The Mercury Music Prize-some interesting facts:
1) Artists (or their paymasters, quite an antiquated commodity these days) have to shell out cash to have their album considered for the initial shortlist. Anybody can submit their album, just as long as you hail from these shores.
2) The eventual shortlist is chosen by a panel of “music industry experts”, who undoubtedly sit in a room doing an impression of Twelve Angry Men and who then go on to whittle down that shortlist to an even smaller shortlist.
3) Even though you’ve been nominated, you still have to pay for your seats at the ceremony.
Now, if you’re a small struggling act you’ll have to weigh up whether shelling out your hard earned cash will be worth it. Do you fit the inevitable yearly remit? Are you in with a chance?Are you edgy? Jazzy? Obscure? Or maybe all three?
If you’re already established, odds on your label will have already entered your album and added the entry money to the already skyscraper sized amount that you currently owe them.
An oddity amongst just about every other music ceremony going, each year the nominees follow a regular pattern of ‘established act’, ‘edgy act’, ‘obscure (jazzy) act’ etc etc.
So keeping this in mind, and in all fairness, how the hell do you judge such a disparate & varied selection of albums? Some produced for thousands, some produced for peanuts- fairly and equally in the first place? It’s like a contest between a tank and a digestive biscuit being judged by a chimpanzee on heroin. In space.
As we’re constantly informed by the industry sales are in decline, very naughty people are downloading illegally and even established acts are scraping about for pennies down the back of the proverbial sofa.
Even with a great big fat cash prize,
unless you sell records by the lorry-load and play arenas for breakfast, I’m guessing most, if not all, of that cash prize will be going on repaying your label for promotion, videos, album budgets, drugs & hookers etc. And if you’re a small struggling unknown artist?
Well, you could either blow it on a tour/album/mountain of cocaine or maybe do the sensible thing & use it to build your own studio (or even lay down the deposit for a mortgage if you’re being realistic).
Even then, the general public have such short attention spans and you’ll most probably slide back into obscurity by lunchtime the following day.
It could just the times (and the fact that many of us bathe in a howling sea of glorious cynicism) but it feels like the excitement has gone out of hearing the nominations being announced.
So how to keep it relevant?The format has remained unchanged for years now, so how about an extreme revamp? Maybe take the lead of the X-Factor, 12 acts living in boot camp, weekly eliminations, Rihanna performing in ever-skimpier outfits, Michael Fucking Buble. Or as many people seem to become mindlessly excited by the Brit Awards, with it’s tired procession of also-rans & end-of-the-pier, shoe-shit presenter choices, why not widen the scope of the Mercury’s to categorically include (but not award, because that would be insane) a larger collection of relatively obscure & new music whilst at the same time dishing out the plaudits to more established, coke-hollowed acts? Hell, you wouldn’t be able to sustain it as a ‘prize’ anymore and it’ll probably turn to rubble after the first year, but It’ll get Q magazine foaming from the tip of the penis.