2020 IBMA Awards balloting on track to start tomorrow

With so much up in the air these days as a result of restrictions related to virus mitigation, ballots and elections have become a sensitive topic. A number of state and municipal elections have already been affected, and arguments are raging about how the US will be able to hold federal elections later this year.

But members of the International Bluegrass Music Association can rest assured that the organization is moving ahead with plans to launch its 2020 ballot process for their annual awards. First round ballots, which are the write-in forms, will be emailed to members tomorrow morning (April 14). IBMA is going full speed ahead with the awards process, and planning on hosting the International Bluegrass Music Awards on October 1 in Raleigh as originally scheduled.

Paul Schiminger, IBMA Executive Director, has prepared this short video to alert members to their procedures for the awards, and encourage all professional members to participate.

As Paul mentions, a select committee has revised the Awards Handbook, which lists all the various criteria for the individual categories. It can be viewed online.

He also highlights the importance of members and others submitting nominations for the separate Industry Awards, as well as the annual Distinguished Achievement and Momentum Awards. Important honors given to those who work diligently in our industry, but in other than performance and recording, are nominated and chosen by special committees, but they are tasked only with responding to suggested nominations received online. That process begins on May 1, so Schiminger encourages those who work in radio, print media, graphic design, and other supportive roles to consider nominating themselves for work they feel has been exemplary.

May 1 is also the start of the ballot process for the Momentum and Distinguished Achievement awards.

Voting members can find all the resources Paul discussed on the IBMA web site, including the For Your Consideration list of eligible recordings. Keep in mind, that this list is in no way exhaustive, consisting only of recordings that have been submitted for the list by artists or labels. Any recording released or seeing significant chart action between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 is eligible to be included on the first round ballot, whether it is found on the For Your Consideration list or not.

Paul also asked us to include this brief overview of the awards process, simply for the sake of clarity.

The IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards is a 3-ballot process with the first round being a write-in ballot. Since songs and albums can be challenging to remember when writing in candidates, we offer that community sourced list simply to help. The second round consists of those 20 candidates receiving the most votes in each category.  Then the final round consists of five nominees, unless there are more from a tie in round two.

The IBMA Industry and Momentum Awards start with community-submitted candidates that are then considered by board-appointed committees to determine the nominees. Self-submission is highly encouraged since those submitting themselves in a category are best equipped to provide the accomplishments, and any material or recording necessary for consideration. It is imperative that people submit candidates since that is the list from which the nominating committees select nominees. Only when there are less than seven candidates to review can the committee put forth additional Industry Awards nominees. Then the final ballot for Industry Awards goes to the IBMA Panel of Electors that consists of more than 200 experienced and knowledgeable professionals, including each living Hall of Fame inductee, to vote on the recipients of each award.

The Momentum Awards differ in that once candidates are received from the community, there is a Nominating Committee and a Selection Committee. This is because a committee of selected professionals can often have more insight on the earlier stage professionals.

The IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame process consists of a 10-person Nominating Committee that reviews past nominees, letters of consideration from the community, and their own knowledge to put forth a ballot of 15 Open category nominees and 10 Non-Performer or Early Contributor nominees (it rotates year to year, with this year being Non-Performer). The Panel of Electors then votes in two rounds to elect the inductees for that year.

The Distinguished Achievement Awards have one Selection Committee that reviews community submissions and various other potential candidates to select 4 to 5 recipients, with different categories represented to make sure we recognize a wide range of worthy honorees.

Just as in all important elections, the only way to obtain results that mirror the thinking of a community is by having the bulk of the eligible voters participate. Please be sure to open your IBMA Awards ballots when they arrive tomorrow, and complete it as soon as possible.

And don’t feel that submitting yourself for an Industry Award is a purely self-serving act. If your work is worthy, it should be recognized.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.