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Why the BRITs aren’t just So White

Kimberley Manderson

Triangle

As the hashtag #BRITSsowhite sweeps across the UK causing furore and racism in abundance, you have to wonder, is the race of nominees the only issue with this trite old awards ceremony?

The answer is no, though that shouldn’t detain from the important issue that there is in fact a serious lack of nominations celebrating anyone who isn’t white. However, these other issues also come to play in the making of the ‘so white’ ceremony.

It’s no secret that the BRITs has been a farcical affair for as long as at least my brain can remember, and whilst watching Spice Girls accidentally flash, or middle aged women take a tumble in a cape may provide light comic relief, it doesn’t detract from the bigger issue.

Diversity – or lack thereof

This year the ceremony is being hounded for its lack of diversity specifically towards people of colour, but the truth is that the BRITs has long been an elitist awards ceremony focusing on a select few with hardly a drop of diversity across the board, whether that be racially, ethnically, gender based or genre based.

For goodness sake, the judging panel thought there were so few women who deserved to be celebrated for the music they made this past year, they gave one nomination spot to a (albeit highly talented and respected) female who passed away almost 5 years ago.

Not to detract from the issue that those on Twitter are currently focusing on, but it would be a waste to focus all this effort on one aspect of what’s wrong with the Awards without trying to tackle the whole affair.

Music for Validation

Whilst I don’t think artists in any genre or race make music solely for validation and recognition at awards ceremonies, if there is an annual ceremony which is meant to highlight and reflect the successes in the industry over the last year, then surely those who have been successful should at the very least be nominated.

For too long I have noticed bands or artists nominated for a breakthrough act, where as far as I’m concerned, they’ve been about for years and have had quite reasonable success for a decent period of time. Perhaps they have already been lauded by Q, NME, MOBO or Ivor Novello before, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue with the BRITs, or that they should stick to the awards ceremonies which have previously commended them. Personal grievances and music taste aside, there are a lot of great artists in Britain from all walks of life making all sorts of great music which is going unnoticed by the BRITs, whilst achieving successes elsewhere.

Rap and Grime may not be the top genres on my Spotify, but I can appreciate the popularity and success of those in those genres, and respect those currently representing both in the UK at the moment. Many taking their points to Twitter feel that the BRITs committee do not, and that they choose to ignore what they don’t understand or don’t like to listen to. This is a valid argument, with many now calling for the sales figures and other statistical back-up to come into question when deciding on nominees.

Using the Top Sales to Determine Nominees

It’s no longer enough to just focus on the top 500 album and top 1,000 singles by sale – because those aren’t necessarily the most popular albums/tracks of the past year. The way we consume music has rapidly changed since the dawn of the BRITs, when a cassette tape was probably the format of choice for most listeners. Nowadays many people who enjoy and consume music don’t necessarily fork out for a single or album. Streaming has a lot to answer for, and if people are choosing to access their favourite artist’s music library by Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud or any other format, then surely these figures should also come into play in determining whether artists are successful or popular enough to receive a nod at the ceremony?

Of course the BRITs has gotten it right a few times, with many (if not arguably all) of the previous Critic’s Choice Award winners going on to have great musical success post-win. However, the overall feeling is that the ceremony is out of touch, outdated and needs a massive revamp to appeal to anyone currently enjoying some of the great music our wee nation has to offer right now. Instead of bickering over hashtags, those with an opinion should take as much action as they can – whether that be by voting with your feet, starting/signing a petition or something much more creative and useful than I can think of.

Hopefully this is the wakeup call the ceremony needs to haul it into the 21st Century.