U.K.’s BRIT Awards Cut Categories, Eliminate Fan Voting, Give Artists More Control Of Performances


The BRIT Awards’ category review and purge echoes a major structural overhaul the Grammy Awards undertook in 2011.

The BRIT Awards announced major changes leading up to their 40th show on Feb. 18, 2020 at London's O2 Arena.

They are eliminating or sidelining several categories, renaming others, eliminating fan voting and giving artists' complete artistic control over their performances. The latter move is in response to a dust-up this year involving The 1975.

The BRITs are cutting British artist video of the year (won this past year by Little Mix featuring Nicki Minaj's "Woman Like Me") and international group (won by The Carters, a.k.a. Beyoncé and Jay-Z). The elimination of the latter award has upset some fans of BTS, who were rooting for the K-pop group to take the award this year.

The BRITs are also dropping three special achievement awards that they presented this year — British producer of the year (Calvin Harris), global success award (Ed Sheeran) and outstanding contribution to music (P!nk).

They are changing the name of British breakthrough act (won by Tom Walker) to best new artist; of the critics' choice award (won by Sam Fender) to rising star; of British single of the year (won by Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa's "One Kiss") to song of the year; and of British album of the year (won by The 1975's A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships) to Mastercard album of the year. That's a nod to their sponsor. (The BRITs' press release refers to the upcoming show as The BRIT Awards 2020 with Mastercard.)

The BRITS are also streamlining the names of three other awards, eliminating the word "British" from male solo artist (won by George Ezra this year), female solo artist (Jorja Smith) and best group (The 1975). As a result, the word "British" will not appear in the name of any of the BRITs' 2020 awards.

They are turning over voting to the 2020 Official Voting Academy, a body of about 1,200 U.K. artists, retailers, promoters, agents, publishers, labels, producers and media.

They are eliminating fan voting, which will likely reduce the number of boy and girl bands that win BRIT Awards. (Take That won best single five times, more often than any other artist.)

They are also changing the panel that votes on the newly rechristened rising star award. In the past, the critics' choice award was chosen by a panel of music editors and critics plus heads of music at major radio and music TV stations. Going forward, the panel will include more songwriters, producers and live bookers — "those working with new rising talent on a regular basis," according to a statement issued by the BRITs.

In a BRIT Awards first, the recipient of the 2020 rising star award will get a performance slot on the Feb. 18 show.

According to a statement, "The BRITs will hand the stage to the artists booked to perform on the night without imposing any creative limitations on their performances. Artists will be encouraged to create and curate their own unique moments…"

The move follows a controversy this year in which The 1975 was stopped from performing "Love It If We Made It" due to lyrics about drug abuse. The song is a track from the band's BRIT award-winning album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.

The BRITs will have just nine categories in 2020, giving the show more time for music. The categories that remain, not already mentioned, are international male and female solo artist (won this year by Drake and Ariana Grande).

The BRITs will also revive the classic Lady Britannia BRIT statuette, which returns after nearly a decade's rest. Since 2011, it has been reimagined each year by a guest designer.

These moves follow falling ratings, a problem which has affected many awards shows worldwide. This year's BRITs awards show, which included performances by P!nk, Lipa and Ezra, drew 4.1 million viewers, down from 4.5 million the year before.

The BRITs' category review and purge echoes a major structural overhaul the Grammy Awards undertook in 2011. The Recording Academy cut 31 categories, bringing it down from a bloated 109 to a lean and mean 78. (The category count has since crept back up a bit to 84.)

There had been reports that the BRITs would do away with gendered awards, but, as noted, separate awards for male and female solo artists remain. The Grammys did away with gendered awards as part of the 2011 overhaul.

The BRITs first added the video of the year category in 1985. (The first winner: Duran Duran's "The Wild Boys"). One Direction is the top winner in the category's history with four wins.

The BRITs launched in 1977, to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee, but didn't return until 1982, which means 2020 will be the 40th anniversary.