A lot of rot has been writ­ten about the Me­teor Choice Mu­sic Prize but it’s re­ally just about high­light­ing the best Ir­ish al­bum of the year, writes Jim Car­roll in this all-youneed-to-know guide, free of buzz­words (ok, maybe a few)

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

Jim Car­roll’s guide to the Me­teor Choice Mu­sic Prize,

IThis is the bit where the writer de­clares an in­ter­est. In 2005, I was ap­proached by mu­sic pro­moter and Kilken­ny­man Dave Reid with an idea for an Ir­ish al­bum prize and de­cided to get in­volved. Un­til April 2010, I was the chair­man of the judg­ing panel and one of the project’s co-or­di­na­tors. The for­mer meant I kept the judges in or­der on the night and the lat­ter en­tailed deal­ing with ev­ery­thing from the bands and the venue to com­ing up with Machi­avel­lian PR scams and be­ing diplo­matic with the peo­ple who gave us the money for the prize fund.

Some of the above tasks were easy, some were down­right dif­fi­cult and I’ll leave it to you to work out which was which. David and I parted on friendly terms in 2010 af­ter five hugely suc­cess­ful events and he re­cruited Tony Clay­ton-lea of this parish as the new chair­man. Look, a lot of ut­ter rot has been spo­ken and writ­ten about the Choice Mu­sic Prize. More non­sense is added to the pile ev­ery year. A lot of en­ergy is ex­pended try­ing to work out what it’s all about, the dif­fer­ent agen­das at play and how it all works. And yes, I’ve done my bit to stoke things up.

Let’s start with what it is. It’s a prize to high­light the best Ir­ish al­bum re­leases of any given year fea­tur­ing a list drawn up by a bunch of me­dia peo­ple. You have print jour­nal­ists, ra­dio broad­cast­ers, on­line hacks and be­hind-the-scenes peo­ple com­ing to­gether to se­lect a short­list and, on the night, pick a win­ner. It’s ba­si­cally the GAA All-stars for lads and lasses with gui­tars, key­boards, drums, synths and as­sorted other in­stru­ments.

But what puz­zles peo­ple the most is how these judges de­cide which al­bums from the hun­dreds re­leased in any year are wor­thy of se­lec­tion and, then, which of the short­listed al­bums gets the grand prize. It’s the topic that raises the most ire and causes the most fum­ing when dis­cus­sions turn to Choice.

The an­swer? It comes down to the judges. As plain and sim­ple as that. Ev­ery year, a new panel of judges is re­cruited and asked to make their se­lec­tions. Each of them picks 10 al­bums re­leased in any given year which they’re happy to stand over. It’s a to­tally per­sonal choice and based on their own likes, dis­likes, pref­er­ences and prej­u­dices. They are asked to pick their 10 favourite Ir­ish al­bums and this, we have to as­sume, is what we get. When you put their 10 al­bums to­gether with the se­lec­tions of the other judges, you get the over­all list. Yes, it’s a con­sen­sus, but what did you ex­pect? You mean aside from adding to the gai­ety of the na­tion ev­ery year as peo­ple go bonkers giv­ing out about the acts and al­bums who make or miss the short­list? The thing about the prize is that we never re­ally thought all that much about what it could do at the very start.

We just wanted to hold an event which would high­light Ir­ish re­leases at a time of year when there was noth­ing go­ing on. (You had the Me­teor Mu­sic Awards, which were as dull as dish­wa­ter.)

What the prize has done – and this was never planned – is to give acts who make the cut an in­creased pro­file at home and oc­ca­sion­ally abroad. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of acts who’ve said to me that be­ing on the short­list meant get­ting ra­dio ses­sions or print in­ter­views or gigs or stuff they would never have got in other cir­cum­stances. I al­ways re­mem­ber Mes­siah J & The Ex­pert say­ing that the Choice nod for their Now This I Have to Hear al­bum in 2006 led to peo­ple tak­ing their calls who had avoided them up to then.

Yes, acts see in­creases in sales. Yes, book­ers book ’em for big­ger and bet­ter shows. Yes, they can use the “short­listed for Choice­mu­sic Prize” line in their press re­leases forever­more.

But most of all, the prize has shown the sheer qual­ity and quan­tity of home­grown mu­sic. We might have all gone on about this be­fore, but the prize demon­strates it year in and year out. Ev­ery­one has their own the­ory on this and mine is that the prize suc­ceeds be­cause the bands dig it. From the very first year, it was clear that the acts were the ones who saw the value in it and, in the words of the mar­ket­ing

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