The award that isn't always a sales success

You don't have to be a Mercury prize winner to drift into obscurity – but it helps. The 2009 winner, the rapper Speech Debelle, and Ms Dynamite (2002) are examples of winners whose commercial prospects dived after their moment of triumph.

Even the prize's supporters admit that awarding the dance act M People the honour in 1994 over Blur's Parklife and Pulp's His 'n' Hers was not a far-sighted decision by the judging panel.

Some Mercury winners accept the award with humility and continue to plough their own musical furrow. Portishead (1995), Talvin Singh (1999) and Antony and The Johnsons (2005) never courted the mainstream.

Occasionally the judges do get it right. The reformed Suede are still playing their 1993-winning debut album to festival crowds. Dizzee Rascal's Boy In Da Corner (2003) announced the arrival of a lasting "grime" talent. Elbow's popular 2008 win helped a cult band achieve overdue mainstream recognition.

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