Just a short time ago, the music industry debuted its latest prestigious award, and while that may at times seem like the last thing that's necessary for an already self-congratulatory business, this one has a noble purpose, and it has the potential to become something really special.
The Anchor Award was born out of the Reeperbahn Festival, a blended conference and new music discovery event hosted in Hamburg, Germany. Reeperbahn, which is named for the area of town where the majority of the festivities take place, is one of the best festivals in Europe for uncovering great new talent before the rest of the world catches on, and now with the Anchor Award, there's a way to further those artists that seem ready to rise to the next level.
The Anchor Award highlighted just eight unique, talented, stand-out names from the dozens of bands that played in Hamburg over the past few days, and from that small pool, one act was declared the winner. A jury of six music industry bigwigs including legendary David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, former MTV personality Ray Cokes, SXSW Festival Manager James Minor, as well as musicians Y'akoto, Anna Ternheim, and Emiliana Torrini were tasked with picking just one winner, and while that doesn't sound like an easy job, they explained that when it came down to it, they were almost unanimous in their decision. The six acting jury members had to trek across Hamburg throughout the weekend to see all eight of the nominees in their natural setting: playing live. Because the Anchor Award is part of Reeperbahn, part of the criteria used to select a champion was not just the music they market as a finished product, but their live show as well, which is where some musicians either thrive or begin to blend in.
For the first-ever Anchor Awards, Swedish musician Albin Lee Meldau came away the winner, and while his acceptance was certainly exciting, his win wasn't entirely unexpected. Of the eight chosen musicians, Meldau was clearly a frontrunner from the beginning, as his brand of brooding, melancholic pop, which is emphasized by his deep, soulful vocals, is impossible to ignore.
Albin Lee Meldau might have come out on top, but all of the other seven nominees were certainly worthy of being nominated, and there was plenty of chatter amongst attendees that made it seem as though any one of the musicians up for the prize could have walked away with the simple and tastefully-designed trophy. To claim the title of the first-ever musician to be named an Anchor Award winner, Meldau had to best the likes of Conner Youngblood, Olivia Sebastianelli, Konni Kass, Woman, Parcels, Holly Macve, Shame, who all hail from various parts fo the world and who have their own distinct styles and approaches to honest, thought-provoking music. If you don't already know any of these names, give them a try--you won't regret a single second of their tunes.
While it's certainly fun to follow intensely-branded festivals like the Grammys, they aren't always the best when it comes to honoring what was really the best in music in the past year, and they really aren't meant to reward those making waves and phenomenal art that hasn't hit the mainstream just yet. The Anchor Award (it's singular, by the way) is looking to be Germany's answer to the Mercury or Polaris Prize, which is some truly excellent company to attempt to be in.
With the 2016 Anchor Award over and done with, the organization is already looking ahead to 2017, which promises to be a big year for both the ceremony and the Reeperbahn Festival. The Award will come become much more than just a ceremony, with anything from mentoring to sessions becoming a part of the brand, according to one person that was involved in the creation of the award. Summer 2017 will see Reeperbahn come to New York City in a very big way, bringing plenty of European talent along with it.