Gospel Music Association Moves Dove Awards to Atlanta

The Gospel Music Association (GMA) said it was taking a "bold step" Tuesday in hosting the next Dove Awards in a place outside of Nashville for the first time.

After announcing the renewal of its partnership with the Gospel Music Channel (GMC), the GMA said it was hosting the 42nd Annual Dove Awards on Apr. 20, 2011, in Atlanta, where GMC is headquartered.

For the past three years, the Dove Awards have been televised live by GMC after decades of being syndicated and later shown on tape.

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Aside from GMC, Atlanta is also home to many of the Christian music industry's biggest names, including Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, Third Day, Bishop Paul Morton, and Canton Jones, among others.

"We Atlantans are so happy to welcome the Dove Awards to Atlanta this year," remarked 16-time Dove Award winner and platinum selling artist Chris Tomlin. "How exciting to celebrate and share a night together honoring God in a city I have come to know and love."

Adding to that, Bishop Paul S. Morton commented, "To the world, Atlanta is already known to be a home for diversity in music. I am so excited that the GMA has chosen to bring the Dove Awards to our historic and beautiful city. What better way to add to the broadening musical landscape of Gospel Music."

Sometimes referred to as the Christian Grammys, the GMA Dove Awards brings together artists from every style of gospel music for a night of music and celebration. While the awards are a highlight of the show, music performances also take center stage at the GMA Dove Awards, which showcases some of gospel music's top-selling and most diverse artists.

 "The GMA Dove Awards is our opportunity to come together as a community to worship God and support each other as we celebrate the Gospel through music," explained Ed Leonard, chairman of the GMA's board of directors.

Leonard said Tuesday that "the experience of attending the Dove Awards in person, with our artists and fans gathered together in the Atlanta community to celebrate the Gospel, is incredible."

"We want to share that excitement with the people of Atlanta in 2011, and having moved our Immerse event back to Nashville from Estes Park, CO in 2009, we are taking this opportunity to expand the reach of the Dove Awards for 2011," he added.

Since 1964, the Gospel Music Association has served as the face and voice for the Christian/Gospel music community and has been dedicated to exposing, promoting and celebrating the gospel through music of all styles including pop, rock, praise & worship, black gospel, R&B, hip hop, southern gospel, country, and more.

Every year for the past four decades, the GMA has produced the Dove Awards – the longest running and most prestigious televised awards ceremony recognizing achievement in all genres of Christian and Gospel music.

The association also puts on two other major events - "GMA Music Week" and "IMMERSE: GMA's Music Training Experience."

In recent years, however, the association has been struggling, partly due to the current economic recession and the shifting shape of the gospel music industry.

Though the GMA once boasted a membership of 4,000, the association today reports around 3,000 members - an increasing percentage of which is made up of independent artists, songwriters and musicians and other small music business professionals who are looking to GMA for community, networking and advocacy.

According to Leonard, plans are underway to help steer the GMA through the economic storm, including the revamping of staffing, events, membership, and "all aspects of our operations."

In September, GMA's president and CEO, John Styll, stepped down from the position as part of an effort to streamline the organization. The organization has also scaled down the number of other paid staff and has been aiming to return to a more volunteer-driven operation.

The association is likely looking to gain more support with their latest decision to move the 42nd Dove Awards to Atlanta. Notably, the 2010 Dove Awards this past April drew a viewership of more than 300K, outperforming the year before by over 54 percent, according to GMA.

As one of the fastest-growing networks in television, GMC can be seen in over 47 million homes on various cable systems around the country.

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