Virtual World of Bluegrass details for 2020

The IBMA staff in Nashville have been busy little beavers this past several weeks, learning new technology and investigating the best ways to implement their first ever virtual convention when World of Bluegrass 2020 goes online for the first time.

Though working from home for the time being, Director of Operations Eddie Huffman shared with me today some of the details on how this is all going to work, and what virtual attendees can expect when the convention and festival go live September 28 through October 3. He said that there are still a number of unknowns that they are still working through, but they feel that things are in place well enough to open registration next week.

Many of the typical World of Bluegrass functions we all love will be offered free of charge to everyone online, like the Bluegrass Ramble concerts, the Bluegrass Music Awards, and the weekend IBMA Bluegrass Live festival, but the Business Conference seminars, membership meetings, Industry and Momentum Awards, and professional development sessions will be limited to registered virtual attendees.

A steeply discounted price is offered this year, with IBMA members being charged $99 for the week, and non-members $149. Registrations open on Tuesday, August 25 online, and Huffman mentioned how they hope to attract attendees who might not typically be able to make the trip to Raleigh, with its associated travel and hotel expenses.

“IBMA is trying to be sensitive to people’s restricted budgets this year, so we are keeping the prices low. We know that everyone in the music business is suffering, and we want to help the industry during this difficult time.

We also expect that demand for virtual content during World of Bluegrass will continue once in-person assembly is allowed again, and we are preparing for that going forward.”

All content during World of Bluegrass and IBMA Bluegrass Live will be delivered from the main World of Bluegrass web site. Using a specialty app called Swapcard, designed to handle large virtual meetings and conferences, registered attendees will be able to watch any of the seminars and sessions during the week live, or on demand after the fact. This will include popular events like the Gig Fair, Keynote Speech, and the like.

But Eddie says they have modified the schedule to accommodate the fact that everything is virtual.

“Sessions will start on Monday this year, and run through Friday, so that we can space things out a little more. The schedule will mostly be set up in two hour blocks, followed by a break, instead of running one after the other all day. The seminar topics have been selected, and we expect to publish the complete schedule within the next few weeks.”

The on-demand option for watching sessions after they are finished may be delayed by a day or so, but if you are registered, you could conceivably watch them all, though live participation is only possible in real time.

A new feature for this year is the Virtual Exhibit Hall, which will allow vendors to display merchandise and services online, using video and images. Face-to-face meeting with customers won’t exist, but the system will be configured to allow for one-on-one video or text chat, and vendors can post hours when they will available to answer questions, accept appointments, and engage with clients. There is even the option of a marketing package that supports product sales from within the virtual exhibit booth.

These online displays will be available to all 24/7 throughout WOB week (Monday-Saturday), with fees starting at $299. 

For more details on the Virtual Exhibit Hall, interested vendors/bands can contact Huffman or Ethan Charles at IBMA, or look over the details online.

The popular Bluegrass Ramble concerts will be available to everyone online at no charge. They will be prerecorded performances, but all recorded live. The 2020 Bluegrass Awards will likewise involve a good bit of prerecorded content, but the announcement of awards and reactions from winners will go on live, from separate locations.

IBMA Bluegrass Live is the new name for the weekend’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, which will likewise feature prerecorded live shows. A complete schedule of acts is expected to be published soon. To maintain some of the flavor of festivals past, many sets will be filmed at various locations in downtown Raleigh. 

Like the Bluegrass Ramble of showcase artists, and the Awards show, the festival will be available to everyone, free online.

Eddie also said that WRAL TV in Raleigh will broadcast a number of WOB events during the week, both on television and on their web site.

The many free events during World of Bluegrass will encourage viewers to consider a donation to the IBMA in lieu of ticket fees. Not only is this weeklong congregation costly to produce – even virtually – but revenue from the week typically funds both the operational budget for IBMA during the year, and the IBMA Trust Fund which offers financial support to bluegrass professionals in need.

Visit World of Bluegrass online for all the pertinent details.

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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.