The founders of the Shortlist Music Awards, to be announced Tuesday night at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, know what they're up against in the vastly overcrowded awards-show field, but they are optimistic that they can be noticed.
It helps that they have a relatively modest goal. They're not out to top the ratings of the MTV Video Music Awards or other televised awards specials; they just want to let fans know about records that probably won't be honored at all those other ceremonies.
"In everything we do, we try to think about that consumer for whom art directs their lifestyle," says Greg Spotts, an entertainment marketing consultant who started the Shortlist Awards last year with Tom Sarig, vice president of artists and repertoire for MCA Records. "A lot of those people want to stay up to date, but they're busy people. So we thought, 'Let's give them a crib sheet of some good new stuff.' "
Last year the Shortlist winner was "Agaetis Byrjun" by Icelandic pop group Sigur Ros. This year's 10 finalists are the latest albums from Aphex Twin, Bjork, Cee-Lo, DJ Shadow, the Doves, N.E.R.D., the Avalanches, the Flaming Lips, the Hives and Zero 7.
What gives the Shortlist its distinction is the panel that chooses each year's winner: It's made up of critically acclaimed musicians, along with a few critics who do the acclaiming. The two eligibility requirements are that nominated albums be single-artist, full-length albums released during the previous year and that the album hasn't reached gold status (for sales of 500,000 copies).
The effect of the award?
"Last year, when Sigur Ros won, sales of their album jumped 75% the next week," Sarig says, "and it continued to sell considerably more than it had before. It didn't sell a million, but it definitely had quite a bump, and we think that's good." Its U.S. sales to date are 122,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"The important thing to us," he adds, "is not to have a big party and give out an award. We're doing real-world things in an effort to grow the audience for some of these records that are not making it through the regular media channels."