Choice Music Prize 2011


And the nominees are -
And So I Watch You From Afar – Gangs (Richter Collective)
Bell X1 – Bloodless Coup (Belly Up Records)
Cashier No 9 – To The Death of Fun (Bella Union)
Lisa Hannigan - Passenger (Hoop)
The Japanese Popstars – Controlling Your Allegiance (EMI)
Jape – Ocean of Frequency (Music Is For Losers)
Patrick Kelleher & His Cold Dead Hands – Golden Syrup (Osaka Records)
Pugwash – The Olympus Sounds (EMI/1969 Records)
Tieranniesaur – Tieranniesaur (Popical Island)
We Cut Corners – Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards (Delphi)
I wasn't going to reflect on this here but as it's the major Music Prize in Ireland it would be rude of me not to share my thoughts. 
Isn't this a generally safe list! The hipsters would be up in arms if Patrick Kelleher, Tieranniesaur or ASIWYFA didn't get the nod. Add in the established acts like Bell X1, Jape and Pugwash with the debut acts We Cut Corners and Cashier No.9 and you have a very safe list. At the time of writing there's only a few comments and few negative views over on Jim's blog! Is this due to a lack of passion or a resignation that it's the same old business from the people who are supposed to be in the know? The 11 judges bring their own politics to the table and have through the selection process picked their own favourites from 2011. However it's impossible to have heard all the albums on the shortlist. So the bands getting the attention and appearing on the shortlist are the well resourced bands [Bell X1, Lisa Hannigan, Cashier No.9] the popular bands with the establishment [Pugwash, Jape, The Japanese Popstars] and the bloggers [hipsters?] favourites [ASIWYFA, Patrick Kelleher, Tieranniesaur, We Cut Corners]. The Olympia on March 8th will be so cosy! 
Why was there no Traditional act in the shortlist?
Why was there no self-released albums either? [Bell X1 doesn't count!]
Why is there no folk act on the shortlist?
To any independent Irish artist who reads this blog and are a tad disappointed they never made the shortlist don't despair as some of the ten acts above will go the same way as Cane 141, The Chalets [2005], Messiah J & the Expert [2006], Dry Country, Super Stanley 800 [2007], Oppenheimer [2008] ....etc! Even winning the thing doesn't help you with longevity and/or give you a large fanbase! 
We Cut Corners to win for great songs, amazing musicianship and Conall's spectacular vocals! 

Comments

Anonymous said…
That Judge Naomi Neu made a statement last year that if you weren't being paid well for gigs it is simply because you weren't good. This shows a total ignorance of the reality of the music industry so she must totally protected within the little cliques of the irish established music scene. I think that attitude says it all really. The choice awards = The bandwagon parade
Naomi said…
Oh hi Anonymous, at least I have an attitude. Yeah, I reckon musicians should make money from gigs. So much music is given away free online, if a band can't generate a paying audience they have to ask why.
LandoPadraig said…
I'd like to point out that the Tieranniesaur album was self-released. Popical Island is a collective of people who help each other out, it's not a label bankrolling albums.
Unknown said…
Fair point Padraig about Popical Island! It's great there is an album from Popical on the choice list!
nialler9 said…
I've already registered my annoyance of your use of the term hipster on Twitter so...

think it's a decent list and not safe. Sure I'd like to see more maginalised music in there but that's the nature of the award. if you had 10 judges picking one album each it'd be different but a multi-voted list is always going to have the middleground of all tastes.

Does Lisa H not count as folk??


The issue of self-released vs label is not that clear cut as you make out either. These labels - Richter, Popical, Music is For Losers, Osaka, Delphi are not fat cat record labels.

They are small independent labels with little money doing it on a budget and succeeding. Please don't persist with the idea that there's some sort of conspiracy against independent music in Ireland or something.

Out of interest, which albums would you have expected and liked to see on the list? Then examine what those bands did to get noticed by others to be considered for a nomination. It's the attitude that the bands are waiting for a handout that is long gone now as this actually very DIY Choice list tells me.
Se├ín said…
The list this year is very safe, but surely having a token folk/traditional/self-released album(s) would only serve to make the list even safer?

The judges obviously felt that there were no releases in these categories worthy of inclusion. And while I think this reflects more on the choice of judges than the music released this year, I'd rather have the judges pick albums within their radar rather then blindly picking a folk/trad/self-released album in order to fill a quota for such releases.
gugai said…
I'm a bit perplexed by the continued use of the word safe in relation to the nominees. Really? I think obvious might be a better word - some of these records are superb.
Unknown said…
@Niall Yeah I remember the discussion on OTR in responce to my outrageous suggestion that HWCHs be a free festival. That is that bands should be making themselves and their music known in a million different ways to bloggers and journalists. And yes while agree to a point that bands need to market their music properly I've have numerous conversations with bands and artists who cannot get the attention of many of industry people like for instance those 11 judges. So does that mean that for instance Stuart Clarke picked the best albums from the shortlist or the best albums he's heard this year. How does a band like say 'I Draw Slow' for instance get Stuart Clarke to listen to their album? Genuine question! PR? Emails upon emails to HP! To me Choice is a fancy popularity contest. It's the best we have to shine a light on a good album but it's weak because the music industry in Ireland is a bit of a mess at the minute. No one know what works!

