Bluegrass Business

Many people will claim that success in music is all about the music. Quality music produced by quality musicians begets success. Such is the common belief in many people, especially budding musicians with dreams of making it big. But is that the reality?

Within popular music, I’d say yes and no. Many often feel and state that the music that saturates pop radio is garbage and is manufactured more than it is played. Success in popular music often requires more marketing skill than it does musical talent.

However, I don’t believe the same to be true with bluegrass. Yes, marketing absolutely plays into success in bluegrass, but bluegrass seems to be one of the genres out there that actually focuses on talent above all else. As stated in the Goldsmith readings, Alison Krauss began to make a name for herself while playing at the IBMA conference in 1987 (this, of course, after winning many fiddle competitions). ┬áBut since this is the factual history of Krauss’ rise to fame, it does bring to mind a few questions about what might have happened to Krauss without the 1987 IBMA. Would Alison Krauss be the Alison Krauss we know today if she had never played at IBMA 1987? Would she have ever achieved fame, or would she have taken another path through life? These questions may seem irrelevant given the actual course of events, but the point of me asking is to point out the importance of major events in the rise of artists in bluegrass.

Of course, talent is important, but as can be seen with the example of Alison Krauss, promotion and even a little bit of luck can go a long way in achieving success in the genre of bluegrass.

2 thoughts on “Bluegrass Business

  1. Molly Hilt says:

    I have to agree that popularity in Bluegrass is a combination of talent and exposure to audiences. The questions you’ve asked are very interesting… Without the promotion and networking at IBMA 1987, who/how many people would have heard Alison Krauss’ music? She may not have become as popular and well-known as she is today. Festivals, concerts and showcases are certainly very important for Bluegrass artists and the business-related side of the genre.

  2. Jordan Laney says:

    Great points– I believe you are both correct in assessing the importance of IBMA, specifically for women. Abigail Washburn often shares that Uncle Earl got their start there… your responses have prompted me to think about gender and space in a new way. I hope we continue to explore this!

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