Bluegrass Industry Gathers in Louisville

The summer bluegrass festival season has wound down but one of the year’s biggest bluegrass events is just beginning. The International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual World of Bluegrass Trade Show and Fan Fest gets underway today in Louisville, Kentucky, and all indications are that this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever.

“The IBMA World of Bluegrass is unique in the annals of American music,” says IBMA board member and country music historian Dr. Charles K. Wolfe “(It is) part business meeting, part trade show, part seminar and the world’s biggest picking session.”

Although there will be plenty of great picking — especially at the Fan Fest which runs from October 23rd through the 25th — the trade show focuses on the nuts-and-bolts business aspects of the music. The benefits for those individuals and companies who make their livings in bluegrass are immeasurable.

Says Gary B. Reid, owner of Copper Creek Records, “The IBMA’s World of Bluegrass has become an event too important to miss. It has evolved to be the single most impressive gathering of talent and industry professionals. The networking possibilities boggle the mind.” Business people such as Reid use the trade show event as an opportunity to sell merchandise as well as to meet with prospective recording artists.

The IBMA World of Bluegrass seems to offer something for nearly every bluegrass professional. Musicians will benefit from a wide array of seminars covering the topics of music publishing, marketing and various legal issues facing touring artists.’s Manager of E-commerce, Kate Haggerty, will be among the professional panelists who will discuss how to market bluegrass music in the coming millenium.

Performers and festival promoters alike benefit from the series of showcases slated throughout the week. Two dozen acts have been invited to appear at this year’s World of Bluegrass. Featured showcase artists range from relative newcomers such as Nickel Creek and Rambler’s Choice to veteran performers Suzanne Thomas and Dave Evans.

These events provide promoters and talent buyers an opportunity to preview several acts in a relatively short time span and book artists for the upcoming festival season. Those bookings, in turn, benefit the musicians by providing them with new venues to play and much-sought after exposure. This year’s schedule also offers a pair of evening showcases featuring Bluegrass Hall of Honor members the Osborne Brothers and Ralph Stanley.

With so many talented musicians assembled in one place, songwriters utilize the trade show to pitch new material to artists. Record labels and managers utilize the trade show to promote artists’ current projects and scout for new talent.

The highlight of the week-long event is no doubt the annual awards show. Now in its ninth year, this event honors the professional musicians who log countless hours on the road entertaining bluegrass fans around the world. Ricky Skaggs, the Del McCoury Band, IIIrd Tyme Out, Blue Highway and The Lonesome River Band are among 1998’s top contenders.

Skaggs and Rhonda Vincent will co-host this year’s awards ceremonies, which will again be staged at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Vincent, who is also a nominee for Female Vocalist of the Year, says “I’m really looking forward to IBMA week. It’s like a family reunion… getting to visit, pick and share ideas with colleagues and friends.”

This year’s Fan Fest is a veritable feast for bluegrass music fans. Dozens of acts will perform at downtown Louisville’s Galt House during the three-day event. Dozens of artists will be donating their time to perform at the festival, which benefits the Bluegrass Musicians Trust Fund. In addition to main stage performances by Tom T. Hall, Alison Krauss and Blue Highway, there will be master’s workshops, a Roots and Branches Stage and an Old-Time Music Dance area.

Check back with later this week as we will be providing complete coverage of this year’s IBMA activities.’s expanded coverage of the this year’s event includes a two hour on-line chat live from Fan Fest Friday, October 23 from 7 – 9 p.m. (EST). Among those confirmed artists who will be participating in the chat are Jerry Douglas, IIIrd Tyme Out, Lynn Morris, Tim O’Brien, Rhonda Vincent and Ryan Holladay. Send your questions now.