DAMN. Kendrick Lamar is the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Pulitzer Prize was launched in 1917 and the first Pulitzer Prize for Music was awarded in 1943. Kendrick Lamar is the 67th recipient.

The Pulitzer is a name with overwhelming gravitas, commonly associated with American journalism, poetry and literature. The music category recognizes “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”

The award itself comes with little fanfare, no red carpet sizzle, but, rather, the recipient will forever be known as the “Pulitzer Prize winning author/journalist/ poet/ composer/ etc”. The attention heaped upon Pulitzer Prize winning rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar has been truly global. His award made headline news here in the UK, prompting widespread comment. The significance of this moment cannot be understated and had many layers relevant to all of us in the music industry and in a number of ways.

The significance for hip-hop and black music

As Jasmine Dotiwala pointed out on Sky News, in the early ‘90s the US government tried to shut down the likes of NWA, Ice T and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Twenty-five years later a 30-year-old rapper from Compton is being feted by the establishment, hopefully signaling a new level of acceptance.

It sets a significant marker for the music industry itself. The last black artist to win Album of the Year at the Grammys was Herbie Hancock in 2008. Lauryn Hill and OutKast have won Album of the Year in the past, but in recent years no black artist has won the accolade. At a time when black music has reached new artistic heights and cultural resonance coupled with poor female representation, The Recording Academy has been blasted for being out of touch.

DAMN was actually shortlisted for Best Album at this year’s Grammys, Lamar’s third nomination for the award. Childish Gambino and Jay-Z also made the shortlist but they all lost out to Bruno Mars. Beyoncé has made the shortlist three times, culminating with her greatest work yet, Lemonade, leaving her empty handed again last year prompting many to ask, what has the lady got to do to win Best Album?

In winning the Pulitzer Prize, Lamar has leapfrogged the Grammys in recognition. Perhaps this serves as a challenge to The Recording Academy to go further and do better as it considers options for 2019?

The significance for contemporary music

Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, have all won many plaudits over the years as authentic and significant American artists and storytellers, but none have won a Pulitzer Prize for Music. The overwhelming majority of recipients are classical. In recent years, a handful of jazz artists have won the award, first Wynton Marsalis in 1997, then Ornette Coleman in 2007 and Henry Threadgill in 2016. These gentlemen are masters of their art, but it took them years to reach that level of acceptance by the American arts establishment.

Only last week, the debate surrounding Arts Council funding in the UK contrasting the attitudes afforded to opera and classical at the expense of other genres, illustrates how far contemporary music still has to go in winning over the arts establishment in the UK. Kendrick Lamar’s achievement is significant not only for hip-hop, or for black music, but for contemporary music as a whole. It challenges the arts establishment around the world to fully embrace the cultural significance of contemporary music.

Arts Council England could learn a great deal from the Pulitzer’s and the process behind them. Kendrick Lamar’s award was the result of not only diverse and inclusive voices, but also diverse and inclusive process, thought and debate.

As David Hajdu, one of the jurors and also a writer for The Nation, explained in the New York Times, “some pieces of classical music that drew upon hip-hop as a resource, that led us to put on the table the fact that this sphere of work - rap music - has value on its own terms and not just as a resource for use in a field that is more broadly recognized by the institutional establishment as serious or legitimate.

The tone and conduct of the debate brought together jurors from a range of artistic backgrounds, including those more traditional, to this unanimous outcome.

Be unashamedly artistic

In the streaming age, play counts are the new heavy rotation. Play counts have become an obsession. The challenge of introducing new artists to the market and making an impact is one the industry continues to grapple with. Once that artist finds an audience and begins to grow, however, the only limitations are the artist’s own ambition and hard work.

As the man himself, explained: “you have to listen to it over and over and over again to fully understand the direction and the message that I put in there; the execution of it. And I want you to do that. I wanna challenge the way you think and the way you take your music.”

We could be clever and conclude that Kendrick Lamar is taking a counter intuitive approach to music making in the streaming age, but really he is just being a true artist: thought provoking and provocative. He is putting out his music on his terms and he wants you to listen to it on his terms. Streaming included.

This Pulitzer success, coupled with DAMN’s commercial success signals very clearly that the album, as a format and a concept, is not going away. Moreover, whenever anyone says “could {insert classic album} be made today?” Stylistics aside, the answer is a resounding yes. 


