By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.
Lisa Collins, founder and publisher of the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, always wanted to be a writer.
While in her twenties, she met Alex Haley (Roots). He took her to a writers conference and told her that someday she would write a book. All she needed to do was to put in the hard work of perfecting her writing technique, figuring out how to edit a book, and making a good impression on publishers and she was destined for good things. Collins told TBGB that writing a book was not in her thinking. “Seems like you have to be awfully patient to write a book, and at that time I was a starving writer and wanted to make money! I’m thinking to myself, ‘who funds that?'”
Instead, Collins founded Eye on Gospel Productions. She wrote and produced a radio program for Lee Bailey called “Inside Gospel,” which aired in approximately 100 markets. Around the same time, she began writing a column about gospel that was picked up by 80 newspapers across the country. From there, she caught the eye of Billboard magazine, and became their gospel editor in 1989. She spent the next 14 years with Billboard.
“In the course of my work at Billboard,” Collins explained, “I got tired of calling people to find out information about gospel that I believed should have been written down in some book, so that I could stop bugging people. When I realized there was no resource like that, I said, hmmm, I think I’ll do it.”
At first, Collins didn’t tell anyone what she was embarking on except Vickie Mack Lataillade, one of her closest friends since college days. “I went back to my house. I didn’t come out for about three months, and came out with a book!”
The first edition did not wipe endless telephone calls from Collins’ life and probably increased them. “I made a lot of phone calls for that first book,” Collins said, “because I didn’t know who the retailers were, I didn’t know who was who in radio, none of that. It was easier once I had a blueprint, but for the first issue, there was no blueprint. I had to call every radio station in a city and ask them who they dealt with in retail.”
She encountered difficulty getting some of the information she needed for that first issue. “I don’t think I included statistics for the first four or five years, because people wouldn’t give them up. In those days, people didn’t give up their records. SoundScan had just gotten into gospel, so it wasn’t like stats were freely available. After awhile, I think people thought I knew their stats anyway because I was with Billboard. They would just give them to me, because they thought I could just get them!”
Collins said that once the first issue was published, the response was “great. It was well-received from day one and it was profitable from day one, which goes to show how much it was needed.”
The second issue was easier to produce. “I knew who the bookstores were, I knew who the producers were. The first one was really hard to pull together, because it required a lot of research.” She added, “and those who might not give you their information the first time, just get it wrong, and they’ll correct you…and tell you who you left out! The second time around, they take you more seriously.”
Collins and her staff, many who come together just to create the annual issue, put a lot of effort into the graphics and images so the final product is not only informative but is also a handsome coffee table book.
The real intense period of writing and book production begins in November; it takes approximately two months to pull the issue together. Planning is a year-round task. “People can go on our website, http://www.gospelroundup.com/, update their listings or get ad information,” explained Collins. “If I see a picture, or when people send me pictures and they are great shots, I put them in my ‘RU 2012′ file. When news happens, I put it in my ‘RU 2012′ file.
“The book was much easier to pull together before the recession,” Collins rued. “In these economic times, the challenge is advertising. The people who in October say they want to buy ads are hardly the same people who pay for them in December or January.”
After 18 years of publishing the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, Collins says the most satisfying moments for her are “when the artists and the people who support the book tell me that they did the plan for their record from the book, or started a company based on what they read in the book, or consider the book their bible.
“When it was dubbed “the bible” by Al Hobbs and Bobby Jones, or when people get up and talk about it, or say they have got to have the book, you know it is something that people need and appreciate.”
When she is not working intensively on the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, Collins and her staff produce L.A. Focus, a newspaper that “spotlights news and issues of interest to L.A.’s African-American community, while also striving to acknowledge the role of the church in the black community’s progress and politics.” Collins, who is the paper’s Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, says that the major distribution for L.A. Focus is in the church.
“I’m a church girl,” Collins said. “I’m a preacher’s daughter. I was raised in the AME church. I realize my life has come full circle when I am back in the church, and especially in gospel music.”
To learn more about the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, go to http://www.gospelroundup.com/.