- Tue, 2010-07-20 01:00
The Barclaycard Mercury Prize was established in 1992 by the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers as an alternative to an industry dominated by the increasingly commercial Brit Awards. It has since become a key date in the music industry calender, often finding artists happier to be shortlisted for this prize rather than win an award from any other ceremony. I Like Music went along to hear Lauren Laverne announce the 12 shortlisted albums for the 2010 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. We also caught up with Kevin Milburn, Director of the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. We find out what his job entails, what the judges are looking for and his thoughts on the 2010 shortlist.
ILM: What does your role entail?
Kevin: I oversee the entries coming in, deal with all the judges, help appoint them, help out with the retail campaign, help out with the PR side; press, radio, TV. There's a big show in September so there's the responsibilities attached to that; getting all the guests there, sorting out the prize and the team, working out who is going to play live, arranging the compilation CD which has to be rushed out! September is a busy time of year!
ILM: How long have you been involved?
Kevin: '97 was the first time, when Roni Size won. The prize has been going since '92 when Primal Scream won with Screamedelica.
ILM: How many entries were there this year?
Kevin: Each year it's usually around the two hundred mark, by the time you strip out the ones that aren't eligable; compilations, live albums, albums that aren't from the UK or Ireland.
ILM: People enter compilations?!
Kevin: The Help compilation for War Child got onto the shortlist once! That was in '96 I believe. Although those were all new tracks recorded specifically for that album.
ILM: Do you work as a judge too?
Kevin: I'm not a judge but I do listen to all the albums! You have to listen to them in a fairly short time! I kind of shadow what the judges are doing so I need to know what they are talking about.
ILM: As an annual event, nominees and winners come to represent a slice of time in our musical history. Were there any noticable trends this year?
Kevin: This year's Barclaycard Mercury Prize has more of a male, indie sound than last year. It can only really reflect on what has happened in the previous twelve months. Last year, lone female performers were very prominant. Be it La Roux, Florence, Speech Debelle, Lisa Hannigan etc. This year we have Foals, Wild Beasts, I Am Kloot...There is a certain sound and sensibility that is coming through in their music, although that of course is very different to what Dizzee Rascal or Kit Downes Trio are doing.
ILM: What are the judges looking for in a Mercury Prize album?
Kevin: Well, there's more music being made than ever before. Which is great, but it does make it harder in sense, as you have to filter through that and find what really stands out. With this prize we still try to look at complete albums. Quite a lot of albums will come in with two or three amazing tracks, but all the shortlisted albums have a story to tell, a narrative, something that flows through the whole album. It's a complete body of work.
ILM: The prize is only open to entries from the UK or Ireland. Do the judges look for albums that sound British or Irish?
Kevin: We don't really have a set of regulations of what we give the judges to look for. We try and keep it as organic as possible and the stuff that gets on there kind of gets argued on because it has the most fans behind it.But that is one of the debates that often comes into the discussions of the album; is this doing something that is particularly reflective of the UK? Dizzee, Corinne Bailey Rae, I Am Kloot or Wild Beasts are all very different to anything being done elsewhere, particularly the States. That is one of the things that comes out in this years list, the real regional spread; we have Villagers from Dublin, I Am Kloot from Manchester, Wild Beasts from Cumbria...I think they all kind of enact where they're from to some degree, they're distinct records, whereas some records sound like they could have been made anywhere.
ILM: What do all the records on the 2010 shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury prize have in common?
Kevin: All of the shortlist have a British or Irish flavour, they all work as albums and they all have a certain distinct voice both musically and lyrically. That's why they make it on. In their own worlds, they are quite distinct, quite unique. They all include something very personal to the artist and something that reaches out beyond their genre.
ILM: What are the plans for the future of the Mercury Prize?
Kevin: Well, we've had a really good turn out today, speculation about the 2010 winner has already started building! There's more media out there now, hence you get more debate, speculation and argument about what is there and what isn't there, which is partly what it's about...!
The overall winner of the 2010 Prize will be decided and announced at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Awards Show, which will be broadcast live on BBC Two on Tuesday 7 September 2010. Lauren Laverne will present the programme, with the Awards Show event itself hosted by Jools Holland.