What this award also recognizes is a journalistic quality to Kendrick Lamar’s work that documents contemporary African American life. YouTube and social media have exposed long-held injustices affecting the black community to broader white audiences and almost every form of artistic expression has harnessed this moment.

Black creators are succeeding in every creative field around the world, be it movies such as Get Out and Black Panther, television comedies such as Issa Rae’s Insecure and Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum in the UK. In non-fiction, Reni Eddo-Lodge has produced a global best seller that began with a frustration at that typically (white) British trait of brushing uncomfortable truths (race) under the carpet. Pulling it all together is a renewed focus on Africa not only as a source of inspiration, but also a source of creative talent. This dynamic has not gone unnoticed by Midem organisers who will be exploring African markets such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and the Congo in Cannes this year.

A political thread connects all of these creators and across all continents, albeit from many different viewpoints and experiences. It also serves as a reminder to all recording artists and the industry that supports them, that in challenging times a political message has artistic resonance with a mainstream audience.

There is a generation of executives too young to remember the civil rights movement and Vietnam War that produced such a rich body of music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Instead, that generation was brought up to think of politics in music as being aligned to “Red Wedge” or “New Labour” or some form of party political affiliation. Understandably, this resulted in cynicism and disengagement, whereas millennial artists and audiences display idealism reminiscent of their grandparent’s generation. 

The politics of 2018 cuts across party boundaries and country borders. Even in this past week, the Windrush debacle in the UK has prompted a global outcry and it was revealed that Grenfell was entirely preventable. Politics fuelled Stormzy’s electrifying BRITS performance. Politics has taken Beyoncé to new creative heights. Politics is not something for artists to be wary of, nor their managers nor their A&Rs for that matter.

A political narrative can fuel any artist from any background and any genre of music. As a former artist and current music executive said to me only last week, “grime and hip-hop are cutting through because those artists have something to say, other genres have to look to themselves and do better,” (he was once in a guitar band).

Kendrick Lamar has raised the bar not just for hip-hop but all contemporary music. Pulitzer Prize winner. DAMN.

Tweet Andy Edwards your thoughts to @andyedwardsbiz

12 Dec 2019 | Press release

BBC Music Sound of 2020 longlist revealed

The longlist for BBC Music Sound of 2020 has been unveiled, tipping ten new artists for success next year.  Last year Octavian became the first UK rapper to claim the top spot ahead of a strong longlist featuring the likes of...more

12 Dec 2019 | Press release

Sony Music UK gears up for 2020 expansion with new VP of Podcasting & Creative Strategy

Adam Cardew appointed to newly-created role: VP of Podcasting & Creative Strategy, part of Sony’s 4th Floor Creative department Podcast expansion allows artists to amplify their stories in innovative formats Cassandra Gracey, President of 4th Floor Creative for Sony Music UK, has...more

12 Dec 2019 | Press release

Hipgnosis acquires Jack Antonoff catalogue

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (“Hipgnosis” or the “Company”) Acquisition of Music Catalogue The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are pleased to announce that the Company has acquired a music catalogue from Jack Antonoff.  Jack...more

12 Dec 2019 | Press release

IMS Ibiza 2020 - New venue for a new decade, Destino Ibiza


11 Dec 2019 | Press release

NME Awards Are Back in 2020

The most raucous night in music is back. On February 12, 2020, music’s greats will come together for the NME Awards at London’s O2 Academy Brixton to celebrate the last 12 months of artists, records and performances. The first names...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Hipgnosis Songs Fund - Jeff Bhasker

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (“Hipgnosis” or the “Company”)   Acquisition of Music Catalogue The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are pleased to announce that the Company has acquired a music catalogue from the 5...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Hipgnosis Songs Fund - Interim Results

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (“Hipgnosis” or the “Company”) Interim Results for the six months ended 30 September 2019 ("H1") The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are pleased to announce the Company's interim results for...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Deezer opens a Portal to your music and shows

It’s time to put your phone away and open a portal to entertainment. Starting today,  you can download Deezer onto Portal TV and log in to your account.  Portal TV brings the video calling experience to the biggest screen in your...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Soundcharts predicts Hip-Hop, Grime and R&B artists to break in 2020 - by analysing 15 major sources including Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, Apple Music and many more

