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Clubbing together: The International Dance Music Awards ceremony takes place tonight. James Style examines an attempt to mass-market the dance scene

All the stars in the dance music firmament will gather tonight at the Hammersmith Apollo for a new awards ceremony, The International Dance Music Awards (IDA). A benefit event, with the proceeds going to music industry charity Dance Aid, the IDA have been put together by Kiss FM, the London-wide dance music station and dance magazine Mix-Mag. The evening starts at 7.30pm and takes the form of other awards ceremonies: celebs handing out the awards in different categories, intermingled with live performances. Those on stage include: the Shamen, the Prodigy, Dina Carroll, Apache Indian, Gabrielle and M-People as well as appearances from the Stereo MC's, Soul II Soul, Shara Nelson and Alison Limerick. Tickets, priced at pounds 15, are apparently selling fast.

The International Dance Awards come just before their big brother, the Brits, the mainstream UK music awards. Ironically, after much criticism, the Brits are for the first time including a dance music award. Lindsey Weskar, head of programming at Kiss and organiser of the IDA, does not find this a coincidence: 'It's taken the IDA to shake up the Brits.' He goes on to say that he had lunch with Rob Dickens, head of Warner Brothers UK and organiser of the Brits, and asked him to become involved with the IDA. A month later the Brits announced a dance music category.

The IDA are not entirely new, having evolved out of the once great but now defunct Disco Mix Awards (DMC) which died an embarassing death last year at the Albert Hall. The press and hospitality boxes heaved with wined and dined worthies, while the floor of the hall, reserved for the paying punters, boasted a paltry four bods in anoraks.

The International Dance Music Awards reflect the mass-marketing of the dance scene. With big corporate sponsors, this is a ceremony intended, like the Brits, for television. This change has not been welcomed in all quarters. Jaimie D'Cruz, editor of club magazine Touch, was originally on the nominations panel but recently announced that he no longer wanted to be involved. His main criticism is that the winners in each category are voted for by the readers of Mix-Mag and Select magazines, both of which tend to focus on house and indie acts to the exclusion of black artists. He also maintains that the nominations in each category were decided by people within the record companies and the artist's own managers. He recently wrote: 'An award ceremony which doesn't contain a single singer in its Best Male Dance category is not worthy of the support of anyone genuinely concerned with music . . . If the awards ceremony is to be about nothing more than hype and money then we have plenty of those already.'

Lindsey Weskar is clearly upset, but will not be drawn on specifics. 'We've tried to be positive, to organise an event that would do dance music some good and make some money for charity. When I first had the idea I wanted it to be something people could unite around. We wanted every aspect of dance music represented.'

The 3500 people expected at tonight's show will probably be sublimely oblivious to all this insider bad blood. For them it's a rare chance to see many of their favourite acts all on one bill. Whatever the criticism, the awards are definitely a welcome step forward, giving this type of music the platform it deserves.

The International Dance Music Awards are held tonight 7.30pm at the Hammersmith Apollo, Queen Caroline St, London W6 (081-741 4868), tickets pounds 15

The awards include the best dance act of the year, best male, best female, best newcomer, tune of the year, as well as best club, best DJ and a whole host of other minor awards.

(Photographs omitted)