BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor has spoken to Music Week about how the trade body is supporting diversity at this year’s ceremony.
Taylor has been interviewed for the special BRITs issue of Music Week, out now.
It follows a torrid time for other high-profile awards shows, including the Grammys and BAFTAs, which have been savaged for failing to tackle the issue of diversity in terms of winners and nominees.
The BRITs faced harsh criticism four years ago with the #BritsSoWhite campaign. It was a time when the burgeoning business of grime and UK rap was not getting recognition at the industry’s awards ceremony.
“The BRITs has tried very hard to ensure that it has processes which are reflective of the industry and of society,” said Taylor. “We radically reformed our [voting] academy in 2016, and we've got a very diverse and culturally relevant set of nominations this year.”
The BRITs has shaken up its award categories for 2020. This year’s frontrunners include Dave, Lewis Capaldi, Stormzy and Mabel.
“The new crop of talent is reflected in the nominations this year,” said Taylor. “We're delighted that Lewis and Dave both got four nominations and Mabel and Stormzy three each – we think that just reflects how vibrant the music scene is right now.”
However, the BRITs has faced questions over the lack of female nominees in 2020. In particular, the Mastercard Album Of The Year line-up replicates the names up for Male Solo Artist – Dave, Lewis Capaldi, Michael Kiwanuka, Stormzy and Harry Styles.
“It has been written about that, in the album of the year category, it's male dominated this year,” acknowledged Taylor. “[But] the BRITs really is a reflection of what's going on in the business. There's been a lot of success for male acts in 2019 – and with grime and hip-hop doing very well, they are more male-dominated genres.
There's been a lot of success for male acts in 2019 – and with grime and hip-hop doing very well, they are more male-dominated genres
“That is different to 2019. We had a really strong showing from female [nominees] last year with the same [gender] balance in the academy. So last year it was all about Dua Lipa, Anne-Marie, Jorja Smith, Florence [+ The Machine] and Jess Glynne.”
In fact, women outnumbered male acts in the album category last year, although The 1975 won on the night.
“This year we've got a strong set of releases from male artists,” said Taylor. “When you look at the Album Of The Year nominees, they all released absolutely fantastic records. We have an academy that's made up equally of men and women, and that academy decided that these were the best releases of this particular year. I think we need to respect that. They have decided that, creatively, these were the best records. We have to respect the views of a 50-50 academy, and we have to reflect what's going on in music.
“That doesn't mean that we don't want to make sure that women have every opportunity to succeed. That is something that's very close to our heart and we feel the BRITs has helped to foster that. With the BRIT School, the artists that have on gone to success have overwhelmingly been women, and we're very proud of that track record. If you look at the BRITs Rising Star nominees this year, there were three incredible women nominated for it and [winner] Celeste performing on the night. ”
With the BRIT Awards closely monitored by independent scrutineers, the results are entirely in the hands of the voting academy. But Taylor stressed that the BPI can maintain diversity in other elements of the awards, in particular performers.
“We've got an equal number of female performers,” he told Music Week. “We’ve announced Billie Eilish, Mabel, Celeste and Lizzo performing and they're all fantastically talented artists. I'm really excited to see those performances.
“Clearly, that's something [performances] that the BRITs is in control of. Whereas, when it comes to the nominations and the winners, that's down to the academy of 1,500 people from right across the industry, which is balanced in terms of gender and balanced In terms of ethnic diversity.”
Part of the revamp of this year’s event is artists having more direction of their performances.
“The artists have always had creative control of their performances,” said Taylor. “But I think we've expanded that this time. We're trying to create a canvas on which the artists can really express culturally what they want to say and have the freedom to do what they want.”
Taylor also welcomed the impact of a “resurgent” industry on this year’s show.
“The increases in music consumption in the domestic market, and the impact that's happening on revenues, is allowing labels to back talent in an even bigger way than before,” he told Music Week. “We're very excited by the success that Lewis Capaldi has had this year, and we feel like there's a really talented set of artists coming through. I'm really glad Mabel’s performing on the show, she absolutely deserves her slot and had a very strong 2019. We feel that UK artist development is in good shape.”
Pick up the BRITs special of Music Week now – subscribers can read the full interview with Geoff Taylor here. Click here for the interview with showrunner David Joseph and creative director Misty Buckley.
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