Since its inception in the summer of 2001, the Shortlist Music Prize has grown in stature and significance, maturing from an indie obscurity into a respected industry honor.
But there will be no Shortlist handed out this year, or next year for that matter. The award has been shelved indefinitely, as the two men who founded it are heading in very different directions.
Greg Spotts has become increasingly involved in politics (he directed the documentary "American Jobs," which is critical of Wal-Mart, and is releasing a book about it). Meanwhile his former partner, Tom Sarig, has turned to managing acts, among them Le Tigre and Blonde Redhead.
In place of the Shortlist, Sarig has created a brand-new award: the New Pantheon, which, like the Shortlist, will focus on "left-of-center" acts that have released albums that have not been certified gold. The New Pantheon will also be determined by a panel of actors and musicians who favor indie artists (see "Shortlist Prize Finalists: A Mixtape From The Stars").
"The idea behind the New Pantheon is similar to the Shortlist; we want it to be an award, a platform and a way to shine a light on musicians who might not get the attention they deserve," Sarig said. "In this day and age, when records are selling far less than ever before, I figured that the New Pantheon would be a good way of celebrating those artists who most people would've missed, as chosen by artists and musicians who know good music."
The list of judges for this inaugural New Pantheon includes Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, Beck, Dave Matthews, Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, the Roots' ?uestlove, Keith Urban and Elton John, plus actors Elijah Wood and John Cameron Mitchell. (Beck, Matthews and ?uestlove previously served as Shortlist judges.)
While the idea behind the New Pantheon is the same as the Shortlist, the presentation of the awards will be completely different. In past years the Shortlist was given out in a low-key ceremony that featured a few performances by the nominees. Sarig wants the New Pantheon to be something bigger.
"I want it to be an event, a cool concert that will be attended by artists like Alicia Keys or Missy Elliott, which is an area where I thought the Shortlist was lacking," he said. "We're planning on holding the show in Los Angeles just before the Grammy Awards [on February 8, 2006], kind of like [how] the Independent Spirit Awards are always held right around the Oscars."
Nominees for the New Pantheon will be announced at the end of November, and the 10 finalists for the award will be revealed in mid-December. Previous winners of the Shortlist Music Award were ethereal Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós in 2001, Pharrell Williams' genre-busting N.E.R.D. in 2002, Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice in 2003 and Brooklyn avant-electro act TV on the Radio last year (see "TV On The Radio Win Shortlist Prize, Topping Franz, Killers, Wilco").
Spotts declined a request for comment, but he told The Associated Press on Monday that he was surprised to hear about the New Pantheon Award and said he'd wanted to have a Shortlist Award this year, but he and Sarig weren't "able to agree on how" to make the awards happen.
Regardless, Sarig said that he intends to create a new tradition with the New Pantheon. "Obviously, we'll never forget the impact the Shortlist had, and with the New Pantheon, we're looking to keep that spirit alive," he said. "But we're also looking to have it grow and achieve its own place. Really, it's all about the music, and this is just another way to spotlight the best records of the year."