Awards

Miss Kerr, the MOBOs and Migrating from UK Gospel…

I’m happy to admit I found 2012’s MOBO Gospel category difficult to call.

The one thing MOBO Awards is pretty much guaranteed to do with Gospel every year is generate consternation and anger (even outrage) among those who feel they have their finger sitting much more firmly on the industry’s pulse than the folks at MOBO HQ.

Get it Wrong

And – almost inevitably – it would seem MOBO ‘get it wrong’ every year.

Still, as an observer myself I’m always interested to see how people with no direct connection to our industry understand and interpret it. There’s much benefit in seeing things from an outsiders’ perspective.

And on the plus side – if you can call it that – MOBO seem to have settled into dancing an unrecognisable  annual jig, calling shots (perhaps that should be more accurately described as rubber stamping what they’ve been spoon-fed) based on the merit of what its advisors (whoever they are), have presented them.

The ‘plus’ bit comes in because it shows up our weakness as an industry, uncomfortably highlighting the fact that we need to get our own act together and own a voice that MOBO can tap into and interface with.

In the coming days and months, that will hopefully be the GMIA (the Gospel Music Industry Alliance).

Secondly, it can also be argued that for better or worse, MOBO’s picks show us how the ‘outside world’ think our music should be represented.

But that’s a huge thought convoy to be rolled out some other day…

Good Numbers

For 2012, all the nominees had the potential to deliver good voter numbers, no doubt doing MOBO’s marketing database a whole world of good in the process…

  • Manchester’s Ni-Cola could (and did) play the regional card to great effect (elements of her campaign even centred on galvanizing northern voters to have one of their own pick up the award).
  • Nottingham-based Ram 1 – the only Reggae artist in the running – also played the specialist genre (plus the ‘regional’) card to good effect.
  • And down in London V9 Collective tapped into their network, putting out the rallying call to the RnB/Soul faithful.
  • I think it’s also fair to say the UK gospel music industry is rather Midland-to-South-centric, meaning Edinburgh’s El Mafrex was more than likely both a rank outsider and a surprise entry.

Still, if his statistics are anything to go by he deserved his place in the MOBO nominee number (over 6,000 followers on Twitter, and the video to his track ‘Jehovah’, [featuring Scotland’s Royal Foundlings and Miss TemZee] has had well over half a million views on YouTube. Potentially, that’s a lot of people for him to call on).

  • And finally Rachel Kerr (already nominated in the same category for 2011) has had a fantastic 2012.

She increasingly features outside usual ‘Gospel’ circles (which – if we’re being honest – also means the ‘100% Gospel’ set no doubt have views on it).

On the flip side, that meant she had both gospel and mainstream fans to tap into.

So that all meant that on the surface of it at least, 2012’s vote was wide open.

MOBO Music Panel

However as the voter numbers only accounted for 50% of each artist’s vote block, the ‘MOBO Music Panel’ still held sway with a veto (big disclaimer at this point: I’ve no idea who they are, and I’m not one).

Winner

So, on Saturday the 3rd of November 2012, Rachel was announced as MOBO’s 2012 Gospel Award winner.

Real Work

To a very large extent, this is where the real work begins.

I’m happy (and even hopeful) to be proved wrong on this, but I get the feeling that in previous years many a MOBO Gospel winner has been uncertain about what to do with their win.  That’s not necessarily a criticism, just a reflection of where we are as an industry.

Could MOBO Do More..?

MOBO could arguably do more, but their modus operandi has always been to dish out awards and essentially step back after that. What happens from there on in is entirely left to the recipient.  To me that’s fair enough.  After all they are an awards organisation, not an artist promotions outfit.

No Use in Insular Gospel

To be quite frank (and feel free to completely disagree with me for saying this) a MOBO Gospel win is unlikely to be much use within the insular confines of the ‘gospel’ marketplace, anyway.

Its stock is much more valuable to gospel artists willing to risk the ire of the church faithful and take their brand of gospel music – whatever that might be – to the wider, mainstream music scene.

After all, isn’t that where we’re called to be..?

This is the model quite effectively employed by Black Grape Worldwide in the promotion of jazz artist Yolanda Brown, for example.

