Mercury Prize

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Mercury Prize
Mercury Prize logo.png
The Mercury Prize logo
Awarded forBest album from the United Kingdom and Ireland
LocationUnited Kingdom
First awarded1992;27 years ago (1992) (as Mercury Music Prize)

The Mercury Prize, formerly called the Mercury Music Prize, is an annual music prize awarded for the best album released in the United Kingdom by a British or Irish act. [1] It was established by the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards. The prize was originally sponsored by Mercury Communications, a brand owned by Cable & Wireless, [2] from which the prize gets its name. It was later sponsored by Technics [3] (1998 to 2001), Panasonic [2] (2002 and 2003), Nationwide Building Society (2004 to 2008) and Barclaycard (2009–14). [4] [5] The 2015 prize was sponsored by the BBC, [5] while in 2016 it was announced that a three-year deal had been struck with Hyundai to sponsor the event. [6]

British Phonographic Industry Trade association of the recorded music industry in the United Kingdom

The BPI Limited, commonly known as the British Phonographic Industry or BPI, is the British recorded music industry's trade association.

Brit Awards British pop music awards

The BRIT Awards are the British Phonographic Industry's annual popular music awards. The name was originally a shortened form of "British", "Britain", or "Britannia", but subsequently became a backronym for British Record Industry Trusts Show. In addition, an equivalent awards ceremony for classical music, called the Classic BRIT Awards, is held in the month of May. Robbie Williams holds the record for the most BRIT Awards, 13 as a solo artist and another five as part of Take That.

Mercury Communications

Mercury Communications was a national telephone company in the United Kingdom, formed in 1981 as a subsidiary of Cable & Wireless, to challenge the then-monopoly of British Telecom (BT). Mercury was the first competitor to BT, and although it proved only moderately successful at challenging their dominance, it was to set the path for new communication companies to attempt the same.


Any album released by a British or Irish artist, or by a band where over 50% of the members are British or Irish, may be submitted for consideration by their record label. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland. [1] [7] [8] The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, grime, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the awards usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the shortlist is announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are shortlisted, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known acts. [9] Each shortlisted artist receives a specially commissioned 'Albums of the Year' trophy at the Awards Show. Unlike some other music awards, the overall winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; in 2017, the prize money was £25,000. The winner also receives an additional winner's trophy. [1]

To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the award on more than one occasion (in 2001 and 2011). She was also the first female solo artist to receive the award. Alex Turner has received five nominations as a member of Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets, winning once. Thom Yorke has 6 nominations, 5 with Radiohead and one for The Eraser , but has never won. [10]

PJ Harvey English musician and singer-songwriter

Polly Jean Harvey is an English musician, singer-songwriter, writer, poet and composer. Primarily known as a vocalist and guitarist, she is also proficient with a wide range of instruments.

Alex Turner musician, guitarist, pianist and composer

Alexander David Turner is an English singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. He is best known as the frontman and principal songwriter of the rock band Arctic Monkeys, with whom he has released six albums. He has also recorded with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo artist.

Arctic Monkeys English band

Arctic Monkeys are an English rock band formed in Sheffield in 2002. The group consists of Alex Turner, Matt Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O'Malley. Former band member Andy Nicholson left the band in 2006 shortly after their debut album was released.


The Mercury Prize can have a considerable effect on sales for those artists who are shortlisted. Elbow saw a 700% sales increase of their album The Seldom Seen Kid after winning the Prize in 2008. [11] [12] In their winner's speech, Elbow's frontman Guy Garvey said that winning the Mercury Prize was 'Quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to us'. [13] [14] Similarly, sales of The xx's winning album rose by 450% the day after they won the 2010 Mercury Prize [15] [16] and 2013 winner James Blake saw a 2,500% sales increase on Amazon after he was announced as the winner of the 2013 Mercury Prize. [17] [18] 2011 winner PJ Harvey's album Let England Shake jumped from number 181 to 24 in the UK official charts the week after the 2011 Awards Show. [19]

Despite being regarded by many as highly prestigious, it has been suggested that having an album nominated for or winning the Mercury Prize could be a curse on a career in music. [20] [21]

In 2001, the band Gorillaz requested that their eponymous debut album be withdrawn from the shortlist, with cartoon bassist Murdoc Niccals saying that winning the award would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity". [22] [23]

Gorillaz British virtual band

Gorillaz are a British virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. The band primarily consists of four animated members: Stuart "2-D" Pot, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, and Russel Hobbs. Their fictional universe is explored through music videos, interviews, and other short cartoons. In reality, Albarn is the only permanent musical contributor, and often collaborates with other musicians.

<i>Gorillaz</i> (album) 2001 studio album by Gorillaz

Gorillaz is the eponymous debut studio album by virtual band Gorillaz. It was released on 26 March 2001 in the United Kingdom by Parlophone and in the United States by Virgin Records. The album reached number three in the UK and number fourteen in the US, and has sold over seven million copies worldwide. The album's success earned the group an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "Most Successful Virtual Band", and spawned the singles "Clint Eastwood", "19-2000", "Rock the House", and "Tomorrow Comes Today".

Murdoc Niccals Fictional bassist for the virtual band Gorillaz

Murdoc Faust Niccals is the fictional bassist for the virtual band Gorillaz. He is voiced by Phil Cornwell, and was created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett.

