'We have a plan for next year': BPI boss Geoff Taylor talks extending the reach of the Mercury Prize

'We have a plan for next year': BPI boss Geoff Taylor talks extending the reach of the Mercury Prize

The early chart results are in and 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize winner Dave has already seen a significant boost for his album, Psychodrama, which is back in the Top 10.

The UK rapper's debut has sales to date of 131,499, according to the Official Charts Company.

In the latest issue of Music Week, the BPI's Geoff Taylor reacts to the result and considers the likely impact for Dave's album. Here, the chief exec of the trade body - which organises the prize - opens up about future plans for the Mercury and why it still matters...

Is the win for Dave good for both him and the Mercury?

"The important thing about the Mercury Prize is that it stays true to its core mission, which is to champion the very best music. Dave's winning album combines real honesty and depth, with a concept and a narrative that is highly intelligent, and some absolutely brilliant music. And if you pull those things together, it is a really special album and a very worthy winner. But what was interesting about this year was that there were a number of other albums that also looked like they should win. I think the judges did a brilliant job with the shortlist and they picked an excellent winner."

Psychodrama has been a big streaming album. Does the Mercury win show how the platforms can now draw listeners into a body of work?

"We're very passionate about the album as a format. People have been writing for some years about the disaggregation of the album and playlists, and [suggesting] that the album would become less important. But from the artist side, you see how important the album is as a means of self-expression. A single track from Dave's album can't convey what he conveys through the collection of tracks. The narrative development and the cohesion between the different tracks on the album show what an important format it is to enable an artist to tell a story."

The reach on socials is enormous, the Twitter conversation has been absolutely huge this year

Geoff Taylor

What do you think the impact will be for Dave?

"For an artist like Dave who's already doing well, he will undoubtedly get a boost, and a number of the other artists who were shortlisted will get a good boost from their performances on the show. But really, the most significant impact is that a Mercury Prize win stays with an artist throughout their career. It's something that is very highly respected in the artist community and amongst music fans. It's something that marks them out for the remainder of their career for having achieved something truly special. For the longer term of Dave's career, it just helps push him on to another level."

How is the Mercury Prize evolving?

"We've been trying to build the reach of the prize, because for us what is really important is to maintain its editorial integrity as an arts prize equivalent to the Booker Prize and Turner Prize, but for music. Our job at the BPI is to extend its reach and get it to as many music fans as possible, and therefore make it a more powerful platform for the artists. We've done a lot of things this year to set that up. We've created a podcast series with the BBC about each of the albums that's on BBC Sounds. We've done a lot more in-store promotion, so there are 131 HMV front windows and all the Fopps, Rough Trade, a lot of indie stores featuring the prize heavily this year. Amazon Music have been terrific partners, promoting the playlist across the Amazon homepage. And the BBC are going to be doing some great stuff, there's a highlights show on BBC World News - which reaches 100 million people - in October, and it's on bbc.com in America this year. So we've really worked hard to extend the reach across physical, digital and TV. We hope that will have a longer term impact."

What are the plans for the ceremony next year?

"We do think that with National Album Day coming in October that we can tie those two platforms together a little better. They are both important parts of the BPI's mission to promote British music, alongside the BRITs and Music Export Growth Scheme and the trade missions that we have to promote the work of labels and artists. So we're trying to tie all that into a calendar of activities across the year that will really help our labels."

Are you concerned about the impact of the prize on sales, which is not what it used to be?

"TV on its own only has so much impact. The BBC Four audience is typically older, we've been pushing the BBC hard that we'd like to see the show on BBC Two or BBC One - that's an on-going conversation. But we're very conscious that digital reach is just as important as TV, so we've put paid promotion behind the videos for all of the artists on Facebook, Instagram, etc. That's going really well. The reach on socials is enormous, the Twitter conversation around the prize has been absolutely huge this year, and that's growing fast. So you get forms of engagement other than looking at streaming numbers. It's the interest in the artist brand that really grows. We believe that the prize is effective overall in raising the profile of all the artists who perform and are nominated. We're working as hard as we can to increase that every year."

What can you do to boost TV coverage?

"The BBC have been terrific partners. But I guess there's a general scepticism among channel controllers about music on TV. That's something that we're pushing hard against. There is a lot of support from BBC Music, and it's really about building on that and making sure we get more mainstream opportunities to profile British music. It's just finding the right way to do it. We have a plan for next year to hopefully get the Mercury Prize on BBC Two. We feel it's a really positive relationship."

To read the Music Week interview with Dave's co-manager Benny Scarrs, pick up the latest issue - or subscribers can click here.

To subscribe and never miss a big industry story, click here.


author twitter FOLLOW Andre Paine

For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to receive our daily Morning Briefing newsletter

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...