Thursday, July 21, 2005

Malaco Takes In Too Much AIR

Seems like GospoCentric isn't alone.

Mega music empires are taking over and are attempting to pick up all the independent (or smaller labels) they can find. It's a "divide and conquer" mentality to some, but for others, especially in the industry field, it helps in establishing bragging rights for a music label's credibility. GospoCentric just recently faced a new day in their timeline when Zomba Corporation, whom runs an onslaught of music subsidiaries such as Jive, Verity, So So Def and LaFace Records, bought them out. Now AIR Gospel, a commanding independent label that changed how mega companies viewed smaller labels, joins the occasion.

Firstly, before we deal with the present situation, let's reflect for a minute on AIR Gospel's extensive resume'.

AIR Gospel, a subsidiary of Atlanta International Records (AIR), began in 1980 with Ron Freeman as a natural outgrowth of a business he began in 1968, One Stop Record House, in Atlanta, Georgia. Having created a booming gospel record business in his wholesale outfit, he decided to try his hand in the production and distribution of gospel audio and launched the label selling sermons given by local preachers. This side of the business was so successful, Freeman was encouraged to release gospel music albums and the first, Rough Side of the Mountain, by Reverend FC Barnes and Janice Brown, was a #1 Billboard Hit for two years following its release and has become one of the most treasured traditional gospel recordings in history and is now considered a classic. Other important hits jumped out of the vaults of AIR's gospel catalog, such as the unforgettable "New Life" by Olivia Branch-Walker and the remarkable classic "One Day At A Time" by Thomas L. Walker. And every Baptist church choir in the country should be familiar with the Luther Barnes' track, "I'm Still Holding On". As the 90s sneaked on us so did AIR Gospel. Focus of attention shifted to artists like Rev. Ernest Davis Jr's Wilmington Chester Mass Choir, Dottie Peoples, Byron Cage, James Bignon and Rev. Gerald Thompson under the direction of the visionary's son, Alan Freeman. Dottie took the spotlight with her string of hits like "On Time God", "Pure Love", "Happy In Jesus" and "Testify". Because of her accomplishments, AIR Gospel grew from small beginning to large feats. Maurette Brown-Clark and Rev. Timothy Wright brought amazing contributions to the label in the new decade. But time would lead AIR Gospel down another path in 2005. As they celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary since their conception, AIR Gospel will be shifting their responsibilities to Malaco Music, based in Jackson, MS.

Of course, Malaco has an extensive background. No doubt about it. But gosh, who would have imagined Malaco to take over AIR Gospel. It almost leaves me breathless. Flabbergasted actually. After following Malaco's triumphs, I have noticed that even Malaco has suffered in a strange way over the last couple of months. Word began to float about Malaco being sold out. Sales with their gospel products began to drop (according to Billboard) and their image on the gospel scene began to fade away due to the over-popularity of mega-corps like Verity. But now, Malaco smiles with joy and happiness over their latest accomplishment. Buying out AIR.

Well, here's what you can expect with this new phase of music ministry.

AIR Gospel products will jump their price up to the Malaco price level. That's $15.99 for a CD, $19.99 for a VHS or DVD and $10.99 for a cassette tape. If you don't believe me, pick up one of those nasty catalogs. It's full of great flashbacks and treats, but the price is enough to make you run to
ebay. Oh yeah, expect the cover art to get a lil' less attractive and less linear notes. Malaco and Savoy has a reputation of doing that. Oh yeah, another one, expect for Maurette Brown-Clark and Timothy Wright to make their appearances on Mississippi Mass Choir or Georgia Mass Choir projects, since they are the only great things Malaco possess in their current "superstar" category. I may be missing a few more things...But hey, let's just pray for the best. We don't want Dottie, Luther, Maurette and Timothy Wright to be served any injustice.

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