We’ve already heard from Sony Music UK & Ireland chairman/CEO Jason Iley about his role as BRIT Awards chairman ahead of the big show at the O2 Arena tonight (February 21). Now it’s the turn of BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor to look ahead to the ceremony featuring Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Justin Timberlake, Sam Smith and Foo Fighters.
Speaking in the latest issue of Music Week, Taylor spoke about his ambitions for the show, which airs live on ITV at 8pm and globally on YouTube. Here, he talks further about issues including diversity, the year in music and Liam Gallagher’s Twitter broadside at the BRITs…
What we can expect from the BRIT Awards 2018 show?
We’ve worked hard to invest even more heavily in amazing stage design and production, the performances are looking spectacular and we’re excited about how impactful they’re going to be. We want to be the most exciting, the most compelling music show anywhere on television - that’s our ambition. We’re trying to build the brand out beyond the UK as well, and we think that having the best artists with the greatest performances and amazing staging is really key to the entertainment show that we aspire to put on.
How does the BRIT Awards fare on diversity?
Diversity is an issue we have been very conscious of over the last few years. We did a huge amount of work on the [voting] academy to make sure it’s as representative as possible. Obviously there was a lot of focus in previous years on ethnic diversity and BME representation. Over 40% of the nominees this year are BME, so we’ve made progress on that front. At the Grammys there was obviously a lot of focus on gender representation and diversity, and again we have an academy that is pretty much 50-50. We think that’s a fair and correct way to go about it that produces something that properly reflects the year in music.
How about the representation of female artists in the nominations?
Almost half of the nominations are for artists who either are female, or [for acts] which feature female artists in their line-up. Clearly what we all want is that artists, irrespective of their gender, have equal opportunity and then ultimately it’s down to the academy. As long as the academy is well-balanced then we should get the right opportunities for artists regardless of their gender.
Liam Gallagher has complained on Twitter that he’s not performing – was there any wrangling over his involvement?
I wouldn’t describe it as wrangling. Every year is highly competitive, there are always more acts we want to put on the show than we’re able to within the running time, and there is a very lively debate as to how we get the line-up. We have to get a balanced line-up that reflects the year in music. Liam’s had a phenomenal year. I’m not going to say anything more about the performances on the show, we haven’t announced every last single performance but obviously he was a big part of the conversation.
Was it important to get Ed Sheeran on the line-up?
It’s been a truly phenomenal year for Ed Sheeran – his chart success has just been unprecedented. Clearly, he was an artist we had to have on the show, we’re really excited, he’s done phenomenal performances at the BRITs in previous years, we’re really thrilled to have him back. He’ll definitely be a highlight of the evening and he’s got an enormous following, so hopefully they’ll all tune in and watch his performance.
What do you make of this year’s nominations?
I think the nominations broadly reflected the year in music very well. What’s been exciting is that we’ve had artists such as Stormzy, J Hus and Dua Lipa coming through, establishing themselves in the UK and building a platform outside the UK. So the nominations this year reflect a very strong, confident music business with really talented artists coming through – it’s very promising for the future. During the early part of 2017, people were looking back at 2016 a little bit concerned that we hadn’t had as many breakthroughs as we would like to have. But I think 2017 was a much more positive year.
Are you looking forward to Jack Whitehall hosting for the first time?
We’re thrilled that Jack is doing it, there’s been some discussion about going back to having a comedian. He loves music, he’s going to respect the artists and make it a really entertaining show. We want to give him the space to do the show in his way. Hopefully, it will be really entertaining.
How much do you think about ratings?
We’re conscious that it depends year-to-year what you’re up against on other channels. But we feel we’ve got a really strong line-up this year, we work really hard on the PR side and making sure everyone knows the BRITs is coming and when it’s on. All we can do is put on the very strongest show possible and hope the audience comes – and we believe that they will because there’s so much to tune in for this year.
How important is the global reach of the live YouTube stream outside the UK?
We’re growing the show overseas, it’s a really important part of it. This year we’ve been working very hard with YouTube to get even more marketing support to get the show a higher profile on YouTube around the world. We get a great audience from that and it’s about building the BRITs as a platform for British artists around the world.