The Mercury Prize, formerly called the Mercury Music Prize, is an annual music prize awarded for the best album released by a musical act from the United Kingdom or Ireland.[1] It was created by Jon Webster and Robert Chandler in association with the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards.

Mercury Prize
2022 Mercury Prize logo
Awarded forBest album from the United Kingdom or Ireland
Sponsored byFree Now
Date7 September 2023
VenueEventim Apollo, Hammersmith
Formerly calledMercury Music Prize
Reward(s)£25,000 (2017)
First awarded9 September 1992; 31 years ago (1992-09-09)
Last awarded7 September 2023; 16 days ago (2023-09-07)
Currently held byEzra CollectiveWhere I'm Meant to Be (2023)
Most awardsPJ Harvey (2 wins)
Most nominationsRadiohead and Arctic Monkeys (5 nominations)

Format and eligibility Edit

Any album released by a British or Irish artist, or by a band where over 50% of the members are British or Irish, may be submitted for consideration by their record label. Twelve submitted albums are shortlisted for the prize, chosen based solely on their musical merit and irrespective of how popular or successful an album or act that has been submitted may have been in the previous calendar year. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers, and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.[1][2][3]

The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, grime, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the awards usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the shortlist is announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are shortlisted, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known acts.[4] Each shortlisted artist receives a specially commissioned 'Albums of the Year' trophy at the Awards Show. Unlike some other music awards, the overall winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; in 2017, the prize money was £25,000. The winner also receives an additional winner's trophy.[1]

History Edit

The prize was originally sponsored by Mercury Communications, a brand owned by Cable & Wireless,[5] from which the prize gets its name. It was later sponsored by Technics[6] (1998 to 2001), Panasonic[5] (2002 and 2003), Nationwide Building Society (2004 to 2008) and Barclaycard (2009–14).[7][8] The 2015 prize was sponsored by the BBC,[8] while in 2016 it was announced that a three-year deal had been struck with Hyundai to sponsor the event.[9] It is currently sponsored by FREE NOW, as part of a multi-year deal that began in 2022.[10]

To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the award on more than one occasion (in 2001 and 2011). She was also the first female solo artist to receive the award. Alex Turner has received six nominations, five as a member of Arctic Monkeys and one with The Last Shadow Puppets, winning once. Thom Yorke has 6 nominations, 5 with Radiohead and one for The Eraser, but has never won.[11]

The awards ceremony was postponed for the first, and so far only, time in 2022 following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.[12]

Reputation Edit

The Mercury Prize can have a considerable effect on sales for those artists who are shortlisted. Elbow saw a 700% sales increase of their album The Seldom Seen Kid after winning the Prize in 2008.[13] In their winner's speech, Elbow's frontman Guy Garvey said that winning the Mercury Prize was "quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to us".[14][15] Similarly, sales of The xx's winning album rose by 450% the day after they won the 2010 Mercury Prize[16][17] and 2013 winner James Blake saw a 2,500% sales increase on Amazon after he was announced as the winner of the 2013 Mercury Prize.[18][19] 2011 winner PJ Harvey's album Let England Shake jumped from number 181 to 24 in the UK official charts the week after the 2011 Awards Show.[20]

Despite being regarded by many as highly prestigious, it has been suggested that having an album nominated for or winning the Mercury Prize could be a curse on a career in music.[21][22]

In 2001, the band Gorillaz requested that their eponymous debut album be withdrawn from the shortlist, with cartoon bassist Murdoc Niccals saying that winning the award would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".[23][24]

All genres of music are eligible for entry, and it is stated that all are treated equally, with only the music on the album being taken into account.[1] Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury Prize judging panel, has said that albums are chosen because they are the "strongest" each year, rather than according to genre.[25] However, the presence of classical, folk and jazz recordings has been cited by some as anomalous, arguing that comparisons with the other nominees can be invidious.[26] Classical acts to have an album nominated have included John Tavener, Peter Maxwell Davies, Gavin Bryars and Nicholas Maw. None has ever won, and there has not been a shortlisted classical album since 2002.

