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ILEY EXPLAINS HOW THE BRITS BECAME RELEVANT (MBW)

On the eve of the BRIT Awards, Sony Music U.K. chief and BRITS Chairman Jason Iley fielded a volley of questions from MBW’s Tim Ingham in a lively, informative conversation centered on the transformation of the BRITs, which has made what Ingham describes as “a decisive move away from becoming a paler, staler affair.”

As Ingham points out, the U.K. music industry’s definitive annual show had its own Grammy moment two years earlier, when a nominees list woefully short on representatives of the burgeoning urban-music scene drew widespread criticism. The BRITS leadership not only listened, they did something about it, overhauling the event’s 1,100-member voting Academy, which is now 52% male, 48% female, with blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities (BAME) making up a minimum of 15% of the members.

“The aim,” Ingham notes, “was a careful rebalancing of who voted on what; or, to put it less delicately, an eradication of any possibility that white males would unjustly dominate the ballot.”

Having taken over the BRITs org following the 2016 debacle, Iley deserves a great deal of the credit for this shakeup.

“If the diversity of the winners and performers at tonight’s ceremony lies in stark contrast to the Grammys, Iley will surely go home happy,” Ingham writes.

During the interview, Iley promises that the BRITs “will be a constant evolution: the Academy has to continue to be relevant, reflective and representative as well as aspiring to aim for where we want the industry to be in the future. But everyone should remember that it’s the Academy who votes for the majority of the awards—some decisions will be popular, some won’t!

The BRIT Awards is hugely influential and an aspirational platform that showcases British music to the world—and it is important that it reflects the taste of the diverse society we live in. We need to encourage the acceptance of equality and more diversity in music, popular culture and general daily life as the norm, not the exception.”

When asked what advice he has for the Recording Academy, given what he’s experienced, Iley responds, I’m not sure if I want to go there. My focus is on The BRITs. The BRITs Academy is totally transparent. Everything on our show is scrutinized from every angle. We [aim] to please as many people as possible without compromising the show by not reflecting success, or not ensuring enough representation. It’s not easy [laughs]!

“Every review, every news story, every comment is taken into consideration in order to find ways to constantly improve. We listened to the comments about diversity and, so far, we have addressed the areas that can make a big difference. But that work has to continue, to make sure that the Academy stays relevant and representative, which will be a constant focus.”

Iley also points out with pride that the “U.S. artists who come in to play the show say they love the BRIT Awards because we do it right.”

Read the entire interview here.

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