More on the Momentum Awards

IBMA’s newly-announced Momentum Awards have generated a bit of confusion among the membership, and within the wider bluegrass community.

That is partly due to the fact that these new honors (for artists, venues and business people who are just starting to come into their own), could at first glance seem to be an extension of the existing Emerging Artist of the Year award, and partly because the final criteria for the choices are still being finalized by the appropriate committees.

We were in touch today with Echo Propp, who serves on an IBMA task force for the 2012 Momentum Awards. She shared a great deal of information with us about what these new awards are – and are not – with an eye towards clearing up any uncertainty that may exist.

To employ a baseball reference… if you think of the annual Emerging Artist award as the first level of recognition in the bluegrass big leagues, these new awards could be seen as being called up to AAA ball. They are meant to recognize musicians, performing acts and industry leaders with whom other bluegrass insiders may be familiar, but who are not yet so well known that the average fan would recognize their name.

Echo said that these new honors are meant to bring some attention to deserving members of our bluegrass family, at a time when some notice from IBMA could give them a real boost. And she was adamant about them not being part of the official International Bluegrass Music Awards, or a detractor from existing awards.

“In absolutely NO way do we see this as a replacement or competitor of the existing Emerging Artist award. The IBMA Awards are the highest honor in bluegrass, and this is not an effort to detract from the Awards, or the Awards show.

We simply saw that there wasn’t a program in place that gave this sort of opportunity to applaud the efforts of pickers and industry people in the beginning stages of their career. It’s our sincere hope that this effort will foster a greater sense of community and ultimately bring forth more involvement, membership, and a sense of ownership in the IBMA organization.”

She also passed along some more detailed information on the eight categories within which honorees will be chosen.

Performance Awards:

  • 3 instrumental awards (for any of the traditional bluegrass instruments OR a non-traditional one (cello, percussion, etc)
  • 1 vocalist award – male or female
  • 1 Momentum Band

For each of the Performance Awards, both demonstrated musical ability and business savvy will be considered in selecting the winners.

Industry Awards:

  • 1 Momentum Industry Involvement Award – for individuals new to the industry who are proving to be forerunners in their field and are fostering the image of bluegrass with their developments and achievements
  • 1 Venue/Festival
  • 1 Mentor of the Year – honoring an individual who has contributed greatly to helping the careers of new musicians and bluegrass professionals.

The Industry Involvement Award will honor those who labor in the crucial non-musical side of our industry: agents, managers, radio hosts, bloggers, instrument builders, photographers, producers, engineers, association leaders, teachers, and such.

Propp said that the Momentum Awards are specifically meant for people working professionally in the business, either full or part time, more so than the super hot teenaged flat picker that is blowing everyone’s mind in Oklahoma.

She also explained that the committee is still grappling with a precise wording of their criteria for selection.

“In the original proposal, we wanted the criteria to be:

For purposes of the Momentum Awards, a Momentum Artist is someone who is in the early stage of their career (less than 5 years playing gigs that are paid, OR less than 30 years old), someone who has caught the eye of music industry professionals, but has not yet established a solid reputation as an artist among the fans. Momentum Artists should have been active on the bluegrass/acoustic music scene during the eligibility period.

But while that criteria gives a great idea of what we’re shooting for, the Momentum Awards committee is very hesitant to put age limits on the awards, especially for the industry categories, and therefore we’re still refining that criteria and deciding how specific we want to get. It’s a lot harder for someone to gain industry recognition as an agent/manager/luthier/artisan/blogger, etc. within a 5 year limit, or under the age of 30.”

Appointments have been made to the official selection committees, one for each award, and they will begin work after the nomination deadline of July 27. These panels will be drawn from people well-respected within the industry, with particular expertise in the area of the individual awards. They will be judging based on the official criteria, which will be finalized prior to the period of consideration.

So… IBMA still has some work to do on the debut Momentum Awards, but Echo stressed that the biggest job is one that needs to be performed by the membership and the bluegrass world at large. They need nominations!

Anyone is welcome to submit a nomination, and can do so by email to by July 27.

They can also be sent by postal mail to:

2 Music Circle South
Suite 100
Nashville, TN 37203

The IBMA especially wants your feedback about the non-musical categories, where people outside of the Nashville nexus will have a better view of the many unheralded and truly deserving potential recipients.

Off you go, to write up nominations for the 2012 Momentum Awards.

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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.