Interview: Choice Music Prize co-founder Dave Reid
Dave Reid co-founded the Choice Music Prize - a sort of Irish equivalent to the Mercury Music Prize, only fairer - in 2005 and tonight the sixth winner of the much-respected gong will be chosen at a ceremony in Dublin's Vicar Street. The Choice has become a vital part of an Irish music community that has grown unquestionably stronger since its inception and this year's shortlist is probably its best yet. We interrupted Dave's preparations last week to ask him a few questions about the Choice past, present and future.
We’ve a week to go till awards night - are you running around Dublin like a madman or are things generally under control at this stage?!?
Generally, it’s NOT the latter! Luckily I have a good dedicated team in place and a good set of very supportive Industry Partners namely IMRO/IRMA/RAAP/Culture Ireland/HMV & Today FM. Aiken Promotions and Old Hat Productions also play a big part in the project.
Does the behind the scenes organisation get easier with every year?
To be honest the answer is no! I guess it is quite a big project to organise especially from when we announce the Shortlist in early January. This year we formally brought on board two extra Industry partners – HMV & Culture Ireland. Culture Ireland kindly funded the accommodation & flights to bring 8 Overseas Industry personnel to the Event while HMV (amongst other initiatives) organised a ‘My Inspiration’ promotional campaign featuring all the Choice nominees. We also decided to host a pre-event launch this year. All the above elements are extremely positive but generally eat up more time. With so many pro-active Industry partners on board I have to deal with all six on an ongoing Individual basis to ensure that each partner are happy with their involvement.
Crucially of course we liaise closely with the nominated acts and their management also. Social media takes up an increasing amount of time while this year we decided to publish a list of all Irish albums released during the year which has to be updated on a very regular basis. Other duties include making sure the judges are in place and are happy, keeping in touch with the media, working to produce a good Live Event and generally dealing with day to day enquires about the project in tandem with trying to keep the project fresh, relevant and innovative.
When do you start organising each year’s event? Does it consume quite a chunk of your life every year?
To be honest we’re already looking at the 2012 event. We have begun compiling a list of Irish albums released in 2011 and are looking at having the judging panel in place much earlier in the year. Last week we gave a talk to Computer Science students at NUI Maynooth who are using the Choice model as one of their projects for the year. Hopefully some constructive ideas for improving the effectiveness of the Choice website for later this year might emerge particularly in the area of Irish acts downloading or streaming their albums. We are already in discussions with some of our Industry partners in relation to strengthening and expanding the Choice brand post this year’s event. There is always something to be done - However I’m lucky to have a good team on board with Dan & Liza from Friction deserving special credit.
The show is sold out, and has been for a couple of weeks now. Have tickets sold that fast in previous years or do you think it is just a reflection on how strong the line-up this year?
I think this year’s line up is particularly strong plus the fact that the Choice Live Event provides an accurate snapshot of the great diversity and genuine talent that exists within the local scene each year. A lot of people love the fact that they can check out 9 or 10 Irish artists at the top of their game on one particular night. Plus generally there is a great atmosphere at the event and a definite air of pride is in the air at the strength of the domestic scene. Also, credit must go to Today FM in particular who have strongly supported the project since it’s inception.
When you look at the year we’ve just had - the strength of albums both on and off the list and the fact that many of the artists (Villagers, James Vincent McMorrow, TDCC) have made big strides outside of Ireland, do you think the Choice Prize has played a role in getting Irish music to the very healthy place it is now?
Yes I feel that the project has certainly played it’s part in showcasing, promoting and celebrating Irish music. It is of particular importance to me that the project creates some interest in Irish music overseas. This aspect seems to be growing more each year. Earlier this month BBC 5 Live radio had a 40 minute piece on the event and featured all the nominees while we have a very healthy smattering of overseas International Radio/Press and label people attending the event. All these progressions are important for the event. Also, local media (including Ragged Words) have been extremely supportive of the project.
Beyond the occasional sniping when the shortlist is announced, I think most among the Irish music community agree that the Choice Prize has been a great success. Has it met or gone beyond your expectations?
It has exceeded my expectations however I’m rarely happy. I’d like to develop the project further enabling it to market and promote quality Irish music each year. There are a lot of add ons that could be developed though it is a shame that the project is a voluntary run event with no financial backing outside the valuable support of our Music Industry partners.
You’ve a new partner this year in Tony Clayton-Lea, how has that been going?
Tony is a gentleman and is supremely organised so it is a pleasure working with him. Tony is chairman of the judging panel and looks after that side of things. It was also a pleasure to work with Jim Carroll in the past. I’ve yet to encounter anyone in Ireland that knows so much about new music (both Irish & overseas) than Jim Carroll!
And you’ve gone for an odd number of judges this year too, how come? As a judge last year, I could speculate on the answer but I’m sworn to secrecy!!
Well with 11 judges you cannot really have a tie???!!
Paddy Powers have Villagers as odds on favourites. Conor has it in the bag, right?!?
Couldn’t possibly comment, though please refer to previous years of this project! Anyhow, it’s all about the ten nominees (and even non-nominees) not the winner.
And finally, if you can even think that far ahead, who do you think we might be seeing competing for the Choice Music Prize, 2011?
Difficult one though I have heard a number of Irish albums already released this year that could be definite contenders for the shortlist in my very humble opinion. One of these acts are currently doing very well on the US Rock Radio airplay chart this week that no one in Ireland has picked up on yet.