The Arctic Monkeys have won the 2006 Nationwide Mercury Prize, the "album of the year" award for British and Irish acts. The act's debut set, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" (Domino),

The Arctic Monkeys have won the 2006 Nationwide Mercury Prize, the "album of the year" award for British and Irish acts. The act's debut set, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" (Domino), was named the winner at a ceremony held tonight (Sept. 5) at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

While accepting the award, bemused frontman Alex Turner told the audience, "Somebody call 999 -- Richard Hawley has been robbed. Normally it doesn't go to a band that has sold so many records as us, to put it bluntly. But we're very pleased with it, because good tunes is what we try to do. And too many people are trying to do too many tricks."

The Sheffield, England-based alternative rock quartet has arguably been the hottest British act to emerge this year. Since its release this January, the album has sold more than 1 million copies in the United Kingdom alone, where it is certified triple platinum. In the U.S., it has sold 258,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Turner later told a press briefing, "We won because we had the best record." He also poured scorn on published reports that the band had broken because of the Internet. Speaking of their U.K. No. 1 hit, "I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor," he said, "it didn't even go top 20 in the download chart."

The event was hosted by Jools Holland and featured live performances from eight of the 12 shortlisted acts, including Thom Yorke, Editors, Hawley, Hot Chip, Zoe Rahman, Sway, Scritti Politti and Guillemots. All the nominees were present at the ceremony.

At 5/1, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" and Yorke's "The Eraser" (XL) were installed as joint favorites by bookmakers William Hill when the shortlist was unveiled July 18.

The shortlisted albums were chosen by 12 judges from an entry of more than 200 albums submitted by labels. To qualify, an album had to be recorded by a British or Irish artist and released between July 25, 2005 and July 17, 2006.

Exposure from the ceremony can have a significant sales effect for the performers and nominees, according to retailers. Last year's winner, Antony and the Johnsons' "I Am a Bird Now" (Rough Trade), saw a six-fold increase in sales at the U.K. market-leading HMV chain during the weeks immediately following its victory.

The award was established as the Mercury Music Prize in 1992 by the British Phonographic Industry and the British Association of Record Dealers. The Nationwide Building Society took over as sponsor from Japanese-owned consumer electronics giant Panasonic in 2004.