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Jason recounts day 1 of GMA week ‘09

April 27, 2009


Jason talking with Matt Papa and Eric from Air 1

Jason talking with Matt Papa and Eric from Air 1

GMA recap and more

I just returned from attending Gospel Music Association (GMA) week in Nashville. Since 1964, the GMA has worked to coordinate efforts to benefit the Christian music industry, most notably is the gathering of people who work in the Christian music industry in some way – media, radio, artists, labels, etc. – during GMA week that culminates with the Dove awards.

I have had an uneasy relationship with GMA week over the years.  As an independent artist I would go and it felt like little more than a demoralizing meat market where attention was given only to those were “hot” at the moment.  I thought of GMA week as a representation of all that I loathed about the Christian music industry which I had judged as feeling more like industry than it did Christian or even music.  But GMA has always been too easy of a target, especially as I refused to imagine it as anything other than a caricature of itself that I could conveniently demonize and dismiss.  In truth, maybe all it did was shine a spotlight on my own fears and insecurities.

Over time, I have come to love GMA simply for what it is – a chance to gather and join in a conversation together about our hopes and fears over the Christian music industry.  At GMA I get to connect with friends old and new from all kinds of spheres – radio, retail, magazines, and artists themselves.  It’s kind of like an annual reunion to help us all stay connected.  I’ve never been an insider, and yet I’ve been blessed over the years to find enough of a connection with other outsiders who happen to be there that it feels like community.

GMA was a much smaller affair this year, a “ghost town” as some called it.  This was to be expected given the current economy and the cost for radio, retail, and others to attend this kind of conference.  There were many notables who weren’t there, leaders in the industry whose absence stirred rumors that GMA’s day is in twilight and might be winding down.  Will there be another GMA event in 2010?  It’s quite possible that there won’t be, and with that possibility lingering over every conversation, I savored them all the more for it.

GMA week started for me at 4:00 on Sunday in the upstairs of Jack’s Barbeque in downtown Nashville.  We were soon to share a meal of messy BBQ sandwiches with a full room of radio programmers and the artists involved were just arriving.  Newly signed artist Matt Papa (what a cool name) was one of the first and though we’ve only met a couple times before, it’s clear that a part of our relationship will be based on good natured theological debate.  He asks good, challenging questions, and he’s a good listener, too – a great combination.  I enjoy our talks and he is a humble an honorable theological “sparring” partner.  As iron sharpens iron…

After eating and some good conversation with old friends in radio (especially one of my favorite people in the world, Dave Burdue from Fort Smith, AR who says wonderful things like: “next time you come to Arkansas, we’ll take you down to Willie’s BBQ, and ain’t nobody gonna be mad but the devil”), the artists there began playing unplugged (literally) versions of their new songs.  I played “More Like Falling In Love”, one of the new songs I hope is a contender for being a strong single for us this year.

It was great to see the other artists play their songs and there is a real sense of excitement this year with strong releases from Matt Papa, Lanae Hale, Daniel Kirkley and new band 16 Cities.  The night had a great vibe, one of the coolest showcases I’ve ever been a part of and a great, chilled way to kick off GMA.  With less events happening at GMA this year and Centricity making a strong showing, it seemed that all of our events were highly attended.  I think we were one of the more distinguished presences this year, and with a strong line-up of new releases in the pipe-line, people took notice.  Let’s hope this bodes well for all the artists in my Centricity family this year!

More stories to come soon…

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