In this exclusive interview with Gospel Today Editor EJ Gaines, Kirk Franklin talks about his historic The King’s Men Tour, and why the church’s support means more than we might have ever realized…

It’s no secret that the number of gospel concerts has dwindled significantly in the past decade. Even more, the idea of a national tour, complete with creative production, staging and lighting is virtually obsolete. The concept of the “Tour of Life” (featuring Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin in the mid-90′s) or the wildly successful “Hopeville” tour (the feel-good event starring Franklin, Adams and Donnie McClurkin) are just distant memories for many of us.That’s why when Live Nation, the largest concert promoting company in the world, announced its partnership with Kirk Franklin to create a nationwide tour this year, it was major news for the industry.

For “The King’s Men” tour, Live Nation’s first foray into gospel music, Kirk Franklin enlisted the co-headlining support of gospel heavyweights Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp and Israel Houghton. The 16-city tour has been labeled “historic” and the “must-see event of the year.” To promote it, the four have done everything from appearing at Bishop TD Jakes’ ManPower event to on-air performances and interviews on ABC’s The View.

Though the tour isn’t coming to my city, I’m purchasing airfare, hotel accommodations and more, just to say “I was there… I witnessed it.”

I have to admit that, when I think of the cost of it all, I shudder a bit. Still, I couldn’t get past this unshakeable feeling that my attendance– and your attendance– matters more than we even realize.

And in a chat with Kirk Franklin last week, I found out why it does.

“When you look at the sales of Black music, across the board, sales are down 50%,” Kirk Franklin explains. With next year marking 20 years since the release of his debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family, he’s no novice to the industry. Franklin’s is one of the most recognized names in music– Christian and beyond– and extensive touring, both domestically and internationally, is a way of life for him in a way that few in gospel music have experienced.

“When you look at the touring opportunities that are there, if it’s not hip-hop or something that has crossed-over to a White audience, it’s really struggling. The opportunities are not there, and it’s an issue of getting the audience to see the value in the product.”

At first glance, the “product” of gospel music seems invaluable. We all love Jesus, right? And we love the music that talks about Him. I dare say, we “value” our music, and its message, more than most. But that’s not the “product” to which Franklin is referring– it’s the singing. The performance.

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