BBC Radio 1 has unveiled its first three artists on the Brit List for 2018: Mabel (Polydor), Isaac Gracie (Virgin EMI) and Jorja Smith (Famm).
Jorja Smith has already landed the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award, for which Mabel was also in the running.
“They are all artists that we have been developing for some time now and who we felt were just at that right tipping point in their early career to really benefit from a long-term commitment from Radio 1’s playlist,” Chris Price, Radio1/1Xtra head of music, told Music Week. “These three artists gave us enough confidence to know that they would really benefit the most, out of all the submissions we received, from that commitment.”
Price noted that Smith has successfully managed to “build a culture around herself as an artist — if she can deliver some amazing songs she’s got that artist platform to spring from”.
Radio 1 launched the first Brit List initiative this year (it is unrelated to the BRIT Awards) with the aim of giving breaking UK artists the best possible chance of long-term success. There were some dissenters who complained that the first batch of artists were already widely known.
British artists are eligible as long as they are not widely known to the UK general public. The original guidelines stated that entrants must have an album in the market, though this was later revised.
Price stressed that the Brit List is a platform for artists who have made some impact, while BBC Introducing and The Sound Of poll is reserved for emerging artists.
Radio 1 has decided to focus on nine artists each year for the Brit List.
“This is a brand new initiative and we’re taking feedback as we go along,” said Price. “We work with the artists and their managers or labels if they’ve got one. We think of it as a partnership, we’re very open to working with artists on single choices and we’re very happy to offer feedback.”
The 2017 inaugural Brit List acts – Anne-Marie, Declan McKenna, JP Cooper, Sampha, Stormzy, The Amazons, Stefflon Don, J Hus, Tom Walker – received a three-single playlist commitment, including an A-list song, for their debut campaigns.
It's a partnership, we're very open to working with artists on single choices
Price described the playlist backing as “unique in the radio industry”.
“It is about trying to work with the artists and have that slightly more personal relationship with them,” he added.
Radio 1 also combines with the artists on opportunities for Live Lounge performances, iPlayer documentaries and a chance to perform at the Radio 1 Big Weekend.
Jorja Smith said it was “such an honour to be included in the Brits list.”
"Radio 1 and 1Xtra have supported me from the beginning and I'm so thankful for them staying on this journey with me and playing such an invaluable part of my career," added Mabel.
Gracie said: “Ever since I put Last Words online back in 2015, Radio 1 has had my back, championing new and ever-changing material before anyone else. Not to forget BBC Music Introducing who gave me my first ever spins on the radio. I honestly couldn't be happier to be given this opportunity and it just makes me all the more excited for what 2018 might bring.”