Albums that should have been on the list include any of my top 20, in particular Favourite Sons, I Draw Slow, Marc O'Reilly .... but I doubt if many judges heard these!
Unknown said…
@gugai Yeah for me We Cut Corners, Lisa H, Cashier No.9 .... superb
jools said…
What an idiotic post Naomi.

Ok, so all acts that aren't generating a paying audience should down tools?.

They shouldn't bother trying to develop their identity or sound or try to build a fanbase? How many acts over the years have only found out who they are or produced their breakthrough album after years of gigging/development/artistic soul-searching. Utter nonsense.

There are hundreds of Irish acts out there with little or no following but with the potential to be truly great - but it can take time - and acts mature at different rates. Just like people. And you have quite a bit of maturing to do yourself if the innocence of that post is anything to go by.

Nialler9 - I agree with most of what you said in response to 2UIBestow's post. I don't feel there's a self-released vs label issue. Definitely not. But I will say, and I think this is what 2UIBestow means, that the list was fairly predictable - indeed, there were plenty of journos/bloggers on Twitter etc over the last week or so that predicted it 90-100% correctly.

A fair chunk of those selected are popular with a certain profile and set and acts that generally get coverage on 2UIBestow's blog rarely get on to the list.

The likes of Tieranniesaur, Jape, ASIWYFA, Patrick Kelleher, We Cut Corners et al appeal to that set.

"Out of interest, which albums would you have expected and liked to see on the list? Then examine what those bands did to get noticed by others to be considered for a nomination"

That part interested me. What could other artists have done to be considered for nomination? Genuine question.
jools said…
@PeterN I'll throw The Man Whom's album into the ring as one that would be worthy of inclusion but wouldn't really be considered.
Nay said…
@jools
At no stage did I disavow identity or 'building' an audience. I'm completely in line with the idea of bands working away at refining their craft is exactly what I advocate = that 'fanbase' you refer to is the paying audience in my comment. When music is good enough to make people leave the house to pay and come see you, a band know they deserve to get paid. I understand there are a lot of free gigs in place to keep things moving, and these serve musicians very well in terms of generating new listeners. There comes a time when bands have a right to ask for money in return for finding their identity and building that fanbase, and if they're good, people pay to get their money's worth.
Anonymous said…
Naomi> by attitude you mean bad? ignorant? yeah, you obviously are utterly oblivious to the real music world. It worries me that people think that your opinion matters and you should be put on a judging panel.
Nay said…
@Anonymous You shouldn't worry about what people think. And what's the real music world? I go to gigs, I buy albums, I talk about the music I hear. What part of that exactly do you have a problem with?
onemaninthewall said…
Anon,

If you are performing for years and you haven't ever been paid for a gig it means that you are either not interested in being paid (playing for playing's sake), or not very good at something: it could be the performance side of things, or it could be the marketing/business side.
There is an easy way to limit it not remove the argument of only buzz bands getting nominated and that is to do what the Mercurys do.

In order to be eligible to be nominated you need to apply. Applications are £40 per album. This helps cover admin costs and more importantly removes the chaf. Secondly you need to fill out a detailed application form and send reviews and press clippings along with 25 copies of the album.

Only after all the judges receive all the albums and press packs do the start nominating for the short list. This levels the playing field significantly. There will always be more high profile bands then underground bands listed as it is industry and media judging and these bands have certain bands in their their ears and minds.

As is, having a list of all albums sent to the judges with now music, bio, press clippings attached is not a far system, no matter what your argument. The Mercurys do insist on a physical release that I don't agree on. If we did that Cast of Cheers would have been exempt last year for better of for worse.

Peter's argument is that this is an oblivious list, that has no surprises. And mayber we dont need surprises but the system is somewhat flawed at the moment and it wouldn't take much to fix.

PS. HWCH should be a free concert. Its suppose to be there to promote Irish acts so why not make it free so more people will come. Ireland is too small with virtually no industry, for us us to use the same system as In The City etc...

(excuse spelling. From Phone)
kDamo said…
It takes something special to stand out amongst all the contradictory nonsense here, but apparently...

a financial barrier = a level playing field.

Insisting that bands pay a fee to apply and send all those hard copies, etc would not help anyone but the Choice Prize accountants. You're only going to exclude bands operating on a shoestring budget and restrict it to the bigger, well-known bands who believe they're in with a chance of winning. How "safe" would the shortlist be in this scenario?

