Not the Brits, the Blands

The UK music industry's awards night has gone pop-lite. But it'll lose kudos rather than sales. By Susie Mesure
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The Independent Culture

Time was when the Brits vied with the Grammys for kudos in the music calendar. Not any more. With pop-lite nominees including Leona Lewis, Mika and Kate Nash far outweighing industry heavyweights such as Arctic Monkeys, quality music acts are more likely to queue up to knock this Wednesday's event than to collect an award. The industry's big night out is descending into the battle of the "blands".

Craig David, the R&B singer who was up for six gongs in 2001, yesterday panned the award ceremony for failing to represent the UK music industry. "The year that I was nominated for six, I couldn't have sold any more records or had any more number ones... To still not pick up one proved to me that, however the voting system is and whatever the excuses were made, it just didn't really represent what was going on," he said.

The rapper Dizzee Rascal, one of the country's most celebrated hip-hop artists, snubbed at this year's awards, added his condemnation in an interview with The Independent on Sunday. "I watched the Brits when I was a kid, when it was Blur versus Oasis. That was exciting. After that? I've been there, seen what it's about, OK." He will not be among the guests at Earls Court on Wednesday night. "I don't think I've been invited." His category – Urban – was dropped in 2006.

Even Girls Aloud, who are up for best British group and have managed to retain a veneer of cachet despite being a television show creation, have no time for the Brits. Speaking before their nomination, Nadine Coyle said: "If we won a Brit now, I would send it back."

Industry observers are also keen to take a pop at the event. "The awards themselves are bestowed seemingly solely on the basis of commercial success, with little or no import attached to creative achievement and influence," said Paul Rees, editor of Q. "Swathes of important, exciting music is perennially ignored, or at best receives a token mention."

Yet, come Thursday morning, the newspapers will be full of stories about who won. So why do we still care about the awards, which first aired in 1977, featuring work from The Beatles and Cliff Richard?

"If you want a big glittering celebration of the British music industry, then the Brits is good for that," said Dan Silver, associate editor of the NME. "You'll always get that uncoolness, but it kind of works for them – millions of people around the world watch it and... I don't think they care what people think."

The event, which ITV1 will broadcast live to upwards of five million UK viewers, plus thousands more in some 40 countries around the globe, still packs a punch where it counts for the music industry – at the tills. In the week after the awards last year, individual artist album sales for those nominated soared 21 per cent. Expect the same effect over the next 10 days – despite the paucity of talent on display.

Additional reporting by Paul Bignell