Goodbye to Nashville

I had a bittersweet moment Saturday morning, seeing Nashville in the rearview mirror.

I don’t know when I’ll be back now that IBMA’s World of Bluegrass is heading to Raleigh, N.C., in 2013. But I’m looking forward to seeing what Raleigh has to offer.

Raleigh, for sure, will be cheaper than Nashville. According to IBMA President Stan Zdonik, the highest price for a hotel room next year will be $139. I paid $185 a night this week. The board is also looking to lower the cost to attendees by shorting the conference and Fan Fest to five days instead of seven days.

“We all believe the move to Raleigh is a wonderful opportunity,” Zdonik said at last Thursday’s membership meeting.

All of the board may think that, but certainly not all the members. There are many questions, but one of the biggest from my point of view is who will come to Raleigh and who won’t.

North Carolina is a fertile field for bluegrass and traditional music, past and present, and many fans will attend. But will music professionals – bands, record labels, publishers – follow? If they do, the move may turn out to be one of the best things to happen to IBMA. If they don’t, though, World of Bluegrass could become just another festival. A very big and very expensive festival.

I’m not writing off IBMA by any means, but the next couple of years will be critical for the organization.

I liked having World of Bluegrass in Nashville, and it was the only time of year I traveled there. I’ll miss the music in every other storefront, even there very little of it was bluegrass. I’ll miss some terrific boot shops.

And I’ll miss some of my friends in the business who have already announced they won’t show up in Raleigh next fall.

I plan to be there and expect a great week. The city of Raleigh seems eager to host World of Bluegrass and IBMA Executive Director Nancy Cardwell and the board of directors have a bushel of ideas designed to make it work.

One change I’d like to see is having fewer off-campus events in the evenings during the week. Each night in Nashville this year, there were multiple events outside the official schedule. Most of them were driven away by the high cost of conference rooms and refreshments in the hotel and convention center. But drawing crowds away from the showcases, official and after-hours, isn’t fair to the bands and sponsors who are paying top dollar to be there, only to find dwindling crowds.

Only time will tell if the move was a success, but I think this is time for optimism, not hand-wringing.

Will I miss Nashville? Absolutely. But my wallet won’t.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.