If you think the Mercury judges listen through to every one of the countless albums submitted to that prize, you're kidding yourself. They'll listen to what they can and what seems interesting to them, but when it comes down to it, the ones they'll vote for are the ones they love the most and are more than likely familiar with in advance of the nomination process (through their professional work in the industry most likely).

Really surprised all the vocal support for token nominations for trad/jazz albums hasn't resulted in a seperate prize for such niche genres yet. Perhaps some people know more about moaning than they do about music.
jools said…
@Naomi

"At no stage did I disavow identity or 'building' an audience"

Really? Well I don't see anything in your comment that legislates for artists building an audience. Here, let me remind you what you said...

"Yeah, I reckon musicians should make money from gigs. So much music is given away free online, if a band can't generate a paying audience they have to ask why".

Maybe you were just being glib and smartarsed but you're on the Choice judging panel - you should probably take a little more care with your sweeping statements.
jools said…
@Naomi

And you're right, plenty of bands do give away music for free, and some of it's great but some of those acts don't have large live followings. Just because music is free doesn't mean that a significant mass of people get to hear it. I can only hope that you don't choose what to listen to based on populism and live followings.
Unknown said…
@kDamo Can I stress that I'm not moaning by making my points in the original post! In general I'm happy that the acts will gain new fans, sell more records etc so I'm supportive of the awards! Doesn't stop me from writing that the list was safe and it that pleased everyone in the know! [Journos, bloggers, labels, indie labels, collective labels, Hot Press etc]. Thanks for your comment!
@kDamo Yes charging a fee will deter people, that's the point. If they're not serious about the prize then they won't enter. But if a band are looking for both acclaim and exposure for their album that they have poured sweat and money into, then a fee is not going to be an issue. 

It doesn't need to be near the £40 mark, this is just what they do in they charge UK, but by having some charge, be it €5, will remove those that are not serious and give those that are a better opportunity. 

The main point of my comment was having a system where all albums are available to the judges. It also doesn't have to be physicals albums. It could be a Soundcloud dropbox. 

To discredit a system like this on the basis of the judges not giving some albums a fair listen is simply ignorant. It would guarantee that all albums would reach all judges. Where as the current system doesn't guarantee that any judges will receive any albums. 

I'd much prefer to see a prize where all the info was laid bare. Even if there is a level of favouritism (in the disguise of awareness).

At least the small bands who don't have a marketing budget will have some hope. Sure you can't bend people's arms and force them to listen, but you only need one strong supporter to get a nomination and at least this way everyone would have a chance. 
nialler9 said…
"I've have numerous conversations with bands and artists who cannot get the attention of many of industry people like for instance those 11 judges."

Peter,

Well, that would suggest that they don't have a very big appeal and that maybe, they're just not that great? I'm tired of this idea about Irish bands and promoters moaning about nobody listening to them. In my personal experience, it's usually the uninspiring bands that peddle this shit.


I think your taste in music is very different to those 11 judges so maybe you should be on the judging panel in future as someone who represents the more folky side of things.

"How does a band like say 'I Draw Slow' for instance get Stuart Clarke to listen to their album? "

How do you know he didn't listen and just didn't like it? Same goes for the others you listed. Which leads me to...

Jools - I put the predictability down to the fact that the Choice with its middleground of judges is reasonably easy to predict considering prior media attention, accumulative votes, established media judges etc. I actually voted for something in my top spot the year I did it and it didn't make it in because no-one else voted for it or not enough did.

"A fair chunk of those selected are popular with a certain profile and set and acts that generally get coverage on 2UIBestow's blog rarely get on to the list."

Well then is it fair to say 2UIBestow is in a minority and for the stuff he really likes to be on the Choice, he'd need two or three likeminded individuals to be voting for them in a given year? Maybe the Choice judges ARE too similar and should selected from a wider field?

"That part interested me. What could other artists have done to be considered for nomination? Genuine question."

If an act does absolutely no promotion how it can expect critical acclaim or a Choice nomination in the current Choice system? I guess why I was asking Peter that was to examine on a case by case basis of the acts chosen what their profile is and was and what to to deduce from that.

I should qualify that by saying that there are those of us who don't wait for bands to send them music but I can't say we're in the majority.
Unknown said…
Niall, that's very much for your measured responses to the points made by myself and others. The only issue in your last comment is the firmly held belief from many journalists out there:

"I'm tired of this idea about Irish bands and promoters moaning about nobody listening to them. In my personal experience, it's usually the uninspiring bands that peddle this shit. "

The only exception that comes to mind at the minute is Lisa O'Neill who's debut album from 2009 was never a contender for the shortlist. However due to 2 years of consistent touring and tv/radio exposure would be the firm favourite for future Choice nods. It's not always the uninspiring artist that gets overlooked. I doubt if a really good artist who believes in their capabilities would be moaning at lack of exposure/opportunity anyway!

Again I appreciate ya taking the time to contribute here!