Gospel Rises Again

These soul-filled sounds aren't only lifting up spirits, they're raising new business opportunities

(Verity Records, formerly Tribute/Diadem). Haley and Adams worked closely over the next year, and when the artist’s contract with Bond’s company expired, she recruited Haley to manage her.

As manager, Haley negotiates Adams’ performance and recording contracts, pursues promotional and income opportunities and aligns Adams with organizations or causes that reinforce her ministry. While Haley was no novice to the music industry, management required a very different set of skills than the ones she’d honed before.

“There are managers who are also lawyers, but that’s not my background, so I had to make sure Yolanda had the right legal representation,” says Haley. “I also had to commit to representing just one artist, because there was still a lot I had to learn about management and building relationships with record labels.”

With Adams’ statuesque looks, eclectic musical style and powerful song delivery,, Haley felt strongly that her artist could reach beyond the traditional gospel audience. She was unable, however, to convince the label to invest in creating visual packaging or advertising that would promote Adams beyond the gospel market until there was evidence of sales in other markets.

Determined to prove her broader appeal, Haley hired an independent publicist to book Adams on such shows as the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CNN News and BET’s Teen Summit. The benefits of receiving media exposure beyond traditional gospel outlets were obvious in the sales of Adams’ next album, Save the World, which sold more than 150,000 units (50,000 is considered successful).

Increased sales convinced Tribute/ Diadem to invest more into marketing and promoting Adams’ next two releases, More Than a Melody and Yolanda–Live In Washington. But with Adams’ contract coming to an end, Haley has secured a new record deal. “Everyone knows Yolanda has a great potential to be commercial. What she’s singing about won’t change, but she can hit the jazz, traditional gospel and R&B markets,” adds Haley. She stresses, however, that it’s important for managers of gospel artists to remember that expanding doesn’t mean abandoning the core gospel market. “Gospel music listeners are a lot less forgiving [if you abandon them] than other music listeners,” she says.

MARKETING THE MESSAGE
As gospel’s audience has grown, so too has corporate America’s desire to promote products and services to them. Through her Atlanta-based marketing company, Results Inc., Melanie H. Few works to pair gospel artists and companies in deals that support both parties’ goals.

Few, who created an endorsement deal between Kirk Franklin and Church’s Chicken. has also handled Revlon’s sponsorship of numerous gospel events. “The deals can’t be perceived as just an opportunity to make money. The brand has to be committed to supporting the [artist's] ministry,” she adds.

According to Few, who launched her com
pany in 1995 after leaving a national marketing position with R.J. Reynolds, gospel’s evolving demographics are extremely attractive to advertisers trying to reach African American consumers. For example, Interep’s 1996 survey found a higher percentage of homeowners, full-time employees, professionals, college graduates and those with household incomes above $50,000 among African American gospel music

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