Returning to head up the event he ran from 2011 to 2013, the Universal Music UK CEO and chairman has opted for a radical overhaul, as exclusively revealed in the latest issue of Music Week.
The BRIT Awards 2020 with Mastercard will take place at The O2 on February 18. It will once again air live on ITV. But otherwise it’s set to be the biggest overhaul since Joseph last headed up the BRITs from 2011 to 2013. Jason Iley, Sony Music UK/Ireland CEO/chairman, called for a reboot of the awards as soon as he finished his three-year term earlier this year.
What’s the big change? Where to begin? Fewer awards, no more public votes and a radically different approach to artist performances. So to get you prepared for the makeover to come, here’s Music Week’s pass notes on the all-new BRITs...
Artists to take over creative direction
As Joseph reveals in the latest issue of Music Week, this move is designed to encourage truly original performances that will potentially go viral. Of course, some artists have been allowed to do their own thing over the years. Remember Kendrick Lamar getting rapper Rich The Kid to go full Basil Fawlty on a Lamborghini? The 1975 captioning their performance with negative reviews? And Kanye West’s 2015 performance with a line-up of UK rappers including Stormzy, Skepta and Novelist? It’s not yet clear exactly how the BRITs performances will be a break from the routine. But we can expect major artists to be given more time to shine on stage at The O2 with collaborations and reimagined versions of songs. Surely a Lewis Capaldi and Noel Gallagher duet is on the cards...
Awards reduced from 14 to nine at the ceremony
The BRITs has never been a Grammys-style marathon. But now it’s getting even more focused with just nine awards on the night. The new line-up of gongs is: Male Solo Artist, Female Solo Artist, Best Group (formerly British Group), Best New Artist (British Breakthrough Act), Song Of The Year (British Single), Mastercard Album Of The Year, International Male Solo Artist, International Female Solo Artist and Rising Star (previously the Critics’ Choice Award). The British Video, International Group and Global Success categories have all been scrapped, and there will be no Outstanding Contribution – at least not this year. The Producer award will stay but not be part of the ceremony.
No more public votes
Audience interaction was once all the rage in TV and radio. But with viewers routinely making their voice heard on social media and the BRITs trending on Twitter, perhaps the audience vote has started to look antiquated. Of course, you might not get as many surprises, such as Tom Walker winning British Breakthrough Award this year ahead of Ella Mai, Idles, Jorja Smith and Mabel.
The award categories have been given a refresh and the winners will all be decided by the 1,200-strong 2020 Official Voting Academy, which is made up of experts from all areas of music throughout the UK, including artists, retailers, promoters, agents, publishers, labels, producers and media.
Lady Britannia is back
Winners on the night will receive the iconic and classic Lady Britannia BRIT statuette, which returns after nearly a decade’s rest. It has been reimagined each year since 2011 by a guest designer with mixed results.
Backing new UK talent
The BRITs Critics’ Choice has had success as a platform for new artists over the years, most recently with 2019 winner Sam Fender. Now the BRITs is doubling down on fresh talent with the award’s evolution to become the Rising Star Award. The recipient will get a performance slot on the main show, which was not part of the deal for the Critics’ Choice (Fender was restriced to a bit of banter with host Jack Whitehall).
The award’s panel has been expanded to draw in more tastemakers including songwriters, producers and live bookers, who work with new rising talent on a regular basis. The award is open to British artists who have not yet achieved either a recording in the Official Charts UK Top 20 Artist Album Chart, or two recordings in the Top 20 Singles Chart.
Joseph is returning for the first year of his BRITs chairman’s role, although it’s not confirmed whether he will continue for the traditional three-year term. In his previous spell in charge from 2011 to 2013, he moved the ceremony from Earl’s Court to The O2 and put greater emphasis on musical performances rather than controversial antics. He will now work with executive producer Sally Wood, production designer Misty Buckley and returning director Hamish Hamilton, alongside the BPI and ITV. As well as creating viral moments, the team will hope to improve on the 2019 ratings of 4.1 million (down 400,000 on 2018).
Although the BRITs launched in 1977, a few missed years mean that this edition will actually be the 40th. So it’s a chance to celebrate its longevity and try something new. Expect more developments to be announced in the months ahead.
BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor said: “The BRITs Committee will endeavour to make the 2020 BRITs a truly landmark event, highlighting not only another remarkable 12 months in the British music year, but also paying tribute to many unforgettable BRITs moments that are now part of a rich and much loved heritage.”
To read the first exclusive BRITs interview with David Joseph, pick up the latest issue - or subscribers can click here.
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