The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards celebrate excellence in folk music. A panel of about 180 experts (full disclosure, I’m one of them) make nominations in the various categories, these are collated and the panel then vote on the top four and the winner gets the award. Simple.
Except it doesn’t work like that.
The panel only make nominations in six categories: Folk Singer Of The Year, Best Duo, Best Group, Best Album, Horizon Award and Musician Of The Year. Best Traditional Track and Best Traditional Track are decided by a small committee with a semi-rotating membership, as are the various Lifetime Achievement gongs. And in the second round the panel only vote in five categories as Best Album is a public vote.
You don’t have to be a genius to see the problems with this. A public vote is a popularity contest and has nothing to do with excellence. If you convene a not insignificant number of experts why do you trust them to nominate the Best Album but not the Best Tracks? And so on. It’s schizophrenic and makes no sense at all. And it matters, because getting an award, or even a nomination, raises an artist’s profile significantly and leads to better and bigger bookings and audiences which, given the breadline existence of many musicians, is a big deal. The awards and the processes have been tweaked many times, it would be nice if they were again for next year and made consistent and sensible.
And as no Folk Awards post anywhere is complete without some sort of personal axe-grinding, could we replace the defunct but much missed Folk Club of the Year Award with a more all-encompassing one – Best Venue, Best Organiser, something like that.