IBMA Problems In the Light

Every week in our newsletter to subscribers we publish a little editorial comment about something topical from the week’s news or events.  This week however, we feel that this topic is so important to the bluegrass community at large that we’ve decided to reprint it here.


From  the Rx Mic  gray scaled 300Thoughts on The IBMA !

It was with great interest that I read David Morris' article this week: IBMA at the Crossroads. I encourage every IBMA member and bluegrass fan to read it. It is well researched and well written regardless of whether you agree with the points made inside the text or not.

So, too, are the points and suggestions made in the numerous comments David's article has generated. Whether or not you agree with the individual commentators, the fact remains that we're struggling and almost fighting amongst ourselves over what we are as an organization and what we want to be – what Bluegrass Music was, is and will be. Is is going to take an Abe Lincoln to keep this Union together?

Reading between the lines in David's article one has to come up with numerous questions that still go unanswered. The first question should be, “how did we as an organization get in such bad shape financially and how did we erode so much over the first 25 years of the organization's life without anyone knowing it?” The next question should be, “who was minding the store?”

On the surface, I still have great hopes for the current IBMA leadership. On the surface that leadership looks good. It seems as if someone is minding the store. IBMA leadership has continuously surveyed members and non-members and published the results. However, I don't see evidence of change created by those survey results which makes me wonder just what is lurking beneath the surface.

The IBMA has continuously asked for suggestions and set up mechanisms to receive them. However, I wonder if all of the suggestions received are met with the same level of enthusiasm as those I've submitted. Each suggestion submitted by me was met with polite indifference. “That's a great suggestion, but here's why we can not do that” is basically what I've been told each time. Now I don't suppose to have all the answers and I know a few suggestions don't add up to a “quick-fix” but it seems to me that what we need most is a leadership with a CAN-DO attitude rather than what we seem to have now.

Is the IBMA leadership like the patrol car parked on the side of the road with the mannequin behind the wheel – making us THINK someone is there? You know once the public discovers the truth behind the dummy officer in the car the speeders are no longer deterred. As long as we think someone is in control at IBMA we happily go forward at the speed of choice – until we get a summons in the mail from the photo sensor.

That's pretty much what David's article is. It's that summons that says we have to appear and show cause. The next step is that we have to go before the judge, plead our case and take our sentence.

In this case the judge will be the public. It's not what WE want that is going to make the difference in the bluegrass world. It's what the public will buy and how much of it they'll buy. When no one is buying widgets anymore, only a fool would profess that widgets are the end-all, be-all while he slowly starves to death from lack of sales.

What I haven't seen from the public is a clear direction of what they want. And the public is fickle. What they want today may be totally different tomorrow. There's an old adage that says, “What the People Want is Not Always Right and What is Right is Not Always What the People Want.”

However, it is what WE want in an organization that makes the difference and when the collective WE can't seem to agree on what the IBMA is or should be we have the classic Mexican Stand-Off or in other words, a NO-WIN situation. The leadership I want in my IBMA is the one that stands up and LEADS rather than follows – first this way, then that based upon what this week's survey results reveal.

Growth is change. Without it – sure death. But change for the sake of change can lead to the death of an organization as well. I don't want a steady diet of Bill Monroe's “Uncle Pen”. Too much of anything can cause a burn-out and eventually a dis-like. But neither do I want to see a degradation of the music because of waffling over what is or isn't “Bluegrass” and the eventual wearing-down of the soldiers attempting to “hold the fort”.

IBMA leaders, I urge you to take a stand - one way or the other, but get off the fence. We can't survive by trying to be all things to all people.

Hat's off to David Morris for opening the door to shed some light. Hats off, too, to the IBMA for taking any positive steps toward solving this dilemma. But shame on the board for letting it get this far in the first place.

Have A Great Week!

-Brian McNeal


Prescription Bluegrass Blog said...

Also read Bob Cherry's comments on Cybergrass.com

Jim Hurst said...


Good news article here, Mr. Morris wrote a good article as well.

I agree with you and Mr. Morris, IBMA is appearing to be dealing with some difficulty lately, and I hate it for the whole of the organization. Cloudy days being appreciation for the sun though, and maybe these are just some cloudy days.

I, too, have not been extremely happy with the current state of IBMA and how they seem to be trying hard to 'reach-out' to so many that some of us feel like we're being ignored. I don't want to come off as a disgruntled spoiled baby, but I am not the only one who feel this way. Attendance is down - or it feel like it is. I can only hope and trust that everyone there is doing all they can to do the 'right' thing.

As a point of perspective though, there are only a few folks that are actually getting paid for the time they invest, and that's the IBMA office staff in Nashville. EVERYONE else are volunteering their time. And, as IBMA is a non-profit organization, there's only so much that can be done while staying within the parameters of this designation. I'm guessing that there have been members of the board who have ran for, got elected, and served, as a way for personal and business advancing reasons, and maybe they all can see a bit of advantage in that very thing. But, I doubt very seriously that anyone really was able to completely use it as a platform to gain anything serious. There's nothing to really gain.

One of the great things about IBMA, the representatives, and the board, is it is intended to be and is a cross-section of most all the parameters and demographics from which the Bluegrass lovers, fans, and membership is made. This is for equal consideration and balance. I know some of current and past board members and I can tell you that I believe they all approached their terms with a clean heart and best intentions, as far as I can tell.

They are there to do the best they can for IBMA and the membership. They are not to police the industry or the fans or the business. IBMA is still the ONLY organization EVER to be formed and successful in representing Bluegrass as a whole. There are other associations and indoor festivals that have society or associations in their titles - and that's all well and good, but nothing that can compare to the likes of IBMA.

We all need to keep in contact with our IBMA reps and write e-mails and letters if we feel a need to express thoughts and ideas, or even disappointments. We're in it together.

That's what we should do as citizens of the ol' US of A, as well... and that's even more important. It's VITAL.

Thanks again for what you do! My new CD - Intrpid - will be heading your way soon.

Jim Hurst