Sir Walter Raleigh Welcomes IBMA
IBMA’s World of Bluegrass, the Award Show and Wide Open Bluegrass present a feast for anyone interested in bluegrass music. The week is filled with music, learning, meeting, greeting, picking, buying, selling...and more music. It justly earns its nickname, I’ve Been Mostly Awake. Getting through the week to the end, should you decide to attend all three of the events, is both a marathon and a sprint. Setting goals and making a plan will determine your ability to enjoy your week while reaching your goals to increase your bluegrass income and enjoyment of the scene. The correct question to ask about attending IBMA is not "What has IBMA ever done for me?" but always "What have I done to make IBMA the best experience I can have to maximize my professional life in music or enjoy the week the best I can?" This blog is written to help you achieve your goals for the IBMA experience.
While the Marriott Hotel and The Sheraton Raleigh are most convenient to all the action, numerous alternatives are available for those attending. For years we stayed at the campground located on the State Fairgrounds, about six miles from downtown, where over 100 full service sites are set aside for IBMA. A free shuttle service to the Convention Center is provided. This year, we've found an Airbnb near the capitol, a short Uber ride from the Convention Center, but there are over 300 places listed in Raleigh. Many other accomodations are available. Consult the visitors bureau.
For most people attending The World of Bluegrass, the interactive map below shows the part of downtown Raleigh where World of Bluegrass takes place. Familiarize yourself with the area from the Duke Energy Center to the Sate Capitol Building. Fayetteville Street is the major street. The embedded Google Map below is an active map which can be contracted and expanded to use for all sites around Raleigh:
A crucial resource for those attending World of Bluegrass is the desk of the Greater Raleigh Visitors and Convention Bureau, located in the lobby of the Marriott Center City Hotel, where you can get maps of the downtown area as well as good advice on how to see Raleigh. You can download the IBMA Schedule to both your computer and your phone. Schedule events and send your personal schedule to your phone to plan each day. Another important resource which will save you time and lots of walking is the R Bus, a free shuttle serving up a special route during the event to various venues where showcase bands featured in the the Bluegrass Ramble are held. Your ticket to the Business Conference includes admission to all these venues, while you can also buy Ramble tickets or pay at the door. Our favorite ramble venue is the Vintage Church on Moore Park, a short ride on the R Bus. Another prime showcase location is within the Convention Center itself.
The R Bus In Front of the Convention Center
Bluegrass Ramble Site
The Business Conference: It’s never too early to start deciding how you’re going to use your valuable time at the IBMA Business Conference. Comprising three days and lasting from 9:00 AM until 2:00 AM, you’ll find that you still don’t have enough time nor energy to accomplish all you wish to do. It’s too easy to become distracted, to forget where you wanted to be, who you wanted to hear, what you wanted to learn, because you’ve been captured by the moment: a friend, a tune you hear, a booth you have to visit right now, a call you must take, etc. Your best friend is the Schedule, which you can download to your computer, link to your phone, and use as a planning guide. Use the schedule linked above! Before I started this paragraph, I already had a conflict between two business sessions I want to attend.
I’ve heard musicians mutter complaints with something like “What has IBMA ever done for me?” I take that to mean that they simply haven’t been offered the gigs they thought would materialize from showcasing or performing at one or more events. Meanwhile they wander around hallways with a briefcase handing out copies of their latest recording to any person they perceive to have influence or who might be able to help them find more work. Such short range thinking rarely results in very much new work coming their way.
Gig Fair - Meet the Promoters
and Follow Up
Instead, they should plan their attendance at IBMA as if it were a military campaign, employing their resources and links found throughout this preview to garner the greatest amount of event coverage by deploying members of their band to cover specific events, seminars, meet & greets, and other events. Every member of the band, including non-performing components, should view themselves as members of a team devoted to finding a maximum amount of work and finding out about new, advanced, or untried approaches that might be useful for the team. Meeting people, making contacts, and following up is crucial to success. Hanging out with your friends can mean wasting your valuable time.
A Good Place to Meet Friends & Do Business
Each day your team should meetfd to share insights they had, new ideas they heard about, ways they could employ the ideas or adapt them to the band’s specific needs. After the conference is over, the band should meet with their leader to consider ways to follow up, assign responsibilities to each person, and proceed to follow up with each person they contacted during the week. They should work to broaden their own comfort areas to expand their repertoire of new ideas to use in building the business. Each person should keep a small note-book to record names of people for later contact. Making contacts for later development is the name of the game.
