Yes, the BRIT Awards are over for another year and, one week on, showrunner David Joseph – brought in to revamp the ceremony for the new decade – can look back on a job well done.
The Universal UK chairman/CEO undertook a radical shake-up of the ceremony, adding stages, removing industry tables and handing control over the performances to the artists themselves.
It was a high-risk gambit, but it seems to have paid off. So Joseph – who, alongside creative director Misty Buckley, spoke exclusively to Music Week for a cover story in the run-up to BRITs 2020 – also spoke only to us for the traditional BRITs debrief. Read on to find out what he thought of Celeste, Dave – and why he definitely won’t be staying on for another year…
How do you feel the BRITs 2020 show went?
“It was a really pretty perfect show. I'm hoping finally people understood why the removal of the tables, and adding more staging [was necessary] – it really worked. I believe we've gone from people going, ‘What's he doing?’ to ‘Actually, that was a good decision’. Most importantly, it is easy to say, ‘OK, you can do whatever you want’ to artists. But what I was getting, in the two days of rehearsals with all the artists, was that sense of genuine freedom that they could shine and have control, and we saw that on the night. For anyone who’s got any question about the industry, the talent, where it is now and where it's going, it was the most extraordinary night. I can't think of a show that had so many individual beautiful, stunning moments.”
Which of your changes made the most impact?
“The decision to, at least in the room, reduce the breaks and make it quicker made it feel that the energy was there throughout. The feedback I'm getting from a lot of the other shows is there seems to be a fatigue or the ratings are collapsing or whatever. But we did what we were supposed to do, which is breathe new life into what could have potentially become tired. And, off the back of certain performances, I've got no doubt that all the right artists from around the world will want to do the show again next year. It's set the tone. It feels like it's in a healthy space and all that work and those late nights from the team have paid off. Nobody just turned up. Everybody thought so long and hard about what they were going to do on the show. Some moments that will go down as absolute classic moments in BRITs history, and that is purely down to the artists’ thought and creativity.”
It was a good night for Universal – did you get to celebrate?
“For the last few days I just really focused on the show and the industry as a whole. I wanted it to work for everybody. I'm obviously thrilled on behalf of the artists. But it was actually across the board, people seemed genuinely happy for one another. I felt the room was leaning into everybody's performance, wherever they came from. So obviously on behalf of Universal and our artists, I was beyond thrilled. But my role was one of trying to be part of a team to regenerate the show because a healthy BRITs means a healthy industry. And [the show] said, ‘We're in a really fantastic creative moment in UK music history’. So my mind was much more on that than my Universal hat. I was willing everybody to win on their performances and was equally happy for all the other artists who performed and won. This was everybody’s show.”
How did it work as a TV show?
“A lot of the other awards shows were losing a million, two million, so the numbers were fantastic in TV terms. It does show you that you should never patronise an audience. As long as you're putting excellence in front of them, they'll stay tuned. I was proud of the way that the music flowed. A lot of thought went into how it would actually work as a playlist and we did a good job on that. There will be discovery off of it. ITV were really brilliant in terms of going along with the journey. We were booking names that were not familiar and had never done shows like that before.”
How did you think Celeste did in the new TV slot for the Rising Star winner?
“She's incredible. Celeste was very, very nervous going into it because it is a big thing. When you look at the line-up and imagine someone of that age on a line-up with other superstars who've headlined Glastonbury… I thought she was absolutely outstanding. And I think Dave will become one of the classic moments of BRITs history. We were in a room where something extraordinarily special happened for him and Neighbourhood. It's going to be one of those moments. Good luck next year to someone now!”
So will you definitely not be doing the job next year?
“It's funny. An idea came into my head around three in the morning after our party about who could take the values of last night and build on it. But I've got to live with it and speak to the BPI. But I'm definitely true to my word that I’ve played my part and I’m proud of it. So it's time to hand it over. But it's now about identifying the person with the right values and the integrity to take it to hopefully another new level. That won't be my decision, that’s obviously something that everyone's got to mandate, but I know it will at least pass on to someone in a healthy state.”
* To read our full debrief on the 2020 BRITs, see the current print edition of Music Week, available now, or click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.