February is awards season. Looking in my diary I have the XFM New Music Awards, the Brits and the NME Awards all popping up over the next few weeks. It’s got me thinking about role of the award ceremony in music and how they can affect the success of bands and artists. The Brit Awards are planning a major overhaul this year by moving to the O2, replacing the old trophy with a Vivienne Westwood design and trying a new Oscars-style approach. I can understand why organisers want to make it flashier but my favourite Brits moments will always be those disastrous drunken moments that have become the stuff of awards ceremony legend.
More angry young bands throwing water over politicians I say. But then surely the awards should be about the music and not the scandal – or indeed the glitz and glamour. My own radio station XFM is holding its annual New Music Awards this week – a far less glitzy affair at the Borderline in central London. It’s a prize for what’s deemed the best British debut album of the last year with the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Fenech Soler, Dinosaur Pile Up and Kele all in the shortlist. A panel of suitably musical judges – including John Leckie, Tim Burgess and Brett Anderson – will pick the winner from a shortlist of 10 voted for by the XFM listeners.
Last year it was won by the XX long before they went onto win the coveted – and some say cursed – Mercury Music Prize. The affect of winning that award on a band can be seen in massive increases in album sales but does it then create too much pressure on the band to return with a follow up. The XX say they may not even record a second album. Or maybe you just need to take yourself away from the pressures of London and do what you want in a Salford studio, as did Elbow for the follow up to their Mercury prize winning The Seldom Seen Kid. We wait in anticipation to see if they can break the curse when it comes out in March.
I suppose my cynicism with award shows and whether they actually mean anything lies in the celebrity tabloid coverage. Music Award ceremonies aren’t really about the music. Organisers want coverage for their sponsor, which means they want headlines, which means they want the celebrities who are currently getting the most column inches, which means I won’t be surprised to see Essex girls and Gypsy’s at the Brits in a few weeks. In contrast a few musicians and producers will meet in a London pub to mull over the debut albums of 10 of the best new British bands of 2010 before revealing the winner to a room of listeners. That’s my kind of award ceremony.
- Sunta Templeton