The Mercury Prize shortlist is in - but what's going on with the award ceremony?

The Mercury Prize shortlist is in - but what's going on with the award ceremony?

The dozen LPs nominated for the 2020 Hyundai Mercury Prize have been announced, with the usual combination of big names (No.1 albums from Dua Lipa and Stormzy), familiar faces (Laura Marling, Michael Kiwanuka) and newer acts including Sports Team, Moses Boyd and Porridge Radio. 

But while this year’s list is a fairly typical Mercury dozen, the awards ceremony is unlikely to be a normal night out for the music industry because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Even next year’s BRIT Awards has been pushed back, just to be on the safe side. 

Ahead of the September 24 event, there’s still no confirmation of what kind of Mercury Prize event will be taking place this year. The official word is that it’s likely that a live awards show will not be happening.

But Music Week understands that organisers are hoping to make the TV event more high-profile, perhaps with a promotion from BBC Four to BBC Two.

Organisers the BPI have been involved with the government on working groups looking at the return to content production for film, TV and music.

“The interesting thing about the Mercury Prize is that it’s both a TV show and it's a live event,” said BPI & BRIT Awards chief executive. “Obviously, we'll be able to fulfill more of the TV side of that this year than the live event. We are going to see how quickly things open up and what we're able to do in terms of hospitality, but principally the effort will be on the broadcast and making a really exciting show.”

Our biggest goal is to make sure that the Mercury Prize does its job for the artists

Geoff Taylor

Taylor is already encouraged by the line-up of talent this year. 

“I think we're going to have an amazing prize which generates fantastic press coverage for all the artists and really boosts their campaigns, which is the main reason for having a Mercury Prize,” he told Music Week.

“Our biggest goal is to make sure that it does its job for the artists, that we've run a great competition with their 12 fantastic albums of the year and there's a brilliant winner. They should all get a real boost from the event, so that's where we're focusing our attention.” 

A return to the Eventim Apollo is also in doubt. But broadcast partner BBC Music will be providing extensive television and radio coverage.

“There's a good chance that we will film the artists at the Apollo,” said Taylor. “Whether or not we'll be able to do much of that live is open to question, because of the social distancing complications. It is possible that for this year we will move to a studio show, and that's something that we're discussing the BBC.”

He added: “We’re going to do what we’re able to do, the safety of the audience and of the artists is our main concern. We obviously want there to be as much of an atmosphere as we can.

“We're going to be creative with the production to make sure that it's a really exciting watch. This content always travels brilliantly [online and via social media], there were millions of views of the performances for last year.”

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