Lifting the lid on The Ivors – get your submission in before February 6

The following MBW blog was written by songwriter and Chair of The Ivors Committee Helienne Lindvall (pictured inset), who explores the process behind what goes into selecting an Ivor Novello Award winner as we near the public Call for Entries deadline  (February 6 at 23:59) for this year’s edition. Marking its 65th year in 2020, The Ivors – the prestigious awards event honoring British and Irish songwriters and composers – returns to the Grosvenor House in London on Thursday, May 21.

Before Stormzy (pictured, main) announced the winner of Best Album at The Ivors last year he relayed that having been a judge for another award made him appreciate his own Ivor Novello Award even more.

He said if people knew how much time and effort the juries of professional songwriters and composers spent discussing the entries, how seriously they take their task, all of the nominees would consider themselves winners.

Having taken part in several Ivor Novello Award juries myself, as a songwriter and Chair of The Ivors Committee, I agree with him 100%. What makes an Ivor Novello Award so special is that, unlike most other awards, it’s not all about No 1 records and sales.

Sure, entries for the Best Album must have appeared in the Official UK Top 100 Album Chart, and the Best Song Musically & Lyrically, and Best Contemporary Song entries have to have appeared on either The Official UK Top 100 Singles Chart or as a track on an entry in The Official UK Top 100 Albums Chart during the previous calendar year – but that’s it, when it comes to sales.

Once the window for entries has closed (that’s February 6, 2020), the juries lock themselves into a room and listen to all the songs. This takes hours, as they slowly narrow it down to 15. They come back a week later and spend hours of debate before choosing three nominees of which one is the winner.

Unlike The Mercury Prize, The Ivors juries only consist of music creators. Just in the past 10 years, juries and committees have included such high-calibre writers as Cathy Dennis, Joan Armatrading, Wayne Hector, Sharleen Spiteri, Shaznay Lewis, Labrinth, David Arnold, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Fraser T Smith and, of course, Stormzy – each one arguing passionately for their favourites (and leaving the room if they have a conflict of interest).

“Diversity is a real priority for us, both musically and individually. We don’t think having separate awards for women and men makes sense – neither is a quota on winners. Instead we’re doing everything in our power to make the process as supportive of diversity as possible.”

Diversity is a real priority for us, both musically and individually. We don’t think having separate awards for women and men makes sense – neither is a quota on winners. Instead we’re doing everything in our power to make the process as supportive of diversity as possible, and we usually achieve parity in gender, as well as good representation of BAME, in the juries. Last year’s Best Contemporary Song jury, for example, had one white male, four women and two men of colour.

In addition, starting last year, we now do “blind” voting. In other words, the juries simply get to see the name of the work and the lyrics, as they listen to each recording – not the name of the performer, nor the names of the songwriters and composers – in order to battle any subconscious bias.

So why is it that, last year, there was still an issue with gender diversity? We can only choose from the songs entered, and usually publishers have entered a lot more works by male than female writers. This is something that needs to change – and especially when it comes to media composers, including games composers.

However, it seems like the next generation of writers are already doing something about it – among the entries for our new Rising Star Award, there were more women than men.

As the average number of writers per song has steadily increased with every year, we have revisited and discussed our criteria for who can be nominated, in order to not devalue the worth of receiving an Ivor Novello Award. Much debate has surrounded what should be considered songwriting.

Can someone who received 2% of the songwriting credits really be considered the writer of that song? Should we make a statement against the practice of taking percentages from the real composers of the work and dishing it them out like candy to those who had nothing to do with the writing?

As a result, we introduced a minimum limit a few years ago, of 15% in order to receive the award. Last year we lowered that limit to 12.5%, and this year we lowered it even further – to 10% – in order to reflect the current songwriter climate. These decisions were not made on the fly, but after long discussions among our jury members, and the wider publishing community has been largely supportive.

No matter who picks up the awards on May 21, you can be sure that it will be an unforgettable event, with laughter, tears and moving speeches. Every single songwriter and composer I know, who have attended The Ivors, say that it made them feel part of a community like never before and inspired them to get right back into the studio to create more music. And that’s what the awards are all about.

So make sure you get your entry in ASAP, before the February 6 deadline. Note that anyone can submit the qualifying entry – managers, publishers and the songwriters and composers themselves.

You can read more about the specific rules for each category here.Music Business Worldwide

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