'The BRITs can't stand still': Showrunner Jason Iley on the 2019 ceremony & the future for the BRIT Awards

Jason Iley

So the BRIT Awards is over for another year, after a spectacular show that provided plenty of memorable moments. The TV ratings may have been slightly down but YouTube Music’s Lyor Cohen has been predicting a big increase in livestream viewers, and the music business will be watching for the ceremony’s sales impact as things get back to normal this week.

Sony Music UK & Ireland chairman/CEO Jason Iley has spent the last three years running the biggest awards show in British music. With his stint now done – and his successor yet to be named – he can get back to the day job of capitalising on Sony’s multiple winners at this year’s bash.

Before that, however, he took time out to sit down with Music Week to talk about this year’s ceremony – and what the BRITs should do next…

How did you feel the show went?

“I thought it went very well and, for me, it went really quickly! I was delighted with the performances and especially with the effort that each of the artists put into making it such a fantastic creatively brilliant evening.”

What were the highlights from your point of view?

“It’s hard to single out any particular performance, because I thought they were all outstanding. The Greatest Showman opening was mindblowingly exhilarating. Jorja Smith’s was a beautiful moving performance from a fresh new star. Calvin, Dua, Sam and Rory provided a stunning distillation of the biggest dancefloor smashes. George Ezra soaked up Jack Whitehall’s digs in good humour and took the roof off with the signature tune of 2018. Little Mix and Jess Glynne were incredible and The 1975 proved that rock stars aren’t a thing of the past, while Pink more than demonstrated why she deserved the Outstanding Contribution accolade with a breath-taking finale. All in all, a wonderful show. And I thought Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s nod to fellow American Meghan Markle was fantastic… That’s the way to do an acceptance speech!”

Are you happy with the viewing figures for the show?

“They were only slightly down on last year with overnight TV reporting ratings of 4.1m, so, if I’m honest, I’m actually relieved! Also, on a positive note the BRITs delivered by far the highest share of under 35s to ITV so far this year – 42%, more than eight share points higher than its nearest rival, so that’s good. We won’t have an idea of online/social figures until later, but with YouTube’s involvement I would hope to be up on last year, with a much higher global engagement.”

What did you think of Jack Whitehall's hosting?

“Jack Whitehall is articulate, funny and completely in command of the BRITs stage, and he managed to hold the music business audience in the palm of his hand, which, we all know from previous experience, is a very tough ask. We’ve been very lucky to have him.”

With your other hat on, it was a big night for Sony Music. Can the BRITs still have an impact on campaigns?

“It was great! Naturally I was delighted that the academy and the public chose so many Sony artists on the night and I’d like to congratulate Calvin Harris, George Ezra, Tom Walker, Little Mix, The Carters and Pink – not forgetting our nominees: Brockhampton, Camila Cabello, Craig David, First Aid Kit, Paloma Faith, Sigala and Travis Scott, who missed out on the night. The BRITs is a great opportunity to kick start a new artist campaign (Tom Walker for example is now No.1 on pre-order on Amazon for the first time) or help to reignite an existing successful one.”

How does it feel to have finished your stint running the BRITs?

“Today it feels great! Although I do have mixed feelings. It’s such an honour and a privilege to helm the biggest and best music show in the UK, and I’ve enjoyed the challenges and working with such an amazing team who put the show together, but I certainly won’t miss the sleepless nights! I’m just really looking forward to being a spectator next year.”

How does the future of the BRITs look?

“The UK has always punched above its weight in music on a global level and I don’t see that changing any time soon, especially with some of the artists I know are coming in the not too distant future, so I feel the British music scene is in rude health. The BRITs itself can’t and shouldn’t stand still. It needs a reboot. I’ve always wanted to run the show on the weekend to get that huge Saturday night TV audience and, in the online space, the new showrunner will have to consider the myriad ways people consume content these days and adapt accordingly. Also, as we’re increasingly speaking to a global audience, there might be a case for filming live performances in different continents for the show.”

* To read our BRITs cover story with Iley, click here. For our review of the BRITs key moments, click here. For our look at who could be the next BRITs showrunner, click here. And to subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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