Virtual experiences were few and far between for most people before 2020. It seemed like only those deeply rooted in the tech industry would appreciate them. However, as social distancing measures necessitated more virtual experiences than physical ones, they became demystified for most people around the world. As a result, a large number of virtual events sprung up.
Among these myriads of events, a few of them stood out in their various circles. Annual events that audiences had come to look forward to were especially affected, as their 2020 editions were at risk of being either postponed or canceled altogether. Nevertheless, from professional events to award ceremonies and gospel events, some organizers took a lot of plaudits for creating top-class virtual experiences for their audiences.
Across all sectors, these organizers of annual events had to be on their feet. As they sought to create and manage events to remember, they had to rethink their entire output. One of these events that went on to some aplomb, is the Salesforce World Tour Sydney Reimagined. The event was moved to a virtual one due to budding safety concerns. The event was able to garner 80,000 Livestream viewers, Salesforce said.
The one-day event also reportedly brought in 1.2 million video views across social channels. This event was especially noteworthy because it made related videos available to the public on demand.
The world of live awards also went through a number of changes, as catering to fans and music lovers around the world became more challenging. Event managers, planners, promoters, and organizers found themselves managing onsite tech teams and digital venues. A number of music infused shows were either canceled or postponed, as organizers were not able to cope with the demands of moving the shows online. On the other hand, a few shows actually met and surpassed these demands. The MTV VMA’S and The BET Awards are two globally recognized shows that made valiant efforts to make sure the 2020 editions took place. Within the African landscape, however, The Experience 15 (The Global Edition), surpassed every other effort and held it’s own on a global level.
The MTV Video Music Awards put up respectable ratings. The show in its entirety took on a different face as it sought to create an enjoyable virtual experience. The show aired on MTV as well as 11 other Viacom CBS networks and The CW.
The MTV Video Music Awards was hosted by Keke Palmer. It featured performances from International superstars like Lady Gaga, BTS, Ariana Grande, and many others. With safety precautions firmly against large arena gatherings, the show displayed live outdoor performances by the stars, from various locations in New York. Acceptance speeches from award winners and others were displayed remotely.
The show also displayed some celebrity in-person appearances. This unique show brought in 1.32 million on-air viewers for the main show, according to Nielsen ratings. The VMAs also did well on social platforms. The show generated 41.1 million social interactions, one of the highest ever for a single show.
The BET Awards put up some impressive numbers as well. This was the award show’s first-ever simulcast on CBS. The BET Awards was hosted by Amanda Seales and it featured appearances and performances from many stars, one of whom was Beyonce. The 2019 edition gained quite a respectable number of viewers. This was the main reason for skepticism, as people wondered whether the 2020 format would get the same response. This year’s edition got a similar response, fortunately. It gained 3.7 million total viewers across BET, BET Her, and CBS. CBS contributed a little under 2 million of those viewers, with 1.6 million viewing the event on BET.
The pick of the 2020 virtual events, however, was House on The Rock’s 2020 edition of The Experience. The show stood out as the only show solely created and managed by a religious entity, to host over 30 world-class performers from various countries around the world on the same night.
The first edition of the Experience was held on the 1st of December, 2006, at the Tafawa Balewa Square. 70,000 (seventy thousand) people came out to attend. Impressively, The show’s maiden edition featured top gospel ministers Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, and Donnie McClurkin.
In the 14th year (2019) of the concert, The Experience had shown significant growth. The show tagged #LetsWorshipJesus, featured performances from Nathaniel Bassey, Evangelist Amaka Okwuoha, popularly known as ‘Chioma Jesus’, Tope Alabi, Tim Godfrey, Glowreeyah Braimah, Travis Greene, Don Moen, Donnie Mcclurkin, Sinach, Sammie Okposo, Planetshakers, Mercy Chinwo, Preye Odede, William McDowell and Todd Dulaney. It also featured Nigerian comedians Kenny Blaq, Larry J, Forever, MC Abbey, and Akpororo. The show went on for 10 hours and had up to 1 million attendees.
