From the time you arrive in Raleigh during IBMA's World of Bluegrass until you leave town, your world will almost entirely be circumscribed by the view you see above. The Duke Energy Center lies just off camera to the right, and across the street from the Convention Center, with its glimmer wall is the Red Hat Amphitheater. You can see the Marriott hotel behind the Convention Center with the Sheraton to its left. Fayetteville street runs from the Duke Energy Center to the State Capital. The City Market park, surrounded by the venues for night action, is a few blocks further. That's it. You'll be so busy and having so much fun, there won't be time to go any further, yet the area is sufficiently compact to allow most people to walk between sites. This blog entry is designed to help you make the most of your time and energy.
Lobby of Raleigh Convention Center
Questions to ask yourself. "When I go to IBMA in Raleigh, do I want to....
Learn more about my business?
Meet people who can help me grow my band?
Hear lots of new bands to consider booking them?
Connect with others in my constituency - Broadcasting, Media, Promoters, Agents, others?
Do I want to learn more about the legal issues in music?
Do I want to stay up all night jamming and enjoying the party?
Whatever choices you make are completely up to you.
Online Schedule: Your most important resource is the World of Bluegrass Full Week Schedule which permits you to view through a number of lenses the activities for each day and hour of the full event. You can choose to follow special interest tracks or take a more eclectic and broad approach to scheduling your activities, enabling you to arrive in Raleigh with a full schedule of events you wish to attend. REMEMBER: As you walk the halls of the Convention Center, you will run into people you know from all over the country. You have to decide if meeting and greeting, socializing, networking, and catching up is more important the hewing to your schedule. You can look at a specific event to determine what the topic covers and who the speakers are. You can click on the "Add to My Sched." link to place the particular event in your schedule. In other words, you can arrive in Raleigh with every minute planned. Then it will all fall apart!
While you stay in the downtown area of Raleigh you can always be connected. The city provides free Wi-Fi with easy access. Between using that access and the walking setting on your phone's GPS, there's no reason not to be able to find your way around.
There are three other kinds of schedules available, each of which has its own usefulness. There are two cell phone apps, one for the World of Bluegrass and One for Wide Open Bluegrass. These are not yet available, but will be posted a couple of weeks before the event begins. Once you start, these will become one of your go-to tools, since you won't be carrying your lap top. They are available through the usual outlets.
IBMA publishes a comprehensive program. This is large, contains lots of advertisements, maps, and the entire schedule. I usually give up on using it because it's cumbersome, although it would be very useful to have as a planning document a couple of weeks before you arrive, or to keep in your hotel room for study about the next day.
Finally, two tri-fold guides with maps included, are available all over the Convention Center, grab a few early and don't lose them. They become scarce as WOB moves along, and they stand as one of the most useful "how-to-get-around" tools available.
However: Stuff keeps popping up, and you need to stay alert. Lots of new activity or late scheduled events get announced by email, social media, and people posting on bulletin boards and walls all over the Convention Center and in the Hotels. Somehow, you need to keep track of this. I can't determine, at this time, how many of these newly scheduled events make their way to the Official Full Week Schedule, but my guess is that not all of it does or can. I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is to download the schedule and register as an attendee.
Tickets: IBMA's World of Bluegrass contains three components that must be addressed separately, and within each component there are multiple options. The Business Conference runs from Tuesday through Thursday (September 26 - 28), the Awards Show takes place on Thursday evening (September 28), and Wide Open Bluegrass (September 29 - 30) is a two day bluegrass festival and street fair which is mostly free except for the ticketed event in the Red Hat Amphitheater featuring major acts from noon 'til eleven each day. As with most events, the best buys are available to people who purchase comprehensive tickets during early bird periods. Early bird is long past, but Full Registration for the Business Conference is your best buy, as it includes several banquet style meals as well as admission to all Bluegrass Ramble showcases.. Here's a link to the ticketing options.
Where to Stay:
Convention Hotels: The Raleigh Marriott City Center and the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel stand directly across the street from the Convention Center and convenient to the Red Hat Amphitheater and the Duke Energy Center. The both offer special IBMA prices, but were fully booked early in the ticket buying process. HOWEVER, there are always unforeseen cancellations, so it won't hurt to give them a call.
Air BnB in Raleigh - Air Bed and Breakfast accommodations have become popular recently. Here's a list of Air BnB's available in Raleigh for the dates of IBMA as of the end of August.
Hotels Near Raleigh Convention Center: While the two official hotels for IBMA are the Marriott and the Sheraton across the street from the Convention Center, there are a number of other hotels and motels nearby. Here's a map and list of convenient hotels that might represent a saving.
Camping: The North Carolina State Fair Grounds offer a large, full hook-up campground with free Wi-Fi just a fifteen minute drive from the Convention Center, where there is plenty of parking available. During the event, a shuttle runs regularly. Several hot shower locations are a short drive from the site if you don't use your own rig. Here's information about reservations and the check-in process. Campus security will come to you to collect your fees. Last year a block of 100 sites was set aside for World of Bluegrass.
Note: North Carolina State Parks close their gates at 9:00 PM, requiring you to park outside and walk to your site. I do NOT recommend staying at a state park near Raleigh if you expect to get in at night. While the North Carolina State Parks don't emphasize this feature, here's a quotation from the "make a reservation" section of the State's web site
The registration desk is open on Monday afternoon, so those arriving early and wanting to get their credentials in order before the lines begin to lengthen, can come to registration then. Remember, if you're staying for Wide Open Bluegrass, you'll need to register again on Friday.
There are three major tracks in the Business Conference: The Talent Buyer Track, The Songwriter Track, and the Continuing Legal Education Track (lawyers get credit from the bar for attending these sessions). But none of these elements are exclusive. For instance, The Gig Fair (speed dating for bands and events) is a crucial event for many young bands seeking to make face-to-face contact with representatives of festivals, arts centers, concert series and more. Important: If you're interested in participating in the Gig Fair, you must sign up in advance. Keep an eye on the Gig Fair page for sign-up materials. You Must be registered for the Business Conference and sign up to participate in the Gig Fair. You may find interesting sessions and receptions in all the categories of tracks and special interests. Except where noted, these are all open, but you don't want to find yourself walking up and down the Convention Center hallways with an hour of free time on Wednesday afternoon wondering which session you'd like to attend. That's why you study the Schedule.
Showcases: Each year a committee chooses up to thirty bands for official showcasing. In order to be selected they must meet certain criteria. The thirty artists chosen are guaranteed at least two appearances at showcases in the Convention Center plus additional shows at the venues on the Bluegrass Ramble. The Ramble is designed to use convenient venues, with easy reach on the route of the special R Bus or with a few minutes walk.
The Earls of Leicester Perform
2016 Entertainers of the Year
Roland White Accepting Hall of Fame Induction
for His Brother Clarence White
The Street Fair: Let's take a walk down Fayetteville Street on Friday or Saturday to sample the activities. It's a jumpin' place where you can eat, drink, sample local crafts, try out barbecue sauces, and hear local, regional, and national bands play at one of the seven free stages along the street.