In Contemporary Christian Music and in secular genres, there is a clear-cut line between independent artists and those who are signed by labels. Artists signed by labels will have a large fan base, while indie artists will often have small but devoted fan bases.
In Southern Gospel music, the distinction is somewhat less clear. Artists like the Florida Boys, Hoppers, and Dixie Echoes are all independent artists, and they still are regularly nominated for and receive Singing News Fan Awards.
In fact, the trend seems to be toward major marquee names in Southern Gospel moving away from record labels and toward issuing their own projects. Granted, some of this has to do with the way individual labels have treated individual artists.
Yet I can’t help but wonder if this is the wave of the future in Southern Gospel. Back in the day, the top names in Southern Gospel (Blackwood Brothers, Statesmen, Chuck Wagon Gang) would be signed to the biggest labels in the music industry.
The next generation of artists (Cathedrals, Happy Goodmans, Kingsmen) were signed to the biggest labels in all of Christian music (Benson, Canaan, Word).
Then another generation of artists (Perrys, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, Dove Brothers) were and are signed to the biggest labels in Southern Gospel (Daywind, Crossroads).
Is today’s trend toward some of Southern Gospel’s biggest acts becoming independent artists the wave of the future in Southern Gospel? Are artists like Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, who get significant exposure outside of Southern Gospel, the exception?
Will the industry follow the independent model, and become marginalized within Christian music? Or will (and can) the industry follow the Gaither model?