It seems likely that IBMA’s presence in Raleigh will continue beyond the 2018 World of Bluegrass in September.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, IBMA Board Chairman Joe Mullins, and IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger will participate in a 10:00 a.m. news conference Thursday outside the Raleigh Convention Center. Details of the extension were not available, but the previous two agreements with Raleigh were for three years each.
IBMA and city officials wouldn’t discuss the question in advance of the news conference. But the mayor wouldn’t be present to announce the partnership was ending, and IBMA officials would most likely be making an announcement to move in the new host city.
The agreement for Raleigh to host the bluegrass industry’s main event was set to expire after this year’s festival and business conference. Although all parties had expressed a willingness to extend the successful partnership, negotiations dragged on.
One of the main issues, according to one participant in the talks, was IBMA’s interest in getting a bigger slice of the pie from the city’s operation of the headliner festival at the Red Hat Ampitheater. The media advisory for Thursday’s event suggests some money from main stage performances will benefit the Bluegrass Trust Fund, but isn’t clear how much of that, if any, will be new money.
The decision to stay won’t be a surprise, even if Raleigh will share the proceeds more widely. The event has been spectacularly successful since moving from Nashville in 2013. According to figures from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the 2016 event resulted in $11.5 million in direct spending by 208,000 individuals.
It has also helped Raleigh polish its image as a live music venue. Because of the success of World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass, the city has made pitches to attract the annual Folk Alliance conference from Kansas City in 2020 and the AmericanaFest, which is in the last year of its contract in Nashville.
We’ll have additional coverage after Thursday’s announcement.