The Mercury Prize also has a reputation for being awarded to outside chances rather than the favourites.[27][28] The 1994 award winner was Elegant Slumming by the pop act M People, which some felt was a controversial decision considering the shortlist included popular albums from Britpop figureheads Paul Weller, Blur and Pulp, and electronica band The Prodigy.[29][30][31]

Other music journalists critical of the awards stated that the 2005 award should not have been given to Antony and the Johnsons for their album I Am a Bird Now as, although they are British-born and therefore eligible for the Prize, the band was based in the United States.[32][33] In 2006, Isobel Campbell's collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas, was included in the shortlist, despite Lanegan being American, as the album was eligible due to Campbell's British citizenship, while Guillemots, whose album was also shortlisted in 2006, contained band members from Brazil and Canada, although the majority were from the United Kingdom.[34]

Current eligibility criteria state that all albums must be available to buy as a digital release in the UK.[1] In September 2013, My Bloody Valentine vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields expressed concerns about the award in an interview with The Guardian, accusing the Mercury Prize's organisers of "banning" the band's self-released album, m b v, from the shortlist nominations and addressing the nomination criteria, which he claimed branded the album "virtually illegal".[35]

It has also been noted that heavy metal has been overlooked by the prize. A 2013 article by Vice on the Mercury Prize said "Metal certainly never gets a look-in, not even on the official entry information form: 'The Prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, hip-hop, R'n'B, dance, soul, jazz, blues, electronica, classical…'"[36] The only metal record that has ever been nominated for the Mercury Prize is Troublegum by Therapy? in 1994. In 2011, Mercury chair of judges Frith said "[Metal] is a niche that a lot of people don't listen to."[37] In 2011, The Guardian music critic Alexis Petridis agreed that the Mercury Prize underrepresented heavy metal, but argued that this actually benefitted the genre because "At least part of metal's appeal is its outsider status."[38]

Winners and shortlisted nominees Edit

Year Winner Shortlisted nominees Image Ref(s)
Primal ScreamScreamadelica   [39]
SuedeSuede   [40]
M PeopleElegant Slumming   [41]
PortisheadDummy   [42]
PulpDifferent Class


Roni Size & ReprazentNew Forms   [42]
GomezBring It On   [42]
Talvin SinghOk [44]
Badly Drawn BoyThe Hour of Bewilderbeast   [45]
PJ HarveyStories from the City, Stories from the Sea   [47]
Ms. DynamiteA Little Deeper


Dizzee RascalBoy in da Corner   [49]
Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand   [50]
Antony and the JohnsonsI Am a Bird Now   [33]
Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not   [51]
KlaxonsMyths of the Near Future  
ElbowThe Seldom Seen Kid   [52]
Speech DebelleSpeech Therapy   [53]
The xxxx   [54]
PJ HarveyLet England Shake   [55]
alt-JAn Awesome Wave   [56]
James BlakeOvergrown   [58]
Young FathersDead   [60]
Benjamin ClementineAt Least for Now   [61]
SkeptaKonnichiwa   [62]
SamphaProcess   [63]
Wolf AliceVisions of a Life   [64]
DavePsychodrama   [65]
Michael KiwanukaKiwanuka   [66]
Arlo ParksCollapsed in Sunbeams   [68]
Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert   [70]
Ezra CollectiveWhere I'm Meant to Be   [72]

Artists with multiple wins Edit

2 wins
  • PJ Harvey (2 wins 2001/2011, nominated 1993/1995/2001/2011)

Artists with multiple nominations Edit

Totals listed are for bands or artists nominated more than once under the same name. It does not include appearances on compilations (e.g. Artists for War Child) or individuals nominated separately as a soloist and group member (e.g. Robbie Williams for his Life thru a Lens and Take That's Everything Changes).

