Are you afraid of bluegrass music?

Chris JonesThe first ballot for the IBMA awards has gone out. Did you receive a “for your consideration” mass e-mail from me or one of my surrogates? I hope not, because I didn’t send one (not that I wouldn’t love to have your vote). That means if you did receive one from someone claiming to be me or representing me, it’s a fake. It’s someone I don’t even know, scamming you and trying to gain access to your personal information. Please delete it and change your passwords. You might even consider moving to a different city and closing all your bank accounts. This kind of thing is a growing problem.

All this reminds me that we live in a society inundated with fear. A study was released recently (probably also fake) saying that fear has recently surpassed sex as the number one psychological tool used in advertising. Isn’t it time we use it to promote bluegrass music? More on that in a moment.

The first ballot also reminds me that these are better times for the IBMA and for bluegrass music in general: The Raleigh IBMA World of Bluegrass has received great reviews and numbers at the event are expected to continue to grow. There’s a new executive director (who plays the banjo, no less), and the organization’s finances are in good shape. The recent political storm has been weathered (search the Bluegrass Today archives for “worst crisis to hit the IBMA since the Galt House bourbon shortage of ’02”). The awards show was televised for the first time ever. The awards show debacle that toppled a board chairman and generated unwanted news headlines is but a distant memory (don’t ask).

Still, there are lingering concerns: Can we generate better numbers for the trade show part of the IBMA WOB somehow? And when is the next bluegrass hit movie coming out (starring Mark Wahlberg) to boost sales? Let’s face it, it’s been a long time now since Fire Down Below.

Maybe it’s time we take a serious look at using fear to sell bluegrass music. I was serving on the IBMA board during a fairly non-controversial time, although it was the time when the decision to move the World of Bluegrass to Nashville was made (whoops!). It was also the time when the slogan “Discover bluegrass” was introduced. I have nothing against that slogan—I even liked it at the time—but it screams “non-controversial” to me, if there’s such a thing as non-controversial screaming. At the time it beat out these zingers: “Bluegrass is good” and “Bluegrass: it’s something.”

Is it time to stop worrying about offending people? I’d go a step further and say it’s time to stop worrying about worrying people. Take a look at elections, and I’m observing a close one first hand in the UK this week: are they won on issues? No, generally they’re won by scaring people about their opponent. You know, the slow motion black and white footage of the other candidate that shows his eyelids slowly blinking (so he looks drunk, evil, or both) with horror film-music in the background and an ominous voice saying “Joe Candidate . . . wrong for America!”

Why can’t we sell bluegrass music this way? Can’t we generate an ad campaign with slowed down footage of rock ‘n’ roll, Irish music, Baroque, or some other genre we’re competing against, and make it seem really creepy and possibly dangerous?

Then we can further impress on people that bluegrass music events, especially the IBMA World of Bluegrass, are the only places to be that can be considered truly safe. Back it up with statistics: 100% of all terrorist attacks have taken place away from a bluegrass music event. Coincidence? Probably not. The same is true for mass shootings, kidnappings, and for the most part, muggings, and auto theft. Granted, there is the isolated knife fight, and we should just avoid the issue of instrument theft, but for the most part, these are safe places to be. We need to plant in people’s minds that it may be the only safe place to be in this world.

Advertising slogans are not my strong point, but I’d like to see something that’s at least in this spirit:

  • “Bluegrass music: your time to love it may be running out.”
  • “Bluegrass music: if you don’t like it for yourself, like it for the ones who love you.”
  • “Bluegrass music: a touch of security in a scary scary world.”

Or for an event:

  • “The IBMA World of Bluegrass: can you really afford not to go?”
  • “The IBMA World of Bluegrass could be the safest you’ll be all year. You need to be there.”
  • “The choice is yours: attend the IBMA World of Bluegrass, or just roll the dice!”

I’ll see you in Raleigh. If you’re not coming, you might consider making sure all your insurance policies are up to date.

Note: these suggestions are not intended for unsupervised use. The slogans above are meant as examples only. Using them for any other purpose may lead to sleeplessness, anxiety, muscle spasms, humiliation, suicidal thoughts, psychotic episodes, scurvy, or death.