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The Polaris Music Prize Will Go To Canada's Best Album
Friday June 02, 2006 @ 05:30 PM
By: Staff

Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan

The Polaris Music Prize will recognize the best Canadian album of the past 12 months and award the winner with $20,000.

The first prize will be given out at an event in Toronto in mid-September, but five years of work have already gone into it, according to executive director Steve Jordan.

"It started about 2001 when I first got the brainstorm that there should be something that should happen in Canada. It was around the time that the Constantines, Weakerthans, Sarah Harmer, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Propagandhi and all of these bands that had amazing records that were at the forefront of the Can-rock renaissance. There didn't seem to be an all-encompassing forum to trumpet these amazing records."

Jordan, who worked in A&R for Warner Music Canada and then True North Records until deciding to dedicate all of his time to getting Polaris off the ground a year ago, largely modelled the concept after the U.K.'s long-running Mercury Prize.

The winner, to be chosen by a panel of Canadian music journalists and broadcasters, will be selected solely on artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation. All Canadian albums released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006 are eligible for consideration.

"Something like this takes a lot of lobbying and getting people on board — not that anyone was really dragging their feet," says Jordan. "People embraced the idea — the industry, musicians, journalists.

"Everyone who needed to embrace this embraced it right away, but the more I talked about it the more people I wanted to get behind it before we launched it. Getting the money to do it takes a long time."

While the Mercury Prize was the first of its kind, the U.S. had the Shortlist Music Prize until it was replaced this year by the New Pantheon Music Award. Australia has recently launched the Australian Music Prize and Ireland has created the Choice Music Award.

"I was talking to the directors of both of those over the past few months to compare notes," says Jordan. "They were in a similar situation.

"They had the idea five years ago and had been working on it piecemeal to get it to the point where it could come off. It was good to know that I wasn't alone in taking so long to make it happen."

After a long list of initial juror submissions is compiled this month, the 10 finalists will be announced on July 4.

"The difference between what we do and what the Giller does for books or what the Mercury Prize does for music is that there is no entry," says Jordan. "We are asking the jurors to pick from what they've reviewed favourably over the past year, dating back to June."

The Polaris should give a valuable boost to albums that may not have had a lot of marketing dollars behind them, and introduce consumers to records that they otherwise may not be very familiar with.

"What we're most excited about is the period where we're going to market these titles and have special displays in participating record stores," explains Jordan. "The Retail Music Association of Canada is a very important partner in this, and we see this as an opportunity to really focus attention on the 10 best records."

—Steve McLean

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