Preparations for the 2017 NMG Awards kicked up a gear yesterday (11th July) as the nominations were released. I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog style post explaining how the NMG Awards work and how the process works from here, particuarly for those who may be nominated for the first time.
First, a little history lesson. The NMG Awards first took place in 2012 and were created from a desire I had to organise an event which got the many musicians and bands in the local music scene together for an evening of celebration under one roof – often people know each other, have heard another artists music or have had chance for a fleeting ‘hello’ in passing at a gig but never had they gathered for an opportunity to properly meet and network with each other. The other reason for setting up the NMG Awards was to give artists some recognition for their achievements, to nurture their potential and motivate them to continue on their path; this achieved by pulling together a panel of judges who dedicate time to listen to each nominee, give feedback and offer opportunities for development. It’s not all about walking home with a trophy, remember there are ‘Artist Development Prizes’ too which have included recording time and performance opportunities at some of the regions biggest events including Secret Garden Party, The Big Weekend and the Cambridge Folk Festival.
The first event was held at the Portland Arms and immediately was a sell out as 200+ people packed in to the gig room to witness the first NMG Awards being handed out. Two years later, demand dictated a move to a larger venue and so we went to the West Road Concert Hall where the event stepped up a gear and reguarly over 100 artists received nominations in up to 15 different categories. Sheila Ravenscroft joined as a patron of the event, she the wife of the legendary radio presenter John Peel who spent decades breaking bands; other special guests have included Mikey Chapman from Mallory Knox and Trevor Dann who produced the Live Aid coverage in the 80s and spent many years as music controller at BBC Radio 1. To have people of this stature wanting to get involved is an honour and a testement to the respect the NMG Awards have established over the years.
It was half way through a chaotic ceremony last year (we won’t dwell on the technical mishaps) that Neil Jones caught me backstage and told me that Cambridge Live wanted to get involved for the future and that we should work together. For those who don’t know, Cambridge Live are the charitable organisation which put on events such as the Big Weekend and the Cambridge Folk Festival as well as other city events like the Bonfire Night celebrations – they also run the Cambridge Corn Exchange. This another sign of how rapidly the NMG Awards have grown in five years and so in 2017 we move to another new venue, the biggest yet.
Generally, when the nominations are released there is a buzz around social media of people genuinely excited and honoured to have their name included on the list – some have been mainstays for several years, others nominated for the very first time but I can’t ignore the few grumbles which rear their heads every year from people who don’t quite understand how this all works, so let me tell you.
There might be 100+ artists on the list and in the early stages it may feel like every man and his dog have been nominated so naturally the question is asked ‘what’s so special about that?’ Well, it’s deliberate because far be it from me to discriminate against anyone having the opportunity to have their music listened to by the judges (which include gig promoters, radio presenters and music managers) and any positivity that may follow from that. If you satisfy the criteira to be eligible for nomination which is to have been featured with either regular airplay with a new release or as a studio guest on the New Music Generator radio programme between the qualifying dates (this time it was since the last NMG Awards to 31st May 2017) and you are based (or the majority of your band are) within 50 miles of Cambridge then you make the nominations long list, which was released yesterday.
From this point, all artists on the list are invited to submit a track for consideration by the judges. At the end of this submission period, the judges will listen to this track as well as sound the nominee out on social media to assess their position within the scene (how active they are on social media, the types of gigs they are playing) and perhaps listen to more music available to them. Remember that some of the judges on the panel have been there for years so have a very good knowledge of the artists on the scene so can reference progress from previous years. It’s not compulsory for artists to submit a track to be judged, if they don’t then they are simply not judged and their involvement goes no further – nobody is forcing anyone to win a trophy they don’t want to.
The judges will meet at the end of August to discuss their findings and at that meeting a short list is compiled, this is a top 5 of each of the categories involved. At this stage all the other nominees are put to one side and a winner is decided from that top 5 by a scoring system. The other artists not in the top 5 are still under consideration for Artist Development Prizes and are included in the voting for the Audience Choice award.
All artists on the nominations long list announced yesterday are invited to attend the awards at a discounted price, this (as mentioned earlier) is an opportunity to meet and make connections with other artists if nothing else. Lots of collaborations have come about between artists from an initial meeting at an NMG Awards ceremony. On the night, the short list is revealed, followed by the winner.
12 categories this year are decided by the judges, the 13th is Audience Choice which is decided by the public and voting for that opens a fortnight before the NMG Awards ceremony. There are other categories this year including Breakthrough (an artist which has made an impact on the local scene in the last year), Breakout (an artist which has received success outside of East Anglia) and the return of the Pride of Cambridge Award which will recognise an artist who’s been consistently gigging and achieving in the local scene over the past five years.
For the first time this year we’re introducing some non-artist based categories which will recognise recording studios and small venues from across the region, these will be public votes.
So whilst we gather all of the submissions from the nominated artists for this year, work continues on a line up of live music for this year alongside confirming the judging panel and special guests to hand out awards on the night.
General admission tickets for the event are available already priced £10 from the Cambridge Live ticket website and artist tickets will be available soon.
Also new for this year is we’ll be seating nominated artists at tables (Brit Awards style) rather than in theatre style seating, this will be subject to demand. Each table will be named after a legendary artist who has performed at the Corn Exchange over the years. So perhaps you could be sitting at the David Bowie table, the Syd Barrett table or maybe even the Amy Winehouse table?
Creator – NMG Awards.