IBMA World of Bluegrass presents a feast for anyone interested in bluegrass music. The week is filled with music, learning, meeting, greeting, picking, buying, selling…and more music. It justly earns its nickname, I’ve Been Mostly Awake. Getting through the week to the end is both a marathon and a sprint. Setting goals and making a plan will determine your ability to enjoy your week while reaching your goals to increase your bluegrass income and enjoyment of the scene.
Once you decide to attend IBMA World of Bluegrass, you should start thinking seriously about your goals and work on a game plan. The more thought and time you put in preparation, the more you are likely to get out of your time in Raleigh. Think about your goals for your week in Raleigh and prioritize them.
Some questions you might ask, as examples, are the following:
Your foremost resource for planning your time effectively and preparing for the IBMA Business Conference is IBMA’s website and the new IBMA World of Bluegrass 2023 downloadable app. These tools include sections on every part of the event, plus links for getting your tickets. This preview simply acts as a shortcut to specific resources you can use, as well as providing insights on how to manage it.
Before you leave for Raleigh, think about your goals and prioritize them. If you are in a band, you might be able to divide your work so that different members have their own responsibilities. Often there will be two or three panels you’d like to attend at the same time, so different band members could cover the sessions and share what they have learned. Put together a schedule before you arrive with the understanding that things will come up once you’re in Raleigh that will result in changes, but you’ll have an overall game plan when you arrive.
IBMA has a list of attendees which they will share with members. Request this list by emailing [email protected], look it over and make a list of people you’d like to speak to. Drop them an email in advance, and introduce yourself to let them know why you’d like to speak to them. Are you showcasing or performing during the week? If so, invite them to come and see you perform and perhaps let them know you will remind them once you’re in Raleigh. If you notice someone you want to meet is on a panel, you might consider going to the panel and introducing yourself after the session and see if they might have some time to get together later in the week.
Many people have flyers or cards to pass out to those you’d like to see later or come to your shows. This will likely be the first time you speak to the person, so be polite and not too pushy. Many bands put flyers around the convention center and hotels with the times and locations of your shows. Flyers must be placed in designated areas or they will be torn down. Other bands print up cards with the information (including all of the band’s showcases) which can be given out to people you run into. Everyone is busy, so a reminder might be a good idea as a follow-up.
There are many educational sessions, which can help with your career development. While you may love to jam, try to get enough rest so you can get to as many of these sessions as you can.
This is the perfect place to meet people and do business, plus you can try out instruments and see how other acts/luthiers/vendors conduct business.
Read what you can online about IBMA World of Bluegrass week in advance, and speak to people who have attended in the past. Look at the panels, the panelists, the showcases, and make up your schedule in advance. The more preparation you put into WOB, the more you are likely to get out of it.
While the Marriott Hotel, The Sheraton Raleigh and the Residence Inn are most convenient to all the action, numerous alternatives are available for those attending. There is a campground located on the State Fairgrounds, about six miles from downtown, where over 30 full service sites are set aside for WOB. A free shuttle service to the Raleigh Convention Center is provided. There are AirBnBs near the capitol, a short Uber ride from the convention center, and there are over 300 places listed in Raleigh. Many other accommodations are available. CLICK HERE for more information.
Another crucial resource for those attending IBMA World of Bluegrass is the Registration Desk in the Raleigh Convention Center. You can also download the WOB app to your phone. Schedule events and send your personal schedule to your phone to plan each day. Another important resource which will save you time and lots of walking is the R Bus, a free shuttle serving up a special route during the event to various venues where showcase bands featured in the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble are held. Your IBMA Business Conference registration includes admission to all these venues, while you can also buy separate tickets or pay at the door.
It’s never too early to start deciding how you’re going to use your valuable time at the IBMA Business Conference. Comprising three days from Tuesday through Thursday, you’ll find that you still don’t have enough time or energy to accomplish all you wish to do. It’s too easy to become distracted, to forget where you wanted to be, who you wanted to hear, what you wanted to learn, because you’ve been captured by the moment: a friend, a tune you hear, a booth you have to visit right now, a call you must take, etc. Your best friend is the schedule, which permits you to view through a number of lenses the activities for each day and hour of the full event. You can choose to follow special interest tracks or take a more eclectic and broad approach to scheduling your activities, enabling you to arrive in Raleigh with a full schedule of events you wish to attend. You can download the app to your phone, and use as a planning guide. CLICK HERE to view the 2023 conference schedule.
To maximize your effectiveness at IBMA World of Bluegrass, plan your attendance as if you are planning an album recording or artist tour, employing resources and links found throughout this preview to garner the greatest amount of event coverage by deploying members of your band to cover specific events, seminars, meet & greets, and other events. Every member of the band, including non-performing components, should view themselves as members of a team devoted to finding a maximum amount of work and finding out about new, advanced, or untried approaches that might be useful for the team.
There are three awards events at IBMA World of Bluegrass, held on Wednesday and Thursday. The Awards include the IBMA Momentum Awards Luncheon and the IBMA Industry Awards Luncheon, held Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and the Thursday evening IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards Show at the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts, a short walk from the host hotels.
The IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards Show on Thursday evening is the biggest night in bluegrass and is well-attended. The show gives bluegrass professionals and fans a chance to dress up and celebrate what the membership has voted to be the “best” for the previous year in a number of categories. The awards show is memorable and fun, while representing a great opportunity to transition into the final two days of celebration and music: IBMA Bluegrass Live! Powered by PNC.
The IBMA Momentum Awards Luncheon and the IBMA Industry Awards Luncheon are both scheduled events in your IBMA Business Conference registration. They also include performances by featured bluegrass artists. The Industry Awards Luncheon additionally includes the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Awards, which recognizes important contributors within the industry.
Claims by the City of Raleigh of overall attendance exceeding 200,000 over the course of the week should not deter you. There are many stages throughout downtown Raleigh. Headliners perform on the Red Hat Amphitheater stage, and the streetfest consists of five stages on five blocks running down Fayetteville Street from Martin Street to the Martin Marietta Center for the Performing Arts. While the streets are crowded, it is not a mob. Rather, a large, family crowd strolls up and down the street, enjoying live music. They can also stroll between the stages enjoying art, clothing, and, especially, North Carolina food specialties along with free samples. There are also food vendors selling a wide range of food choices as well as several beer trucks along the way.
In addition to the open air streetfest stages located along the Fayetteville Street corridor, including different side streets, you will find performances, free seminars, a kids area, jam tents and three additional stages in the IBMA Exhibit Hall in the Raleigh Convention Center, including the International Pavilion. Behind the convention center and across the street lies the Red Hat Amphitheater, where live music from some of bluegrass music’s biggest stars is held.
CLICK HERE to view the full festival schedule.
The entire IBMA World of Bluegrass week is simply too large to encompass in a single document. Your willingness to do some serious planning, attend the conference with discipline, and spend some serious time processing the event after it is over, making sure you follow up with the contacts you meet there, will improve your competitiveness in the difficult world of making bluegrass music work to help you meet your goals. It’s all up to you!
NOTE: The content here was generously donated by Ted Lehmann, who has attended and lovingly chronicled many IBMA’s over the years, and updated by IBMA staff to incorporate changes since this was originally published.