IBMA’s World of Bluegrass 2012 – Preview
Doctors, lawyers, teachers, firemen, police officers, and plumbers are all professionals. As such they must be certified or licensed by some agency and engage in continual education and retraining in order to maintain their professional status. Musicians calling themselves professionals define their status somewhat differently. If they do it for money, they’re professionals. Even professional athletes go to spring training to sharpen their skills, learn the coach’s system, and prepare for the rigorous season to come. Fortunately there’s no certifying agency or trade organization that defines what makes a bluegrass professional. But we do have an industry-wide organization that supports our efforts, offers benefits, and provides education and training as well as awards, and a richly rewarding annual meeting. Musicians wishing to build their careers, understand changes in the industry, and become a part of something bigger than their band and their instrument can do no better than become active in their trade organization, the International Bluegrass Music Association. Others involved in bluegrass music, whether for professional reasons or as fans can grow and benefit from attending and participating. With a new Executive Director in place in Nancy Cardwell and a Board dedicated to strengthening the organization internally and the vision of bluegrass music to the world, and a re-imagined annual meeting in Nashville for the last time, IBMA stands ready to serve its constituencies. Whether you wish to work towards being a national touring band, improve your status as a regional one, or begin building a local reputation, there’s no organization better positioned to help you than IBMA and no single event better designed to serve that purpose than IBMA’s World of Bluegrass to be held at the Nashville Convention Center from September 24 – 30, 2012.
The IBMA meetings are a week-long extravaganza for all the people involved in any aspect of bluegrass music. Its divided into three parts: The Business Conference, The Awards Show, and IBMA Fan Fest. The Business Conference functions as the bluegrass trade show. The Award Show gives bluegrass a chance to honor its best in two events. Musical performance is recognized and celebrated at the evening Awards Show held in the Ryman Auditorium, while industry awards are presented at the Special Awards Luncheon earlier in the day. Fan Fest is a large indoor bluegrass festival festival featuring over sixty performances as well as workshops, seminars and an exhibition hall. Proceeds from Fan Fest go to support the Bluegrass Trust Fund and IBMA’s efforts to support bluegrass around the world. Let’s look at each element separately and then try to sum it all up.
The popular DJ taping sessions have been replaced by a DJ & Artists Reception, a meet and greet, on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30. A new DJ/Press room (quiet) has been established in room 207 of the Convention Hall where DJ’s can make appointments with artists to record interviews and those all important station ID announcements “starring” bluegrass artists. Sounds like a good idea, since the DJ taping sessions were something of a zoo.
For early risers who would like to hear and share stories about the giants who were lost this year, there willl be early morning story-telling sessions about Earl Scruggs, Doug Dillard, and Everett Lilly as well as a later hour called “The Doc Watson Hour.” While bluegrass music may be experiencing an evolution in its sounds and subject matter, it continues to celebrate the pioneers who made it what it is. Last year each of the sessions devoted to Bill Monroe was well-attended despite the early hour. Convenient coffee and buns may make it more enjoyable.
After Hours Showcases aren’t “after hours” at all, they’re just late at night, earning the sobriquet that “IBMAstands for ‘I’ve been mostly awake.” Offered during the hours from 10:00 PM – 1:30 AM, the after hours showcases generally feature five bands and are sponsored by recording companies, regional bluegrass associations, manufacturers, or others wishing to give bands an opportunity to showcase. They represent a fine chance for talent buyers, recording industry execs, fans, and other musicians to see bands which have chosen or been invited to showcase. Even individual bands may rent a room and offer themselves or a group of bands for showcases. These events are always fun with people wandering from showcase to showcase to see particular bands and gathering in the hallways to network (read schmooz or chat), meet and greet, or visit.
A strand of the conference has been dedicated to songwriters after a long campaign. Sessions for song writers include a songwriter showcase and song circles on Tuesday and a workshop on writing bluegrass gospel songs on Wednesday. There’s also a new special award to be given on Thursday for bluegrass songwriter of the year. Since this is the first year this will be given, there’s a huge backlog of deserving song writers and only three nominees per year. Songwriters are such an integral part of bluegrass music, its about time such an award has become a part of IBMA.
A word of caution is appropriate here. If you attend IBMA, you’re going to spend a significant amount of money for registration and hotel fees. If you showcase, you’re going to be spending even more. Musicians are musicians because they love to play and make music together. Bluegrass is a participatory music. Spend some time thinking about what your goals for IBMA’s World of Bluegrass week are. If you’re there to grow your career, don’t use all your energy jamming all night and then expect to benefit from all the week has to offer.
|Rates are Per Person||IBMA Members||Non-Members|
|Full Attendee Early-Bird (7 day) (pre 8/1)||$325||$425|
|Full Attendee (7 day) (after 8/1)||$375||$475|
|Single Day Early-Bird (pre 8/1)||$100||$135|
|Single Day (after 8/1)||$115||$150|
|Advance (pre 9/8)||$140||$160|
This year, Distinguished Achievement Awards will be given to the following people.
Nevertheless, the signature event remains the Award Show, broadcast worldwide live over Sirius/XM radio, blogged live by Bluegrass Today, and the subject of commentary and controversy for months before and after the actual award ceremony on the various web sites and forums devoted to individual instruments and bluegrass music. Bands, individuals, and recordings receiving IBMA Awards may get significant bumps in bookings, sales, and air-play. There’s no question, that it’s an honor to win such an award, or even to be nominated, and it’s a good show fraught with rising tension as the announcements approach. A complete list of all nominees for IBMA Awards can be seen here. Winners are selected by the professional membership of IBMA in a three stage process overseen by an accounting organization. The choices are the subject of joyful controversy and commentary ranging from adulation to disparagement. The Ryman comes close to selling out for this event, which provides lots of good fun. The Awards Show is a ticketed event.
|Rates are Per Person||IBMA Members||Non-Members|
|Three Day Reserved Seat* (until Sold Out)||$130||$145|
|Three Day Advance (general admission) (pre 8/1)||$70||$85|
|Three Day Advance (pre 9/8)||$80||$90|
|Three Day – At Gate||$95||$95|
|Under 16 (w/ adult)||FREE||FREE|
Conclusions: I’ve been informally polling participating bands and individual musicians for several years now. I hear a good deal of grousing from some musicians that IBMA events held in Owensboro and Louisville were much more fun, filled with jamming and excitement. Others who were there characterize events there as out of control drinking and carousing by people who came in from the streets to join the jammers without any controls or direction. I’ll leave it to others to judge which description is more accurate. Meanwhile, bands I’ve spoken with, whether they’re well-established or emerging, tell me that when they use World of Bluegrass as part of a well-coordinated campaign to raise their visibility, widen their range, and get more bookings, it seems to them to be a worthwhile investment. This is particularly true when they coordinate their efforts as a band to learn new approaches from others in the profession and associated industries to increase their skills in emerging areas. In a sense it’s like this blog. I can’t point to specific sales of CD’s or purchases of tickets that have been directly generated by appearing here. All I can say is that promoters and artists seem to think my writing and photographs benefit them. Similarly, good bands seem to move up the ladder when they invest not just money, but themselves in making IBMA part of total program of advancement.