You’ve got to love an award that gives these guys 20 grand!
The immortal words with which Aidan Moffat concluded his acceptance speech for the Scottish Album of the Year Award. And why not? Both he and Bill Wells were entitled to be more than a little euphoric at scooping the top prize. They were certainly popular winners because when Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop announced the winner I doubt that anyone heard more than “Bill W..” before a loud roar drowned out the Minister. And, with the benefit of hindsight, glaringly obvious ones too. But not too many people I spoke to beforehand were bold enough to make any predictions.
If the evening wasn’t entirely without its glitches (most obviously on the various videos which resolutely refused to match up audio and visual) it was nevertheless a huge success. Even if things pretty much ran as planned, it wasn’t the slickest of events but I found that to be endearing rather than frustrating.
In fact the only thing I’d really moan about was the lack of respect shown during the inital musical section. On paper matching up the Electric String Orchestra with a range of different singers (Rachel Sermani, Mairi Morrison/Alasdair Roberts, Emma Pollock and James Graham) was a great idea. But the performers all struggled to make themselves heard over the general hubbub. Ok, it was an awards ceremony rather than a gig but I expected more people to be interested in the chance to hear a completely new song from Emma or a stirring version of ‘Sick’ from James and Andy from the Twilight Sad.
The full live bands fared better by sheer dint of the increased volume. Hadn’t heard much about Holy Esque beforehand but I was impressed by three of their four tunes although the second did sound worryingly stadium bound already.
Profisee and Miaoux Miaoux split and collaborated on the evening’s final tunes leading into the annoucement of the result itself.
So all in all a very promising start for the SAY Award and a solid foundation for Stewart Henderson and the SMIA to build on for the future.
The first major challenge appears to be to secure funding for a second year with the Minister seeming to make it clear in her introduction that the award would not be funded by the public sector next year.
There is perhaps a challenge too in being slightly less esoteric next year. I’d love to know the criteria used in judging the award but I’m in no doubt that both the longlist and shortlist focussed very much on artistic merit. Frankly that’s the way I like it.
But, from talking about the night in an office not over endowed with keen music fans today, it’s clear that there’s not much in the way of recognition in the wider world for anyone on the shortlist.
Now I’m sure that there will be people out there who will put their trust in an award like SAY to introduce themselves to new music (in the same way that the Mercury Prize generates interest for its shortlisted acts) but one of the aims of SAY surely has to be to attract a wider audience for its acts otherwise it risks becoming That Award for Bands that no-one’s heard of.
In that context, the public vote (which I was slightly critical of earlier) makes a whole lot of sense. Ideally I’d prefer it to be used to generate names for the longlist but that would be difficult in practice. So, in terms of a focussed way of involving the public at an important stage in the proceedings, it definitely has merits.
I’ll finish though on a couple of positives – it was a great night out (even for someone driving back to Fife from the event) but more importantly SAY is a genuine attempt to promote something dear to our hearts. I can only wish it every success in future.
PS – Stewart, if you do need to cut back on costs next year – you could do worse than consider those blogger BAMS – they nailed it with the minimum of fuss!