WHAT IS THE MERCURY PRIZE?
The Barclaycard Mercury Prize promotes the best of UK and Irish music and the artists who produce it. This is done primarily through the celebration of the 12 ‘Albums of the Year’.
The Barclaycard Mercury Prize for Album of the Year is the music equivalent to the Booker Prize for literature and the Turner Prize for art.
The Prize is best known for its annual Awards Show, but it also celebrates live music through the ‘Barclaycard Mercury Prize Sessions’. It also helps people discover new music on a more regular basis through its ‘Recommends’ website.
The main objectives of the Mercury Prize are to provide a snapshot of the year in music, to encourage debate and discussion about music, and to help introduce new albums from a variety of musical genres to a wider audience
HOW MANY CATEGORIES ARE THERE?
The Prize has no categories, and is open to all genres of music. There are 12 shortlisted ‘Albums of the Year’ and 1 overall winner. The genres of music that are represented tend to vary from year to year.
WHEN DID THE MERCURY PRIZE START?
The first Mercury Prize took place in 1992 and was won by Primal Scream for their album 'Screamadelica'.
WHAT DO THE ARTISTS WIN?
All of the 12 shortlisted artists receive a specially commissioned bronze ‘Album of the Year’ trophy. The overall winner receives a cheque for £20,000 and a special winner's trophy. More significantly the Prize can ignite public awareness of the winning album, and dramatically increase the profiles of all the shortlisted artists.
WHO ORGANISES THE MERCURY PRIZE?
The Mercury Prize is run by a small production company that produces all Mercury Prize events and TV programmes.
WHO CHOOSES THE SHORTLIST?
An independent panel of judges selects the shortlist. The judges listen to all the albums that have been entered over a period of many weeks. They then meet to discuss them. Simon Frith chairs all the judging meetings and discussions to ensure editorial independence.
The judges’ decisions are based solely on the quality of the music on the albums. They do not take into account commercial sales, chart success, record label, live performances etc.
HOW IS THE OVERALL WINNER SELECTED?
The same judging panel meets again on the night of the Awards Show in October to choose the overall ‘Album of the Year’. This can be a long process and, as always, the judges base their decision solely on the quality of the music on the album.
WHO ARE THE JUDGES?
The judging panel is made up of music experts from a variety of backgrounds. The panel usually includes musicians, music journalists, music presenters, music producers, composers and festival organisers. None of the judges can have an interest in the commercial success of any of the albums being discussed. There are no record label representatives, managers, publishers or music retailers on the panel.
The following people were on the 2014 judging panel:
Simon Frith (Chairman) – Author and Music Writer; Professor of Music, Edinburgh University
Annie Mac – DJ and broadcaster
Elisa Bray – Music Editor, The Independent
Obaro Ejimiwe (aka Ghostpoet) – Musician and songwriter
Greg Cochrane – Editor, NME.com
Jeff Smith – Head of Music, 6Music/Radio 2
John Kennedy – Presenter, ‘X-Posure’, Xfm
Kat Morris – Festival Director, The Great Escape
Kate Mossman – Music Writer and Broadcaster; Arts Editor, New Statesman
Lianne La Havas – Musician and songwriter
Mike Flynn – Music Writer; Deputy Editor Jazzwise
Nick Luscombe – DJ and broadcaster; founder ‘Musicity’
HOW IS THE INTEGRITY OF THE JUDGING PROCESS PROTECTED?
The integrity of the judging process is protected at all times. Details of the judging discussions are kept confidential to ensure that all members of the panel are able to express their opinions freely and openly as part of the process, without specific comments or views being attributed to them.
The results of any voting by the judges are not published. This is to ensure that all albums are always viewed as being equal and that no ranking system is employed at any stage of the process. All of the shortlisted artists are treated as having produced an ‘Album of the Year’. There can only be one overall winner each year and importantly, there are no runners up.
Nobody from the production company that runs the Prize has any influence over the judging panel’s decisions or votes. None of the organisers are members of the judging panel or cast any votes. It is the discussions and votes of the judging panel that determine which albums progress within the judging process.
Since the Prize began no other organisation, including sponsors and broadcasters, has exerted any influence over the judging process or shortlist / winner decisions.
One of the founding principles of the Mercury Prize is that all music be treated equally regardless of genre. This principle is followed at every stage of the entry and judging process.
WHY DON’T I HEAR MORE ABOUT THE ORGANISATION BEHIND THE PRIZE?
In order to ensure that as much media coverage as possible is concentrated on the artists and their music, it has been a policy since the Prize began that the production company behind the Prize does not engage in any publicity or PR activity other than that which directly benefits the artists that it’s promoting. The focus of the Mercury Prize is always on the music and the artists and their albums.
WHERE DO THE ENTRIES COME FROM?
Every year the UK music industry enters around 250 albums for the Prize ranging from well-established artists to new and emerging ones
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ENTRY CRITERIA?
Albums by British and Irish artists with a UK physical release date between Tuesday 10 September 2013 and Monday 8 September 2014 (inclusive) are eligible for the ‘2014 Albums of the Year’ competition. Albums need to be available to buy as a full release on CD in the UK and as a digital download.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO ENTER?
The fee to enter an album for the Prize is £170 + VAT. The fee helps cover the administrative costs associated with the process and hasn't increased for over 10 years.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FEES?
There are no additional fees or requests made for any other contributions or payments. All shortlisted artists and their managers are provided with complimentary tickets to the Awards Show