Without a Label, Minneapolis Gospel Artist Jovonta Patton Tops Billboard Charts With Self-Released Album, “Finally Living”

“I think a lot of people want to hear God’s message and hear positive, meaninful music right now,” says Jovonta Patton of north Minneapolis, who has the No. 1 album on the Billboard gospel charts this week. (photo by Jabari Holloman)
“I think a lot of people want to hear God’s message and hear positive, meaninful music right now,” says Jovonta Patton of north Minneapolis, who has the No. 1 album on the Billboard gospel charts this week. (photo by Jabari Holloman)

Jovonta Patton of north Minneapolis has the No. 1 album on the Billboard gospel charts this week, and he got there largely by the grace of God and Facebook.

The 26-year-old singer — who performs most Sunday mornings at Shiloh Temple International Ministries on W. Broadway — joined a rare roster of artists to make it to the top of any Billboard chart without the help of a record label or national radio support.

He credited new-school social media shares for driving downloads of his self-released album, “Finally Living,” which he recorded live at Shiloh Temple. He also employed an old-school method gospel acts have used since the 1930s: selling records after church performances. “Facebook was literally a driving force,” Patton said, but he proudly added that “a lot of the sales have also been out-of-trunk, as they say in gospel music.”

Patton sang and sold CDs at a couple of well-attended church events in town during the past two weeks, including a unity service July 19 at Shiloh Temple in reaction to the Philando Castile shooting and violence plaguing the city’s North Side.

“I think a lot of people want to hear God’s message and hear positive, meaningful music right now,” Patton said.

Facebook has played a central role in the upheaval surrounding Castile’s death. It was used by Castile’s girlfriend to live-stream video as he died of a gunshot wound after being shot by a St. Anthony police officer, and it has served as a hub for Black Lives Matter and protests related to the shooting.

In a less momentous but similarly effective way, Patton turned to Facebook as the primary promotional tool for his album, sharing posts about where it can be preordered or downloaded, as well as a video of him singing the leadoff track, “Know Jesus,” the night it was recorded in October.

“People just kept sharing and sharing the posts. Even I was surprised by the numbers,” Patton said.

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SOURCE: Star Tribune