Choice Music Prize: well done...
Ron, IU


A few years ago, myself and Dave Reid spent days (weeks even) on the phone trying to get the Choice Music Prize off the ground (although it didn’t have the same name back then) before I eventually gave up on it. Dave carried on plugging away and I gave what support I could. Last year, after getting Jim Carroll involved, Dave finally got the Choice Music Prize off the ground. In the face of overwhelming uselessness, ignorance and arrogance from the various relevant Industry sectors that could and should have been doing their utmost to ensure that Ireland had such an event, they managed to get things done. Behind the scenes it was a nightmare, from all accounts, but still they got things done. On the night, there was disaster encountered and averted, but still they got things done.

Fair fucking play to them both. Getting it of the ground was a huge achievement. Now in its second year, the CMP has sold out, has become part of the Industry calendar, has been accepted as the credible award in Irish music. Long may it continue.

Dave would not be the type to tell people what he thinks, nor would he tend to dwell on the negatives of what he has had to endure to make sure that, like the UK’s ‘Mercury’ and the ‘Shortlist’ in the USA, Ireland has a credible and realistic critical award for the Album of the year. I, on the other hand, would be the type to do just that: music business politics is just not for me ?

So, the choice Music Prize was launched last year and a virtual unknown won it instead of bookies favourite ‘Bell XI’. In the year since, Julie Feeney has signed a record deal and is about to launch her winning album (entitled ‘13 Songs’) on an unsuspecting UK/Worldwide audience. In a way, it was a good thing that Feeney won the award: it put paid to any external notions that the thing was just another Industry ass-kissing event, like some awards at this time of year. No names, of course.

Feeney’s album was a bit on the non-commercial side of the scale but, like this year’s shortlisted Sy Shroeder album, odd material has its market as well. Speaking of this year’s material, the shortlist again threw up some odd, some expected and some unexpected Acts. It also, like last year’s shortlist, led to some Acts complaining that they were not included. No doubt Dave is thankful that he doesn’t have to answer for what the judges select!

When we were working on the initial idea for the Choice, the main consideration – as with much of the projects we have worked together on, including IrishUnsigned and the National Student Music Awards – was to create a wider acknowledgement in Ireland of the talent we have on our doorstep, and to make people realise that we have good enough Acts here that we shouldn’t be content to listen to the crap that radio pours out for us from America and the UK. The variety on this year’s shortlist again does this. Sy Shroeder is quite an obscure Act, and one that will find it difficult to get mainstream radio play, but I know of dozens of people who have listened to Sy Shroeder material since the shortlist was announced. The same goes for the likes of ‘Messiah J and the Expert’ (who are fast becoming one of my favourite Acts) and Fionn Regan. The ‘Republic of Loose’ album (“Aargh!”) was my favourite album of last year and I’m glad it made the shortlist. Unfortunately, as with those others mentioned above, I don’t really see it winning. I think ‘The Immediate’ have the best chance, but that’s just my opinion. I hope that, failing a ‘Republic of Loose’ miracle, the winner is Duke Special because being shortlisted last year has certainly raised his profile, he’s getting enough airplay to prompt a mainstream crossover and, to be honest, he’s bloody good at what he does.

If the whole point of the Choice Music Prize was to increase the profile of some Acts that were considered by the judges to warrant a wider audience, then it has certainly done that. If its purpose was to allow Joe Punter to hear stuff he or she would otherwise not hear, then it has certainly done that. If its purpose was to make the wider music Industry sit up and take notice of our talent, then it has done that as well. If its purpose was to reward an Act for the brilliance of a complete body of work, then it has certainly done that for Julie Feeney.

While there was no ‘hidden agenda’ in setting up the project, at least on Dave’s part, it has also made a lot of people realise that the record labels and the radio stations that play non-stop pop don’t actually know what we want after all… well, some of us.