The round 2 IBMA nomination blues

Chris JonesIf you follow the bluegrass church calendar at all, you know this week is known as the Feast of the Second Ballot. It’s a time when believers are urged to shun many of their usual worldly activities and spend the week in fervent self-promotion and prayerful communication beginning with the ancient phrase “for your consideration,” first uttered by the Essenes, when one of their rabbis (possibly Dr. Bronner) was up for Male Vocalist of the Year for 218 B.C.

There’s usually some controversy connected to this practice, and some criticize it as empty, spiritually irrelevant, or just plain annoying. I’m here to raise the flag for religious tolerance, however. I’ve mentioned before that people urge IBMA voters to vote for them in awards balloting in large part because, as with the rest of our democracy, voter participation is somewhere between pathetically low and barely visible to the naked eye. Swaying a few people can actually make a difference.

We’ll discuss ways to increase voter turnout in a future column (it’s going to generate a lot of new voters. You won’t believe how many new voters it’s going to generate!), but for now, I’d like to offer some suggestions for new ways to remind people to cast an electronic ballot for you.

Let’s face it: the spam email is less effective every year, due to the sheer volume of it that people are getting, and most of us know the challenges of getting attention through social media without irritating people. We’re all gradually coming to the realization that social media was designed primarily for cat pictures and bitter and friendship-damaging political arguments.

What, then, can we do to simply let people know that we’re on the ballot and that we’d like to be considered?

One approach is to be a little less heavy-handed. You might consider the subliminal message. This is an advertising technique that relays a message that’s implied or just hidden somewhere within what seems like benign, non-promotional content. If I were going to try this myself, for example, I might write a little poem (though probably not a good one, I should warn) about bluegrass:

Bluegrass Festival Night

Violet hues in a festival sunset
On grassy hillsides, music greets the night
The young and old, voices and traditions blending
Every string alive

Feeling, fire, fiddle tunes
On the wind, notes sail to distant hollows
Reverberating through swaying and ancient trees

Love and laughter, friendship, song and ritual
All keep us bound together
Unless it’s just the music
Really it’s enough, more than enough to hold us all together
Inspiring our annual return
Even if we can’t make it some years due to work commitments

Yes, some snooty poetry “experts” have criticized that last line, but I just told them not to judge my personal style. But you see what I did there? I just made a pitch for Song of the Year, and you would never know it because consciously you’re thinking about it being a lame poem with a real dud of a last line (relax your eyes, and you might see it, or you may just fall asleep).

If you find the subliminal method too subtle, you could always go the opposite direction;  tell them exactly what you want, and use guilt, intimidation and outright threats to get your result. I’m thinking a social media post along these lines:

In past years, we have asked you in a friendly and loving way to consider voting for us. You’ve let us down repeatedly. Through it all, we’ve supported you in your endeavors, and we still consider you friends. This year, it’s become necessary to reevaluate that one-sided relationship. If you can’t make the effort to vote for us in the following categories (listed below), we will begin the process of unfriending, unfollowing, and blocking those of you who can’t make that small gesture of support. You also won’t receive our Christmas card and newsletter (which this year will include a free download of our latest Christmas song, Unconditional Love in the Manger).

A third option is simply to buy your way to award-voting success. With participation being a low as it is, adding a significant bloc of voters to the pool could be all you need to put you over the top. I recommend buying full IBMA memberships for every living family member that you’re on speaking terms with, plus every member of your high school class, especially the girl who turned you down for the prom, because she may still be feeling a little guilty about that (or she’s completely forgotten who you are).

Once they’re paid up and eligible to vote, call each one personally the day the ballots come out, and you’re in business. In some cases it may require physically showing up at their house and standing by their computer, hands on hips, until they do it. A note of caution that the estimated cost of this would vary based on your family and class size, but would probably run somewhere between $1,500 and $85,000. It also carries some risk, depending on how nice you were to people in high school or at your last family reunion.

There would of course be the added benefit of increasing IBMA membership numbers, even if a lot of these new members wouldn’t know White Dove from Grey Pigeon.

Good luck in round 2!

The suggestions and views expressed here are not even close to being the views of my record label, publicist, agent, manager, or any of my band members or friends. And thank goodness for that!

Oh, and this part I mean sincerely: if you’re a voting member of the IBMA, please take the time to participate. The low numbers every year don’t reflect well on us, and I think we can do better.