Polaris Music Prize: Q + A w/ Founder Steve Jordan

Posted by Drake, September 14, 2017

The Drake and the Polaris Music Prize go way back. We've partnered up with the arts award foundation to host multiple events that revolve around the big one - the annual gala where the short list nominiees, jurors and other industry friends gather to celebrate Canadian music and each other. Ahead of tonight's main event (and our favourite part, personally, the bumpin' after-party) we talked to the founder and executive director of the Polaris Music Prize, Steve Jordan, to get a crash course on how the long-running award holds up in 2017.

What is the Polaris Music Prize for those who don’t know?
Polaris is an arts award given to the the artist who made the Canadian Album of the Year. They win $50,000. It is modelled after the Giller Prize for fiction and the Mercury Prize in the UK. It pared down from a Long List of 40 albums to a Short List of 10. It is decided by music critics, radio programmers and online music filterers.

Do you think social media has impacted the way musicians find themselves on the short list?
Yes. This year Lido Pimienta made the Short List with a record that was only available through her own Bandcamp. The Weeknd’s first record also made the Short List with no physical release. If you’re an artist, there are hundreds of ways to get your music heard and known.

Compared to when you founded the Polaris Music Prize to what it is now, is it what you imagined it to be?
It is much bigger than we thought it would be. We were fully prepared to be mostly ignored and just be happy putting on a small niche event, which it still is in many respects. But the world-wide attention that we initially sought seemed like a distant vision. Given how much the world already loves Canadian music of all kinds, we should have had more confidence in ourselves!

The Polaris Music Prize is modeled after UK/Ireland’s Mercury Prize, but what makes it uniquely Canadian?
I’ve been to their event. They are our idealogical forbearers and we owe them our existence. It’s very well run and the music and artists are treated with great respect, but I do find our event has more of a community feel. There’s a built in mutual respect among Polaris nominees that’s very Canadian. Every Short List artist wants someone else to win.

In what ways does winning the Polaris Prize help an artist?
It can help in a number of ways. Depending on what level of audience development an artist is at when they are nominated or win, it helps with increased streams, social followings, bookings and media interest, both at home and around the world. It also gives a record new life months after it’s been released.

Who are some notable prize winners in your mind? Who was a standout in the past 10 years who won truly on a great example of artistic merit?
They are all notable and can't get me to pick favourites. They all standout and they are all great examples of artistic merit.

A very canadian answer. Spreading that Canadian-ness, is an open invitation to the offical Polaris Music Prize After-Party! Rub elbows and cheers to all of the Canadian artists while DJ Trevor Risk pumps out all your fave cancon tunes @ 10PM_FREE!

Polaris Steve

Photo by CBC Radio 3

Posted in: Music

Tags: drake underground  music  polaris music prize  the drake hotel