Why IBMA? – 2011 Preview
Of all the events we attend during our bluegrass travels, there are two which require us to do extensive planning before we get to the site: Merlefest and IBMA. Each event offers a complex and varied selection of activities, many of which conflict with each other in terms of the schedule, forcing us to choose from seemingly equally attractive alternatives. In the case of the IBMA World of Bluegrass week, including both the business conference and Fan Fest, there are good choices all day long, and the day is long. It is easy, desirable in fact, to arrive at the Convention Center around 9:30 in the morning. This year scheduled events last until 1:30 AM the next day. Active jammers, or those who wish to observe jams, visit hotel suites for private showings, or just hang out can easily keep themselves entertained until three of four in the morning. There’s a good reason that for many attendees IBMA is an acronym for “I’ve Been Mostly Awake.”
IBMA Presidente – Stan Zdonik
A few months ago, Irene and I sat down with a friend who’s retired from an active and highly successful business career. I expressed to him my amazement at how few members of bands appeared at the seminars and meetings during the day at World of Bluegrass. I noted that at these scheduled events I found good ideas flowing and my understanding of both the music and the business of bluegrass increased. I asked him how, during his business career, he approached getting the most benefit from attending a conference. “Before a conference,” he said, “I’d assemble my team [band] to examine the program and decide how we’d divide up the events. Each person would attend different seminars and meetings, take notes, contribute his own ideas, and bring away what he considered to be the best ideas offered there. Later, we’d meet and compare notes to share what we’d learned. Sometimes, for big or important meetings, we’d send two or more team members to make sure we were able to get different points of view included in our considerations. Once we’d compared notes, we’d begin developing a plan of action.” Our friend argued that such an approach helped to educate each member, improved the teams functioning, and put it in a position to improve its competitiveness in a highly competitive environment.
This leads me to ask a few questions. I believe whether you’re a performer, a promoter, a content producer, an agent, a fan or any of the dozens of other kinds of people involved in what we call bluegrass music, you wish to improve your ability to maximize your competence, effectiveness, income, and enjoyment gained from your involvement. We live in challenging economic times where competition is often difficult and sometime cut-throat. It’s hard for individuals to assess their own place within what some resent calling “the bluegrass industry.” Many people claim “it’s all about the music,” resisting strongly the thought that they’re also engaged in a business. Performers, particularly, seem to believe they come to IBMA to perform rather than to learn, resenting the idea they should pay to attend the conference or stating clearly the cost isn’t worth the benefit. This preview, then, is designed to suggest ways of making sure you, whatever your role in bluegrass, get the most benefit from attending. The choices are there, and IBMA has widened them, adjusted the ways you can attend the events and the costs of attending, opened the door to many more alternatives, and listened to the complaints coming from both the membership and the disaffected bluegrass people who don’t belong or who serve as internal and external critics.
As you begin your planning for IBMA, start by asking yourself a few questions:
Could you learn anything from others that would help you improve your performance?
Is there anything your peers and professionals from other fields have to say to you that could help you improve your performance?
Have you reached the place in your profession you saw yourself going fifteen years ago?
Is it more important for you to jam late into the night or to work to improve and develop your position within the “bluegrass industry?”
Your answers to these questions will help determine the choices you make during WOB week and help you to improve the cost to benefit ratio in your attendance. Planning your week at IBMA will pay dividends you can see, even if they aren’t immediate. All the specific information you need to start planning NOW is available to you on the recently re-designed IBMA web site. All official events for the entire week are held in the Nashville Convention Center and the attached Renaissance Hotel. I’ll make comments and then point you in the right direction.
Prices for attending events surrounding WOB have been made into an ala carte menu. While registering for the entire conference still might be the most economical approach, not all people have the same needs. Therefore, attendees can purchase a Music Pass, visit the exhibits for free on Wednesday or for a $20 fee on other days of the business conference. Visitors wishing to attend artist showcases can do so for a daily $25 fee. A week long music pass providing access to all Official showcases, after hours showcases, and Fan Fest is available for $140. This pass does not include entrance to the exhibit hall, which is available as a separate admission or free on Wednesday. Remember, the exhibit hall for the business conference (Monday – Thursday) is different than for Fan Fest (Friday – Sunday). There doesn’t appear to be a unified ala carte price menu, but people wishing to attend all events will benefit from purchasing a week-long ticket. They’ll benefit still more from member pricing should they choose to join IBMA. At trending the awards ceremony requires an additional ticket, and events like the “Breakfast with the Stars” served by musicians and IBMA Board members are designed to benefit various IBMA functions and require additional ticketing.