Did I just see a Del McCoury blimp?

| July 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chris Jones“For Your Consideration.”

We all have seen that phrase more than a few times in the past few days, now that the first round of IBMA awards balloting has been tabulated. It’s the generic introduction to a solicitation for votes, in this case for the second round.

In this round, the ballot has a bunch of names on it for you to choose from, as opposed to being wide open, so it’s the artists and musicians on that list, or their surrogates (spouses, parents, parole officers, etc.), that you’re hearing from right now.

I did think it was kind of sad the year the IBMA had to send out an official notice urging people who had made it into the second round to refrain from referring to themselves as “nominees,” but that’s another story. Apparently no one has come up with a decent name for someone who has survived the first cut. “Survivor” just doesn’t have a very upbeat ring to it.

Though I would definitely like to get as many votes as possible in the second round myself (see detailed instructions below, accompanied by a valuable Walgreen’s gift card), I’ve never been comfortable with asking for them. I guess it feels a little too much like campaigning, and that feeds into my life-long fear of holding signs and wearing boater hats. I do have a record label, agent, and others who are doing it on my behalf, though, so I have no justification at all for getting high and mighty about it.

In fact, I’ve recently had somewhat of a change of heart about the whole idea of soliciting awards votes, and now I don’t fault anyone for doing it.

The IBMA awards have unquestionably been good for our business, but If there are any  problems with the process at all (aside from the fact that people are still debating what “entertainer” actually means), the low voter turnout would have to be high on the list. This is especially true since the introduction of new cumbersome voter ID rules: now you not only have to provide two forms of picture ID (band photo not acceptable), you must also answer detailed questions about Molly and Tenbrooks (e.g. “Tenbrooks: Bay or Palamino?”).

Seriously, though, these nominations and subsequent awards are decided by a pretty small pool of voters. Think Green Party primary for North Dakota Secretary of State, and you’ll have some idea. With that in mind, unless you think awards are bad for your career, it’s clearly a good idea to nudge a few people.

Are we the only music trade organization in which people ask for votes? Absolutely not. In fact, I happened to see what CMA members receive from potential nominees, and virtually anything short of giving every CMA member a vacation time share in Hawaii seemed to be possible. These people do some serious lobbying.

For those who say, “well this just makes it a popularity contest” I would reply, “as opposed to what?” It’s an awards show. That’s what they are. Have you seen any awards shows lately where artists who are artistically respected but who are largely unknown or unpopular are winning awards? They’re popularity contests through and through, and we love them.

An awards show is a chance for us to appreciate each other, put on our best face for the public and the media, and see the full 360 degree range of bluegrass awards show dressing styles.

For the individual artists, though, it’s a business vehicle too. So, if a gentle reminder through email, or social media, or, for the really industrious, robocall or blimp may make a difference in a low-participation voting process, you shouldn’t take offense. This may just be enough to spur a few people on who wouldn’t have bothered to vote otherwise (or who know zilch about racehorses).

If “for your consideration” mass emails bug you, remember that’s what they make spam filters for. You can automatically file them with those emails from the bank manager in west Africa who has all that money waiting for you, and no one will be the wiser. You’ll never have to read it, but just try to remember that those artists had a pretty good reason for sending that email.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones wears many hats in his bluegrass career. In addition to leading his own band, with whom he tours and records, Jones is an award-winning broadcaster and songwriter.

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