Sam Ford, a Comparative Media Studies alum, is a long-time researcher with our Convergence Culture Consortium, through which he’s been working on a book entitled Spreadable Media. If this post from his Fast Company blog is any indication, the book should be great:
I grew up in a Baptist church, where my father was a deacon. Most Saturday nights when I was younger, we would go to our own church or a church somewhere else in the community to listen to a gospel singing. Often, my grandmother would come along, and we would listen to a quartet perform for a couple of hours in a little country church somewhere. While I didn’t realize it at the time, there was a fascinating struggle between market and non-market logics at many of these gatherings. The church was primarily governed by non-market logic. There was no cost of admission. Generally, these bands were not paid to sing at the church. And no concessions are sold at a church gathering.
However, most gospel quartets made money on the side by recording cassette tapes of their most popular songs and selling them to churchgoers. Since a crucial tenet of the teachings of Jesus Christ advise separating the church from market logic, however, these transactions were considered unfit for a church sanctuary.
Most interesting of all, however, was the “love offering.” Churches did not pay groups to sing, but the audience would take up a “love offering” for the group who came to sing. A collection plate would be passed around the congregation, and many would anonymously drop a contribution, not all that unlike the model used by street performers. The love offering was often presented as a spontaneous happening, but of course everyone in the congregation had come prepared for the moment of the love offering and probably had made sure they had they the appropriate cash quick at hand. And the love offering was also a point of potential contention, as the non-market logic of the moment collided with financial compensation.
Fast Company—Sharing Vs. Selling: A Lesson From Gospel Music