The lobbying has already begun with discreet whispers in influential ears. The Sound of 2014, an accolade which guarantees waves of media coverage and a head-start in the charts for one promising newcomer, is currently being decided in record industry back rooms.
If the names Sam Smith and Royal Blood don’t currently register widespread recognition, then wait until January.
Soulful vocalist Smith and the Brighton rock duo are set to be the latest beneficiaries of the process by which a coterie of music insiders select a number of promising newcomers who will be “launched” in the new year amid a hail of “ones to watch” polls and special awards.
The BBC’s Sound of… poll, compiled by journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and DJs, unveiled in the first week of January, has previously catapulted Adele, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J to stardom after topping the list.
The poll is followed by the announcement of the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice winner, which gives further television exposure to a name who can expect a huge record company push and radio industry backing. Tom Odell took the award this year, following the breakthrough enjoyed by 2012 winner, Emeli Sandé.
Industry lobbying is no less fierce than the campaigns designed to influence Oscar voters. Tim Ingham, editor of Music Week, the industry’s trade publication, said: “There is a central pool of acts who are pimped out to judging panels. But you can’t blame the industry for putting such importance on these lists.
“We’re operating in a market where the volume of artist album sales has never been lower. Anything that can create noise around a new release is going to boost a record label’s marketing campaign. There’s a lot of lobbying around a limited pool of priority acts.”
The BBC Sound Of… poll has proved a “reliable barometer of success”, Mr Ingham said, not least because it guarantees that Radio 1 and other BBC outlets will support the winner. The Sound of 2013, LA sisters Haim, scored a number one with their debut album.
The “ones to watch” polls, which in recent years have favoured female solo artists, the most easily saleable commodity for the industry, are not infallible, however.
The BBC tastemakers overlooked Ed Sheeran, who has sold 15 million records. Meanwhile Mona, a hotly tipped US rock band who topped the 2011 MTV Brand New poll, flopped. “They were the sound of now but not the sound of 6 months ahead,” said Mr Ingham.
One name certain to appear prominently in the 2014 lists is Sam Smith, a 21-year-old singer from Hertfordshire, who has already enjoyed a top ten hit with dance duo Disclosure.
Smith is set to release his debut album next year and “the time has come for Sam to take centre stage” according to an email sent out by the publicity team. The email, titled Ones To Watch 2014, offered 15 new artists for poll consideration.
Vevo, the music video platform, which racks up 650 million monthly views, has included Smith in its first “DSCVR Ones To Watch” list. Ella Eyre, already backed by Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, and singer-songwriter Dan Croll also feature in Vevo’s list.
Mr Ingham also believes that guitar bands, currently a tough sell, are set for a comeback. “If Radio 1 makes good on its promise to back young British guitar bands, then Royal Blood will get a lot of people excited.”