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Ellie Goulding weighs in on music awards

By | Published on Friday 4 December 2020

Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding has shared her thoughts on music awards in the wake of various artists complaining that they were not nominated for this year’s Grammys. Although she doesn’t go so far as to name the American music industry’s big awards bash itself, instead asking general questions about awards as a whole.

In a blog post, Goulding questions what criteria are used when selecting artists for award nominations, saying that there is a general lack of transparency on this. Her concern, she says, is that artists are being selected for their social media following or attractiveness, rather than the actual quality of their work.

“In most artistic fields, awards seem to come off the back of great critical acclaim, but in today’s music industry such ‘acclaim’ can have varied sources”, she writes. “People are being awarded – in the form of both nominations and category wins – for reasons that are hard to decipher”.

“If both the most globally popular artists and most critically revered artists are not being recognised, how do we, as artists, go on?” she adds. “Would a runner start a race if they knew crossing the finish line first wouldn’t necessarily win them a gold medal?”

Continuing, she poses her big question: “What constitutes the worthiness of an award? This is not rhetorical; I would love to know an answer. I would love to know if what I have done throughout my career, and what so many other artists have done throughout theirs, in receiving a certain level of critical reception, does not qualify for some sort of formal recognition, then what does?”

“Another big question here is not what, but who is it that decides this worthiness”, she goes on. “There appears to be a greater lack of transparency in our industry‚Äôs process of award nominations and voting – maybe those who are privy to the process, are able to take advantage of it?”

“Before I go on”, she then says, “I just want to add one thing that is incredibly important for anyone reading this to understand: I am writing this on behalf of artists and I am directing it at those with a control of the system. I am not, for one second, pointing a finger at any artists who have been nominated or won awards. I, and so many others, just want some transparency”.

Of course, many awards have become more transparent about their processes over the years – and most award programmes have pretty similar approaches.

Some ask a lot of people (either media and industry types or the pesky public) to vote and then build shortlists from that, others simply get a small number of experts in a room and ask them to battle it out. There can be differing levels of clarity on what happens before those points are reached, but basically: some people come up with a list.

Along the way, shortlists might be massaged in order to ensure that the right people are in the room on the night of the big show, or so as not to upset powerful people, or so that there’s enough hype to interest media and satisfy sponsors.

Whether or not any of that massaging does indeed happen, as soon as any shortlists are made public, people will start saying that those lists are shit, predictable or rigged, or some combination of all three. Quite often – despite many awards saying that they are addressing this – everyone points out that there is a staggering lack of diversity in the nominations. Then a load of people gather in a room (or log onto a stream if it’s 2020) and some trophies get handed out. After that, everyone gets on with their lives.

Still, Goulding concludes with a message to the music industry: “It is time to have a bigger discussion about where we are going and how we acknowledge and reward those who are, frankly, the reason this industry exists in the first place”.

Yeah, either that or it’s time to stop having awards altogether, on account of their inherent stupidness. But presuming that’s not going to happen – they are useful marketing platforms and money generators, I suppose – maybe there could be some more discussion about how the winners get picked.