Predicting the Next Big Thing is the holy grail in the music business. But the artists singled out by such predictions have to shoulder a crushing weight of expectation: all too often, they crumple. For the BBC, it has become an annual exercise in controversy. Every December, the corporation publishes a list of 15 acts it forecasts will be big next year, and names an eventual winner the following January.
Tomorrow, the longlist for the BBC Sound of 2013 will be announced. Some winners in recent years have gone on to enjoy major recording contracts, and include Jessie J and Adele. But a mention on the list is no guarantee of success. In the 10 years the poll has been conducted, there have been many casualties.
One such was The Bravery, a New York-based band that topped the list in 2005. After much hype, a savage backlash from music fans meant that only one album was released in Britain, and the band fizzled away. Winning was "a blessing and a curse", according to Pete Galli, the band's manager. "The record label pushed the 'nuclear' button," he said, and people had the band "shoved down their throats".
Last year's poll was conducted by asking 184 "tastemakers" to choose their top three artists of the year. Strict criteria are set out to make sure only new acts are chosen.
The winner of last year's poll was Michael Kiwanuka, who supported Adele on tour but so far has not troubled the UK Top 10. His style has been compared to Van Morrison and Bill Withers, but disappointing commercial performance could make him the first dud choice since The Bravery.
Clare Maguire, who lost out to Jessie J in 2011, struggled with alcoholism while she promoted her first album. "Two years on, I'm enjoying making new music again for an album which should come out next year. I'm older and wiser now, more comfortable in my own skin."