Andy Gill: A tribute to the musical world beyond Simon Cowell

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Whether this comes in time to save the music industry from its ongoing implosion remains to be seen, but in some regards, this year the Brit Awards almost got things right. The attempt to come to terms with the broader constituency of music lovers should be applauded.

For too long the industry's showpiece beanfeast has seemed like some cultural hangover of Thatcher's notorious claim that "there is no alternative", insisting on promoting the same infantile modes with ever-decreasing returns. Small wonder that a genuine, self-generated success like Plan B should express such utter disinterest in winning an award.

As it happened, he did win the title of Best Male, which was less of a shock than Laura Marling winning the Best Female category, the first time it has gone to anyone outside mainstream pop. Given the comparatively slim sales generated by her two albums, it's clearly in recognition of her quality, rather than her commercial potential.

The award of Best British Album to Mumford & Sons likewise confirmed the industry's belated recognition of the folk revival, previously regarded as merely a fringe interest. But it must have taken a sharp intake of breath for the panel to ignore the claim of Take That's reunion album, a clear front-runner in terms of sales alone; they had to be satisfied with the title of Best British Group, while the International Album award went to Arcade Fire, another acknowledgement that large-scale musical life still thrives outside the fancy of Simon Cowell.

The event's one sop to the traditional infant-pop fans came with the International Breakthrough award going to Justin Bieber, who couldn't manage the same feat in the US Grammy Awards, where the prize went to jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding. It's the kind of shock the Brits are several years away from springing.

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