IBMA announces revised Awards criteria

The International Bluegrass Music Association in Nashville has announced today a number of revisions to the awards they distribute each year. Changes have been made in each of the three award types they offer, some as simple as a name change, and others a major restructuring of eligibility.

Following the 2018 World of Bluegrass convention in September, the IBMA created a select committee of industry professionals to carefully examine all of  the awards. This task force was charged with considering the relevance, description, criteria, and selection process for each award. Nothing was off the table – they were given free reign to recommend the elimination of any award that was no longer germane to how the bluegrass world operates, or to redefine their meaning.

Working through more than 18 hours of meetings, with time for research and analysis between each one, the committee produced a report earlier this month which was accepted in full by the IBMA Board of Directors. As a member of this committee myself, I can attest to the thoroughness and the seriousness of their work, and share their satisfaction with the changes that were recommended.

One initial revision comes in the names of the three award categories. They will now be described as the Music Awards, the main Thursday night awards given for musical merit; the Industry Awards, formerly the Special Awards, which recognize the people behind the scenes; and the Momentum Awards, whose name remains the same.

Within these categories there are also some changes to report. Here are several within the Industry Awards:

  • Songwriter of the Year (formerly Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year)
  • Writer of the Year (formerly Print Media Person of the Year) – now includes both print and online publications.
  • Broadcaster of the Year (formerly Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year) – now includes radio, television, podcasts, internet/web, and other forms.
  • Graphic Designer of the Year (formerly Graphic Design of the Year) – now recognizes a person with outstanding work on album artwork, promotional materials, logos, websites, social media, etc. The recipient will now be judged on at least three samples rather than one.
  • Event of the Year (formerly Bluegrass Event of the Year – now clarifies that it may be festivals, concerts, an event series, or other live performance productions.
  • Liner Notes of the Year – now may include notes for CDs, vinyl, box sets, DVDs, digital releases, etc.
  • Sound Engineer of the Year – submission of a recording is now optional rather than required.

Similarly, with the Music Awards:

  • New Artist of the Year replaces Emerging Artist of the Year to recognize new artists who have, for the first time in their careers, demonstrated an impact on bluegrass audiences worldwide.
  • Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year replaces Dobro Player of the Year to reflect the generic name of the instrument rather than any brand name such as “Dobro.”

The Recorded Event and Recorded Performance awards have been renamed to reflect that any recording that meets the criteria are eligible, rather than a special performance or event.

  • Instrumental Recording of the Year replaces Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year.
  • Gospel Recording of the Year replaces Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year.
  • Collaborative Recording of the Year replaces Recorded Event of the Year.

The age-specific criteria for the Momentum Awards have been removed, instead stating that the awards are for artists and industry professionals in the early stages of their  careers, or are new to the bluegrass world, and have been active during the eligibility period. Additionally, the Momentum Event of the Year has been discontinued, as the committee felt that there was too little difference in the criteria between it and the Industry Award for Event of the Year.

Finally, the Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year has been reduced to two honorees rather than three.

Paul Schiminger, Executive Director of the IBMA, who also sat on the committee as a moderator, offered his thanks to those who served.

“I deeply appreciate the many hours of analysis, solicitation of feedback from others, and meetings the Awards Task Force put into this extensive effort. The IBMA is a member-based association, and it was gratifying to see members set aside time from their busy schedules to make this thorough review a high priority.”

The actual criteria for each award have been rewritten in most cases, as these are the rules followed by the various award nominating and selection committees each year. These can all be found in the 2019 edition of the IBMA Awards Handbook, available on the IBMA web site.

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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.