The first ever Saturday night BRIT Awards is just days away and, to celebrate, Music Week gathered showrunner Damian Christian, trophy designer Slawn and committee member Mel Rudder to preview this year's show.
Our exclusive digital cover feature is available to read in full here, and finds Christian fielding questions over the buzz building up to the show, the event's place in the modern industry and the controversy around this year's all-male Artist Of The Year shortlist and the lack of R&B among the nominations for the Pop/R&B category.
Christian, who is Atlantic Records UK MD and president of promotions, is relishing life in the hot seat, having taken up the mantle from Geffen Records president Tom March, who oversaw the 2022 ceremony in his former life as Polydor co-president.
Here, he offers up his take on some of the burning issues at the heart of this year's BRITs...
Damian Christian on the importance of the BRITs
“Record labels all realise it's a big opportunity. I've been getting plugged left, right and centre by so many people. I think it's fair to say it's the biggest night of the year in the music calendar. It's an enormous opportunity: from the figures, to the press, to the online stuff. Getting nominated is brilliant, winning an award is amazing, and performing on it is everything to a lot of artists.”
Damian Christian on the lack of women and non-binary acts on the long list of eligible artists
"Speaking from an Atlantic point of view, we treat every artist with the exact same love, care and dedication. And we work hard to ensure that all our artists have the best opportunity to enjoy success. On a wider industry and social issue, I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to inclusivity and what is fair. We’ve come a long way as an industry in the last few years and we want to keep pushing forward. Looking at the Rising Star shortlist alone over the last few years, we can see up-and-coming female talent is being supported and promoted. And last year saw 10 women win a possible 15 awards. However, in 2022 there clearly wasn’t enough women landing those big hits or albums and if this repeats itself this year and going forward, then we’ll need to have discussions as an industry and hold ourselves accountable."
Damian Christian on the balance of the BRITs Voting Academy
"The Voting Academy gets reviewed and updated every year. We’ve worked hard over the last few years to modernise it and six years ago set ourselves the target of making it a 50/50 split of male and females and to ensure at least a quarter of voters were Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic. So I think we can look at the percentages this year and be happy with the balance."
Damian Christian on the controversy around the absence of R&B
"It’s really important to me that R&B artists and fans know how much we value R&B at the BRITs and how much we respect it as an art form. For this year’s show, we looked into the criteria and the categories in real detail and, it’s a shame to say but there weren’t enough artists that managed to get a Top 40 single or album to create a separate R&B category this year. Like always, we’ll listen to artists, managers and labels after the show, and review any areas we feel we can improve on, and the Pop/R&B category will be an important area in these discussions following the commentary we've heard over the last few weeks. The genre awards are designed to celebrate success, but if some artists feel they have been overlooked in the process then further discussions and review are needed to hear how things could be done differently in the future."
Damian Christian on the power of the BRITs to break acts
“There have been spikes for the last x-amount of years, but they've not been enormous. There’s normally one or two winners of the night that jump up the charts, but it's more about the long term, especially with the newer acts. The trouble is, it's so much harder to break artists and sell records than it used to be. You always want more, but I know how hard it is to break acts because I've been doing it all my life. Sometimes you can get lucky and they break really quickly and others [take longer]. A good example is Mahalia, who we’ve had signed for 10 years; Charli XCX was 10 years. But if this year’s BRITs helps move things on a bit for certain acts, then I'll be happy with that.”
Damian Christian on Harry Styles
“I'm delighted for Harry Styles because I’ve always found him incredibly polite, lovely, brilliant and funny. After he performed at the BRITs a few years ago, we had a frank conversation and I said, ‘I'd never have dreamed that you'd be making these amazing songs after being in One Direction.’ And rather than telling me to piss off, he went, ‘Oh thanks man, that's really nice.’ It's almost a bit embarrassing looking back now that I was giving him some seal of approval that he didn't need, so seeing him come back with maybe an even bigger, stronger record is great. He's a phenomenal artist.”