5th Mar, 2012

The Light: Larry Blackwell, VP/General Manager of EMI Gospel

Highlighting executive men and women of faith who have garnered much success and have Kingdom influence. In the first installment of Power Players we shine ‘the light’ on one of gospel music’s most successful and influential music label executives, Mr. Larry Blackwell, Jr.

Larry Blackwell, VP /General Manager of EMI Gospel is Celebrating 33 years in the Gospel music community this year, Larry Blackwell, Jr. is a seasoned industry veteran. In 1983, he helped build Central South Distribution into the leading source at retail for Gospel music. In 1991, Blackwell became part owner and general manager and continued to build Central South’s presence in the market. In 1999 Blackwell accepted an offer from ZOMBA/Verity Gospel to oversee mainstream sales of all Gospel releases, a position held until 2003, when Blackwell was offered his current position of VP/GM of EMI Gospel.

Blackwell has helped increase visibility and sales of artists such asThe Clark SistersDonald Lawrence & The Tri-City SingersSmokie Norful, and Kierra Sheard. With the current releases of Forever Jones and VaShawn Mitchell, Blackwell and EMI Gospel remain focused on breaking new and developing talent. Contributor Christopher Coleman caught up with Mr. Blackwell for a few questions, peep the interview below.


What was the impetus behind starting in the music business; in particular, gospel music?

I didn’t start in the music business.  I started by answering phones in my dad’s one-stop distributor, Jimmy’s One Stop in Nashville in 1979.


Who/What are your inspirations?

The music. Gospel music.


What is your definition of a successful Christian/gospel album?

First and foremost one that has the ability to change a person’s life, even if just for a moment.


From a marketing perspective, explain what it takes to be a successful artist?

A hit song, Sacrifice, Dedication, Talent.  Not necessarily in that order.


In todays uncertain economy and outbreak of illegal music downloads, how has EMI managed to remain a financially productive label?

Successfully managing the bottom line by keeping costs in line with sales expectations.


I recently attended your EMI Gospel Showcase during Stellar Awards weekend and I must say it was impressive.  Your artists are offering some amazing music this year.  What are your plans for the label in 2012?

I’m glad you came by and enjoyed the showcase.  I happen to agree with you.  Our goal is to break new artist Anita Wilson, deliver a highly successful sophomore album from Forever JONES, continue to grow Myron Butler’s artistry/ministry, celebrate Smokie Norful’s 10 year anniversary in the industry with a retrospective release that includes a new hit song, follow-up VaShawn Mitchell’s smash project Triumphant with another equally successful release in late summer and that’s just for starters.  We have additional releases on the schedule and a few announcements pending.


What has been your greatest life’s lesson?

Attempt to be spiritual, not “religious.”


Would you drop an encouraging word for our online readers?

Always check your motives before you take action.  If you can live with them, you should be able to live with the results.





About devante

DeVante Arbet successfully garnered the title of The Gospel Guru; being widely sought out as the ‘in-the-know’ guy when it comes to the Gospel music industry. After years of honing his passion for Gospel music from an early age ‘the guru’ became a brand.

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