Music Week, The NME or any media platform of significance is likely to give you that bit more time, and take you a bit more seriously if ‘MOBO Award winner’ is also bouncing around in your promotional material.

Team Rachel

From that point of view things have played rather nicely into Team Rachel’s hands (shout out to Ayo and the rest of the gang).

The award bookends a year that has seen her travel extensively internationally, playing to an ever-growing number of appreciative non-Gospel audiences.

Trajectory

If her career trajectory maintains this path there’s a good chance we’re seeing the beginnings of someone who could be a serious ambassador for UK gospel, reaching far beyond our industry (or if you prefer, scene), and quite possibly beyond our shores.

Of course only God knows (and time will tell), but make no mistake: Miss Kerr has got a great shot at making this work.

And now with her MOBO award in tow, things have just got that little bit easier…

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15 replies »

  1. Good read as always Yinka. It seems that MOBO has moved both geographically and musically … less London centric and also more about ‘pop’ music nowadays. I guess this broadens its appeal and draws a bigger crowd. This may also be a statement about how some Gospel artists are trying to position themselves i.e. not just catering to the Gospel only audiences.

    My observations on previous years is that some winners have in my opinion not won because they necessarily were the best but because they were able to leverage the most votes through their networks … hardly fair but just how the system works.

    The point I am making is that the MOBO system is far from perfect.

    Knowing that the selection of artists as nominees seems to be a bit spurious and beyond my control I take the view that as long the artists selected love and represent Jesus then I will support them all.

    I am hopeful that the new ‘offical’ charts will provide the data required for the MOBO team to make more informed choices in future.

    Meantime big up to Rachel Kerr … great job sis. Plus love to all the other nominees.

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    • Hey Proclaima,

      Are you talking from a ‘Gospel’ or wider music point of view? I think that MOBO has always moved/narrowed their focus based on where it thinks it can pick up with the broadest mainstream appeal.

      It’s always been one of their key strengths in keeping the project running for as long as it has.

      And I agree with you about how gospel artists are looking to position themselves.

      In my view they’ve always done that, but the difference is that back in the day, you had to make a stark choice:

      – be a ‘gospel’ artist and have broad support from the scene, or

      – be something more abstract (‘inspirational’/’positive’/whatever) and have a section of the church crowd ostracise you.

      I think what we’re seeing these days is a growing confidence in artists (Rachel Kerr is a good example) wanting to assert to the scene that they can do both…

      And again I’m with you on how unfair the ‘most popular artist wins’ approach is.

      BUT: it gives MOBO a chance to court even more sponsors with a HUGE mailing list (that’s why voting is all about registration – I know you know that) – and I agree it’s a flawed system.

      Ultimately the real winner is actually the MOBOs with all that lovely subscriber data they collect annually that allows them to go chase some new business! 🙂

      And yes, the Official Charts will have some impact. But then again even that hope is tainted because it’s still all about popularity…

      I’m desperately hoping the GMIA will also bring some balance as – once they are up and running – they’ll be able to share some much-needed insider knowledge with MOBOs…

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  2. Ok I was trying to avoid this hahahaha but let me put in my 2p.

    Where I agree with you is MOBOs care about numbers BIG numbers. I have always felt that the gospel category was a token award in the sense that it is there like how you have a cutlery set and you need to complete it with those parts that you hardly use but need to be there to make the set look good.

    Gospel is still a huge brand for heritage purposes. If you are gonna do Music Of Black Origin you have to include gospel because as a genre gospel is black music.

    Do we generate numbers? No, do we help MOBOs “look good” in a sense yes because like I said gospel is still a brand with value but not market value it is more of a heritage kind of thing. Until UK gospel dents the charts that is how it will be viewed.

    I see what they tried to do, whoever is on the panel that chose the nominees tried to make it a nationwide thing and this is why I think the names that popped up on the list did. The UK Gospel scene is very Londoncentric so I guess in a way that is a good thing on the other hand people might feel other names should have been on the nominations list that weren’t there for example I felt Muyiwa & Riversongz should be there, he does the biggest numbers of all of ’em.

    Also not even including with rap/grime gospel act in the quota was not right especially when 2011 was one of the best years of that sector ever.

