According to a recent news release, newcomer Earnest Pugh last week knocked gospel legend Kirk Franklin out of the #1 slot on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. Pugh’s single “I Need Your Glory” has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last four months, and it’s all thanks to former Houston concert promoter and car salesman, Kerry Douglas, who has spent the last decade turning Army drill sergeants, choir directors and others into today’s top tier gospel stars through his Black Smoke Worldwide Gospel label.
While the music industry sales as a whole have taken a nosedive, Douglas has employed his innovative New Deal Entertainment University marketing tactics to take James Fortune & FIYA to the top of the chart with their #1 hits “I Believe” and “I Trust You.” Last year, Douglas pushed Earnest Pugh to the #1 spot with “Rain on Us.” Throughout his career, Douglas has given several artists the signature hits that keep them working today, ranging from Evelyn Turrentine-Agee’s “God Did It” that earned a BMI award as the most played gospel song of 2001 to Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson’s “Send a Revival.” As a result, Billboard magazine named Douglas’ company the #1 independent gospel record label last year.
Just five years ago, no one knew the name of James Fortune. Thanks to Douglas’ golden touch, Fortune is now one of the biggest names in gospel music. The single, “I Trust You,” remained #1 on Billboard’s gospel chart for 29 weeks (winning ASCAP’s Gospel Song of the Year Award in 2009. He followed with “I Believe,” which spent 19 weeks at #1. In between hits, Fortune hit the Top Ten with “I Wouldn’t Know You” and “Encore.” While Fortune captured the youth market, Douglas set Pugh up to conquer the church ladies with his balladeering. Pugh’s 2009 breakthrough, “Rain on Us,” spent two weeks at #1 on the gospel chart in 2010 and set his career ablaze with Essence.com naming him a gospel artist to watch.
The latter part of 2010, Douglas introduced The New Deal Entertainment University marketing concept that labels throughout the gospel industry are seeking to copy. The New Deal methodology combines traditional grass-roots promotions and todays online, mobile and social media networking tools. Douglas put the theory to use on Pugh’s sophomore Black Smoke release, Earnestly Yours. The set debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Sales Chart in July, toppling Kirk Franklin’s latest CD, Hello Fear. It was the first #1 CD debut in Black Smoke history and a rare feat that an album would debut at #1 before the radio single had made significant impact.
Douglas has been making his impact for almost two decades now. He formed the Independent Gospel Music Network (IGMN) in 1998 and went on to publish The Gospel Truth Magazine (GTM) that reaches more than 100,000 readers nationally. GTM was the first gospel publication to introduce new artists on a free CD sampler that accompanied every issue. That CD sampler has evolved into the Gospel Mix CD series that introduces a new crop of hot gospel artists to the world each year. That series was the launching pad for James Fortune, Earnest Pugh and other gospel stars and is dedicated to introducing next year’s biggest artists and songs. This year’s 28-song set, Coco Brother Presents Gospel Mix V, is emceed by syndicated radio personality, Cory Coco Brother” Condrey, and features the next wave of gospel stars with dynamic performances by Zacardi Cortez, Bryan Wilson and Condrey himself. For more information, go to www.MrKerryDouglas.com.