Over the years the Ghanaian music industry has experienced its highs and lows. These difficult times in the industry have in so many ways shaped and helped it to evolve into what it is today. Yet there is still some aspect that still hasn’t seen any drastic change in their narrative, and that is the gospel circle.
The gospel fraternity seems to be lagging behind their colleagues in the secular aspect. The lifestyle, the following the branding, and others about these two groups of musicians are in most cases not at par. Now there are various reasons for this problem. Akesse Brempong on a show with Sammyflex listed a few which has led to their counterparts in the secular world being ‘valued’ than them.
Ironically, Ghana has the majority of its populace being Christians with so many churches in every corner of the road. Also, gospel musicians in Ghana most at times are billed for shows more than secular artists. Various ministrations at various premises, either for revivals, conventions, crusades, or a simple Sunday service. So why do they seem a step behind?
First, one thing in my opinion that has been a major problem in the gospel fraternity has been the church acting as businessmen. Gospel artists in Ghana are most ‘owned’ by their churches, some big churches have some form of a record label to nurture such talents for the world. Looking at it from the showbiz point, it seems the church isn’t able the handle the business part of the conversation as they do they show aspect. This is why collaborating with connoisseurs to handle the business aspect of the artist for deals, payment and promotions can help change the narrative for such artists. I can only imagine Bulldog as the artist’s manager for Patience Nyarko.
The second reason has been the Division in the church. Although there are so many Christians and so many churches in Ghana, there is a clear division in denominations (Presbyterian, Pentecostal, ICGC, etc.) let me expatiate: when a Shatta Wale or Stone or Sarkodie has a show, you get a collective group of people from Presbyterians, Pentecostal through to all big and small charismatic churches showing up at the event as long as they are fans of the artists. They are willing to come together pay all it takes to show their love and support for the artist. However, in most situations, you don’t see people from different services rallying behind a talent from another church. So they all support fully who belongs to them, leaving the others out.
Another level of division contributing to this problem has been the urban and local gospel artists’ division. In Ghana, some gospel artists either A, B. C list with or without a current hit song is valued in the gospel frat based on whether they do English or local language, and the type of people they have as their audience. Recently, there was a ruckus on the radio where a ‘local’ gospel artist felt their work as compared to the urban gospel artists was being looked down on. But in the secular circles, artists are mostly valued based on their works, hit songs and following, language and their type of fans doesn’t matter, which is why someone like Shatta can say I represent Nima or the streets and still sign big deals with Infinix.
Also, brand affiliations values and association of most gospel artist in Ghana has been a major contributor. One of the things that boost the brand of secular artists is their business with brands as their ambassadors. An artist like Akesse Brempong has said emphatically that because of the values he has to uphold as a gospel artist, there are brands he can’t associate with no matter how much they are paying him. He is also unwilling to do certain things to help with the execution of the plans of those they can even associate with. This of course would make brands move to secular artists, work with them, do all the big billboards on all major streets in the country promoting the artists, either than going to the gospel artists who are unwilling to go all out for the campaign.
Branding, fanbase, and building numbers for monetization purposes has been something the gospel artists don’t pay attention to. They are more focused on creating the song, getting promoters, shooting a video, and ministering at churches to win souls. Secular artists on the other hand know the impact of numbers on their brands, either on social media or and on digital platforms, and how it can be finessed for money. Their look, the impressions they leave in the minds of people are all thing gospel artists don’t seem to care about as much as the secular artists do.
Further, blames can be shifted on the value or pay given to gospel artists by event promoters compared to the amount given to secular artists when billed for the same show. But this of course is strictly business, you are valued according to what you bringing to the table.
Finally, I think gospel artists have still simply not grasped the impact their works have on people all over the world which is why they are not able to make negotiations and conversations go for them. If some secular artists had the mileage and reach some gospel artists in Ghana have, it would reflect in the amount they are willing to take form promoters when billed for a show.
But of course there are the few who have beat all odds and are rubbing shoulders with the A-list artists, only maybe they don’t flaunt it like some secular artists do.
Story by Matilda Mensah Marfo