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David Morris Article Reflects Truth of IBMA

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Bob CherryA recent article, "IBMA at the Crossroads" was written by David Morris regarding the health, direction and status of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). It was a refreshing truthful look at the association solidly based on facts and sans the fluff and explanations we've seen in the past. With Morris' clear statement, it may now be possible to find a cure to the the IBMA's ailment.

Here, as usual, perception soon becomes truth. For the past couple of years, a few have commented about membership and revenues of the IBMA being in decline. A few voices ultimately repeatedly stated those statements were false. Now, we find out, they were, in fact, correct. Getting a good diagnosis makes it easier to find a cure. We need to find a cure and quickly too.

Rightfully, Morris points out the membership is aging. The IBMA needs a huge transfusion of young new blood. Artists like Sierra Hull help but the need to bring more into the fold is ever present. The problem is that there aren't that many "professionals" in the age group the association so desperately needs and, they don't want any non-professionals nor, do they want to hear from them.

The elitist image of being of, for and representing the "Professionals Only" -- all others butt out and shut up is another problem. They refuse to want to hear the voices outside the organization. Those voices are the customers of the music. No other industry tries to silence their bread & butter customer. They need to learn to listen and learn. In fact, they often don't even want to hear the voices of their own membership.

Alienation is another face of IBMA. There are many who left the organization because it didn't represent their needs. Many others, never even bothered to join. Some, like myself, were asked to leave because they didn't want to address our interests. Others left due to personality conflicts with the board or leadership, and yet others left due to a lack of trust with the leadership. There are many aspects of the IBMA that have been driving potential members away. There are hundreds of "professionals" in bluegrass that are not a part of the association for one reason or another.

One huge perception, right or wrong, is that World of Bluegrass (WOB) week is IBMA. Most perceive IBMA working towards one goal and one goal only: WOB (including the Awards Show and Fan Fest) is what the IBMA does. What else does the IBMA do? Most cannot answer that question. CMA and the Americana Music Association (AMA) both do a great job and Cybergrass has published or pushed their articles for many years in the hope some in the bluegrass community could take advantage of what works for country and Americana music could also work in bluegrass. The IBMA still does none of that.

Then, there is that little thing about promotion. Some of the comments regarding Morris' article had to do with promotion. As the association constantly reminds us, "The IBMA does NOT promote Bluegrass Music." They have repeatedly stated this position and, it is even absent in their mission statement. It isn't whether they promote traditional or other forms. They don't promote any form of bluegrass. Bickering over what form is wasted air -- they first need to decide to promote bluegrass. CMA certainly promotes all aspects of Country Music – events, stars, charities, you name it. The AMA also prides itself on promotion of their artists, music and yes, their festival and awards. The point is that virtually every professional organization promotes the interests of their respective fields. The IBMA has, for some reason, adamantly refused to even consider this.

There are certainly more voices to be heard on this subject. There are certainly voices inside and outside of the organization that need to be heard, communicate and understand each other.

Finally, blaming the economy is a scapegoat that just doesn't hold water when organizations like the Americana Music Association, Country Music Association, and others are not hemorrhaging members and dollars like the IBMA. Morris does a great service in bringing the truth to the table and now, it is up to the leadership to constructively address the concerns of members and non-members alike. That includes listening to non-professionals also. The young non-members and not-yet professionals are the blood that will give new birth to the IBMA.

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