Published on February 19, 2013 | by Henrietta Hitchcock


Changing face of the Brit Awards

Coldplay at Brit Awards

Coldplay perform at the 2012 Brit Awards.
[Flickr:Beacon Radio]

The Brit Awards took off in 1977 under the name of the British Record Industry Awards, but did not officially become the Brits or an annual event for another 12 years.

With their re-launch in 1989, Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox hosted a widely criticised awards ceremony, which was broadcast live, something that quickly changed thereafter.

Although many look back on this as comedy gold, it was clearly down to the shambles it was, and the lack of rehearsals before hand.

They announced wrong winners, forgot to introduce Michael Jackson’s acceptance speech, and forgot their lines.

Fox decided the best thing to do in this situation was to shout “Woo! Woo!” at regular intervals. It took another 18 years before the Brits were broadcast live again.

The Brand effect

Russell Brand was introduced to the stage in 2007, pulling in 5.2 million viewers, but also 262 complaints to Ofcom, after comments about sexual organs, Iraq and the Queen before the watershed.

The Brit awards used to be a night of drunk music stars either shouting or swearing at each other and pouring drinks over one another.

“At first One Direction looked so indie, but now their label has uniformed them.” Former Island Records product manager, Oliver Bartlam

It seems over recent years this has died down, with James Corden taking to the stage being fairly nice to everyone. Although this is probably Ofcom’s dream, it just doesn’t make great TV. But why has this changed?

The music industry is one that is forever changing to suit the market, as industry bosses look further into what is going to make them more money.

From Pop Idol, to The X-Factor, and The Voice, we have seen many TV shows manufacture bands, and pump money into them.

Top of the boredom charts

The 2012 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena

The 2012 Brit Awards. [Flickr:Flashboy]

Artists create new scenes, and new scenes are created by record labels in order for their bands to fit into them. One can ask if the Brit awards reflect how boring the charts now seem. But how has the music industry affected them?

When the Brit awards started, the Beatles, Shirley Bassey and ABBA were all winners or nominees. Then 36 years later B*Witched, Billie Piper and Steps took to the stage to perform an ABBA medley – a confusing and fairly ridiculous sight to see.

But why has this totally different breed of musician taken over? Bands that now have to sing medleys of older artists’ songs.

Oliver Bartlam, former Island Records product manager, suggests that there are now more people than ever working on the image an artist projects to the audience.

“My job is to look at how we want an artist to be perceived. Dionne Bromfield is a good example. She’s a young girl, but you have to make her seem aspirational and confident so that people will buy into her.

“I have to look at an artist and build upon what they already have, how they dress and how they like to look, and then push the boundaries and make them a bit more stylised. One Direction are a good example, they were so similar to The Wanted. At first they looked so indie, but now their label has uniformed them.”

Perhaps, because artists are becoming younger and are more exposed to social media, it is an attempt to make them seem more easy to relate to.

Shirley Bassey and Abba may not be what the 21st century wants. One Direction are more within the aspirations of young people, which is exactly who the Brit awards are aimed at.

Independent labels

The rise of pop and R&B in the 1990s has a lot to answer for the trends of today.

The rise of bands such as Oasis – and BritPop in general – also introduced a new wave of bands such as Kasabian, The Strokes, Kaiser Chiefs and The Libertines.

But the popularity of the band and live music seems to have died down recently with only a handful of them left in the charts.

“The bottom line is there’s a lot of good music out there and most of it is not right for major labels anymore.” Jeff Rabhan, music industry executive

Although judging by the way industry experts are talking about the future of the industry, things are looking up.

Jeff Rabhan, artist manager, music industry executive and international consultant told “Bottom line is that there’s a lot of good music out there and most of it is not right for major labels anymore.

“There used to be a time when consumers bought releases from particular labels simply because the releases were so heavily and successfully curated that fans felt an allegiance and a belief that the label’s brand stood for quality. The best example of this was Def Jam in the early days.

“In the next several years, look for indie labels to continue to pop up, grow their fanbase and happily own their little piece of the world,” says Rabhan.

Add that prediction to the fact that X Factor’s viewing figures have gone down by well over 1 million since 2011, there could be a correlation.


However, our fascination with music stars and their personalities is something that definitely still plays a part.

Lady Gaga is the perfect example of a very clever move by the music industry; someone who is fascinating to watch, and mystifying in her interviews.

The fact that the music industry now puts so much into the way artists look and their live shows might be down to the decline in revenue within the industry – starting at the beginning of the 21st century.

With the introduction of the digital download, album sales have slowly declined, dwindling down into low figures that have ruined the traditional sale of records.

At the peak in 1999 the revenue from US music sales and licensing was at $14.6 billion, but by 2009 it had plunged to $6.3 billion.

Many blame the introduction of Spotify and Napster, and illegal downloads. This has quite clearly affected the Brit awards with regards to the amount of money they are able to spend on the actual ceremony itself.

However, when February 20 rolls around, all eyes will still be on the awards show, perhaps in slight humour and skepticism, with the cynical public casting their judgment on what the Brits can pull out of the hat this year, and wonder where the winners of today will be standing tomorrow.


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