Do Gospel Musicians Pay Payola?

6 min

Ohemaa Mercy
Ohemaa Mercy

The above named question sounds like a million dollar question but trust me am not that dumb to ask such a thought provoking question. I decided to write this piece because the question ‘do gospel musicians pay payola’ has been with me since I was that little-fun-boy and now that I have grown up and almost going bald. I get confused anytime I ask that question because I do not get the answer I was anticipating, and what answer was I expecting? Read on.

I ask that question because I have observed over the years that it is only in Ghana Music Chart (I stand to be corrected if am wrong) that you see only the music we call secular (worldly) music always topping the chart at the expense of the gospel musicians and it is even more strange because Ghana has a lot of gospel musicians and the number keep increasing day in, day out.

In a country of about 28 million, with 69% being Christians, how come gospel musicians forming the majority in the Ghana music industry not all that popular when it comes to distributing awards? Are we saying Christians themselves does not patronize the gospels songs? This trend should be worrisome.

Considering the large number of Christians in Ghana, even a lame man on the street would have thought that gospel musicians should be getting more than their getting now.

No single gospel artiste has been able to annex any big award in the country where majority of Ghanaians are Christians. This unfortunate trend tells the ordinary mind one thing, that even Christians do not patronize gospel musicians and their wares, looking at how difficult it is to come out with a gospel album.

Why? Why can’t gospel musicians also win the top awards? Why are the gospel musicians not getting enough airplay? Why are they not topping the chart? But one question comes in mind ‘is it because they do not pay payola’?

Payola we all know is a killer of talent. It is a disease that exploit and gradually kills musical talents. It is very disheartening to see both old and new artistes spend a lot of money and their energies to come out with ‘hit song’ only for DJ’s and presenters to exhort high fees from them before their music is guarantee  airplay and when they cannot afford the payola, DJ’s stop playing their songs.

Is it sadder when DJ’s demand very expensive payola to enable the DJ’s buy cars, plot of lands as the artistes themselves walk, use trotro and taxis. Some people are of the opinion that DJs can do without musicians, so are we saying DJs and presenters can talk all day without playing any song? I do not need to remind readers how boring radio and television can be without music.

Looking at the secret nature of our stars, gospel musicians I spoke to, expressed their opinions passionately about ‘payola’ but of cause they all seems to be singing the same song ‘we do not pay payola’. But are they to be taken seriously though?

I feel really gospel musicians do not pay payola because no gospel musician has annexed The Most Popular Song of the year award with 10 years of Ghana Music Awards. Whether they pay payola or not is not my business but am worried why they are not topping the chart and why are they not getting recognition so far as the Ghana Music Award’s Most Popular Song is concerned?

The just ended Ghana Music Awards 2009 confirmed that no gospel song is at least fit or popular yet to win The Most Popular Song of the year accolade, the Ghana Music Awards has always ended with secular music as the overall winner, Daddy Lumba’s Aben woha in 1999, Kojo Antwi’s Tom and Jerry Aware in 2000, Lord Kenya’s Medo and Daasebre in 2001, Kontihene’s Aketesia in 2002, VIP’s Ahomka womu in 2003, Ofori Amponsah’s Otoolege in 2004, Obour’s Konkotiba in 2005, Batman (now Samini)’s Odo in 2006, Kwaw Kese’s Odiem in 2008 and Okyeama Kwame’s Woso in 2009, the closers a gospel musician has come to winning the overall award at the Ghana Music Awards was in 2001 with Daughters of glorious Jesus and in 2005 with Esther Smith and Prophet Seth Frimpong. And I know Ghana Music Award 2010 will follow the same trend, making it more difficult for the gospel musicians to win the overall award. So I can conclude and say that gospel musician do not really pay payola and if they do, they do not pay it like the secular musicians does. And what do you also think.

I came to a conclusion that gospel musicians does not pay payola as we were meant to believe initially but not until I met Eva, a budding gospel musician, and a backing vocalist who has toured the whole of Ghana with most of the popular gospel musicians like Grace Ashy, Christian Love, Philipa Baafi, Kwaku Gyasi and has featured in some their music videos.

She made me understand, that gospel musicians are not saints, they are actually the worst when it comes to who pay the most payola, and there is a misconception going on as to why gospel musicians are the worst when it comes to who pay the most payola, their reason was that ‘Ghanaians do not like gospel music, so in other for them to get the airplays and increase their sales, they turned to pay more payola. Unconvincing excuse, I guess. But does that mean the likes of Christian Love, Daughters of Glorious Jesus and etc all pay payola?

The effect of payola is there for all of us to see. It is always easy to see songs with uninspiring lyrics getting all the airplays because the artiste or the producer of that song has managed to pay enough payola whereas that good song is relegated to the background because they cannot pay payola. Have you wondered why Ads/Promos are done with foreign soundtracks? And you will know how bad payola can be.

During the Ghana Music Awards 2009, I placed GH¢1000.00 on a gospel artiste (Philipa Baafi, of course) to annex The Most Popular Song of the year and artiste of the year, with Okyeame Kwame being her biggest threat, should in case, that award escapes the gospel musicians again.

I know people might attribute Philipa Baafi’s inability to grab an award to politics but aside politics, ‘life must go on’ says Tupac Shakur. Her inability to win at least ‘Gospel Song of the year’ raises another issue all together.

By Ebenezer Anangfio Jnr./

GC Staff bG


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