At the end of IBMA week, the team should plan a day-long retreat to do an analysis of what they learned and how it can be applied to their business. It’s worth remembering that band leadership and membership consist of more than getting to a gig and performing your sets. Like any work week at any job, there are highs, in the case of music, performing, and their are necessary chores and low points along the trail, but most time should be allocated for working to help the band succeed.
Every meeting with a person the band members think could help the band achieve its goals should be followed up soon after the conference, and the relationships developed at IBMA should be cultivated and grown over the succeeding year, or years. Time in the van or the bus can be well spent in this effort. Both conferring and following up by phone can be accomplished on the road. Assignments should be discussed, reports can be made, plans for further discussions with influencers like radio dj’s, writers, promoters, publications, and more. Using the Business Conference and following up on what you learned is essential. Don't wait to stroll in on your day to perform. Involve yourself in your own career rather than waiting for it to happen to you.
Photo: Bluegrass Today
I’m told by two very reliable sources that when IBMA was founded, Pete Kuykendahl, founder and editor of BluegrassUnlimited magazine, sought to avoid having an awards show, thinking that the hullabaloo of such an event would overshadow the importance of the Business Conference. Despite the fact that he was probably correct regarding where the emphasis should be, the evening of major awards is well-attended. Held at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, the show gives bluegrass glitterati a chance to dress up and celebrate what the membership has voted to be the “best” in a number of categories. If only honorees could observe the rules about how to accept awards, the show would even finish within the three hour time limit it seeks to meet. Nevertheless, the Awards Show is lots of fun, while representing a great opportunity to transition into the final two days of celebration and music called Wide Open Bluegrass.
Probably of more interest to the active membership of IBMA is the luncheon held earlier in the day in a large meeting hall in the Raleigh Convention Center. The Industry Awards celebrate the nuts and bolts of bluegrass, while also highlighting the Distinguished Achievements of important movers and shakers within the industry. The industry awards luncheon is one of the scheduled events of your IBMA Business Conference registration. It also includes performances by featured bluegrass artists. It’s an engaging celebration
of the often lesser recognized but essential roles, while also highlighing emerging people through the Momentum Awards.
Wide Open Bluegrass: Claims by the City of Raleigh of overall attendance exceeding 250,00 over the five days of World of Bluegrass and Wide Open bluegrass should not allow you to believe that you can’t have a great time during the Wide Open Bluegrass portion, held in three large venues: The Red Hat Amphitheater, The Raleigh Convention Center, and TheStreet Fair running down Fayetteville Street for five blocks from Lenoir Street to Morgan Street, in front of the State Capitol Building. The city estimates are an agregate number of tourist and business days for the entire week, but, while the streets are crowded, it is not a mob. Rather, a large, family crowd strolls up and down the street, enjoying music at six different stages located on side streets. They can also stroll between the stages enjoying art, clothing, and, especially, North Carolina food specialities along with free samples. There are also food vendors selling a wide range of edibles as well as several beer trucks along the way. In our five years of attending Wide Open Bluegrass, I've never encountered a drunk on the streets.
In addition to the open air Street Fair running down Fayetteville Street and including sound stages on several different side streets, all closed to traffic for this Friday and Saturday event, you will find performances, free seminars, and Exhibit Hall to be available in the Raleigh Convention Center. Behind the Convention Center and across the street lies the Red Hat Amphitheater, where live music from some Bluegrass Music's biggest stars is held. This year, a large portion of the Red Hat been opened free to the public. while ticketed premium seats are still available. The huge JumboTron makes viewing possible from a distance, and the sound is superb.
The Red Hat Amphitheater
The entire World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass is simply too large to encompass in a single blog. Your willingness to do some serious planning, attend the conference with discipline, and spend some serious time processing the event after its over, making sure you follow up with the contacts you meet there, will assure that you don't need to ask "What has IBMA ever done for me." Rather, it will allow you to learn new strategies, make new contacts, and improve your competitiveness in the difficult world of making bluegrass music work to help you meet your goals. It's all up to you!