- Soundcharts predicts tomorrow’s music trends using data science that pulls and evaluates information from some of the biggest digital music platforms- Deezer, Spotify, Shazam, TikTok, YouTube, Amazon Music, iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Apple Music, and many more music sources combine...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Remote Control’s Dot Dash Label Inks UK & Europe Deal with Proper Music Group

Covers physical distribution for Dot Dash’s Australian roster throughout Europe, UK & Republic of Ireland Upcoming UK & Europe releases include albums from Gena Rose Bruce, Carla Geneve and new music from Donny Benét  Dot Dash, the in-house label of Australian label...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

UK Music Chairman and founder Andy Heath to step down after 11 years at the top

UK Music Chairman Andy Heath is to step down in 2020 after 11 years at the helm of the UK’s world-leading trade body for the music industry. Andy founded UK Music in 2008, bringing the commercial side of the music...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Better Noise & FUGA: The Perfect Global Indie Match

- Pioneering deal between Better Noise (formerly Eleven Seven Label Group) and FUGA fully integrates marketing and distribution activities for strategic global approach- Strategic Integration demonstrates FUGA’s offering working at scale with a global major indieFUGA, the leading technology and...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Clare McConnell joins WMG as Senior Privacy Counsel

Warner Music Group (WMG) has appointed Clare McConnell to the new role of Senior Privacy Counsel.  She joins the company from Guardian Media Group and will be based in London, reporting to Kate Logan, WMG’s General Counsel, International. Clare is an...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Alice Webb appointed Chief Executive Officer of Eagle Rock Entertainment

Universal Music UK hires senior BBC executive to run its award-winning music programming production and distribution division   Universal Music UK has appointed senior BBC executive Alice Webb as Chief Executive Officer of Eagle Rock Entertainment, a move which will see one...more

11 Dec 2019 | Press release

Reservoir signs Grammy-nominated writer-producer Sam Sumser to a worldwide publishing deal

Deal Includes Lizzo’s ‘Juice’ and ‘Lingerie’ Alongside other Hits   Reservoir announces the signing of Grammy-nominated writer-producer Sam Sumser to a worldwide publishing deal. The deal includes rights to Sumser’s catalog of works including lead single “Juice” and “Lingerie” off 2020 Best...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

OneFest and Shabaka Hutchings announce 'twin city' festivals in London & Sheffield in March 2020

By day: Challenging the 'North-South divide' & bringing music business education to young peopleBy night: Bringing together the cream of British jazz across generationsThe Leadmill, Sheffield Sat 7th March 2020EartH, London on Sat 14th March 2020    Stephen Budd  "OneFest exists to reach the next generation of Shabaka Hutchingses,...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

BDi Music signs Marina Elderton in exclusive deal

Independent publisher BDi Music has signed rising composer and songwriter Marina Elderton in an exclusive, worldwide deal. Based in London, Elderton is an award-winning composer for film, TV, media and theatre.  Graduating from The National Film and Television School in 2016, she has...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

Hipgnosis acquires Kaiser Chiefs catalogue

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (“Hipgnosis” or the “Company”) Acquisition of Music Catalogue The Board of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and its Investment Adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, are pleased to announce that the Company has acquired a music catalogue by the English...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

Dirty Hit Records Signs Global Distribution Deal with Ingrooves

Dirty Hit, the hugely successful British independent record label that launched the careers of such artists as The 1975, Wolf Alice, Pale Waves andBeabadoobee has signed an exclusive global digital distribution deal with Ingrooves Music Group, a leading independent music marketing services and distribution company.  The new...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

Warner Music Group and Providence Equity Partners join forces to invest in music catalogs

New Platform to Promote Recording Artists and Songwriters Across the Globe   Warner Music Group (“WMG”) and Providence Equity Partners (“Providence”) today announced plans to invest in world-class recorded music and music publishing catalogs via a newly established platform, Tempo Music Investments...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

Kobalt Signs Publishing Deal With 88Rising

Deal Expands Relationship with Leading Asian Music and Culture Company  Kobalt today announced an exclusive worldwide deal with international media collective and record label focusing on Asian talents, 88Rising. The partnership includes creative, sync and world rights excluding China as well...more

10 Dec 2019 | Press release

Significant step towards USA, Canada & Mexico trade deal

Copyright provisions a mixed bag for music industry   A deal has been reached in the US by the Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with US president Donald Trump to ratify the trilateral trade deal between Canada, the USA and Mexico. The...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

