The other day I read an article on MusicScribe where each contributor listed five “pet peeves” about this music we all love. I sympathized with some more than others, but the ones that seemed to generate the most discussion involved accountability and misleading press releases for group turnover. Two contributors complained that there’s a culture of “sweeping things under the rug” when a given singer sins in some way, criticizing sunshine and roses press releases that give the false impression all is well. “So-and-so is leaving to spend more time with his family… so-and-so is leaving to follow God’s exciting new direction for his life…,” etc. As one agreeing commentator put it, this falls flat in times when “everybody knows” there’s a scandal.
Like my friend Brian who commented from Southern Gospel Critique, I tend to look on the bright side of the industry. My first reaction was, “But… what if someone really does just want to spend more time with his family?” I understand that there have been scandals over the years, and I’ve seen plenty of rumors with varying degrees of substantiation. However, I’m a primary sources kind of person. I’m very hesitant to claim that I “know” something to be true unless I can trace it to somebody reliable and close to the case. Frankly, I’m not sure what folks mean when they talk about “everybody knowing” that a given group turnover is scandalous. How could “everyone” possibly “know” all the ins and outs of a private transaction? Sure, a few folks might know who are in the industry or have industry sources, but most normal fans aren’t that plugged in. They just enjoy the music and are sorry to see a favorite singer go.
I also disagree that even if there is sin involved, the group is obliged to “spill” for the fans. A commenter flat-out made this demand in his own list of pet peeves: “Don’t sugar coat it. Tell us.” I answered, “Why do they have to?” We don’t know if there’s repentance. We don’t know what innocent parties could be harmed by the dissemination of such information, including innocent group members. (For example, suppose they made it public information that one member was being fired for sin problems. People who heard about it 2nd or 3rd or quintillionth-hand might get confused about exactly who it was and view the entire group suspiciously because they heard that “somebody” involved had done something really bad.) There’s also just the fact that fans don’t really need or want to know all the sordid details of a given scandal.
A regular reader, JSR, replied that he felt public rebuke was biblical procedure when it came to people involved in the ministry, and southern gospel is a kind of ministry. He argued that the rebuke should be just as public as the performances which inspired love and adulation from fans in the first place. Fans have a right to know that they’ve been had. The sin should be laid bare before the whole Church. In reply to my satiric “good-riddance-and-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out” virtual press release which gleefully denounces singer x as “an uncontrollable perv,” he advocated for a press release that makes it clear there’s sin involved without going into details. Something like “We regret to inform you that we had to release singer xyz from the group because of his infidelity.”
What do you think? I still have reservations even about revealing that much. I do agree that press releases should not be deceptive. I think we can all agree on that point. But if there’s truly nothing positive to say, one should perhaps not issue a press release at all. (In fact I do remember a case that was so bad the group member literally disappeared without a trace. At least nobody lied there!) But JSR feels he has a biblical case. In his words, “The bible tells us the elders who rule well are worthy of double honor, but those that sin, rebuke before all.”
Somebody named “Mike,” who appears to be an artist, left a long comment that dealt with this particular pet peeve by saying that an individual could be permanently damaged through such an exposure. This seems to go back to my point about repentance. I’ve heard of people who sinned but felt remorse and gradually turned their life back around.
I’m liking my option of simply not saying anything at all in certain cases, which seems to split the difference between outright lying to fans on the one hand and TMI on the other. (I suppose I could imagine a case where it’s technically true. “So-and-so needs to spend more time with his WIFE and kids. Right so-and-so? *cough-cough*” But you get the idea.) Do you have a better idea?