Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bucky Award Time (and some constructive criticism)

It is time to vote for the Bucky awards again, this is CBC Radio 3's annual music award thing. So my main point here is that you should go vote at

I actually won one of these last year and am now probably going to kill my chances at a repeat. First though I need to say that this is done purely out of love. If I was generally unhappy with Radio 3 I'd just change the channel. With that said, I found this year's list of nominees pretty disappointing. Obviously I have some favourites - but out of about 75 nominees there are about 15 that I would have nominated had it been my call, there are 7 (of 17) categories in which there is really no one I want to vote for and, to my tastes, glaring omissions abound. By contrast, last year in almost every category I had hard choices to make, there were very few bands nominated for anything that I didn't like.

To tell the truth I am not sure if this is a deviation on their part or on mine. I certainly didn't listen to less music this year, or go to fewer shows, or stop discovering new bands but I've found myself disappointed by the Bucky Awards and the Polaris Prize this year.

I did not start to be a critic, so I'm not going to get into a blow by blow of who should have been in and who should be out but I do have two suggestions on how to improve the nominating process.

1) Get rid of the timelines. Currently the Bucky Awards are only open to artists who put out albums in 08. The first problem is that it's not 09 yet. That means there is a hole. Albums that come out late in the year do not qualify for either year. The second problem is that this is indie music. Indie albums do not launch with a big marketing budget. That means that it sometimes takes a while for them to catch on and get people listening (this is frequently done through ALOT of touring and not through ads.) So pitch the timelines altogether. Crunch the playlists and see what Radio 3 played during the year (since the date of the last Bucky nominations) and go from that.

2) Let the audience in. Right now it is the people that work at Radio 3 that figure out the nominations and then the audience gets to vote. As part of the nominating process there should be a non-binding audience nomination period. The folks at Radio 3 can still pick the nominations but find out what the audience thinks - this would help prevent glaring omissions. Every office develops, to one extent or another, it's own culture. Radio 3 should check in before announcing the nominees to make sure that audience culture hasn't strayed too far from office culture (or vice versa).
Grant Lawrence used to have regular shows where he would ask 'what should we be playing' with the obvious counterpoint 'what are we playing too much'. This, in general, would be a good thing to do on a weekly basis I think (far more relevant than fashion thursdays and questions about sunglasses and the colour of your galoshes.

Again, all love to Radio 3 and the folk that work there. It is truly one of the bright spots in a country where the media has largely lost touch with the culture. Like anything else though Radio 3 can be better and in their case the road to 'even better' is neither long nor hard.


Steve Pratt said...

Hey Justin,

Thanks for the constructive feedback - I think most of what you're saying is correct, and in fact, there have been differing opinions inside Radio 3 about how to handle the Buckys, too.

We actually had a big debate internally about how many nominees to have in each category and there was a big divide between 10 nominees vs 5 nominees. The deciding factor - rightly or wrongly - is that 'The Buckys'is a radio program and having 10 nominees in each category makes for a VERY long show and a tough slog for the host, too.

We also talked about the tough decision of not having some of our favourite artists and acts in some categories and the thinking we ended on - again, rightly or wrongly - was that we would never be able to put in every great potential nominee, but that by omitting some, we would start discussion and debate about who should be on the list that wasn't on there. (Debate exactly like what you've posted here! :-) )

We know that we'll NEVER get it 100%
right and that there will always be people who disagree with our choices. However, personally, I love it when passionate music fans like yourself offer up alternative views on our blog - it shows that our community is just as (if not more) valuable a source for music discovery and tastemaking as the Radio 3 team is. So as you did yesterday on the R3 blog, please keep telling us who we missed and who we should be playing that we're not. Your thoughts are valuable to us, but even more valuable to the rest of the fans of Canadian indie music.

I also think your idea of soliciting nominations publicly is something smart for us to consider for next year.

Thanks again for the feedback and hope to hear more of your thoughts (positive and constructive) throughout the rest of the Buckys voting! And I promise any critiquing won't be held against you for any future Bucky awards :-)


Steve Pratt
Director, CBC Radio 3

Justin Beach said...

Thanks Steve,

I'll definitely leave feedback at R3 (I usually do - for good or ill). You should really think about the timeline thing though.

In a classic example, the Violent Femmes self titled album (the one everyone knows) came out in 1982 and it was a big hit - in 1986, after 4 years of word of mouth and heavy touring.