The 2020 virtual concert showcased musical performances from South African inspirational poet and speaker, Nokwethemba Mchunu popularly known as Nokwe the Poet. She made her first-ever appearance ever on the show. Brazilian Christian worship leader, singer-songwriter, and leader of the contemporary praise band Diante do Trono, Ana Paula Valadã also featured for the first time at the 2020 Experience Concert. Making her first appearance at the Experience as well, was award-winning singer, Tasha Cobbs.
The Experience 15 also featured performances from Segun Obe, Chee, Eno Michael, Planetshakers, Don Moen, Nathaniel Bassey, Sinach, Ada, Eben, Mercy Chinwo, William Mcdowell, Tope Alabi, Sonnie Badu, Chevelle Franklyn, Maverick City, Hillsong United, and Travis Greene. All performances and speeches, messages, and talks were held remotely. The show was displayed on Multichoice’s DSTV and GOTV, as well as on Facebook and Youtube.
The virtual experience was the first of it’s kind for any Nigerian based concert. Its eventual global reach was what its organizers intended to achieve, hence the tag “The Global Edition”. Pastor Paul Adefarasin had expressed his excitement at the prospect of fellowshipping with worshipers across the globe, from different races and creeds. The show was hailed as an experience like no other before it and was enjoyed by over 2 million viewers across the globe.
House on The Rock Shows Commitment to Gospel Music With The Experience Global
The gospel music circuit is a rather intriguing one. For a long time, the Christian community believed that only a certain type of song was appropriate when reverencing God. Over the years and even more so now, the evolution of gospel music is apparent. Gospel music has become so enlivened that it now outperforms a lot of music from the regular music industry. It also gets a lot of appreciation from the world music landscape.
There are a few key drivers that continue to play a pivotal role in the development, exhibition, and celebration of gospel music. 2 (two) of them are the Grammy Awards (Gospel category) and the (The Experience) gospel music concert. The biggest gospel music recognition platform and the biggest gospel performance platform in the world.
The Grammy Awards now has five awards in the gospel music category. The award for Best Gospel Performance/Song, The award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song, The award for Best Gospel Album, The award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, and The award for Best Roots Gospel Album.
The Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance/Song was first awarded in 2015. The inception of this category came about as a combination of two categories that were previously separated. They were the Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music category and the Best Gospel Song, which was intended for songwriters, and the Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance, which was intended for performers. Right now the category acknowledges both songwriters and performers, including solo acts, duos, groups, collaborations, and others. It is open for singles or tracks alone. Songwriters can only win the award if it is a new song and not a cover of a previously recorded song. Only the performers of the covers or reimagined tracks can win an award. These changes took effect in June of 2014.
The Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song as it is now was first awarded in 2015. Right now, just like that of the Best Gospel Performance/Song category, it combines 2 (two) previously separate categories in the Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music field, Best Contemporary Christian Music Song and Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance. The new category also acknowledges both songwriters and performers, including solo acts, duos, groups, collaborations, and others.
The Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album as it is now, was one of the new categories created after a reshuffling of categories for the 2012 awards. Right now the category combines recordings that were previously submitted for the Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album, Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, and Best Traditional Gospel Album. 3 (three) previously major categories.
The Best Contemporary Christian Music Album award was also one of the new categories created after a reshuffling of categories for the 2012 awards. As it is now, it combines recordings that were previously submitted for the Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, and Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album, 3 (three) other major categories for submissions.
The efforts of the Academy to recognize excellence in gospel music are definitely commendable. Also, its intent to make sure the awards represent the current culture and creative DNA of the Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music communities is a step in the right direction. However, the newly formulated award categories exclude some of the creative work in the industry. The Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song, for example, does not recognize writers of reimagined songs. The gospel music community has always handed songs down from generation to generation. New lyrics and melodies are added to popular songs all the time.
Hence, a lot of excellent work and excellent artists miss out on one of the biggest nights in gospel awards. There has also been some criticism that The Academy does not represent African gospel artists, despite the fact that African gospel artists are some of the biggest in the world.
The Experience, however, has consistently shown its commitment towards bringing gospel artists from different levels and backgrounds together on the same stage. In its maiden edition, the concert featured seasoned American ministers Kirk Franklin Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin, as well as locally respected gospel artists Mike Aremu, Dunni Olanrewaju, Buchi, Tosin Martins, and Midnight Crew.
