The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) will be holding its annual World of Bluegrass (WOB) Conference in Nashville, TN at the Renaissance Center Hotel and Nashville Convention Center from September 27 – October 3 this year. As I’ve read people’s responses to the organization, its conference, its location, cost, and other factors, the over-riding issue coming from cyber space seems to me to be, “What has IBMA done for me lately?” This preview is designed to help you think about ways to use the WOB to help you advance your goals in bluegrass music whether you’re a performer, a promoter, fan, a content provider, purveyor of music oriented equipment, or any of the many other sorts of people who come together to make the World of Bluegrass. Whether you’re a first time attendee or have been to IBMA many times, it’s important to remember that you’re not there to merely have a good time, hang out with friends you don’t see often enough, pick a lot, and share a few drinks. The most important reason to attend is to advance your career and understanding of bluegrass music during this week-long extravaganza by working hard to help yourself. To this end WOB has been structured by IBMA to help you do just that, but you should never believe IBMA will do it for you.
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.
The Business Conference
Seminars and Workshops: Running from Monday September 27 through Thursday September 30, the business conference presents a swirl of varied activities designed to help bluegrass people learn, develop new skills, build on old ones, display their music, network with others in the business to build and develop contacts, play music for talent buyers in the industry, and so much more. Take a look at the list of Seminars and Educational Labs running from Monday afternoon through Thursday. I can’t imagine that any person involved with bluegrass in any capacity wouldn’t be able to find several presentations to attend that would help grow a career or enhance enjoyment of the music. The people involved in these presentations have already established a track record of success in their piece of the business and are willing to share their expertise with you. How could you lose? (Of course, you could have jammed ’til three in the morning the night before and not be in any shape to attend or benefit from these experiences, but life is always a series of choices.)
Let me highlight a few of seminars or workshops that particularly appeal to me during the week. Do you think you might have something to learn about marketing your band from Dailey & Vincent? They’ll be presenting a seminar on Tuesday afternoon with their entire marketing team examining how they developed their team. Of course, you could say to yourself, “Well, I haven’t got the resources they do. How could I learn from their experience?” Or you could attend the seminar, listen carefully and figure out what parts of their approach could apply to you and how you could adapt them to your means and needs.
Do you write songs and would you like to earn increased royalties from them? Do you think Dan Keen, Larry Shell, Tim Stafford, Carl Jackson, and David Crow in a seminar moderated by Brink Brinkman and Louisa Branscomb might have something to say to you that could enhance your chances of increasing your revenue stream through song writing? They’re offering a seminar called, “Follow the Money: Song Writer Royalties and the Real World” on Monday morning.
Are you unsure how to make Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all the other social networking media available on the Internet work for you to help you develop and define your brand and keep your name before the public? Would you be happy getting some new ideas about how to build your fan base? Would becoming more familiar with these concepts help to improve your income from music? Public relations guru Ariel Hyatt will be presenting a seminar called “Music Success in Nine Weeks” on Monday afternoon. Check out her web site to see a list of her clients and decide whether a couple of hours spent with her might be worth your while. People spend what you’ll be spending for IBMA attendance just to attend one of her workshops.
Maybe you’ve been teaching lessons to people who want to play bluegrass instruments. How would you like to make the time you spend teaching generate more income and attract additional people to the joys of playing music together? On Monday around noon Pete Wernick will be launching his new network of Bluegrass Jamming classes taught by “Wernick certified” teachers. Spend some time with one of the most successful teachers and performers in bluegrass history and see whether you’d fit into the format he teaches. And then attend the “Wernick Bluegrass Method” to learn how becoming associated with this new program might be a good fit for you. Would being associated with Pete Wernick make your classes more attractive to students? It just might.
I’ve focused on four of the more than thirty workshops, seminars, and special interest meeting to be held during the day at the WOB. I can hardly imagine how hearing the people who will be presenting and getting a chance to ask questions that help you relate their experiences to your own particular problems could be anything but valuable as you seek to develop and forward your career. If you attend IBMA as a member of a band, you can split up and cover even more of the events. During the following weeks you can sit together in the van or bus or motel room and share ideas you got in order to make connections and develop specific applications for your situation. Taking new ideas and making connections between them and your own needs is what learning is all about. If that doesn’t lead to greater success for your band, I’d be surprised. It does take work on your pa