    I am glad Rachel Kerr won. A singer needed to win this time because rappers have been taking it since 07 the last and only UK ladies to win were Nu Life in ’06. I don’t think Rachel markets herself as a gospel artist though but she never denies her faith as a Christian or her gospel roots and affiliations.

    She has gospel songs that she does in her sets too. She never denies Christ. In a way her winning breaks the mold that you have to be this “musical evangelist minister preacher” to win a gospel award, some might not like that though hahaha. You always hear folks who accuse people of using the “gospel scene” as a springboard to “go mainstream” but the thing is, isn’t that the aim of most people?

    So I am interested to see how she markets herself from here onwards because before this MOBO she was already doing VERY well for herself, she is so talented and bigger than any box people would love to put her in. The question is how does she define herself? No artist likes to put in my box and defined narrowly even though that is what people love to do to us.

    I don’t agree with you that most past MOBO winners didn’t know what to do with their mobo win unless you give specific names and cite examples of what you mean then I just don’t see it.

    What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to carry the MOBO award around in your hands and doors will just be opening automatically?

    It doesn’t work that way Uncle. The industry respects numbers before trophies. The bottom line, is the bottom line.

    The industry cares about numbers and wants to know if LOADS of people are buying your album and if you can fill out arenas with eager ticket buyers.

    Like

    • Following on from a comment I made on Twitter: If we all do what we’re called to do, there’s plenty of room for everyone. If you’re called to strengthen, encourage and bless church folk, then do it. If it’s to evangelise the mainstream audience, do it. If it’s to be a light in a gloomy world, do that.

      Another thing is sometimes the most random gospel tracks go mainstream, and the most mainstream sounding tracks go nowhere!

      My advice to artists, don’t try to trendset, or follow trends, just make great music

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  3. @Karl: I’m loving all the points you’ve made!!!

    I’ll take my points one at a time:

    Heritage

    I’d never looked at it that way before and now that I think about it you hit the nail on the head. It does beg the question though: how do we go from being a ‘heritage token’ category to a full-fledged, full-value one..?

    Does it even matter? Do we just need to be approaching this more as an evangelical exercise? I mean representing a high-quality gospel message and music, and pretty much leave the rest..?

    I haven’t got an answer, but I must again – say you make a great point!

    Representation

    One thing I have liked about the way the MOBOs have handled Gospel is they try and represent a diverse range of styles (and even locations).
    We can lay some blame at their door for their choice of nominees, but not the intention to represent a diverse range of what Gospel music is about these days…

    I agree about Muyiwa. I think Faith Child also deserved to be in the mix too, if just to reinforce that point you made about the Rap/Grime quota being represented. And yeah, 2011 was easily an all-time peak for content and creativity in that sector…

    Past Winners

    I think the point I was trying to make with the past winners comment is that they are obviously visible within our industry, but what did the win *actually get them?* More gigs? More churches inviting them round to celebrate with them? What, exactly..?

    The fundamental question is this: what kind of value does a MOBO win add to an artists ministry/career within the Christian marketplace?

    Again, I don’t have an answer. Might even be worth following this up with a couple of previous winners to get their views…

    Thanks for your response! 🙂

    Like

  4. I was at the Mobos with Ram1. going to the mobos was a very odd but good experience. In general i would say the gospel catagory seemed, as Karl says, a token award. it was almost embarassing as most artists in all the other catagories got a loud round of applause but a deadly silence for the gospel and jazz nominees. funny when jazz is probably one of the more skilled styles of music. also gospel and jazz are the foundation of the other styles. Ram1 being nominated was a complete shock for us although i am very proud of his campaign efforts and can confirm his hard work musically and with PR. to be honest i was expecting Rachel or NI-Cola to win as they both have great voices and fit the gospel singer box that i think Mobo were looking for this year. my personal opinion is keep doing what you feel God wants you to do with your music and if your nominated for soemthing like a mobo use it to your advantage as a platform for your music. if we really want mobos and mainstream music to take note of the gospel scene we need to keep pushing the standards of what we are doing. i would like to see Ram1 in the reggae catagory in the future, that would be real progress for gospel artists!!

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  5. Some great point Karl Nova … and Yinka you are write the MOBO chaps are savvy and are chasing numbers.

