The all-new AIM Awards takes place at the Roundhouse in London tonight (September 2). It’s a big overhaul for the event, which has a new venue and its first full live show.
There’s also an independent music icon in the building – Blondie’s Debbie Harry will be collecting the outstanding contribution award.
The trade body for the indie sector is marks its 20th anniversary, and it’s been encouraging to see nominees ranging from Idles and Dave to Jade Bird and AJ Tracey make big breakthroughs in 2019. Here, CEO Paul Pacifico looks ahead to the big party…
Why did you want to move the awards to the Roundhouse this year?
“We've been at The Brewery for quite a few years and it just felt like the event has outgrown it, we needed to move on. The Roundhouse gives you that extra capacity in the room, which is great. Ultimately, it's a big event and it can be more inclusive, more people that can be there, it’s a big step up in terms of capacity.”
And it’s obviously a perfect venue for your first full post-awards gig…
“Yes, last year we took a step on that journey by having performances at the after party, that was kind of testing the water, learning as we go and getting ready to see whether we felt confident enough to go for a full live show. We got excellent feedback last year, so we took the decision to go for it. I’m really delighted with the way that it’s panned out. Having Johnny Marr, an absolute legend, headlining is fantastic. To be able to show the diversity and the spectrum of music genres and people in the AIM community is fantastic. With Georgia and Ms Banks, it’s an absolutely brilliant line-up.”
Johnny Marr’s indie credentials date back to the early ’80s…
“Yeah, absolutely, his relationships with various members of community are very strong. He's a phenomenal musician and artist in every respect. His CV is a testament to that, not just the work that he did with The Smiths, but beyond that and through his through his entire career, it's been an incredible journey.”
Johnny Marr is a phenomenal musician and artist in every respect
Outgoing Merlin CEO Charles Caldas is being honoured with the Indie Champion award. How important has he been for the sector?
“Well, I remember my first big AIM conference when I’d just arrived in the job, when Merlin were announcing that they had returned $1billion to the independent community. Since then, in only a couple of years, they've added a further $1billion. The work that Merlin has done, the strategic importance of Merlin I don't think can be underestimated. And I think it has absolutely democratised the opportunity for entrepreneurs of all sizes in the music industry to access a fair rate and be able to really benefit from the fruits of their labour, not be disadvantaged just due to their scale.”
So this is basically going to be a big party for the indie community?
“Well, the live show starts at 8.15pm and runs through until 2am. We deliberately created a live show and after party ticket at 20 quid to enable everybody in the community to come and take part and enjoy a celebration of the strength and success of the independent music community. So I’m really look forward to it. Let's Eat Grandma are going to be doing a DJ set, which I'm really excited about. And also DJs from from Heavenly and BBE. So it's great to see not just artists but people from the labels getting involved and having fun and taking part.”
The live category ranges from Idles and AJ Tracey to Gerry Cinnamon and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. Is that breadth of talent exciting for the indie sector?
“It is, and I think that's part of the fun of the AIM Awards, the genres and types of artists are so eclectic. But the golden thread that everybody has in common is that spirit of independence. At the same time as being independent and on their own, artists stay connected with this very vibrant community that is there help each other and is mutually reinforcing, supportive, it's a fantastic place to be.”
Dave is getting recognition in the nominations for a debut album that’s likely to make its mark at various awards ceremonies in the months ahead…
“Dave’s been close to the AIM community for years. Two years ago, Dave performed as the opening act of the AIM Awards, really before he’d experienced the significant level of traction he's now got in the industry. It's great that he is back again and nominated. It just shows such a strong sense of progression, which is very exciting.”
Universal have played a big part in the campaign for Psychodrama. How is Dave defined as an indie artist?
“For us, it's pretty clear. If somebody owns or controls their rights then they are independent. AIM has a definition for what is independence and it's remained constant over the years. Your business has to be less than 50% owned by a major, you have to have less than 5% global market share, and you have to own or control master rights. Actually, it’s great to see artists having so much choice in the marketplace. You know, Dave’s doing some interesting deals. AJ Tracey is someone to keep an eye on, he's remained steadfastly independent. Actually, it’s a really interesting example of where artists are building businesses in addition to growing their own career as an artist or writer. He's an example of someone who's doing everything on their own, and actually building a business around himself with key people in his team and showing that that idea of creative entrepreneurship is a very viable option in the 21st century, as long as you've got the right people around you.”
With their inclusion in the recently confirmed live category, ldles have the most nominations…
“I think it’s the most nominations of anyone ever.”
How would you characterise their achievement as a band who are not obviously commercial, but selling incredibly well?
“I think it’s one of the most exciting things about the way that the digital market is evolving. People talk very often about the homogeneity of the streaming market in the charts. But I look at the massive success being achieved in niches, specialist genres, where people are finding incredibly passionate fan bases that are actually substantial and sustainable.”