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New Radio 1 music chief joins criticism of grime-free BRITs

By | Published on Monday 14 March 2016

Chris Price

The incoming music chief at Radio 1 has been busy bigging up the grime scene, joining the chorus of people in the music community who have criticised the recent BRIT Awards for failing to recognise the key artists in this key genre of British music.

Speaking to The Guardian, Chris Price said: “At Radio 1, we’re really focused on making sure we reflect the diversity of our audience in our music policy. And I’d love to see the success of an artist like Stormzy, who’s got a long history with 1xtra and Radio 1, and a top ten single with ‘Shut Up’ – the first freestyle ever to do that – to be reflected at the BRITs. I’d also really love to see the excellent work that 1Xtra does at the black and ethnic minority end of the scale be reflected”.

It’s all the more worthwhile championing the genre at home too, Price reckons, because grime could be the next big UK music export. He goes on: “This year could be quite a turning point for grime. Can this become our big cultural export moment, our hip hop? It feels like international eyes are on the genre. Look at Drake signing to Boy Better Know last month or signing grime artists to his own label, and Kanye West turning up at the BRITs mob-handed with the entire grime industry last year”.

BPI Chair Ged Doherty actually responded to the diversity criticisms aimed at the BRITs this year in another Guardian piece earlier this month, admitting that the awards bash needed to review its voting academy and eligibility criteria, both of which arguably skewed against grime artists this year.

“There are valid reasons why the nominations took the form they did”, Doherty wrote. “In particular that they tend to honour artists who have achieved the highest levels of popularity and that there are no individual awards for specific genres. But this does not mean that we do not need to change”.

He went on: “Britain always prides itself on being one step ahead musically … Britain has led the way and that’s because we’ve always celebrated and loved what’s different. This was not adequately reflected at this year’s BRITs, however, and we have been slow to look to ourselves and recognise that the processes behind the Awards have somehow become disconnected from this heritage of diversity”.

Changes already being considered by Doherty and the BPI include altering the make up of the BRITs Academy of 1000+ media and industry types who vote in most of the award categories, and reviewing the rule that artists must have had Top 40 success to qualify for a nomination, given that in some genres acts may now have made a considerably impact without bothering the general music charts too much.

Meanwhile, back at Radio 1, Price also chatted to The Guardian about another recent talking point, a proposal from the government’s Department Of Culture, Media And Sport that his new employer should stop trying to be so populist to ensure it doesn’t compete head-on with commercial rivals in the pop radio space.

“It’s a terrible idea”, Price said. “Breaking new music is enshrined in Radio 1’s service licence, it’s what we’re here to do. But what’s unique about us is that we play brand new music in the mix with more established names, that’s what gives us our size and our strength. So if Radio 1 were to play only music that was ignored by other broadcasters, it would quickly turn into a niche station. We would lose our ability to make the hits, which means commercial radio wouldn’t have any hits to play”.