The 2008 edition featured Jamaican artist Chevelle Franklyn, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, and Don Moen of the US, as well as locally hailed Dekunle Fuji, Nikki Laoye, and Lara Goerge. In 2010, the concert featured Panam Percy Paul, a gospel minister who was more celebrated in the ’90s, Fred Hammond, Phil Driscoll, Judy Jacob, Don Moen, Papa San, Mary Mary, Mike Aremu, and Sammy Okposo.
The 2014 concert, featured Donnie McClurkin, Israel Houghton, Chevelle Franklin, Micah Stampley, Midnight Crew, Freke Umoh, Frank Edwards, Sinach, Nathaniel Bassey, Angella Christie, Onos Ariyo, and Chioma Jesus, a gospel artist whose songs are predominantly Igbo. In 2018 the event which was themed Jesus our peace featured performances from Nathaniel Bassey, Chioma Jesus’, Kirk Franklin, and Tope Alabi, a gospel artist whose songs are predominantly Yoruba.
The 2019 edition themed #LetsWorshipJesus featured performances from Nathaniel Bassey, Evangelist Amaka Okwuoha a.k.a. ‘Chioma Jesus’, Tope Alabi, Tim Godfrey, Glowreeyah Braimah, Travis Greene, Don Moen, Donnie Mcclurkin, Sinach, Sammie Okposo, and Australian gospel band, Planetshakers.
The Experience 15 (The Global Edition), the concert’s 2020 edition, which was held virtually featured performances from Brazilian Christian worship leader, Ana Paula Valadã, South African inspirational poet and speaker, Nokwe the Poet, UK based Ghanaian gospel artist, Sonnie Badu, Eno Michael, Planet Shakers, Don Moen, Nathaniel Bassey, Sinach, Ada, Eben, Mercy Chinwo, William Mcdowell, and Tope Alabi.
The diversity on display on each of the editions of The Experience is unlike on any other platform in the world. This is unprecedented, especially for a gospel event. House on The Rock, led by Pastor Paul Adefarasin definitely deserves a lot of plaudits for its commitment towards the celebration and furtherance of gospel music.
How The Experience introduces artistes and their songs to the world
For the last fifteen years, the church House on the Rock cathedral has hosted what has been termed by many as not only the largest gospel concert in Africa but also the largest concert of any genre of music in the entire continent of Africa with the most affable host in the person of Pastor Paul Adefarasin.
And as the crowd of attendees have grown year after year so much that the concert now averages 500,000 attendees every year, it is only proper that the number of performers at the concert also grew over time.
So, like clockwork with every passing year the conveners of the concert have also made sure to keep showcasing new talents and their work to the world. And due to this singular act, a sizable number of artists have risen to international acclaim and achieved success in record time.
For example, although quite a few people knew of the gospel music group Midnight Crew, their music was introduced to a much wider audience in their 2006 debut at The Experience concert which had 70,000 people in attendance and skyrocketed their popularity immediately. Also, during the 2009 edition of The Experience, the ever so harmonious worship artist Lara George performed at The Experience, directly introducing her music to a much wider target audience, thus cementing her as a highly recognized gospel music artist not just in Nigeria but across the world.
Some of the artists whose music have gained a larger audience from The Experience include: Sinach, Tim Godfrey, Frank Edwards, Nathaniel Bassey, Onos Ariyo, Micah Stampley, Travis Greene, Eben, Planetshakers and many more. All of these artistes have seen first hand the role played by The Experience in furthering their careers, gone on to collaborate with fellow performing artists as was the case with Frank Edwards and Don Moen who released an album together; Tim Godfrey and Travis Greene, who went on tour together. These artists have gone on to become not just regular performers at the concert, but also part of The Experience family.
And thanks to the ever-growing reach of The Experience, indigenous Nigerian songs have become fast favorites in many churches across the globe. Speaking in the same vein at a previous press conference held during the last edition of the Experience, convener of the event and senior pastor of all House on The Rock Churches, Paul Adefarasin said “While we do not take all the credit for the growth of the Gospel industry, we are proud to say that The Experience has played a very prominent role in this regard”. Participants from anywhere in the world can join the 15th edition of The Experience which streams exclusively online today from 9pm WAT (GMT+1) Friday 11th December at www.theexperiencelagos.com and other House on The Rock digital platforms.