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e "About The Prize". Mercury Prize. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Mercury Prize 2008". BBC Music. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  3. ^ Beech, Mark (9 September 2008). "U.K. Band Elbow Wins Mercury Prize as Judges Surprise Again". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  4. ^ Innes, John (15 September 2004). "Band's debut album soars back into charts after Mercury success". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  5. ^ a b Dann, Trevor (9 September 2003). "'By the time the list is agreed you wonder whether you like music at all'". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  6. ^ "Manics lead Mercury shortlist". BBC News. 27 July 1999. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  7. ^ "Barclaycard Mercury Prize sponsorship announced". Barclays. 30 March 2009. Archived from the original on 13 September 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  8. ^ a b Sherwin, Adam (16 October 2015). "Mercury Prize 2015: Florence + The Machine tipped for success as Blur miss out on a global shortlist". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022.
  9. ^ "Hyundai Partners with Mercury Music Prize". Hyundai. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  10. ^ "big group brokers the headline sponsorship of The Mercury Prize with FREENOW". Retrieved 11 August 2023.
  11. ^ "PJ Harvey wins Mercury Music Prize for second time". BBC News. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  12. ^ Savage, Mark (8 September 2022). "Last Night of the Proms and Mercury Prize called off after the Queen's death". BBC News. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  13. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (30 October 2014). "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Mancunian band Elbow, who won in 2008, enjoyed a 700% rise in sales of their album The Seldom Seen Kid in the week following their Mercury victory.
  14. ^ "Elbow elated at Mercury Prize win". BBC News. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 'This is quite literally the best thing that's ever happened to us,' singer Guy Garvey told the ceremony in London.
  15. ^ "Elbow: 'Mercury win is best thing that's ever happened to us'". NME. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Elbow claimed that their Nationwide Mercury Prize victory is 'the best thing that's ever happened to us' during their acceptance speech tonight.
  16. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (30 October 2014). "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2014. It was a similar tale for the XX after their 2010 win. Sales of their debut album soared 450% the day after they won, according to figures from music retailer HMV
  17. ^ Rainey, Naomi (9 September 2010). "The xx 'terrified' after Mercury win". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Their debut album, which had sold 125,000 copies prior to winning the prize, has experienced a jump in sales of almost 450% since Tuesday's award ceremony.
  18. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (30 October 2014). "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2014. After winning the 2013 prize, James Blake saw sales of his album Overgrown jump more than 2,500% on Amazon.
  19. ^ Hart, Tina (1 November 2013). "James Blake album sales increase 2500% on Amazon since Mercury Prize win". Music Week. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  20. ^ "Pixie Lott and Example – all about number one!". Official Charts. 11 September 2011. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Finally, the double Mercury Award winning PJ Harvey sees Let England Shake, last week's prize winner, jump a phenomenal 151 places from last week 181 to this week's 24.
  21. ^ Gill, Andy (14 July 2006). "Curse of the Mercury". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 September 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009. ...the Mercury Prize has acquired a well-established reputation for destroying its winners' futures...
  22. ^ Williamson, Nigel (13 July 2003). "Uneasy listening". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  23. ^ Youngs, Ian (30 July 2002). "Entertainment | Mercury Prize's guessing game". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  24. ^ "Gorillaz taken off Mercury list". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 3 September 2001. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  25. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (23 July 2003). "Mercury prize puts black artists to the fore". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2014. .Simon Frith, the head of the judges, yesterday rejected the age-old complaint that the Mercury shortlist featured "token" jazz, folk, classical and soul acts who do not stand a chance. "We are not tokenist, we chose the albums that are strongest,"
  26. ^ Petridis, Alexis (20 September 2002). "Back to basics". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  27. ^ Adams, Stephen (5 September 2007). "Amy Winehouse performs at Mercury prize". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  28. ^ "Ms Dynamite wins Mercury prize". BBC News. 17 September 2002. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  29. ^ Waters, Darren (2 September 2005). "Judging music the Mercury way". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  30. ^ Millar, Anna (13 August 2006). "Why Mercury makes Isobel's blood boil at pop industry". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  31. ^ Youngs, Ian (4 December 2003). "Does the Mercury Prize get it right?". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  32. ^ Barlow, Karen (26 September 2005). "Inaugural Australian music prize announced". Australian Broadcasting Company. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  33. ^ a b "Antony and Johnsons win Mercury". BBC News. 7 September 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  34. ^ Sutherland, Mark. "Who can beat the Arctic Monkeys to win the Mercury Prize?". BBC 6 Music. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  35. ^ Deeovy, Adrian; Michaels, Sean (13 September 2013). "My Bloody Valentine frontman slams Mercury prize list | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  36. ^ Hebblethwaite, Phil; Marshall, Alex (30 October 2013). "Why Is Everyone at Mercury So Cagey About the Mercury Prize?". VICE.
