|Barclaycard Mercury Prize|
The Mercury Prize logo
|Awarded for||Best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland|
The Mercury Prize, formerly called the Mercury Music Prize and currently known as the Barclaycard Mercury Prize for sponsorship reasons, is an annual music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established by the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards. The prize was originally sponsored by Mercury Communications, a brand owned by Cable & Wireless, from which the prize gets its name. It was later sponsored by Technics (1998 to 2001), Panasonic (2002 and 2003), and the Nationwide Building Society (2004 to 2008). Barclaycard became the Prize's current sponsor in March 2009.
Any album released by a British or Irish artist, or by a band where over 50% of the members are British or Irish, may be submitted for consideration by their record label. The nomination shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music executives, journalists and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland. The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the award usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the nominations are announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are nominated, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known nominees. Unlike some other music awards, the winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; as of 2013, the value of the prize money is £20,000.
To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the award on more than one occasion (in 2001 and 2011). She was also the first female solo artist to receive the award and ties with Radiohead as the most nominated artist, although Radiohead has never won the prize.
Both the value of the Mercury Prize and the nomination criteria have been the subject of ongoing criticism, from artists and music journalists alike.
In 2001, the band Gorillaz requested that their eponymous debut album be withdrawn from the nomination shortlist, with vocalist and songwriter Damon Albarn saying that winning the award would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".
Although all genres of music are eligible for entry, and it is claimed that all are treated equally, with only the music on the album being taken into account, the presence of classical, folk and jazz recordings has been cited by some as anomalous, arguing that comparisons with the other nominees can be invidious. Classical acts to have an album nominated have included Sir John Tavener, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Gavin Bryars and Nicholas Maw. None has ever won, and there has not been a shortlisted classical album since 2002.
The Mercury Prize also has a reputation for being awarded to outside chances rather than the favourites. The 1994 award winner was Elegant Slumming by the pop act M People, which some felt was a controversial decision considering the shortlist included popular albums from Britpop figureheads Paul Weller, Blur and Pulp, and electronica band The Prodigy.
Other music journalists critical of the awards stated that the 2005 award should not have been given to Antony and the Johnsons for their album I Am a Bird Now as, although they are British-born, the band were based in the United States. In 2006, Isobel Campbell's collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas, was included in the shortlist, despite Lanegan being American, while Guillemots, whose album was also nominated in 2006, contained band members from Brazil and Canada.
Current eligibility criteria state that all albums must be available through the main digital and physical music retailers as both CD and digital download, and have full digital and national physical distribution throughout the UK. In September 2013, My Bloody Valentine vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields addressed concerns about the award in an interview with The Guardian, accusing the Mercury Prize's organisers of "banning" the band's self-released album, m b v, from the shortlist nominations and addressing the corporateness of the nomination criteria, which he claimed branded the album "virtually illegal".
Winners and shortlisted nominees
- Choice Music Prize (Ireland)
- Polaris Music Prize (Canada)
- Prix Constantin (France)
- Shortlist Music Prize (United States)
- Australian Music Prize (Australia)
- Nordic Music Prize (Nordic countries)
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