Tony Harlow to become Chairman & CEO, Warner Music UK

 Creative & Entrepreneurial Music Exec to Return Home Following Global Leadership Posts    Max Lousada, Warner Music Group’s (WMG) CEO of Recorded Music, today announced that Tony Harlow has been named Chairman & CEO of Warner Music UK (WMUK), starting in February...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

KT Tunstall & pals cover Lennon for charity single

A supergroup featuring singer KT Tunstall and some of the world's top musicians are to release a charity version of John Lennon protest song 'Gimme Some Truth' demanding more transparency in society.KT joins a who's who of UK musicians- collectively...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

Sentric launches fund for emerging artists

The Sentric Academy Fund will support 12 artists each year Sentric Music Group has launched a fund for artists based on the company’s popular recurring blog post that asks some of the music industry’s brightest minds what they would do with...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

Max Richter signs new global deal with Universal Music Group

PLUS LANDMARK MOMENT OF HITTING 1 BILLION STREAMS AND OVER 1 MILLION ALBUM SALES New partnership across Decca Records, Decca Publishing and Deutsche Grammophon Recordings of new works will be released through London-based Decca Records under the ‘Studio Richter’ imprint Deutsche Grammophon will...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

Electronic Sound Summit 2020 announces first wave of acts

The Electronic Sound Summit is the North West’s foremost celebration of the Electronic Music Industry, with a goal of introducing emerging creatives to the global Dance Music community through artist development focused on education, access, and opportunity. We aim to...more

09 Dec 2019 | Press release

Boomplay and Merlin bring the world’s best independent music to Africa

A landmark licensing partnership with Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the independent label sector, will ensure that Boomplay, Africa’s biggest and fastest growing music service, now has access to the world’s most coveted and in-demand independent music repertoire.  Established...more

08 Dec 2019 | Press release

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher to step down

  UK Music CEO Michael Dugher is to step down after almost three years leading the music industry trade body. He is leaving to take up a new position as CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council. Michael joined UK Music in April...more

06 Dec 2019 | Press release

AirAsia Group and Universal Music Group Launch RedRecords

New label focused on elevating A-Pop music to a global audience First signing is Jannine Weigel – Thai singer, songwriter, influencer, model and actor   AirAsia Group, a leading travel and lifestyle company within Asia Pacific and Universal Music Group (UMG), the world...more

12 Dec 2019

  •  UK Music Chairman Andy Heath to step down (see News)

  •  BBC Music Sound of 2020 longlist announced (see News)

11 Dec 2019

  • Hipgnosis Songs Fund announces Interim Results; signs Jeff Bhasker (see Business, Deals)

  • Warner Music Group and Providence plan to invest in catalogues via new platform (see Business)

10 Dec 2019

  • Tony Harlow named Chairman & CEO of Warner Music UK (see Business)

  • Merlin to move HQ to Dublin; will 'apply a small margin' to future earnings (see Business)

  • Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquires Kaiser Chiefs' master rights catalogue (see Deals)

09 Dec 2019

  • UK Music CEO Michael Dugher to step down (see Business)

  • Rapper Juice WRLD dies at 21 (see News, Features)

06 Dec 2019

  • Celeste named winner of BRITs Rising Star award (see News)

05 Dec 2019

  • Apple to embrace concert video, starts with Billie Eilish show, who also makes Apple TV+ documentary (see Digital)

  • Spotify 2019 Wrapped launched (see Digital)

04 Dec 2019

  • GEMA buys majority stake in Zebralution (see Business)

  • Lyrics site Genius sues Google and LyricFind over alleged misappropriation of transcriptions (see News)

  • Spotify launches advertising tool Marquee (see Digital)

03 Dec 2019

  • Hipgnosis signs Fraser T Smith (see Deals)

  • Spotify, Deezer announce end of year lists; Apple Music honours artists (see Digital)

  • Human Re Sources expands to the UK (see Business)

  • Celeste named BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year 2019 (see Media)

02 Dec 2019

  • FanFair Alliance warns CMA Viagogo's takeover of StubHub would give it a monopoly (see News)

  • Mixcloud suffers data breach (see Digital)

29 Nov 2019

  • Massive Attack and climate scientists to create eco-friendly touring blueprint (see News) 

  • Music Declares Emergency wins IMPALA Outstanding Contribution Award. (see News)