Jason Iley – chairman/CEO of Sony Music UK & Ireland and current BRIT Awards chairman – has weighed in on two of this year’s major BRITs talking points: the appearance of Ed Sheeran and the lack of nominations for Sam Smith.
Sheeran had last year’s No.1 selling global album with ÷ (Asylum/Atlantic) and was Music Week’s 2017 Artist Of The Year, yet didn’t perform at the Grammy Awards after he was shut out of the major categories. There are no such problems for the singer-songwriter at the BRITs, where he has four nominations, including a shout for British Album Of the Year and will perform live for the second year running. Yet Smith – whose sophomore album The Thrill Of It All (Capitol) was the No.3 biggest seller of 2017 in the UK – missed out on any nominations this time around.
“We’re smart to have Ed on our show,” said Iley, speaking in an exclusive interview in the new print edition of Music Week. “He should be on the show, he’s the biggest artist in the world. I think he was the biggest artist in America [last year] too. Obviously, there are some odd decisions in life.”
Iley praised the revamped BRITs voting academy – which was criticised in 2016 for ignoring the UK’s burgeoning grime scene but this year shortlisted the likes of Stormzy, J Hus and Dave – for ensuring Sheeran also received his due.
“We continuously evolve our academy,” he said. “It changes on a year-to-year basis, we keep adapting it to try and keep it current and relevant – and fortunately they were smart and voted for people like Ed Sheeran, because he’s the biggest artist in the world.”
However, the same academy failed to acknowledge Smith, a decision Iley said he personally found “incredibly strange”.
“He clearly deserves nominations because the first record was one of the biggest records of our time, and he had the third biggest-selling album of the year,” he said. “Personally, I was shocked when I saw he hadn’t been nominated but, ultimately, it comes back to everyone has a right to vote and the committee voted.”
In contrast to Sheeran at the Grammys, however, Smith will still perform on the show, alongside the likes of Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Dua Lipa.
“There was never any hint from management or Capitol Records that it was ever in question,” said Iley. “He’s a former Critics’ Choice winner, a former Grammys and BRITs winner, he 100% deserves to be on the show, I have zero doubt [about that].”
The BRITs take place on Wednesday evening at 8pm and are screened live on ITV. To read the full interview with Iley, click here or grab a copy of the current print edition of Music Week, which features a full BRITs 2018 preview. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.