NAO- AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
BRITS ALL RIGHT
So this time last year, there was uproar on both sides of the pond when the #OscarsSoWhite and #BritsSoWhite tweets were bouncing across the globe demanding more diversity and an equal playing field for everyone.
Very quickly both brands responded by re-hauling their voting academies, and whilst there was much cynicism on the part of the public, music and film industries and indeed the new panelists themselves, this week, within just a few months, it was proven to have worked.
In one of the most clear and powerful case studies to date about how diversity strategies work, the UK’s BRIT Awards (British Record Industry Trust), which is the biggest music show from the UK that airs globally, has stepped up to the plate, acknowledged its short-comings and made positive change.
EMELI SANDE AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
A few months ago myself and many other names like singer Lily Allen and grime star Stormzy, joined in the heated debate as to why the BRITs never seemed to acknowledge the British black music acts that came from rap backgrounds. One famous female black music act was run into the ground on social media for her colour blind comments which suggested that there was no problem.
In a few months the umbrella brand that runs The Brit Awards – The BPI – has removed around a third of the more stalwart voters on the academy who were no longer involved in the UK music industry, and added a fresh line up of younger, more female and more voters from ethnic backgrounds (including me – I ticked every box!) that were more representative overall of the UK’s make up, leading to a totally different type of line up of star name nominees acknowledged this year.
JASMINE DOTIWALA AT THE BRITS LAUNCH 2017.
This weekend, the BRIT Awards revealed in a live show televised across the UK on ITV, its 2017 nominees and boy was it a revelation! The nominee make-up was totally different to previous years where we were more used to, erm, a certain type of act from a very specific background getting a nod of honour.
CRAIG DAVID PERFORMS AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
Following these changes, there are over 20 nominations for BAME artists at this year’s awards. Black acts like Craig David, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Skepta have all been nominated for the best British male category alongside David Bowie whilst black female artists Nao, Emile Sande and Lianne La Havas are nominated for best British female, while grime star Stormzy who called the awards “embarrassing” last year for ignoring grime artists, has been shortlisted for best British breakthrough. A big difference.
MICAHEL KIWANUKA AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
This year one of grime music’s biggest names – Skepta – is leading with three nominations. This, after years of most UK black music acts as well as the grime music genre being totally over-looked. Skepta shares this top-billing with the UK’s biggest girl band, pop starlets, Little Mix who also lead with three. The band will also perform at this year’s ceremony as well as The 1975 and Emeli Sandé.
Skepta’s three nominations are for British Male Solo Artist, British Breakthrough Act and Mastercard British Album of the Year for the critically acclaimed album ‘Konnichiwa’. His first ever BRIT Award nominations follow a phenomenal year including his highest ever chart success.
After the nominees were revealed Skepta co-signed his manager Grace Ladoja’s social media comments, who wrote in a post: “They have to accept us as equals… They have to accept there is a new blueprint in music.”
The journalist’s cliché “only time will tell’’ applies here if you’re wondering whether Skepta will be Craig David-ed. Yes I did just use Craig David as a verb here. In the last 16 years poor Craig has been nominated for a grand total of 16 BRIT Awards and won….none. In the launch show this weekend just gone Craig performed alongside his peers Christine and the Queens, Calum Scott and Critics’ Choice Winner Rag’n’Bone Man.
RAG ‘N’ BONE MAN PERFORMS AT THE 2017 BRITS LAUNCH.
One winner from this years show has already been announced. Brits Critics Choice winner is Rag’n’ Bone Man (Rory Graham). Before being lauded as a singer / songwriter, Rory was actually a drum n bass MC from the jungle and pirate radio scene and also worked as a carer before eventually getting into the blues. He is refreshingly un pop star-like with his unchiselled image.
David Bowie and Leonard Cohen have both been recognised posthumously. The late Bowie, as expected, received two posthumous nominations in British Male Solo Artist and Mastercard Album of the Year with Leonard Cohen receiving his first BRIT Award nomination in International Male Solo Artist.
Two nominations each go to The 1975, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Calvin Harris, James Arthur, Clean Bandit, Jonas Blue, Tinie Tempah and Coldplay and amazingly, Sisters Beyoncé and Solange go head to head in the International Female Solo Artist category. See, when you include younger, more connected, streaming, engaged music lovers who are much more in tune with the population’s tastes you are left with a vastly different final result. The bottom line here is that small steps count and even if these more ‘diverse’ acts don’t win thats no problem, at least they are finally being recognized.
Also receiving two nominations each are Kano (British Male Solo Artist, Mastercard British Album of the Year), and Michael Kiwanuka (British Male Solo Artist, Mastercard British Album of the Year). The melanin just keeps on coming. This years nominees do really feel like a more balanced, realistic reflection of what’s really popping in the UK music scene.
SINGER ANNE-MARIE AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
It’s not just the nominations that reflect a forward looking brand. The BRITs are also acknowledging digital world domination, by naming not the usual FM radio stations of yesteryear as media partners, but Apple Music as the official music streaming and download partner for this years event.
BRITs Chairman Jason Iley (who must’ve been relived that all was finally well and healthy with his brand) gushed: “The 2017 BRIT nominations reflect a diverse and rich year in music both in the UK and internationally. Huge artists from the past, present and future are represented. From pop, to indie, to grime, to rock; it’s a brilliant and varied roll call of talent – a fantastic showcase for what’s happening in music right now.”
BROADCASTER MAYA JAMA AT THE BRITS 2017 LAUNCH.
A few years ago we would’ve moaned and complained behind closed doors about the lack of diversity at brands and known that nothing would change. However the Internet and social media has turned that notion on its head. People powered change is a thing. In a few moments a hash tag can spread around the world and we have the Internet to thank for making our universe a smaller, more connected planet. One small step at a time, we can change things to be equal for us all.
As my fellow Capricorn King Martin Luther King said “commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”