On Tuesday, the panel of Barclaycard Mercury Prize judges will reveal their shortlist of the 12 albums of the year. You can be sure that it will include those which have made commercial impact (Mumford & Sons, Plan B, Ellie Goulding), an idiosyncratic act (These New Puritans, Wild Beasts), jazz (Portico Quartet), folk (Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn), indie (Editors) and classical (McAlmont and Nyman).
Since 1992, the annual prize has set out to provide a platform for the best albums by British and Irish artists, with a criterion of excellence rather than sales performance. Last year's winner, London rapper Speech Debelle, had sold just 3,000 copies of her winning debut, Speech Therapy, before her nomination for the award. All artists that make the shortlist enjoy a surge in album sales – Speech saw a 4000 per cent rise of her debut album on the day after claiming her prize.
Sometimes the awards get it right – as in the case of Elbow, whose Seldom Seen Kid won them a much- deserved prize 20 years into their career in 2008. Sometimes it's downright contentious, as in the case of M People's win over Blur's Parklife in 1994. To qualify, albums have to have been released any time between mid-July last year to this Monday, the day before nominations.
Click on the image for The Independent's pick of who we think should be on the judging panel's shortlist on Tuesday.