It’s that time of year when The Mercury Prize is just around the corner, and as per tradition, the media has been sent into a spiral of speculation. Amongst the nominees this year are the NME’s darling Jake Bugg, rock legend David Bowie, and bookies favourite Disclosure, with their breakthrough album ‘Settle’. However, this year, there has been some backlash to what is usually a music industry love-in.
The Mercury Prize began being handed out in 1992. Its goal is to champion British and Irish music. They do this through annually awarding one band with The Mercury Prize for the album of the year. The nominations are decided by a panel of the industry’s top insiders, including journalists, executives and musicians. Winning this award is considered a prestigious honour amongst many in the music industry, as winning has acted as a jumping off point for many artists to go on to lead amazing career’s. When rap lynchpin Dizzee Rascal won the 2003 Mercury Prize, for his album ‘Boy in Da Corner’, for example, it drew mainstream and critical attention to the fledgling grime scene, contributing to rappers who say “leng” instead of “gat” becoming commercially viable.
However, this year, The Mercury Prize has drawn its critics. Perhaps the most prominent of these was Kevin Shields, the mastermind behind shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine, who’s take on The Mercury Prize could be considered slightly frightening for independent musicians. After people began noticing that My Bloody Valentine’s critically acclaimed return, ‘MBV’, was left off of The Mercury Prize shortlist, Shields went on to explain that they had been “banned” from being nominated for a Mercury Prize due to the fact that My Bloody Valentine do not have a distribution deal with iTunes, Amazon or any record label. This allegedly breaks the rule that all competitors for The Mercury Prize have to have “a digital and physical distribution deal in place in the UK”. Because My Bloody Valentine only sold the digital version of their album through their own website, they may not have been considered to have a digital distribution deal.
Of course, this isn’t the first time The Mercury Prize has faced a backlash from disgruntled members of the music industry. At the 3rd Mercury Prize ceremony, many were left outraged when house outfit M People were chosen to win over rising stars in Britpop, such as Blur and Pulp. Nearly 10 years later, Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz caused a stir when their virtual bass player, Murdoc, claimed that winning a Mercury prize was akin to “carrying a dead albatross ‘round your neck for eternity”, after they were nominated for the award. They later pulled themselves from the running.
Controversy or no controversy, the show must go on. With prize money and increased sales of up to 100 % at stake, it’s unlikely the words of an angry Kevin Shields will cause any band to go the way of the Gorillaz again this year. There is no official information as to when the ceremony will be held, but it will most likely be in November, and broadcast on Channel 4.
It’s that time of year when The Mercury Prize is just around the corner, and as per tradition, the media has been sent into a spiral of speculation. Amongst the nominees...