In 2015 we decided it was time to start an end of year awards to recognise young guitar bands, those that rarely get much of a look-in with some of the big media votes. We also wanted to have an awards process that was more than a social media spamming exercise, where those with the biggest followings automatically win.
So in December 2015 we started our own awards, with just four categories; we didn’t want to duplicate what was already out there. The awards have grown each December, and the awards have earned a track record in recent years for calling trends early.
We ran the process again for December 2018. ‘The Band Of The Year’ was decided purely by the public. More than 32,480 people had a say in the vote online and a further 11,000 people via the listen again figures for our shows and interviews over the year. Put together, it’s a tough one to win – and the overlay of two public votes and listen again figures over 12 months prevented the outcome being decided simply by social media’s keyboard warriors. Importantly, each of the 172 bands on the initial shortlist was someone’s favourite and every band on the list enjoyed profile and airplay in the weeks before the deadline.
Any poll can mean as much or as little as you want it to mean. Despite our best efforts to make it fair and objective, the results at best capture a snapshot of a moment in time. Without doubt, our results have a link to the profile and tastes of our audiences, but in many ways that’s a good thing. The people that support Great Music Stories interviews and the Friday rock show are often silent warriors for guitar music and once a year their collective voice deserves to be heard as part of our Band Of The Year countdown.
Single and Album of the Year was called by us, based on the impact of singles and albums over 12 months, songs and albums that had been requested, playlisted and reviewed as albums and singles of the month. A critical and objective assessment for these two.
Live Act is always going to be subjective, given the only thing that matters is who YOU like and will buy a ticket to go and see. Nonetheless we liaised with a focus group of 50 regular gig goes to get input on this one, feedback that went beyond personal favourites.
Dan Reed Network
The Dead Daisies
Swamp Born Assassins
Broken Witt Rebels
Those Damn Crows
Henry’s Funeral Shoe
The Bad Flowers
Saints of Sin
The Rocket Dolls
Tomorrow is Lost
These Wicked Rivers
The King Lot
Dead Man’s Whiskey
The Virginmarys returned in late 2018 with the critically acclaimed album ‘Northern Sun Sessions’ which we also called for our album of the month review in November. The band has been through highs and lows but these experiences seem to have made them more determined to do things on their terms, to make the music they want to make and conduct themselves with their fans as though they are close family members.
There is directness and authenticity in the music. The band has championed grassroots venues and the issue of homelessness in the last year. They were one of the first bands in for our ‘Spirit of Wildfire’ 13-hour broadcast to help save a grassroots event that is key for new bands. At a time when many young bands write music that sounds a bit like someone else’s, The Virginmarys fly the flag for individuality, self-belief and self-direction. Supported by a team of wise advisers and a legion of committed fans, this Band of The Year moment can give everyone confidence that the band is on the rise, and set for an emphatic 2019.
Our 12 albums of the month for 2018 spanned a wide range of sub genres, but when it came to calling Album of the Year, objectively there was only really one show in town. Full Nelson wasn’t just about the release of a collection of new songs. It was an event. We were heavily involved in the countdown to the album’s release and the fan excitement was evident for months. To some extent, the band’s previous album didn’t get the success it deserved and many media were late on the pick-up. I think this also fed into the momentum behind Massive Wagons’ new album. Whilst the label and management were totally committed, it was the fans that drove this train. And when the band crashed into the mainstream Official Album Chart at Number 16, ‘Full Nelson’ gave a generation of other young bands a reason to believe. In 20-year’s time, when people write about the UK rock revival, Full Nelson will be cited as a key event in the timeline.
A band we have followed since the beginning of Great Music Stories. They are a modern band that cross genre influences. They appeal to new and traditional audiences. Their performances are full-blooded and they have one of the best singers in the business fronting the band. Broken Witt Rebels always deliver on stage and you don’t have to go a gig as a fan of the band to be impressed by their sets. This is a band that belongs at mainstream music festivals and on mainstream radio. Based on the quality and consistency of their performances – that day is coming. And when it does, it will be on merit.
Thinking of radio presenting and production, singles matter and we look out for songs that can stand on their feet, grow over time and be adopted by listeners as their own. You can’t often invent success here – the really great songs, if given enough time to grow, will emerge organically.
We had 12 very strong singles of the month on the year’s shortlist and, with us, each had a special story behind it. ‘New Dawn’ we picked because it had grown so much during the year, quietly at times out-living the hot songs of any given moment. New Dawn opened more Friday shows that any other song during the year, opened our mammoth Spirit of Fire broadcast in June. The song was playlisted for three separate months, was song of the month for October – and even inspired a listener series for the end of the year. As true winners do, this song picked itself.
The people behind the music are crucially important to the health of the scene. Some are very business-like and many treat it like a commercial concern, which in many respects it is. Keith is one of a quieter group of committed advocates that gives time, thought, interest and passion to the scene he loves – and he helps as many young bands as he can. He doesn’t walk round clad head to toe in leathers, he’s not noisy and he’s not bothered about being cool. He just gets on with it, and always looks at what can be done. He doesn’t ever claim to have magic answers, when in truth there aren’t any. The simple truth today is the new rock community is slowly having to re-learn how to get back into the mainstream, how to help young bands play in front of people that are broadly their age, and how to make a living from music in an age where many think they have to give away access to their music for little if any money. Keith would be the last person to tell the world how great he is – which is why we need to be the ones to tell him. Keith may never own a label that has 50 chart topping bands, but the scene could certainly do with 50 more Keith’s reminding bands that success is actually about the kind of person you are and how you treat others.