The Business of Bluegrass

After reading chapters 51-53 in The Bluegrass Reader and “Music and Politics” by John Street, it is easy to conclude that the “business of bluegrass” is centered around reaching new audiences through festivals, concerts and showcases. In Goldsmith’s chapter 51, he discusses IBMA’s World of Bluegrass trade show and states, “Taken as a whole, the trade show/concert series represented both the music-obsessed tradition and the business-oriented learnings of bluegrass.” The combination of artists, bands, promoters, radio stations and label heads created an environment in which information could be exchanged between members of the Bluegrass community.  Art Menius described it as “the most significant business event in the history of the bluegrass music industry” (Goldsmith).


Goldsmith states that, “If all the great music heard at IBMA ’87 is to reach wider audiences, the bluegrass industry will have to seek new means of adding to the music’s faithful core audience.” One artist who did just that is Alison Krauss, a bluegrass artist who adds “a pop-rock twist to her versions of traditional standards” (Goldsmith). According to Jim Macnie’s “Country Artist of the Year: Alison Krauss,” Krauss’ album Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection “has made a whole new audience familiar with bluegrass” and that she and her band “have changed some perceptions about what bluegrass can be and what country is.” Goldsmith states that “’outside’ looks at bluegrass surely helped its rise to unprecedented levels of popularity near the turn of the millennium.” The IBMA strives to further promote the popularity and professional business aspect of Bluegrass by implementing values such as forward thinking and leadership, positive working relationships, professionalism, integrity, honoring tradition, diversity and inclusiveness, and education (IMBA website).

alison krauss

However, with the rise of any genre of music’s popularity there also comes a rise in power.  In John Street’s “Music and Politics,” he speaks about music as a form of political expression and how it is a “source of fear,” “object of repression,” and the “epitome of freedom.” The first chapter in his book speaks on music censorship and if it is a repression of a basic human right. I would have to agree with Street that music can definitely be a form of political expression. Music can cross cultural and political boundaries and speak to a wide range of people. While I think some censorship of music is necessary due to aspects such as explicit content, too much censorship can take away the message of the music and hinder it from reaching a larger audience.

music and politics



Thomas Goldsmith’s The Bluegrass Reader

John Street’s “Music and Politics”


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