Twenty-five years ago, Primal Scream were the very first winners of the Mercury Prize. Their epochal classic Screamadelica is still considered one of the greatest albums that’s ever been made.
Back then, receiving the honour could transform an artist’s fortunes, it cemented reputations and instantly boosted record sales.
Nowadays, the music industry is almost unrecognisable to how it was a quarter of a century ago.
CDs are gone and downloads and music streaming services mean artists can reach an even bigger audience without having to wait for a good write-up in the music press.
It’s meant the music award ceremonies and shortlists which used to hold such weight are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Music critic Andy Welch says: “It’s impossible now for the Mercurys to have the same impact it used to have.
“When I was younger the 12 albums would be announced and I’d be straight off to the shops the following day and I’d buy five or six of them which I wouldn’t have really heard of before, it was this real prestigious mark that an album was on the list.
“I just don’t think that’s the case anymore, word of mouth is such a big thing, you can sample the music yourself, you can go online and stream it, you don’t need to go and buy it. There isn’t the same sales boost as there was, it is a very different beast now.”
For the younger generation of music lovers, nowadays if an artist is exciting they can be discovered and shared in an instant.
For Fraser, Caitlin and Mirjeta, music students at Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form, the Mercury shortlist isn’t even on their radar.
“I’ve never even heard of it,” Fraser says, slightly bemused looking at the artists who’ve made the list.
Kate Tempest is instantly dismissed. “You know adults that say ‘oh yeah, we listen to rap, we’re cool’ that’s this.”
Alt J is “whack” and “sounds like clown music”.
The Big Moon “sounds dated”.
Ed Sheeran’s album gets the most brutal response. “I can’t listen to it – kill it! Turn it off!”
For these teenagers, the concept of even sitting through a whole album is alien.
“I get certain songs and put them into playlists on Spotify,” Caitlin says.
Mirjeta insists: “It would have to be an amazing album to get me to listen to the whole thing otherwise I get bored and I’d be like ‘no, enough of this!'”
The Mercury Shortlist might not provide as big a boost as it once did when it comes to connecting with young music fans, but for the less established acts, it remains a useful way of getting an artist’s name out there.
Glass Animals’ frontman David Bayley says the band feels honoured to make the list’s final cut.
“It’s a big year for good records. People like singles these days but this is the last award that still does the album,” he says.
How To Be A Human Being was inspired by stories Bayley secretly recorded on his smartphone.
“My personal fascination with music is doing something new with sounds that haven’t been heard before, lyrical combinations that haven’t been heard before, arrangements, all of it, just trying to do new things,” he says.
Sampha is thought to be this year’s front runner. For what it’s worth, if it wins, the students of Stoke Newington School & Sixth Form approve.
“It’s so emotional, I love it,” Fraser says.
The winners of the Hyundai Mercury Prize will be announced tonight.
The 2017 shortlist includes:
The Big Moon: Love In The 4th Dimension
Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone
Dinosaur: Together, As One
Glass Animals: How To Be A Human Being
J Hus: Common Sense
Ed Sheeran: ÷
Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer
Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos
The xx: I See You
(c) Sky News 2017: Mercury Prize 2017: What has changed?