Artists, Factions Also Vie Hard for Bluegrass Award Spots

The Country Music Association Awards Show isn’t the only prizefest besieged by artists lusting for media exposure. Producers of the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards face the same sort of pressure. However, since the bluegrass extravaganza is broadcast on radio rather than network television, the stakes involved are considerably lower.

The tenth annual IBMA will be held Oct. 21 at the Palace Theater in Louisville, Kentucky, and is open to the public.

“We regularly run into questions of who’s the host or why so-and-so is on [the show],” says Dan Hays, executive director of the IBMA, which produces the event. “But we’ve got to be sure we’re not listening to a small but terribly vocal minority.”

Recently, the CMA has been in a highly publicized tiff with George Jones and his defenders over how much time the singer should be given on the CBS special.

Hays says that none of the complaints he’s received rise to the level of a “controversy.” They involve such issues, he explains, as whether too much or too little showtime is being devoted to traditional (or progressive) bluegrass music and whether women in bluegrass are being honored fairly.

The two-hour show can handle from 10 to 15 performances, Hays says. As with others, this one routinely requires artists to perform in groups rather than solo to squeeze in as many acts as possible. Moreover, the producers have to take care that artists from a single record label don’t dominate the event. “In that respect,” Hays admits, “politics do play a role. But our first order of business is to present a great show.”

This year, the industry-oriented awards that used to be announced just before the show went on the air will be given out at a luncheon the day of the event. These include honors for top print journalist, broadcaster, bluegrass event (festival), liner notes, graphic design and distinguished achievement.

The show’s producers, Orin Friesen and Dell Davis, have the final say over who performs and how long, Hays confirms. Unlike the lavishly staged CMA Awards, the IBMA special is produced for under $100,000.