Greg Cahill on IBMA Awards show issues

Earlier this week, we published an open letter to the bluegrass community from Rhonda Vincent, in which she voiced a number of concerns she has with the direction she sees IBMA heading with their annual Awards Show. In particular, she was disappointed in what she felt was an intent to modify the show’s bluegrass character in order to accommodate the possibility of television broadcast, most notably the dimunition in importance given to the presentation of individual instrumentalist awards in the program.

Greg Cahill - banjo player with Special Consensus and IBMA Board ChairGreg Cahill, leader of the popular band Special Consensus, and IBMA Board Chairperson/President in his spare time, responded on Wednesday on behalf of the IBMA Board. His letter was initially published on Wednesday (3/7) via the official IBMA members email discussion group, and republished here for the sake of those who have an interest in this matter.

It is a lengthy response, but worth you time if this issue concerns you.

Thanks for the recent messages and in response to concerns expressed by Rhonda Vincent and others regarding the IBMA Awards Show. The following is provided for background information and clarification on several issues.

As has been noted in previous messages to the membership, the board formed a task force in recent months to study and make recommendations regarding guidelines for the awards show and new oversight procedures.

The recommendations unanimously agreed upon by members of that task force (we are proud that Rhonda served on this task force) will be considered by the IBMA board at its April meetings. These recommendations are fully posted at the IBMA website along with a link for members to offer input and comments:

If adopted by the board, these guidelines and procedures will be expected to be followed for future awards shows – televised, radio broadcast or otherwise – and speak to the type of performances, hosts, presenters, and others to be involved in the show.

To further clarify, the board has neither mandated nor requested that the six instrumental awards be eliminated or edited from the awards show broadcast. IBMA’s leadership, like the membership, has great admiration for the instrumental skills embodied within our music.

A few years ago, at the suggestion of broadcasters airing the show and in the opinions shared by many who listen to or were present at the show, the balance of music to awards presentation during the show was questioned.

In short, the awards show had approximately been comprised of:

60 minutes of awards
30 minutes of musical performances
30 minutes commercials

In review, the board’s decision was that more music needed to be part of the show created for broadcast.

After exploring a number of options that would allow more musical performances in the show, the board gave additional latitude to allow producers discretion to edit up to six awards (not necessarily instrumentalists) if necessary to shorten the length of the broadcast show. While the show the audience has seen in the theater has basically remained the same, the version sent to broadcast affiliates has since then edited out several awards each year, though not always or exclusively instrumentalist awards.

The first presentations to be edited were those where awards recipients were not there to accept. Then others were edited depending on what was needed to fit the 2 hours time window for radio. In some instances, musical performances have been edited to make sure awards presentations remained.

Our producers this last year attempted to create a presentation that would allow the instrumental awards (as well as all others) to both be presented live and remain in the broadcast. They reduced the time needed by presenting the instrumentalists awards all at once. The time saved would also allow them to include a special musical performance by all the prior year instrumentalist award recipients…thus providing an additional special focus on these talents.

In summary, the desire has been simply to balance the allotted time within the show better between awards and music. Whether that desire is appropriate is open for debate and the board welcomes the input.

There are other options which the board will entertain at the forthcoming meetings:

1. present a certain number of awards and music in ceremonies on the same stage just prior to the broadcast.
2. mandate that all awards be presented in the “broadcast” and only allow music to be edited if needed.
3. lengthen the “broadcast” show and/or overall production
4. other:____

With regard to television possibilities, among IBMA’s longstanding goals is the desire to find suitable broadcast, production and sponsorship partners to create a televised show to help broaden the audience and resulting exposure it generates.

As expressed in numerous ways over the years by the membership, gaining new and additional broadcast exposure is key to fostering new opportunities for our music. If successful and done in a way that portrays the talents and artistic merits of our music well, an awards show can help open doors with production companies, broadcast outlets, sponsors and others including new event producers, media outlets and retailers. Every conversation with possible partners for the awards show in the past decade has also explored other options as well for our music and with an eye on the broader opportunities.

A committee and staff are working toward achieving those goals and is in continuing discussions with several possible partners about options.

However, there are no television proposals as yet on the table for board consideration, whose approval will be necessary. The options in current discussion may not materialize in 2007, but if they do, the board will work diligently to find the appropriate balance that assures our music and the awards are presented with integrity while achieving a first class production.

In the hypothetical situation of producing a live TV show that may not allow editing capabilities, we can anticipate that we may be faced with questions about what we will and won’t allow to be changed within the existing format. The board has turned away from several options in the past that either didn’t allow us the control over the show content we desired or weren’t the quality of production we believed would reflect well on our music.

Since circumstances may change because of any number of variables, it is not possible to forecast all future decisions of the board. However, with new guidelines and oversight procedures proposed for the show, the board will be even more diligent in its attention to these types of issues.

The board welcomes and appreciates member input on these issues and will be made aware of all that we have received.

If there are additional questions, please contact our staff at IBMA who can help direct you to the proper resources for answers and if you have comments for the board’s consideration, I would encourage you to visit the website link offered above which offers an easy mechanism to share your thoughts on this subject.

Thank you…
Greg Cahill
IBMA Board Chairperson/President

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.