It was an outstanding IBMA World of Bluegrass this year, in my opinion (as opposed to the opinion of some person ranting on a street corner in Raleigh), and yes, I was awake for a great deal of it. The IBMA deserves a hearty round of applause, as does the city of Raleigh, but cities can’t actually hear applause over the traffic noise, so that may not be the best way to show your appreciation.
Still, any event like this has room for improvement, and even if there isn’t room for improvement, it’s important to make adjustments so that we create room for improvement and can then fix those things later. If you’ve ever downloaded new computer operating systems, apps, or purchased the newest version of your smart phone, you know what I’m talking about: “Hey, this is working perfectly, so let’s tinker with it so it isn’t. We can fix it the next time, while messing up other things. This is how we stay employed.”
What follows, then, is a list of some changes I’d like to see at the IBMA World of Bluegrass next year, to either improve it, or to give people more to complain about:
Later luncheon times – By Tuesday night, people have begun staying up until 5:00 a.m., so starting a luncheon event promptly at 11:00 seems extreme. These could be scheduled around 2:30, and possibly be referred to as an “Awards Breakfast.” Dimmer lighting also wouldn’t hurt. That 11:00 a.m. time slot can be filled with seminars with titles like, “People Who Miss Seminars Because They Can’t Be Bothered to Get Up Early Enough Are Lazy And Pathetic,” and “Why We Should Be Having the Awards Luncheons at 11:00 Again.”
A longer awards show – I realize this year’s show was widely praised for its tightness but now people are already feeling nostalgic for the days of running 95 minutes overtime:
- Even more hosts (up to twenty)
- A very slow a cappella version of I’m Working on a Building, sung by the employees of the accounting firm of Riney Hancock & Co.
- A brief IBMA board member basketball game (half court)
- IBMA Awards Show T-shirts shot from a cannon into the crowd halfway through the show
- Barbara Allen presented as an interpretive dance
A 24 hour Exhibit Hall – I never get to spend as much time in the exhibit hall as I’d like, especially now that it’s only open for two days during the business conference. This could be solved by having it open round the clock. From midnight til 7:00 a.m. the hall can be kept in total darkness. This will add an element of mystery and even danger to the whole experience. People can accidentally trade instruments, accidentally book bands at events, and accidentally have conversations with people they had vowed never to speak to again. Think of the fun!
Grief counseling – Professional counselors can be made available in one of the hotel hospitality suites to provide comfort to those who lost awards they were convinced they were going to win. Additionally, this service should be available to all IBMA staff and interns, as well as any Marriott guests staying there for any reason other than the IBMA World of Bluegrass.
More artist showcase promotion – Having attended Folk Alliance last year, I can see that folkies are way more adept at covering entire walls and hallways with showcase posters and flyers. For the IBMA World of Bluegrass week, Marriott and Sheraton should make every surface area of the hotel available for band posters, including the backs of hotel employees. Each elevator should have a large dry erase board mounted in it, with markers provided.
Less Support from the City of Raleigh – Some attendees have grown weary of Raleigh’s relentless support of the World of Bluegrass, at times feeling like the city has become almost clingy in its affection. “You’re stifling me, Raleigh! I need some time to myself, if you don’t mind.” A few have begun to speak nostalgically about the Nashville indifference we had all gotten accustomed to when the event was held there. Others are taking Raleigh’s support for granted, and perhaps need to be reminded of how things could be if the city took on more of a “Yeah, World of Bluegrass, whatever” kind of attitude (note that this was written prior to the recent decision to relocate in 2025).
See you next year. I’ll have things to complain about then, I promise.