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Mercury Prize


Mercury Prize

Mercury Prize
The Mercury Prize logo
Awarded for Best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland
Location United Kingdom
First awarded 1992
Official website .commercuryprize

The Mercury Prize, formerly called the Mercury Music Prize, 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,[1] from which the prize gets its name. It was later sponsored by Technics[2] (1998 to 2001), Panasonic[1] (2002 and 2003), and the Nationwide Building Society (2004 to 2008). Barclaycard became the Prize's sponsor in 2009.[3]

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 shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.[4][5][6] The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the awards usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the shortlist is announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are shortlisted, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known acts.[7] Each shortlisted artist receives a specially commissioned 'Albums of the Year' trophy at the Awards Show. Unlike some other music awards, the overall winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; as of 2014, the value of the prize money is £20,000. The winner also receives an additional winner's trophy.[8]

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 shortlisted artist, although Radiohead has never won the prize.[9]


  • Criticism 1
    • Lack of metal participation 1.1
  • Winners and shortlisted nominees 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The Mercury Prize can have a considerable effect on sales for those artists who are shortlisted. Elbow saw a 700% sales increase of their album 'The Seldom Seen Kid' after winning the Prize in 2008.[10][11] In their winner's speech, Elbow's frontman Guy Garvey said that winning the Mercury Prize was 'Quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to us'.[12][13] Similarly, sales of The xx's winning album rose by 450% the day after they won the 2010 Mercury Prize[14][15] and 2013 winner James Blake saw a 2,500% sales increase on Amazon after he was announced as the winner of the 2013 Mercury Prize.[16][17] 2011 winner PJ Harvey's album 'Let England Shake' jumped from number 181 to 24 in the UK official charts the week after the 2011 Awards Show.[18]

Despite being regarded by many as highly prestigious, it has been suggested that having an album nominated for or winning the Mercury Prize could be a curse on a career in music.[19][20]

In 2001, the band Gorillaz requested that their eponymous debut album be withdrawn from the shortlist, with cartoon bassist Murdoc Niccals saying that winning the award would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".[21][22]

All genres of music are eligible for entry, and it is stated that all are treated equally, with only the music on the album being taken into account.[4] Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury Prize judging panel, has said that albums are chosen because they are the "strongest" each year, rather than according to genre.[23] However, 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.[24] 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.[25][26] 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.[27][28][29]

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 and therefore eligible for the Prize, the band were based in the United States.[30][31] In 2006, Isobel Campbell's collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas, was included in the shortlist, despite Lanegan being American, as the album was eligible due to Campbell's British citizenship, while Guillemots, whose album was also shortlisted in 2006, contained band members from Brazil and Canada, although the majority were from the UK.[32]

Current eligibility criteria state that all albums must be available to buy as a full release on CD in the UK and as a digital download.[4] In September 2013, m b v, from the shortlist nominations and addressing the nomination criteria, which he claimed branded the album "virtually illegal".[33]

Lack of metal participation

Of all the Mercury Prize shortisted acts from 1992 to 2014, not one has been from the genre of heavy metal. In 2011, Mercury chair of judges Simon Frith said "[Metal] is a niche that a lot of people don't listen to."[34] However, Mercury Prize shortlists have featured albums from the rock genre, including Royal Blood (2014), Biffy Clyro (2010) and Glasvegas (2009).

Frith elaborated in a 2011 article by The Daily Telegraph saying, "Every year I get angry emails from academics in metal studies. There is a sort of music out there that doesn't really get entered, for whatever reason. It probably should because it's out there and there is an audience. But I suppose the big problem for metal is that part of the function of the Mercury Prize is to say, 'Here is some music you will never have heard of, and you'll like it'. I'm confident enough to argue that people outside jazz or folk will like those kind of albums. But some metal is so niche. It's under the radar."[35]

A 2011 article by The Guardian touched upon this subject saying that "the British mainstream media is institutionally biased against heavy metal," but ultimately argued that "the worst thing that could happen would be for the Mercury to acquiesce to the protesters' demands and introduce a token metal nomination to go alongside the token jazz and folk ones."[36] A 2013 article by Vice on the Mercury Prize said "Metal certainly never gets a look-in, not even on the official entry information form: 'The Prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica, classical…'"[37]

There does however seem to be some celebration in heavy metal that they are not represented by the awards. In 2014, James McMahon, editor of Kerrang!, said, "I think that the rock community has just decided that the Mercury is a load of tosh, and so aren't bothering to put any entries in. I can think of loads of albums that should be considered, but they won't because a) rock is such an insular, us versus them scene and b) because the labels and bands know they wouldn't stand a chance if they were nominated." Whilst James Sherry of Division Promotions, who represent metal act Black Sabbath, said "Who gives a shit? The Mercury is for the bland and the mainstream. Why would metal even want to be a part of it?"[38] However, for many, the 2014 shortlist was far from bland and mainstream with critics praising the award for recognising some of the most exciting music to be released in the UK during the previous year.[39][40][41][42]

Winners and shortlisted nominees

Two people (one vocalist and one guitarist) performing on stage
Inaugural winners Primal Scream

Five men sitting at a table at a press conference
Suede won in 1993.

Heather Small of M People, winners in 1994
Portishead, winners in 1995
1997's winner Roni Size
Gomez, winners in 1998
A man playing a guitar and singing on stage. He is wearing a denim jacket and woolen cap
2000 winner Badly Drawn Boy

A girl singing and playing a guitar on stage
PJ Harvey, winner in 2001 and 2011, the only artist to win the award twice

A man rapping on stage, with purple spotlights behind him
2003 winner Dizzee Rascal

Franz Ferdinand, winners in 2004
Arctic Monkeys won in 2006.
2007 winners Klaxons
2008 winners Elbow
2009 winner Speech Debelle
2010 winners The xx
2012 winners Alt-J
2013 winner James Blake
Year Winner Shortlisted nominees Ref(s)
1992 Primal Scream – Screamadelica [43]
1993 SuedeSuede [44]
1994 M PeopleElegant Slumming [45]
1995 PortisheadDummy [46]
1996 PulpDifferent Class [47]
1997 Roni Size/ReprazentNew Forms [46]
1998 GomezBring It On [46]
1999 Talvin SinghOk [48]
2000 Badly Drawn BoyThe Hour of Bewilderbeast [49]
2001 PJ HarveyStories from the City, Stories from the Sea [51]
2002 Ms. DynamiteA Little Deeper [52]
2003 Dizzee RascalBoy in da Corner [53]
2004 Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand [54]
2005 Antony and the JohnsonsI Am a Bird Now [31]
2006 Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not [55]
2007 KlaxonsMyths of the Near Future [56]
2008 ElbowThe Seldom Seen Kid [57]
2009 Speech DebelleSpeech Therapy [58]
2010 The xxxx [59]
2011 PJ HarveyLet England Shake [60]
2012 Alt-JAn Awesome Wave [61][62]
2013 James BlakeOvergrown [63][64]
2014 Young FathersDead [65]
2015 To be announced on 20 November 2015 [66]

See also


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  34. ^ Clash – Five Points For Mercury Prize Reform
  35. ^ Daily Telegraph – Mercury Prize: Here Come The Girls
  36. ^ The Guardian – Alexis Petridis On Heavy Metal
  37. ^ Vice – Questions The Mercury Prize Doesn't Want To Answer
  38. ^ Clash – Does It Matter If Metal Doesn't Make The Mercury
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External links

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