As an attorney, Randy Smith has a unique connection to Christian retail.
“I’ve been practicing law for 40 years,” he says. “My work primarily focuses on music and books, with some motion picture and TV work. I like to say music, entertainment, and the arts.”
Although he’s based in Nashville, he has clients from New York to Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami. He first started attending CBA conventions in 1979 when one of his clients, a young lady by the name of Amy Grant, appeared on stage that year.
FROM BACKGROUND VOCALS TO LEGAL BRIEFS
“I graduated from Belmont University in 1970 with a degree in business and a minor in music,” says Smith. “I was a studio musician on and off for about nine years through college and law school—a back-up vocalist for anything that needed done, mostly TV commercials and the like. I learned a lot about music publishing and notation and arrangement and session players and the difference between the good musicians and the extraordinary musicians. Every step was preparation for what I do now.”
He graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1976. “God has been with me since the very beginning,” he says. “When I was two months away from graduating from Vanderbilt, I basically turned down a position with a firm in corporate law, state law, and litigation. It wasn’t for me. I really wanted to do something interesting to me. I had no job two months before graduation when most of my friends did.
“Then some guy calls and says, ‘We’re starting a Christian record company called Paragon Music and need an attorney, will you help us?’ I said, ‘Well, I guess so. Let’s just try it.’ They wanted me to meet one of the major people behind it, and that was a guy by the name of Bill Gaither. When you start your law practice with Bill Gaither, that’s a pretty good place to start!
“He was a most generous individual. He helped so many people like me. I’m so thankful and appreciative for everything that Bill and the others at Paragon Records did to give me a start. That gave me a huge boost,” he says.
One of the most significant changes Smith has seen in the Christian marketplace is the downsizing and “how there are fewer and fewer book publishers.”
He continues: “The issue of buying product now is so entirely different with Amazon and the internet. That’s been a radical change, but the mom-and-pop bookstore is still very special to me and I think it holds a place in American literary services.”
Smith recommends retailers take the time to keep up with technology. “We can find a way to have the best of both worlds by using all the latest technology while maintaining a place where the customer can go and get the touch and feel and sense of the bookstore experience. I think that’s still valid even though the numbers may say otherwise.”
“I’m a big proponent of the Christian products industry and CBA in particular,” says Smith. “I think that it can have a great future if leadership continues to be strong and there’s a reason for people to come together and form a community. It’s a wonderful place for me to go. It’s a tremendous source for learning about current themes, movements, leaders, speakers, teachers, authors, great ideas, and to see wonderful entertainment and ministry. That, to me, is a valuable aspect of what I do as I work on documents and agreements and contracts related to these products. I can understand it all better and more easily when I’ve been there and seen them on the floor of the CBA convention.”
Smith was involved with one of the very first major Christian film productions, End of the Spear. “I helped them secure their distribution deal with 20th Century Fox. Now the mainstream film companies all want a piece of the faith-based market. That’s the new hunting ground. We’re in the era of films and documentaries. It’s an exciting time.”