Black Country Music Awards back to celebrate the best in 2020 - unsigned column
The Black Country Music Awards are returning this spring to celebrate the best of the local music scene - and there is still time to vote for your favourite artists, venues and even your music teacher.
Last year's inaugural event celebrated everything from large and small music venues to LGBT-friendly events, established musicians to the up-and-coming, and the studios they record in to the shops that sell their wares.
And in June, aficionados and fans packed out the ICB Centre on Wolverhampton's Fox's Lane to see the winners pick up their prizes, pat the runners-up on the back and enjoy performances from some of their own. It was a widespread acknowledgement of all that had been achieved by the area.
This year sees an earlier run date - April 24 - with nominations now open until the end of this month to try and get personal favourites onto the shortlist. Taking on the task of judging them will be award-winning videographer, music columnist and frontman of metal outfit WEAK13 Nick J Townsend, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin frontman and promoter Jonn Penney, music promoter Doddy White, head of MAS Records Scott Garrett, and The Star's music writer and reviewer Leigh Sanders.
And founder Shaun Ryan, who also brought to life the popular music magazine Ryan's Gig Guide (RGG) in 1995, cannot wait to see the best of the Black Country back together again. He said: "We've got most of the evening planned out now, but I'm still on the lookout for one more original material act to perform on the night. We'll be looking to get that booked.
"The nominations are coming in great - we've had thousands altogether across the categories and had the same last year. We're still speaking to people and trying to get the radio stations and other outlets involved.
"We've also just booked up Megan Reece to perform with a guitarist to welcome guests. And the tables are moving quicker than last year. They usually go even better once the shortlist is released, last year they were selling at about five a day."
Last year's winners in full were: Best Live Venue (under 300 capacity) - Ye Olde Foundry, Dudley; Best Live Venue (over 300 capacity) - The Robin 2, Bilston; Best LGBT Venue/Event - Bar Diva, Dudley; Best Radio Station - 2nd City Radio; Best Music Store - Guitar Crazy, Sedgley; Best Live Photographer - Aatish Photography; Best Open Mic Night - The Maverick, Amblecote; Best Studio/Producer - Bay Ten Studios, Walsall; Best Singer/Songwriter - Ryan Evans; Best New Wave Band - Liberty Lies; Best Indie Band - Giant & The Georges; Best Metal/Punk Band - Eyes Of The Raven; Best Folk/Blues/Jazz Band - Rebecca Downes Band; Best Video - Closure, WEAK13; Best Single - Every Ocean, Alex Ohm; Best Album - Forever Young, WOUNDEDSPiRiT; Best Live Act - Pagans S.O.H; Lifetime Achievement Award - Colin (Sam) Jukes.
And Upper Gornal's Ohm, reflecting on that win, was adamant every artist should get involved to help get their music out there and share in the positivity around the region's output.
"It’s always nice to get recognition for something your doing," he said. "We had a few nominations and won the award for best single."
And talking about the fallout from his win, he added: "It certainly didn’t do any harm. It was good exposure for me and the band. We’re always busy working on shows promoting what we do and the award backed us up when talking to promoters and stations.
"I think the recognition side of it is a good thing. The music industry is a very hard and sometimes deflating environment so these kind of events can be a good way of giving an act some kind of fulfilment. They are also a good opportunity to network and catch up with other acts that you may not have seen for some time or never met before."
The categories have changed slightly this year, but key to the event's success is their highlighting of those who help the musicians create their work and don't always necessarily get given the spotlight for what they do.
The Maverick, on High Street in Amblecote, recalls last year's win saw an increase in turnout at their open mic nights after the selection as the best. Senior bar staff member Lou Cooper said: "We did see a rise, a few more people were turning up so it did benefit us.
"We were shocked when our name was called really. I was there with the gentleman who runs the open mic nights - John Langford, and we'd been nominated for a few awards but it was a shock to win. We're hoping to go again this year. It was a great atmosphere and a really good night."
Voting is open at the event's website - blackcountrymusicawards.com - where a full list of categories to vote in can be viewed by clicking on the 'Nominations' page at the top.
The event's MC will again be the 'Queen of the Black Country', comedian Doreen Tipton, who went down well with the punters at last year's show.
Performing on the night will be another comedian - Christian Reilly - with music coming from 2019 best single winner Ohm, Black Country rockers The Carousels, and Wolverhampton-born former The Voice contestant Reece - as well as the further act Mr Ryan is still seeking out.
Tickets and tables are already on sale and available by contacting the organisers.
Single tickets are available for £55, and include a two-course desi-fusion meal.
A standard table for 10 people - again including the meal - is available for £500, while a table in the VIP area is up for grabs at £600 with the meal. The VIPs this year include two major musical Wulfrunians - former Magnum keyboardist Mark Stanway, now performing with Grand Slam and Kingdom of Madness, and guitarist Robin George.
There is also a 10 per cent early bird discount on all the above packages if they are paid in full by February 29.
Tables may be reserved for a £100 deposit by contacting Mr Ryan on 07930 371887 or email@example.com
For more information and to view the categories and make nominations, visit blackcountrymusicawards.com