  37. ^ Murray, Robin (18 November 2013). "Five Points For Mercury Prize Reform". Clash Magazine.
  38. ^ Petridis, Alexis (22 July 2011). "Alexis Petridis on heavy metal and the Mercury prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  39. ^ Gill, Andy (10 September 1992). "The 1992 Mercury Music Prize: Andy Gill looks at the winner of the inaugural Mercury Music Prize". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  40. ^ "The London Suede". MTV. Archived from the original on 16 July 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  41. ^ Hughes, Jack (18 September 1994). "Cries & Whispers". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  42. ^ a b c "Mercury winners: where are they now?". Channel 4. 18 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  43. ^ MacDonald, Marianne (11 September 1996). "Pulp create a different class of award". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  44. ^ "Talvin Singh: Closing the divide". BBC News. 8 September 1999. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  45. ^ "PJ Harvey wins Mercury prize". BBC News. 11 September 2001. ...Britain's most prestigious music prize...
  46. ^ Youngs, Ian (30 July 2002). "Mercury Prize's guessing game". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  47. ^ "PJ Harvey wins Mercury prize – after witnessing Pentagon attack". The Guardian. 12 September 2001. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  48. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (18 September 2002). "Ms Dynamite's victory blasts Mercury norms". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  49. ^ Imagee, Matthew (7 September 2004). "Still going strong after Dizzee rise to Mercury's peak". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  50. ^ Barkham, Patrick (8 September 2004). "Mercury rises for art pop of Franz Ferdinand". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  51. ^ "Arctic Monkeys win 2006 Mercury Music Prize". NME. 5 September 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  52. ^ Paphides, Pete (10 September 2008). "Pete Paphides salutes Elbow's Mercury Prize victory". The Times. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  53. ^ Swash, Rosie (21 July 2009). "Mercury Prize 2009 Nominations Announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  54. ^ "Mercury Prize 2010 Nominations Announced". NME. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  55. ^ Topping, Alexandra (19 July 2011). "Adele leads Mercury prize 2011 shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  56. ^ Butterly, Amelia (13 September 2012). "Plan B hopes for his 'Dizzee Rascal' moment at Mercurys". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  57. ^ Topping, Alexandra (2 November 2012). "Mercury prize celebrates 20 years with award for Alt-J's debut album". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  58. ^ Clark, Nick (11 September 2013). "Mercury Prize 2013: List of nominees in full". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 May 2022. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  59. ^ "Mercury Prize: James Blake wins with Overgrown". BBC News. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  60. ^ Beauchemin, Molly (30 October 2014). "Young Fathers Win the Mercury Prize". Pitchfork Media. Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  61. ^ "Mercury Prize 2015 shortlist". BBC. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  62. ^ "Mercury Prize 2016: David Bowie gets posthumous nomination". BBC News. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  63. ^ Mark Brown (14 September 2017). "Mercury prize 2017 is won by Sampha's Process". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  64. ^ Savage, Mark (26 July 2018). "Arctics and Jorja Smith on Mercury list". BBC News. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  65. ^ Edelstone, Steven; Manno, Lizzie (25 July 2019). "2019 Mercury Prize Nominations Announced: Predictions, Snubs and More". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  66. ^ Savage, Mark (23 July 2020). "Mercury Prize 2020: Female artists lead nominations for the first time". BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  67. ^ Savage, Mark (24 September 2020). "Michael Kiwanuka wins the 2020 Mercury Prize". BBC News. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  68. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (22 July 2021). "Mercury prize 2021: first-time nominees dominate shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  69. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (9 September 2021). "Mercury Prize 2021: Arlo Parks wins for Collapsed in Sunbeams". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  70. ^ Singh, Surej (26 July 2022). "Mercury Prize 2022 shortlist revealed".
  71. ^ "Mercury Prize: Rapper Little Simz wins album of the year award". BBC News. 18 October 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  72. ^ "2023 Mercury Prize with FREENOW 'Albums of the Year' revealed…". Mercury Prize. 27 July 2023. Archived from the original on 27 July 2023. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  73. ^ Griffiths, George (7 September 2023). "Mercury Prize 2023: Ezra Collective announced as winner of 2023 Merucry Prize". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 September 2023.


External links Edit