Les Butler Interview
BMG/FMG and Real Southern Gospel
Career Capsule: WJOB/Hammond, IN, WYCA/Hammond IN, WLNR/Lansing, IL, WFIV/Kissimmee, FL, WHGS/WLVF, FM/Haines City, FL, Solid Gospel Radio Network./Nashville, Host of Les Butler and Friends,
I am a Diamond Award winning broadcaster, as well as being the recipient of the March of Dimes AIR Award! One other fun fact is that I was the host of the Southern Gospel channel on Delta Airlines in the early 2000s. I also worked for the Singing News Magazine, 2005-2015. I was the Publisher at the time I left to start my businesses, Butler Music Group and Family Music Group. In addition to the head shot, I included a picture of me interviewing Bill Gaither on the Red Carpet at Dollywood prior to the Singing News Fan Awards. I am the owner of BMG/FMG and Real Southern Gospel.
Les, tell us what’s new at Butler Music Group … news, changes, & what’s new with YOU… etc?
We have hit an unbelievable growth spurt. Where do I start? I just announced a big, new initiative that I call, REAL Southern Gospel. It will include a streaming station, an App, REAL SG Talent Agency, REAL SG Ezine, REAL SG Tour and Events. It will also include a recording label under the umbrella of my current production company, Family Music Group. It seems like I am hiring new employees every few days. I am blessed to have one of the best Board of Advisors I’ve ever seen. They include, GMA and CMA Hall of Famer/Don Reid of the Statler Brothers, former Singing News Publisher/Jim Cumbee, SGMA Hall of Famer/Eddie Crook, Hall of Fame Promoter/Paul Belcher, Gospel music artist and executive/Donnie Williamson and John Smith, Pastor of Teays Valley BC.
How has Southern Gospel music evolved in recent years?
Today we are looking and sounding like the Southern Gospel of the early 70s. Along with the traditional artists like the Happy Goodmans, Blue Ridge QT, Kingsmen, Wendy Bagwell, etc., there were Southern Gospel artists moving into the world of CCM as the Imperials, Downings, Blackwoods and others did. And, as the more contemporary artists started to take radio and concert share away from the more traditional artists the pendulum started swinging back to a more traditional sound with new artists like Gold City and Heavenbound. The pendulum is always swinging. Today’s Southern Gospel is very CCM sounding. My new REAL Southern Gospel efforts will hopefully start the pendulum swinging back toward the more traditional Southern Gospel sounds again.
Complete this sentence: The best way to get a new artist recognized is to____________?
Be talented. Be charismatic in your demeanor. Be patient. Be a social media animal! Oh, and have a good relationship with you banker. It’s expensive to penetrate the many layers of the music industry. I probably shouldn’t have said the latter comment, but it’s true.
Generally speaking how do you see the state of Christian radio?
I really can’t speak regarding Christian radio in general. This is my 43rd year in Southern Gospel radio. That’s what I know. Like every business, you have both good and bad. There are some really good stations in the marketplace; some not so good. There are some really good programmers in the marketplace; some not so good. By the way, some of the new streaming stations are great. Then again, some aren’t.
Regarding record sales how has it changed ….please explain?
What record sales? Hahaha! Sales of physical product has never been worse. Vinyl sales are up! I think I hit a button that put me in a time machine! The good news is streaming music is robust and if you’re smart enough to figure out the new way the world consumes music, you can still make it in this business! The profit is no longer in the music, it’s in the merchandising and finding ways to get paid through an aggressive social media effort.
What promotions with radio have you been involved with personally that are most memorable?
In Southern Gospel the best way to connect at radio are through events, especially the larger events like Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, National Quartet Convention, etc. Basically, you can vacation with DJs for days at a time. I’d say that’s pretty good promotion.
Do you feel the record/radio relationship is still as important as it has been in the past………..explain how its same/different?
Your music can be heard through streaming services and that’s great. It’s needed. But, it puts your music and your ministry in a different light when a DJ that connects with an audience plays your music and basically endorses what you do and who you are. That’s still pretty powerful.
Who are your mentors, people you looked up to and paved the path?
Well now, that’s a loaded question. I’ll have to answer that in categories. Musically it would be the Happy Goodmans, Cathedral Quartet, Hinsons, Inspirations and the Primitive QT. Radio it would be the men who gave me my first opportunities; Cosmo Courier (that’s right…Cosmo) at WJOB/Radio Explorers Club in Hammond, IN in 1976 and Paul Johnson, WYCA in 1978. Radio in general would be Paul Harvey. Wow! And, I’m a preacher. So I have to mention my dearly departed preaching father, Bobby Butler and my pastor today, Tony Hutson, Middle TN Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN.
3 thoughts on “Les Butler Interview”
Great interview! Thank God for Les Butler. He is a Godly man with a keen sense of Southern Gospel Music and how to promote. As the host of my own SGM Internet program, “John’s Gospel Music Show”, I value the opinions and advice like Mr. Butler.
Les, what a joy to see your name pop up here. We crossed paths back at WYCA around 1980…I believe you were hosting a Saturday night southern gospel show. You’ve made a huge impact over the years….congratulations and keep it up! Moody Radio just recently launched a Southern Gospel stream and we’re seeing good traffic.