The IBMA’s Special Awards categories are designed to recognize outstanding achievements during the eligibility period across a broad range of the bluegrass music industry. In all categories, recipients demonstrate contributions to the field of endeavor, professionalism, work in their community, and ability to foster bluegrass music’s image.
Broadcaster of the Year
This award recognizes outstanding service to bluegrass music in the field of broadcasting.
Writer of the Year
This award recognizes outstanding service to bluegrass music in the field of print/media, including print and online journalism, books, photography, blogging and other published writing.
Event of the Year
This award recognizes events (festivals, concerts, and other live performance productions) for their outstanding accomplishment and service to bluegrass music in the field of event production. Longevity of an event (number of years produced) may be a contributing factor for receiving the award, but length of service alone is not an acceptable reason for recognizing an event. Nothing within these criteria prevents an event from winning the award more than once or in consecutive years.
Graphic Designer of the Year
This award recognizes the graphic designer(s), artist and record label for a recording project. The album for which the artwork was designed must have been released during the current eligibility period. Re-issues and compilations released during the eligibility period may be considered if they include new graphic designs.
Liner Notes of the Year
This award recognizes the liner notes writer(s), artist and record label for a recording project. The album for which the liner notes were written must have been released during the current eligibility period. Re-issues and compilations released during the eligibility period may be considered if they include newly written liner notes.
Songwriter of the Year
This award recognizes the songwriter or song co-writers for outstanding contributions. Originality; contributions to the profession; art and craft of songwriting; impact and influence on bluegrass songwriters, musicians, and audiences; ability to advance bluegrass music. Candidates must be the original author(s) of the recorded work and not arrangers of previous work attributed to others or songs in the public domain.
Sound Engineer of the Year
This award recognizes the sound engineer for a recording project or for live sound work performed during the eligibility period. If for an album, the album must have been released during the current eligibility period for album projects. In the case of live sound engineering, the award will be for live sound work performed during the eligibility period. Album reissues, legacy recordings or live sound performances outside the eligibility period will not be considered. Engineering roles to be considered are recording engineer(s), mixing engineer(s) mastering engineer(s) and live sound engineer(s). Engineers listed as “assistant engineer” “second engineer” or “additional engineer” are not eligible.
Nominees for the Special Awards are selected by the Special Awards Selection Committee from a list of nominees. This committee is appointed by the IBMA board chairperson. The five committee members are IBMA professional members who have at least ten years’ experience in bluegrass music and have significant knowledge of the history of the music.
The committee actively seeks out potential honorees, soliciting candidates from IBMA members. They compile a list of of potential candidates from these recommendations, and from recommendations by the selection committee members.
The committee convenes in a timely way to review all candidates (usually in June or July). By majority vote, they select the final five nominees per category.
Those nominees are sent via ballot to the Panel of Electors. This panel – over 200 of the most respected names in the bluegrass music industry – then votes to determine the single recipient for each of the Special Awards.