The IBMA World of Bluegrass
While this is only our third year at the WOB, I've been attending professional meetings for nearly forty years, and I think I've learned something about how to make them work for me. The first and most important thing to do is to take some time to make at least a preliminary plan for your week. This year's WOB theme is: Face Time - It Matters. With this in mind, much of the program is built around the idea of allowing people involved in bluegrass to get a chance for face-to-face interactions with other people who count in the business. Everyone can be sure to find ways to make themselves known to others through their activity at IBMA. Attendance at WOB begins when the program arrives in your mailbox, or you start to study the offerings on the IBMA web site.
Kinds of Admission Tickets: There are a variety of ticket packages available for WOB priced from $540 (non-member full admission after August 13) to $140 (the new "music only" ticket purchased early). Significant discounts are available to professional members who register early. No ticket package includes admission to the Awards ceremony, which is separately ticketed ($55 - $110). For those who attend both the Business Conference and Fan Fest, the early bird price of $340 is quite attractive. Among other things, full registration for the Business conference includes three meals associated with speeches and special awards. The new Music Pass (priced at $160 after September 10) is, for some people an interesting and attractive option. The Music Pass entitles holders to attend all music events - Official Showcases, After Hours Showcases, and Fan Fest. Holders of the ticket may not attend seminars, workshops, meals, or go to the Exhibition Hall during the Business Conference. Attending private showcases in the Hotel, hospitality suites, and participating in jams in the hotel jamming areas would be a possibility. If listening to bluegrass music is your reason for attending IBMA, this may be your ticket. But the Music Pass only works for consumers of bluegrass music. If you're a content provider in any capacity, you want to be able to take advantage of the much more extensive program IBMA offers.
Exhibition Hall: The Exhibition Hall contains a range of exhibits by instrument manufacturers, parts manufacturers, agents, gear companies, and so-on. Bands presenting official showcases
also provided with a complementary space for an exhibit. It also functions as a central meeting place for people who wander the aisles between other events during the day. During Fan Fest, the Exhibition Hall becomes more consumer and fan oriented and Fan Fest performers also have merchandise tables in the hallway outside the Fan Fest auditorium. Lists of exhibitors for both the Business Conference and Fan Fest can be found here. While I haven't made an actual count, it appears to me the number has increased since last year.
Gig Fair: This event is sort of like speed dating. You can view it as a meat market you want nothing to do with, or as an opportunity to make a visual contact with bookers who might be important to your future. So far there are thirty-one bluegrass talent buyers confirmed for the Gig Fair, and, no doubt, more will have signed up to participate by Wednesday. This is an unparalleled opportunity for you to make an initial contact, leave a demo and other information, and help buyers connect your band's name with a face. It's up to you to follow up on these contacts after IBMA is over. You can register for up to seven appointments during the sign-up from 8:30 - 11:00 AM before the orientation period at 12:45, and the Gig Fair, which runs from 1:00 - 3:00 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Are you sure you want to be so tired from jamming all night that you don't show up to register at 8:30 in the morning?
Mentor Sessions: These sessions provide participants with an opportunity to spend one-on-one face time discussing specific issues with people who have had great success in the particular area involved. The list of participants and the number of mentor sessions this year is larger than in any year we've seen. Would you like to: talk about getting articles in Bluegrass Unlimited with founder Pete Kuykendall and editor Linda Shaw, examine house concerts as a way to showcase artists in intimate setting with Archie Warnock, learn about booking tours and artist representation with John Everhardt of Keith Case & Associates, or discuss mastering your new bluegrass album with John Eberle of Americana Mastering? There are twenty-eight different people or groups participating in the Mentoring Sessions where you can make appointments to sit down and talk about issues of particular concern to you.
After hours showcases are not informal or unofficial, but the way they are developed and presented differs significantly from the Official ones. Running from 11:00 P.M until 2:00 AM each night of the WOB except after the Awards show, After Hours shows take place in smaller rooms on the first and second floors of the Convention Center. They are hosted by record companies, media organizations, and other groups wishing to showcase talent of their own choice. Record companies, for instance, might showcase bands whose newest product has hit the market in the past several months. A newcomer on the bluegrass stage, The Bluegrass Legacy, is hosting five nights of showcases featuring emerging bands managed by Mile Marker Entertainment. Since many of the sponsors are record companies or management agencies, it stands to reason the bands in their showcases would be predominantly chosen from their clients. The audience for these showcases is often composed of a mix of talent buyers, other musicians supporting friends, and fans. The new Music Pass may change the dynamics of the after hours showcases. While they run late, these events can turn into exciting moments and shows. They, like all IBMA events require a ticket.
In the end, the Business Conference of World of Bluegrass can be a wonderful experience and provide a wealth of learning and growing opportunities for anyone involved with bluegrass at any level. For members of bands seeking to improve their visibility, get more work, learn how to develop their band, and develop new streams of income, it could provide a huge breakthrough. But in the end, all IBMA can do is provide the opportunity, open the door, and its up to each individual to walk through it.
The IBMA World of Bluegrass presents bluegrass professionals and aficionados an unparalleled opportunity to get Face Time (the meeting's theme this year) with each other and to make and hear wonderful music. There's no other better place you can go to hear and see previously unheard bands who are ready to begin to move upwards or to see and hear many of your favorites. Rather than my summarizing its joys and benefits, here's a wonderful film made by Craig Havighurst for IBMA. It offers in nine minutes as good a summary of the WOB as one could want:
Whether you're a bluegrass professional or an avid fan who enjoys not only listening to the music, but spending time with your favorite bluegrass musicians, the IBMA World of Bluegrass is the place to be.