    Shall we turn the tables and see the MOBO’s as the token of this worlds attempt to acknowledge people who have been given a gift from God 🙂

    Radical thinking I know … but it is true!

    The message we carry is the real real! The Gospel is the WORD of God and will be around longer than the temporal vanities of the world.

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  6. There’s nothing more pleasing than the sights of other people’s opinions. I disagree and agree with a lot of the points made on this post and the comments that followed.

    Following what Phil said and also the tweets I tweeted after seeing this post, I do think the “Gospel” category causes a lot confusion year in and year out.

    I for one remain confused on what the category actually means. However all arguments and points could remain invalid unless the MOBO themselves explain the selection process.

    How do they selected artist each year? Do they have an “inside voice” to help them? How as an artist do you qualify for such an award? What does “Gospel” mean to you dear MOBOs?

    Once these question are answered, I think I can continue my argument. Because as of now, I remain a tad confused. I am (we are) unable to lay the foundations of my (our) opinions.

    I admire the MOBO’s ploy to generate some sort of geographical diversity as Karl so rightly pointed out BUT did they do that with other categories … no no no!!!

    I KNOW they didn’t. Some categories remained London-centric especially the Hip-Hop category and whys that?

    Because the MOBOs conducted the nomination selections DIFFERENTLY for them, most obvious aspects would be the artist achievement (and arguably popularity) over the years. So why wasn’t this done for the Gospels?

    A question, I would loved answered. It’s not a rhetorical one dear MOBOs. I could probably answer the question myself, but the answer is just embarrassing. Embarrassing is also a kind word to use.

    IF, the nomination processing was done identically to that of other RESPECTED categories (this does not include Reggae and Jazz – they also have their own issues), then I know things would’ve been done differently. I know the names I heard at the nominations party woudn’t have been uttered. Like Karl sort of mentioned, Muyiwa and Riversongz with their history making success this year would’ve been up there.

    Having said that, a massive congratulations to Rachel Kerr – use that MOBO well you talented star (even if its just a “token” award)

    Like

    • I think that is a great point about how it seems the gospel category was done with spreading it out geographically but the RESPECTED categories don’t have such conditions applied to them. I actually thought of that. I don’t support the geographic idea by the way unless it is applied to every other category. I just think whoever advises the mobos on who to nominate are just out of touch with what really goes on in the gospel scene at a grassroots level and I actually think I know who might be part of the people consulted for information but I won’t say here haha.

      I still think the gospel category is just a token category kept for “heritage” purposes. Think about it, when you say Music Of Black Origin you HAVE to mention gospel so that category isn’t going anywhere even if it is not always a true representation of what goes on in the scene for real. MOBOs don’t have to care about that because no matter who wins it still makes them look good for keeping the category in there. When it was removed some years back they caught FIRE from people who told them off for that and they quickly put it back in.

      I think the reason the gospel category is treated differently is simply because we are not big, we don’t generate loads of sales so therefore they don’t take us as serious as those who do top the charts, move units and have a fanbase that MOBOs can tap into because that is what they care about in order to be able to get sponsors for their events. Our gospel demographic is so small and niche and just doesn’t show commercial viability to the level of the main categories that all the Emeli Sande’s and Plan B’s are in. We are just not valuable enough to them commercially for them to care. If all gospel artists were doing things like Muyiwa and packing out indigo2 and hammersmith HMV maybe they would sit up but our scene hasn’t got to a point where T3M live ingio2 or Muyiwa live at Hammersmith apollo, indigo2 and royal albert hall are regular occurrences that we do every weekend, none of us top the charts or make any splash in the press.

      Even though I said it is a token category I still think Rachel Kerr can add it to her bag of promotional tools. It still looks good on your CV and bio when people read it. I think Rachel Kerr will go far because she was already on a roll before she won this. That girl is going somewhere for real and it is WAY beyond our little yet dynamic and growing scene.

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  7. if those winners aren’t real gospel singer n their ministry isnt impacting people postively, im sorry they r just getting the award just to be famous n not for his glory. darkness n light can not walk together.

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  8. Wow! I have nothing to say on this subject, my tongue can be too sharp at times. All I can say, they didn’t ask me for a list. Just to clear up a few things up, it was not me!

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