Music business

The 2021 A&R Awards: an evening where everyone won a little

To be honest, we were a little nervous.

The A&R Awards, the UK-focused ceremony presented by Music Business Worldwide in association with Abbey Road Studios, took off last year.

We don’t need to explain why. You know very well why.

This meant that the 2021 incarnation of last night’s event recognized the work of songwriters, producers, managers and, yes, A&R people, from across the past. 24 months, rather than usual 12.

Do you know what that meant? Half of the winners.

If we had organized two events in two years, twice as many prizes would have been awarded.

Surely that wasn’t a recipe for a room full of smiling faces.


In the end, however, the night became much more than silverware. They were Doc, Dipesh and Depeche; Bello and Boatengs; Antwi and Ashley.

And yes, for a few minutes there, it was rightly about Stormzy.

The Sir George Martin award, closest to the evening, is decided and deliberated jointly with the estate of the eponymous great man.

It is designed to celebrate a contemporary figure in the UK music world who has not only achieved great success in A&R, but who is truly trusted by the creative community… and, dare we say it , in which they actually Like.

It is, to quote someone from MBW’s own pages, strictly for people who follow the credo: “I know it’s the music business, but you really, really don’t need be a button.”

Last night in London, the Sir George Award was received by Alec Boateng, co-chairman of 0207 Def Jam – and was presented by Boateng’s shrewd friend and ally Stormzy.

The British Glastonbury headlining artist said of Alec: “No one has taught me more about life and about music, and there’s no way I’m going to be the man I you see before you today without his guidance.

“[Alec] is much more than my A&R and my President label. He is my guide, my protector, my mentor and my brother.

As for Alec’s own speech, it’s impossible to do him justice here. Every time we try, we delete it and start over.

But those who heard those bits – especially a beautifully crafted homage to the Windrush generation and their impact on music through the ages – just know.

How best to sum up the evening?

We could do worse than turn to the words of Matt Ross, whose own touching monologue ushered in the first-ever Richard Antwi: Trailblazer Award, another highlight of the evening.

“This game,” Ross said, “is all about instinct.”

Yesterday, those instincts met an immense amount of spirit and positive energy.

Thank you to everyone who participated. Thanks to everyone who tried to attend but couldn’t.

And, of course, thank you to everyone who supported the evening — including Abbey Road, which never wavered in its support of the A&R Awards, even in the depressing throes of mid-2020, you know what.

Of course, they knew all along what we were reminded of last night:

Yes, the UK music and A&R community can be very competitive. But, once in a while, on very special occasions, they also show a lot of heart.


The 2021 A&R Awards: All the winners:

Songwriter of the Year – Supported by Downtown Music Services

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR – SUPPORTED BY ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

SONG OF THE YEAR – SUPPORTED BY Hipgnosis
  • Thrill – Performed by Ed Sheeran (written by Ed Sheeran / Steve Mac / Kal Lavelle / Johnny McDaid)

A&R OF THE YEAR: ADULT CONTEMPORARY

A&R OF THE YEAR: Contemporary Black Music – supported by Spotify
  • Colin Batsa – EGA/Virgin Music/Capitol

A&R OF THE YEAR: ELECTRONIC/DANCE

A&R OF THE YEAR: POP/R&B

A&R OF THE YEAR: ALTERNATIVE/ROCK
  • Tim Dellow and Toby L- transgressive

ARTIST TO WATCH – SUPPORTED BY VEVO

A&R ADMINISTRATOR – Supported by Metropolis STUDIOS
  • Ashley Forbes– EMI recordings

MANAGEMENT COMPANY (THE DAVID ENTHOVEN AWARD) – SUPPORTED BY CENTTRIP

PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR (1) – Supported by Milk & Honey

PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR (2)

INDEPENDENT LABEL – Backed by PUSH Live

MAJOR LABEL – supported by Voly Music

A&R Icon – Supported by YouTube Music

Pioneer: the Richard Antwi Prize

The Sir George Martin Prize

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