Until recently manypeople have probably thought of choir singing as something done exclusively for those interested in religion or a church affiliation,but in the past decade nothing could be further from the truth.

    Little by little over the past decade the popularity of choir singing has grown by leaps and bounds. So according to a 2006 article in The Guardian newspaper there are presently over 25,000 choirs in the U.K. alone because it seems that after sport, singing has become is theUk’s second most popularpastime.

    What has fueled this choir mania has been programs like the popular BBC reality show “The Choir” presented by choirmaster Gareth Malone as well as the recent Choir competitions like the televised “Last Choir Standing”

    Testament to how popular choir singing has become, one need look no further than the  most recent Royal Wedding where the appearance of The Kingdom Choir from South East London singing the soul classic Stand by Mehas racked up over a million and a half views including 30,000 likes on YouTube.

    Adding fire to the vocal fuel are  the countless and regular choir competitions  in the U.K. such as the  UK Choir Festival that takes place all across the U.K., Choir of the Year competition, and North Wales Choral Festival just to name a few. And to reassure you that the rest of Europe is in step there is The Gospel Festival in Amsterdam and believe it or not there is even an event called the World Choir Games that takes place in Austria every two years.

    A few months ago someone called my attention to an event called “Gospeloke” as in Gospel  karaoke in the Brixton area of London where the punters take a song list of their favourites ranging from Tina Turner and Bob Dylan to U2 and apply gospel harmonies to them with a backing group of choral voices that act as the house band. I must say the whiskey and beer flowed sumptuously as the crowd of mostly young people sang along and enjoyed the night.

    What makes choirs worth looking at as a new source of revenue and what is the reason behind their popularity? To sum it up in a few words the answer would be recreation, enjoyment and participation. When one understands that choir singing is a new form of entertainment that appeals to both the religious as well as the secular portions of the marketplace, one can begin to appreciate and observe the economic benefits associated with it and the picture emerging for capitalizing on the growing phenomenon becomes extremely interesting. For example the paying customers attending these events are usually working, with steady incomes and can afford to buy tickets to events on a regular basis. In addition they often come to support their participants in the choirs, so they could easily be encouraged to purchase group tickets.

    According to Jon T an account executive who works for a leading London company specialising in obtaining sponsorship (who declines to benamed because he feels his company is ahead of the curve as well as in the middle of some potential choir sponsorship deals) the U.K. gospel market is showing positive signs of steady growth for the next three years at least, and when associated products such as branding, merchandising and ticket sales are taken into consideration, the choir/gospel market in the U.K. could easily be worth as much as a quarter of a billion a year to investors and sponsors that manage to find and monetise the right projects and products.

    This is not a surprising assessment as this is the same trend being followed by the music business that has been devastated by music file sharing on the internet that has caused them a devastating loss of music sales. This resulted in the major record companies redrawing artists contracts and instituting what is now called “360 deals” that allows record companies to participate in  the artist’s income from live events and merchandising.

    For the present if there is a good solid gospel project around that has a secular component it may well be worth a serious financial look as there well may be “gold in them there hymns”.

    Lucy McCain, Media Analyst.