My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Every year, the people behind the Barclaycard Mercury Prize get together to announce their pick for the best British album of the year, and it’s at least a little bit of a big deal over there. Earlier this week, the show’s organizers announced this year’s shortlist of nominees, and it included a bunch of great high-profile albums from people like David Bowie, Savages, Disclosure, Arctic Monkeys, James Blake, Jon Hopkins, and Foals. There was, however, one grand and prominent omission: My Bloody Valentine’s decades-in-the-making comeback album m b v. And Kevin Shields noticed.

The sometimes-reclusive MBV leader Shields doesn’t exactly give a whole lot of interviews, but he was incensed enough at the album’s omission to talk to The Guardian about it. Here’s the problem: My Bloody Valentine self-released their album, selling it on Bandcamp with almost no advance warning. And one of the Mercury Prize’s criteria for inclusion is that the album has to have “a digital and physical distribution deal in place in the UK.”

Shields thinks this rule is straight goofy: “Isn’t Mercury a phone company or something, anyway? What’s that got to do with music? We’re banned by them, and do you know why? Because we’re not on Amazon or iTunes. That’s one of the qualifying criteria. You have to have major distribution or be on iTunes or Amazon.”

To Shields, this represents a marginalization of anyone who won’t play ball with the record companies: “We released our record, m b v, independently. It’s interesting to learn that to be as independent as we are is… virtually illegal It’s not a real record. Our album’s not a real album because it’s independent. The corporate-ness has got to such a point where we’ve essentially been told that we don’t exist. So, technically, that album doesn’t exist. OK? It’s not allowed to exist according to the Mercury prize.”

Shields also sees this as part of a larger pattern; he complains about the album getting very little press attention in the UK. (The American music internet, I hope Shields realizes, was an entirely different situation.) If you’re inclined to look at it a certain way, Shields’s argument can look a bit like sour grapes. But it’s also true that the entire nature of the album is changing, and anyone making lists like this is going to have to deal with it. When those of us in the press make year-end lists, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we disqualify mixtapes or limited-release records or digital-only releases, since that’s where you’ll find a lot of truly great music. Perhaps the Mercury Prize people should update their rulebook.

As it happens, MBV’s last album, 1991′s Loveless, was also banned from Mercury Prize consideration, because the Mercury Prize didn’t exist yet. It started a year later, when it gave the first big award to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica.

Comments (12)
  1. So you’ve got to release your album in the way they say albums are released? Good to see they care about the music (For those who don’t know, Kevin is right about the name coming from a phone company it is now sponsored by Barclaycard so classy stuff all about the music)

    The part that actually always annoys me most and rarely seems to get mentioned is the fact that it costs money to enter. The press surrounding it constantly refers to it in a way that insinuates that this is the awards committee’s/judge’s/whatever’s definitive list of what they think are the best 12 albums of the year when in actual fact it’s just their list of 12 albums from people who released albums in the way they dictated and then paid for the pleasure of consideration. Hell, come to think of it, the press attention around it makes most people think the artists and/or their labels/management/whatever don’t even have to put themselves up for it in the first place.

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  3. For my money, if mbv was included it would be no question. I still haven’t heard an album that beats that one this year, Mercury Price or no.

    You’re totally right though, those rules need to change for sure.

  4. See, this is another reason why corporate music is so behind. (I just wrote a research paper on the global business aspects of major record labels vs. indie record labels.) For me, I feel that the corporate music industry and major labels are operating their business as if it was the 1990s. Wake up. In this day of age, the music business model is rapidly changing and is not the same as it was back then. Corporate music fails to see this and that is why the major records labels are doing poorly and why EMI kicked the bucket a few years ago.

    Team Shields.

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