This is the big week for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) which, is holding their annual World of Bluegrass tradeshow, convention, awards show and FanFest festival. This is the big week for the professional members of the society to celebrate the year's achievements, see what's new and to network with others in the biz. This is also the week of bluegrass music's night where multiple awards are presented to the IBMA's members.
The culmination of the event is the International Bluegrass Music Awards Show where the professional members select who the best of the best was for the year. The awards are voted on by the member's peers. Let's face it -- Awards are fun. They are the highlight of the season. Everyone looks forward to them. Pure entertainment with all the hoopla and festivities.
Much of the association's membership is the same year after year without a lot of change of the voting members. Thus, the same players vote each year on best album, fiddle player, event, etc. With the same people voting year after year, it is not a surprise that the winners are just a few of the same names year after year. Some of the awards are determined by a secret few who select the special categories. Without new blood doing the voting, the results become quite predictable or, at least, not exciting. But, the fans and members love to watch. More entertainment with all their favorites in one place.
There are many kinds of awards and charts for determining who or what is the best. I discussed charts earlier and now, I want to shed some light onto awards. Peer awards, group awards and fan awards are all different and rightly so. None are truely representative of the global best of the best but, at least they try and highlight who is within their voting class.
Which award would be the most "Meaningful" as it relates to the "best"? Fan, organization or peer? Audience awards based on fan input are certainly representative of who the global audience views as the best. Awards within an organization that only represent the small number of members and voters determine exactly that -- who the organization views as the best in their community. A society, like the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society, may vote on who their best Colorado local band is and that is a vote by the locals for the locals.
So, with all the attention to the Awards Show coming up, do these awards really represent the "best" or, rather, do they represent who does the best "Public Relations" or who is the best "Networker"? Who's the most "Popular"? It is hard to tell but, based on past results, it does appear to be more of a "Popularity Contest" than a "Best Of" selection. Knowing that doesn't change the fact that the awards are still fun and entertaining.
The line between "best" and "popular" is not distinct. Certainly the best can also be popular and often the most popular never gets an award. The latter raises a good question: Why? Why would one of the most popular bands on the touring circuit not be a regular award winner? Why wouldn't the best also be the most popular? Lots of questions that really nobody can answer. So, we ignore it and just watch the show.
Are some artists just so good that they are in a league of their own? Do they venture outside the hallowed region of "What is Bluegrass Anyway" too frequently that the core voters no longer consider them bluegrass artists? Why would an artist that has done more for the genre not be at the podium every year? Have some done so much for so long that it is just accepted as normal rather than exceptional? There has to be something that the voters strongly reject. Or, is it, in fact, a popularity contest after all?
Whatever it is, people flock to see, hear and witness those who shine. The winners certainly can command a higher fee based on their awards. Those awards certainly do have value that can be measured in dollars - the ultimate determiner. So, let the awards go on. They are great entertainment. When the dust settles, we can again discuss their value and if they represent what they claim but, for now, just sit back and compare the actual results with your own predictions. Enjoy the entertainment and the gala event.