The Ivor Novello Awards prides itself on being different to other music awards ceremonies.
After all, they celebrate songs and songwriters, rather than sales and performers, and are therefore widely regarded by the songwriting community as the ultimate accolade for their craft.
Usually that guarantees a strong turnout from new stars and legends alike. In fact, the 2019 event was hit by an unusual amount of no-shows (Best Album winners Idles and Best Contemporary Song/Songwriters Of The Year recipients The 1975 were both on tour in the US, while PRS For Music Special International Award winner Mariah Carey, who had been expected to attend, sent an acceptance video instead, when her appearance would also have provided another much-needed female winner on stage).
But the 64th annual ceremony – precisely half of which have now been presented by master of ceremonies Paul Gambaccini – still provided plenty of memorable moments. Music Week picks out five of the best…
1. Bitter Sweet rhapsody
Richard Ashcroft picked up his PRS For Music Outstanding Contribution To British Music award with all of his usual swagger. But he also chose the moment to relieve 20-odd years of frustration at being denied the royalties for Bitter Sweet Symphony, after a copyright claim over an orchestral sample saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards added as writers of the song. “As of last month, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards signed over all their publishing for Bitter Sweet Symphony,” Ashcroft declared, “Which is a truly kind and magnanimous thing for them to do. They didn’t need to do it. Over the years, many people have said ‘The Stones this’ or ‘The Stones that’, but the Stones didn’t have that kind of control over Bitter Sweet Symphony. Thank you so much Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, for acknowledging me as the writer of a fucking masterpiece! It will live forever! Music is power, forever!” Sources at Jagger/Richards’ publisher, BMG, confirmed the deal. It doesn’t seem as though it will be backdated, but the deal should still be worth a pretty penny to Ashcroft over the life of the copyright. Result.
2. The indie Ivors?
Seasoned awards-watchers may have detected a changing of the guard feel amongst the companies behind the contemporary awards winners this year. Warner Chappell – watched over by new global CEO and co-chair Guy Moot, who flew in for the occasion – won two (Best Song Musically And Lyrically for Ben Howard’s Nica Libres At Dusk and Best Original Film Score for Jonny Greenwood’s Phantom Thread). But otherwise the indies dominated. Christian Tattersfield’s Good Soldier Songs also won two thanks to The 1975, while the likes of BMG, Peermusic, Big Deal and Kobalt all featured. Indeed, if you were to look across records and publishing, Alistair Norbury's BMG had a very good day indeed, thanks to its involvement with winners from Wiley to Dido and Ashcroft.
3. Protest and survive
Songwriters’ rights are a hot topic for the industry right now, and the day’s winners were certainly happy to speak out on a range of subjects. Ivors Academy chair Crispin Hunt got things rolling with his opening speech by demanding “a new deal for creativity”. “Music has got to be a viable career. Music isn’t a work for hire, it’s a work of art.” Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who won Best Film Score noted he was “the product of primary school music teaching and I hope that continues”. And Big Deal president Kenny MacPherson pulled few punches when he noted songwriters “haven’t had a raise in 110 years. Fuck Spotify.” Ouch.
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There are few moments I find in life that really make one stop and appreciate the present. So few in fact that I am struggling to even think of more than a couple of examples. The day we found out about winning the Ivor Novello for “songwriters of the year” was one of those moments. The guys were speechless and for the briefest of moments I saw a real freedom in them - It was a really special and restorative afternoon. My chest was bursting with pride for you guys today. Bravo Matthew, George, Adam and Ross I cannot wait to see you all this weekend. ????
4. Twotimetwotimetwotime winners
Jamie Oborne has had a busy awards season. Fresh from picking up the Music Week Award for Independent Record Company for his Dirty Hit label, he was on hand to pick up The 1975’s two awards, and make a point about success. “They are being celebrated for their [musical] diversity, and that was the reason no one wanted to sign them,” he said. Fair to say a few people might be regretting that decision now…
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5. Family matters
Wiley may be a tough grime pioneer. But, when presented with his Inspiration Award by his Dad, reggae artist Richard Cowie Senior, even he got emotional. “My whole career is because of him,” said Wiley. “I came from him. All the years we’ve done, the journey I’ve done has all led to this day. At some point, I was going to have to turn round and say, ‘Dad, thank you for the gift’. I want to big up my Dad.” Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan was similarly emotional, remembering his fallen comrade, the late, great DP keyboard player Jon Lord. But Dido’s take on family matters was rather different, thanking her husband and son who “are not afraid to tell me a song is absolutely shit”. At least she now has an Outstanding Song Collection gong to prove them wrong…