The bosses of the U.K.’s biggest music awards have announced a major shake up of its voting panel after this year’s event was overshadowed by controversy over the lack of black nominees.
Despite critically acclaimed and big-selling releases from homegrown grime, hip hop and urban artists like Stormzy, Lethal Bizzle, Skepta and rap duo Krept and Konan in 2015, no black artists were up for the biggest U.K. prizes for the 2016 Brit Awards — held in February — when nominations were announced at the start of the year.
In an echo of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, that led to #BritsSoWhite trending on Twitter, with Laura Mvula, Jack Garratt and Stormzy among the artists who criticized Brits’ organizers for failing to represent the diversity of the British music scene.
In the aftermath of the snub, labels trade body BPI, which runs the Brit Awards, conducted a review of its voting panel and has now invited 700 new members from across the U.K. industry to help pick the nominees and ultimate winners of the 2017 awards.
“I’m really proud that we’ve taken firm action to refresh the Academy to ensure that it keeps up with trends in music and society at large,” said BPI chairman Ged Doherty, who oversaw the shake up. He went on to say that as a result of the changes, “the BRITs will be better equipped to reflect the diverse nature of Britain and British music.”
Out of the 1,200 names on the newly configured invite list, 52 percent are male, compared to 70 percent in 2016, while 17 percent are BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), compared to 15 percent previously. The list is made up of representatives from all sectors of the U.K. music industry, including artists, retailers, promoters, publishers, managers, producers, indie and major label execs and press.
“As the most important awards in the British music calendar we have a responsibility to be truly reflective of what is happening in music so that we can support new and emerging talent as well as recognize and celebrate mainstream commercial success,” commented Jason Iley, BRITs chairman and chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK and Ireland.
“To do this it’s important we have Voting Academy members who are both knowledgeable and passionate about all types of music and who also reflect the diversity of our consumers and country,” Iley went on to say.
The 2017 Brit Awards take place on 22 February at London’s O2 arena with nominations due to be announced on January 14, which will be broadcast live in the U.K. for the first time.
Last month, Michael Buble was announced as the new host of the Brit Awards, replacing British TV personalities Ant and Dec. Organizers are yet to confirm if Buble will continue to host the event, following last week’s announcement that he and his wife Luisana Lopilato are putting their “careers on hold” to care for their three year-old son Noah, who has been diagnosed with cancer.