafficked sites, the latter was released in conjunction with the death of a noted Christian figure), so I hesitate to ascribe to my own writing skill what could largely be the happy results of Mr. Google. But it has given me pause.
Trying to expand one’s audience can be a bit of a gamble, but one option I’ve been considering is an offer I received some time ago when I guest-posted on a site called Patheos. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Patheos, it’s a bit like a television set with different channels for different streams of religious thought. My guest post was naturally on the evangelical channel. After looking at some of my writing samples, editor Tim Dalrymple said he liked what he saw and offered me my own blog spot on the channel. At the time, I told him I wasn’t ready to make the shift. It’s still not something I would do lightly. For one thing, with my focus on music and film, my site might be better suited to the network’s Entertainment channel (which is staffed by almost exclusively Christian writers). However, I haven’t been offered anything concrete in that area.
If I did make this leap, I can guarantee you that southern gospel posting would not go away. I would still review CDs and concerts, offer commentary, and live-blog the NQC. However, the ratio of non-SG posts to SG posts would go up, in hopes that these would find a more interested audience. Also, some SG-related posts might be geared towards a broader target audience who is not as familiar with the music. One potentially good result of this is that I might be able to make some new fans by explaining who and what it is about southern gospel that appeals to me. On the other hand, it’s possible that the new audience I would be trying to reach would be uninterested in anything southern gospel-related that I wrote, with the result that I would be working twice as hard to please two sharply divided audiences and lose both for my efforts. This is obviously not the result I am looking for! They don’t say that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush for nothing. Furthermore, I would fear losing my uniqueness and autonomy by becoming a part of the “Patheos package.” On the other hand again, it gives me hope that some of my favorite Patheos bloggers have been able to remain robustly, unapologetically conservative without being censored. Examples from the Evangelical Channel include John Mark Reynolds, David French, and Eric Teetsel from the Manhattan Project.
A possible in-between step would be simply re-branding my wordpress site as “Yankee Gospel Girl” versus “Southern Gospel Yankee.” It wouldn’t give me the same platform as a move to Patheos, but it would give a logic to at least some experimentation with the “non-SG to SG” ratio, which might be more appealing to potential new readers while simultaneously retaining my independence.
So now this is the part where you weigh in. I genuinely want your opinion. I value your readership, and I want to take this moment to thank everyone who’s subscribed, commented, and kept coming back to this spot over the few years I’ve been blogging away. Here’s a poll. What do you think? Please take a moment to cast a vote, and if you have further thoughts, I would also love to read any comments.