It's a funny thing. Consider this: who is the most popular a cappella group in the world? Probably Rockapella, right?
Is this because they're the most talented, or best looking, or even most original group out there? Not really (although when they came to Purchase this fall I sat in the 4th row and acted like a total fan-girl. No joke, my friends were actually ashamed to be with me). Most people know Rockapella from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and that Folgers commercial, not exactly the cover of Time magazine.
Boyz to Men were really popular in the 90's, but I don't think this community would define them as an "a cappella group" (nor, to be fair, would I.)
There was a time when do-wop was really popular in America, but they used bands to back them as well. Vocal music? Sure. A cappella as this community traditionally defines it? Nope.
What's my point? Well, I don't think that vocal bands (or a cappella in general) will ever be really "popular", with singers in vocal bands doing as well financially as "mainstream" pop artists. You know what?
I'm totally ok with that (and I say that as someone who is seriously considering doing this for a living when I graduate in a year).
And you know why? We have something better that DOES work.
I think the best part of a cappella is it's accessibility and the ability to realy educate/engage young people. I think that Deke or anyone else making a living doing this would probably tell you that the best part of their job is turning young people on to the art form (through workshops at schools and the like). In fact, I bet everyone who reads this board probably had some sort of "conversion experience", where they heard a group and realized they wanted to make contemporary a cappella a part of their lives (mine was the Potsdam Pointercounts, Summer of '01)
So maybe that should be the discussion here. How can we use technology (recordings, the internet, etc) to reach out to more young people to get them interested in the form? I think that's the biggest drawback to semi-pro groups: the limited size forces you to be really selective with gigs and how you manage your time that there isn't as much time to educate. So how do we do that? How can we get semi-pro a cappella more involved in education of the larger community without part time singers having to quit their "day jobs"?[/i]