From The Side of the Road… “sweeps week” ideas for IBMA nominees

There’s a period between after nominations are announced, and before final voting closes, when nominees become aware they may be being watched and/or listened to more closely. The stakes of what they do become just a little bit higher. 

Voting has already closed on the main IBMA music awards as of Monday this week, but industry and momentum awards are still to be voted on (you may recall that those awards are voted on not by the general membership but by the secretive Committee of Five People, who decide everything from the corner table of an undisclosed Cracker Barrel—I know this to be true because I saw it on YouTube). That still makes this stretch of time on the calendar equivalent to television’s “sweeps week.”

In the course of trying to read up on “sweeps week,” I learned that it’s not actually a week, but more like a month in which television networks are monitored by the Nielsen company in order to determine what a given program’s audience share is. In any case, it isn’t even a ratings month anymore because thanks to modern monitoring technology (monitoring your and my every move, opinion, and purchase as we speak), these things are being measured and tabulated constantly. In other words, the television world lives in a year-round equivalent of the awards voting period.

When it was a limited period of time—in the case of Nielsen ratings, the ratings months were February, May, July, and November—networks would offer up the programming designed to lure in the biggest crowd possible, usually with less thought given to the substance or integrity of what was being put out there for the masses. If it was a prime time drama or comedy, you could expect more sex and violence; if it was a local news broadcast, you would usually see a greater emphasis on, you guessed it, sex and violence. In all cases, anything sensational that would generate a quick thrill or a little shock value, possibly even some revulsion—but the kind you can’t quite look away from—would be reserved for the sweeps period.

This of course got me to thinking about how various bluegrass award nominees might use this principle (maybe “principle” isn’t exactly the word I want) to attract more attention, and maybe just enough controversy during these periods of voting.

Here are some ideas:

Entertainer of the Year nominee

  • Announce new recording of Blue Moon of Kentucky with special guests Rihanna and the deceased Elvis Presley.
  • Send Bluegrass Today a press release about a messy divorce in your band.

Male vocalist nominee: Release new 2024 swimsuit calendar

Female vocalist nominee: Release new burlesque-style video of Wayfaring Stranger

Vocal Group nominee: Start including a medley of Pretty Polly and The Girl From Ipanema (double-time) on every set.

Instrumental Group nominee: Introduce all band members using their stripper stage names. According to The New Yorker, known for its sophistication, this is arrived at by combining the model of your first car with the last thing you put in your mouth (this gave me “Maverick Peanut Butter,” by the way).

Graphic designer nominee: Design an album cover featuring a buck-naked Reno & Smiley for an upcoming reissue.

Event of the Year nominee: Hold a wet three-piece suit contest at your festival, just after the gospel show.

Momentum instrumentalist nominee: Record a video of a brawl (staged, if necessary) with other Momentum instrumentalist nominees. Post to social media.

Songwriter of the Year nominee: Write a sequel to Down in the Willow Garden including three additional ways that Rose Conley gets murdered. Make sure the phrase “bloody knife” is still in the song as a tribute to the original.