Brit Awards to address lack of diversity

LONDON • Britain's leading pop music prize, the Brit Awards, will shake up its roster of judges next year in an attempt to address a perceived lack of diversity.

The move, announced on Monday, comes after an outcry about no minority artists winning awards this year. Several black musicians, including Kendrick Lamar and Drake, were nominated in categories reserved for international artists, but popular black British musicians were broadly overlooked.

Though the outcry and Monday's news centred on the lack of minority representation in the awards, the new roster also addresses the broad underrepresentation of women in the Brits voting constituency.

More than 700 new judges - a mix of record label representatives, members of the press, musicians and other industry affiliates - have been invited to vote for the prizes next year.

The roster of 1,200 voters will be 52 per cent male and 17 per cent BAME, a commonly used term in Britain that stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. Last year's voters, roughly the same number, were 70 per cent male and 15 per cent BAME. (Eighty-six per cent of English and Welsh residents call themselves white, though minority populations are much higher in major urban areas.)

In the lead-up to this year's Brits, whose winners were announced in February, musicians including soul singer Laura Mvula and grime artist Stormzy publicly denounced the awards for the lack of diversity.

The hashtag #BritsSoWhite, a riff on #OscarsSoWhite - which came into popular use when only white actors were nominated for acting Oscars this year - started trending on Twitter during the ceremony here, also in February.

Several days later, Mr Ged Doherty, chairman of the British Phonographic Industry, the trade group that organises the awards, published an open letter in The Guardian acknowledging that race is an issue that the organisation has to tackle.

"There was an elephant in the room" during the awards, he wrote. "I can tell you that it sat firmly on my lap."

The organisation said in a statement that it has appointed a committee of leading black and Asian media and music professionals to help choose the voters for next year.

Next year's nominees will be announced in January.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Brit Awards to address lack of diversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe