Mercury Gives Craft Elbow Room

The band responsible for what was likely the brightest single of another very wet British summer has nudged aside the opposition to win the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize.

Jeff Craft from X-Ray Touring in London, who has handled Elbow’s live work throughout its four-album, 10-year career, said winning the award with The Seldom Seen Kid is no less than the act deserves for its hard work.

The five-piece from Bury, near Manchester, recorded three albums for the now defunct V2 label, during which time it struggled from being a critic’s choice to the proverbial “close but no cigar” bracket.The act even had a previous nomination for the Mercury for Asleep At The Wheel in 2001.

Richard Branson sold his remaining stake in V2 in 2006 to investment banking corporation Morgan Stanley, which sold it to Universal for £7 million.

By that time the U.S. and Canadian branches had already announced they were undergoing restructuring to focus on back catalogue and digital distribution.

As a result, their employees were let go and their roster of artists left as free agents.

Elbow signed to Universal’s Fiction label and the world’s largest music group soon showed it felt the act would benefit from increased marketing efforts.

“One Day Like This,” one of the more memorable anthems of the U.K. summer of 2008, and some highly acclaimed outdoor shows appear to have moved Elbow a step closer to the stadium level Craft believes it merits.

He’s booked the next U.K. run to open at the 1,600-capacity Cambridge Corn Exchange October 6. He said he believes the fifth album will bring the next big leap forward.

“I know I’m supposed to be cool and say something coy, but this truly is the best thing that’s ever happened to us,” singer Guy Garvey told the September 9 awards ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

The act called manager Phil Chadwick onstage in recognition of how he also helped them persevere through some slower times.

Craft said the band’s “amazing” response from the crowd when announced as the winner was seemingly an indication that the nominees, including the members of Radiohead for In Rainbows, heard the jury of “music industry experts” deliver a verdict few could argue with.

Others in the running to win the award, which honours the “most accomplished album” of the year, included Estelle, Last Shadow Puppets, Adele, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and British Sea Power.

The Mercury Prize is the first, albeit one of the most prestigious, of the major music awards that will be presented in the U.K. over the next couple of months.

Next up is the Vodafone Live Music Awards at London Brixton Academy September 18, followed by the Music Of Black Origin (MOBO) awards at Wembley Arena October 15 and the MTV Europe Music Awards at Liverpool Echo Arena November 6.

The British Phonographic Industry chose September 9 – the same day as the Mercury bash – to announce the 2009 BRIT Awards will take place at London’s Earls Court February 18.

The BRIT nominations launch is set for The Roundhouse in London January 20.

MTV also made a bid for column inches with a September 8 announcement that Adele, Leona Lewis, The Ting Tings, and The Wombats will battle it out for “Best U.K. Act.”

The voting started the same day and runs through October 12.

Once the votes are counted, the winner will do battle with the winners from the rest of Europe to triumph as “Europe’s Favourite.”
MTV will also put that to a viewers’ vote and the winner will be announced at the award ceremony.