Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mercury Music Prize 2005

The annual UK and Ireland pop music award, the Mercury Prize, was announced this week amid the sort of publicity that this highly respected award has cultivated very well since it launched in 1992. The judging panel has frequently eschewed the more populist choices from the 12-strong shortlists, and the 2005 winner was no exception. The winner was Anthony and the Johnson's for the album 'I Am A Bird Now', which beat competition from the likes of Coldplay and the Kaiser Chiefs. In previous years, the more esoteric choices for winners have included Talvin Singh in 1999 (ahead of Blur, The Chemical Brothers, Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics) and Roni Size / Reprazent in 1997 (ahead of The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, The Prodigy, Radiohead and Suede). This studied avoidance of the populist vote certainly doesn't seem to do the Mercury Prize any harm in terms of the prestige and esteem of the award, and always helps to generate valuable publicity. Two things we'd like to add regarding this prize. Firstly, the benefits to the winners are huge; it was estimated that after Franz Ferdinand were award the 2004 prize, sales of their self-titled album doubled. And secondly, we just have to mention the name. Again. Sure, it must have been raised a hundred times or more in marketing circles, but really. The 'Mercury' prize? The name was given to the award by its original sponsors, the now defunct telecoms company Mercury. Unfortunate for all concerned that the company went out of business. But to keep their name on the award? Now we have the situation where the current sponsor, Nationwide, gets joint billing with a defunct brand - the award is officially titled the Nationwide Mercury Prize. Is it just me, or does this not foreground the transient and ephemeral nature of brands at the very point at which the sponsor - currently Nationwide - is seeking a far more positive emotional return on its investment?