A short while back, Brian Free posted the following on Assurance’s facebook page:
Many of you told me to let you know when we were getting low on supplies on the bus, well we are getting low. You will never know how much we appreciate you keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. I’ll list the things we need in one minute…
Paper towels, RV toilet paper, PAPER plates, Plastic cups, Paper bowls, 9 volt batteries (Duracell or Energizer), AA batteries, AAA batteries and anything else you would like to bring. I can’t thank you enough, you are supporting us more than you know. Love you ALL! Brian
Well. That got people riled up. We had the trolls on Avery chortling to high heaven. “Ah yes, the prima donna artist bilking his adoring fans for toilet paper. How quaint. How droll.” Though not quite in those terms, but you get the gist. As far as they’re concerned, the emoticon says it all…
Then we had some smoother sneering. Though it was still sneering, and frankly if this guy is a former Cathedral as he claims in the comments thread there, I’ve got a little less respect for whoever that former Cathedral may be. (Though since it’s come out now that it’s a group deal, I don’t know what else, if anything, he’s contributed to the blog. [EDIT: And, it has been brought to my attention that when he said "working with the Cathedrals," he actually most likely did not mean to convey that he actually sang as a member of the group, but worked with them in another group. My apologies to any former Cathedral who may be reading this. I guess it's possible that you happen to agree with AAP, but you probably didn't write it. I hope you understand it was an honest mistake.]) Anyway, whoever he actually is, I don’t particularly care if he thought he was doing Brian a favor. He’s not. It basically boiled down to, “Well, Brian’s a good chap, but this is rather embarrassing, don’t you know?”
No, I don’t know. Explain to me again just what is supposed to be so embarrassing about somebody who runs a music ministry telling fans, many of whom have asked how they can help… how they can help? I thought the most classless bit of AAP’s critique was when he said he doesn’t “fall for” the “many have asked” part. So let me try to get this straight: You “like Brian and think he’s a good guy,” except of course you think he’s a liar? I also found this bit unintentionally humorous in a comment: “Seriously, if you want to make any singer happy, they will smile a lot bigger if they had a Applebee’s (etc) gift card as opposed to a roll of toilet paper.” Except Brian is a singer, and he’s already told us what he really wants. Oops. And as for the people arguing “Well look at their nice bus, look at his nice house, he should sacrifice himself instead of twisting the arms of people who may have less than he does…” give me a break. Number one, Brian’s personal bank account is one thing and the group’s account is another. He probably has a mortgage on that nice house. You think he could afford to support the group single-handedly out of his own pocket? And number two, he’s not twisting anybody’s arm. People can freely choose to give or not. Some people are thrilled to do so. Some people choose to let others do it. It’s up to them. Nobody’s being forced to do anything here. Also, people are saying it’s cheesy to ask for specific items, but would they rather he asked for money instead? Then they’d be complaining that was tacky because fans would just be donating with no idea where the money goes. So the truth is it’s a lose-lose.
This is my best shot at trying to understand where AAP and the rest who agree with him are coming from: Brian Free is a businessman running a business. His group sells product, fans pay. Whatever needs they have should be paid for by the business they do. So asking fans for supplies is un-businesslike and hence tacky and unprofessional.
But here’s the thing: Brian’s not just running a business. He’s running a ministry. And so is every artist in the industry. They’re preaching the gospel through song. That’s a form of ministry. And many groups (including Brian Free and Assurance, I might add) choose not even to charge per ticket for many of their concerts. As a result, there is a natural desire from friends of the ministry to want to be involved in supporting it. The people who have asked Brian how they can help made the offer in friendship, and he is responding in friendship. It’s not merely a provider/consumer relationship, and that’s what makes southern gospel unique and special. I know some people think that’s the reason southern gospel is dying, but I submit that it would die a different kind of death if they had their way.
There you have my two cents. For what they are worth.