The AIM Awards takes place tonight (September 5) at the Brewery in Clerkenwell, London, with Stormzy, Dave, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Jane Weaver leading the field with three nominations each. Ahead of the seventh edition of the prize ceremony for the independent sector, AIM CEO Paul Pacifico spoke to Music Week to discuss this year’s nominees, the increasing significance of the awards and why it’s important to acknowledge the difficult second album…
With the AIM Awards marking its seventh edition, do you think it’s established itself in the music industry calendar?
Yeah, I think it’s amazing. The thing that struck me last year was when Stormzy won [the Innovator Award] and there was an article in The Guardian not long after the AIM Awards in which he was described as “award-winning”. It does show, I think, the extent to which the AIM Awards has become recognised beyond the community of independent music companies and into the wider world.
Skepta won for outstanding contribution in 2015. Do you think AIM’s done a good job of giving recognition to grime?
I think we’re rightly proud of that. But it’s not just grime. Throughout AIM’s history – it’s now 18 years old – it’s been a very inclusive organisation. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you’re working in, there’s a great sense of mutual support between independent music companies. It’s meant that we are there when new things are bubbling up – they tend to gravitate towards AIM as a kind of focal point around music entrepreneurship and how to build businesses. Established members of AIM are very generous in the way they want to share their knowledge, so they benefit from fresh ideas coming in, and the new people coming in to the scene benefit from the established players’ knowledge. It’s a very healthy ecosystem really.
What’s your take on this year’s nominees?
I think it’s really great to see the strength and breadth and diversity in the nominations. I was quite stunned – you go from rock to grime and everything in between – and to see that kind of strength and depth in the independent sector is fantastic. It’s not just one genre that’s dominating, it’s as eclectic as ever – in fact, probably getting more and more electic as streaming platforms allow for niches to flourish.
The difficult second album category is always an interesting one…
It’s a real thing. You may have spent your life working on your first album. Up until the point you get signed and record it, that’s your big piece of work. Then you’ve got to follow up, which isn’t necessarily easy. I think anyone that’s worked in music on the artist side recognises all to well that feeling. It’s funny because it’s true.
The independent album of the year category almost feels like a burgeoning rival to next week’s Mercury Prize…
I think that speaks to the quality of the judging panel. We’ve got a really fantastic, strong panel of judges who are experts in all different genres. When I went along to just listen in to some of the discussion on the judging day, what I was really delighted to hear was judges who may be associated with one particular genre of music actually arguing for artists from different genres and really getting into the debate about the strength of the music, not just fighting for what might be seen as their corner.
What do yout think of the best live category, in which Rick Astley competes with Counterfeit, Jack Savoretti, LP and Passenger?
They are all great live acts. This is what I love about it – it’s not just about the number of sales, it’s about the quality of the music. It’s interesting you drew the analogy earlier with the Mercury Prize. The Mercury Prize is about the music and so are the AIM awards, and that’s because AIM’s membership is about the music.
Do you think the AIM Awards sets the agenda, given last year’s wins for Stormzy and Christine And The Queens?
I think we recognise the agenda that’s being set. It’s our members that set the agenda – the artists, the A&R people, the product managers, the whole team around the artist that delivers success with them and helps grow value in those businesses.
Tickets for the AIM Awards are sold out but afterparty tickets are still available at the time of writing.