All genres of music are eligible for entry, and it is stated that all are treated equally, with only the music on the album being taken into account. [1] Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury Prize judging panel, has said that albums are chosen because they are the "strongest" each year, rather than according to genre. [24] However, the presence of classical, folk and jazz recordings has been cited by some as anomalous, arguing that comparisons with the other nominees can be invidious. [25] Classical acts to have an album nominated have included Sir John Tavener, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Gavin Bryars and Nicholas Maw. None has ever won, and there has not been a shortlisted classical album since 2002.

The Mercury Prize also has a reputation for being awarded to outside chances rather than the favourites. [26] [27] The 1994 award winner was Elegant Slumming by the pop act M People, which some felt was a controversial decision considering the shortlist included popular albums from Britpop figureheads Paul Weller, Blur and Pulp, and electronica band The Prodigy. [28] [29] [30]

Other music journalists critical of the awards stated that the 2005 award should not have been given to Antony and the Johnsons for their album I Am a Bird Now as, although they are British-born and therefore eligible for the Prize, the band were based in the United States. [31] [32] In 2006, Isobel Campbell's collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas , was included in the shortlist, despite Lanegan being American, as the album was eligible due to Campbell's British citizenship, while Guillemots, whose album was also shortlisted in 2006, contained band members from Brazil and Canada, although the majority were from the UK. [33]

Current eligibility criteria state that all albums must be available to buy as a digital release in the UK. [1] In September 2013, My Bloody Valentine vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields expressed concerns about the award in an interview with The Guardian , accusing the Mercury Prize's organisers of "banning" the band's self-released album, m b v , from the shortlist nominations and addressing the nomination criteria, which he claimed branded the album "virtually illegal". [34]

It has also been noted that heavy metal has been overlooked by the prize. A 2013 article by Vice on the Mercury Prize said "Metal certainly never gets a look-in, not even on the official entry information form: 'The Prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica, classical…'" [35] The only metal record that has ever been nominated for the Mercury Prize is Troublegum by Therapy? in 1994. In 2011, Mercury chair of judges Simon Frith said "[Metal] is a niche that a lot of people don't listen to." [36]

Winners and shortlisted nominees


YearWinnerShortlisted nomineesImageRef(s)
Primal Scream Screamadelica Primal Scream at Summercase 2008.jpg [37]
Suede Suede Suede in Thailand new.jpg [38]
M People Elegant Slumming Heather Small Southport.JPG [39]
Portishead Dummy Portishead Wolverhampton 20080413-1.jpg [40]
Pulp Different Class

Pulp 2012 cropped.jpg

Roni Size & Reprazent New Forms Roni Size.jpg [40]
Gomez Bring It On GOMEZ-bandpic.jpg [40]
Talvin Singh Ok [42]


YearWinnerShortlisted nomineesImageRef(s)
Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast Badly Drawn Boy Live at l'Elysee Montmartre.jpg [43]
PJ Harvey Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea PJ Harvey.jpg [45]
Ms. Dynamite A Little Deeper

Ms Dynamite (4663812211).jpg

Dizzee Rascal Boy in da Corner Dizzee Rascal in Barcelona 2.jpg [47]
Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand Ff04.jpg [48]
Antony and the Johnsons I Am a Bird Now Antony-6.jpg [32]
Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not Arctic Monkeys.jpg [49]
Klaxons Myths of the Near Future Klaxons2.jpg [50]
Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid Guy Garvey and Elbow.jpg [51]
Speech Debelle Speech Therapy Speechedebelle.jpg [52]


YearWinnerShortlisted nomineesImageRef(s)
The xx xx The xx live at La Casa 139.jpg [53]
PJ Harvey Let England Shake PJ Harvey at the O2 Apollo2.jpg [54]
alt-J An Awesome Wave Alt-J Fall Tour 2015 live in Charlotte.jpg [55]
James Blake Overgrown James Blake 2012.jpg [57]
Young Fathers Dead Young Fathers concert Portland.jpg [59]
Benjamin Clementine At Least for Now Benjamin Clementine (Haldern Pop Festival 2014) IMGP0879 smial wp.jpg [60]
Skepta Konnichiwa Skepta photo.PNG [61]
Sampha Process Sampha VEGA.jpg [62]
Wolf Alice Visions of a Life Wolf Alice (37625032484).jpg [63]

Artists with multiple wins

2 wins

Artists with multiple nominations

Totals listed are for bands or artists nominated more than once under the same name. It does not include appearances on compilations (e.g. Artists for War Child) or individuals nominated separately as a soloist and group member (e.g. Robbie Williams for his Life thru a Lens and Take That's Everything Changes ).

See also

Related Research Articles

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Popjustice £20 Music Prize

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The Australian Music Prize is an annual award of $30,000 given to an Australian band or solo artist in recognition of the merit of an album released during the year of award. The award made by Australian Music Prize Ltd, a sole-purpose entity sponsored by a variety of music industry figures and record companies. The AMP was established in 2005.

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The Atlantis Music Prize is a music award annually given to the best full-length album from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, based only on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales or record label. The award, established in 2008 by St. John's-based alternative newspaper The Scope, includes a certificate prize of $1000. The award is modeled after the Polaris Music Prize for all of Canada.

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<i>Let England Shake</i> 2011 studio album by PJ Harvey

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Ghostpoet British singer

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This is a summary of 2011 in music in the United Kingdom.


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