Shortlist Music Prize Is Back; Short-Lived New Pantheon Is Out

Revived award will honor a 2006 album with an informal event in the spring.

Remember the New Pantheon award? Created in 2005 as a replacement for the erstwhile Shortlist Music Prize (much to the chagrin of one of the men behind the Shortlist), the NP was intended to shine a spotlight on under-the-radar artists and their work.

But even more than that, organizer Tom Sarig envisioned the award as an event, promising that the inaugural Pantheon winner would be determined by a slate of big-name celebrity tastemakers and lauded with a glitzy gala/concert in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammys.

The only problem was none of that actually happened. Sarig’s list of so-called “tastemakers” was revealed to be nothing more than a couple of guys from Linkin Park, country musician Keith Urban and, uh, the dude who played Seth Cohen on “The O.C.” (see “Linkin Park’s Bennington, Shinoda Help Do The Honors For Shortlist’s Successor” ). And after an initial rescheduling, the much-hyped New Pantheon concert never materialized, and it wasn’t until March 31 that it was finally announced — via press release — that folkie Sufjan Stevens had been crowned the winner of the inaugural award (see “Sufjan Stevens Wins New Pantheon Award” ).

It was all pretty forgettable, and yet Sarig pledged to press on, promising that the second New Pantheon would be a much bigger deal than the first. But now, it looks like he’ll never get that chance: There will be no second edition of the New Pantheon.

That’s because in September, Greg Spotts — the man who co-founded the Shortlist Music Prize with Sarig back in 2001 — announced that he had “acquired all of Tom Sarig’s interest in the Shortlist and the New Pantheon” and that he was now “the sole owner” of both prizes. And as such, he’s decided to put the Pantheon to bed. Permanently.

“Let me be clear now that I now own the trademarks to both awards, and I’m not going to use the New Pantheon brand anymore,” Spotts told MTV News. “As far as I’m concerned — and moving forward — Sufjan Stevens was the 2005 Shortlist winner.”

Neither Spotts nor Sarig would discuss details of the acquisition with MTV News, but Spotts did reveal some of his feelings on how the New Pantheon fizzled out — and offered a sneak peek at his plans for the reborn Shortlist Prize.

“It’s hard to put on the concert, because there are logistics and things beyond your control. I wasn’t involved in [the New Pantheon] at all, so I don’t know how they ended up the way they did. But certainly I wouldn’t want to make promises to the media and then not deliver them,” Spotts said. “Which is why I want the Shortlist to be more fluid. I don’t want it to be handed out at some fancy, dress-up gala held just for people in the music industry. I don’t like the idea of it being some sit-down, rubber-chicken affair.

“I really like to make it about the music and the performances, and I’d like to make it even more informal,” he continued. “Music is flowing and not controllable, and the way people are sharing and consuming music is flowing too. So I’d like to make the concert different each year. If our finalists are on tour in the Midwest, why not have the concert in Chicago? It’s really more about artists recognizing other artists, and so I’d like to be less hung up on the whole prestige of presenting the award.”

Spotts went on to add that the Shortlist will be handed out sometime in the spring and that it will honor an album released during the 2006 calendar year (previously, the eligibility period spanned the 16-month period from July-October). And in keeping with the tradition of Shortlists past, a panel of “listmakers” will serve as the award’s voting committee.

“I’m going to bring the Shortlist back to its roots a bit. I think last year’s [New Pantheon] listmakers group was substantially broader, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing,” Spotts said. “There’s a target psychographic we’re going for: iPod-using, 16- to 35-year-olds who define themselves by how they consume music and popular culture. And this year I have a group of listmakers that will turn those people on. I mean, I’m incredibly happy Sufjan won last year, and I hope that with this year, the Shortlist will live up to that standard.”