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About Sound Of 2020

What is BBC Music Sound Of?

The Sound Of list started in 2003 with the aim to showcase the most exciting rising stars in music. 18 years later, and the aim is the same - to continue predicting some of the biggest and most exciting global superstars including previous winners Adele, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, HAIM, Years & Years, Ray BLK and Sigrid. The acts that appear on Sound Of are all hand-picked by a panel of impartial music industry experts from around the world.

How are the pundits selected?

This year, UK and international tastemakers were selected to vote for the most exciting new artists they are tipping for success in 2021.

This year’s panel represents a huge spectrum of music from across the world and when choosing the pundits, we are looking for the most genuine and passionate music fans to help showcase the best new music to a wider audience. None of the pundits are paid for taking part.

Who can the pundits vote for?

The panel are asked to nominate acts who they are personally most excited about - there is no predetermined list. We want BBC Sound Of to be based on passion and music quality, disregarding hype or record deals.

Artists from any musical genre and country are eligible, whether or not they’re signed. They must not have been the lead artist on a UK top 10 album and no more than one UK top 10 singles by mid October and not already widely known by the UK general public.

Pundits are also not allowed to vote for their family or close friends, or any artists who they have a commercial relationship with.

What kind of artists end up in the final list?

The panel are asked to pick their favourite new artists they are tipping for success in the following year and because our pundits have a level of influence over the music that gets heard by the general public, it can be seen as a good barometer of future success.

The winner often has quite broad mainstream appeal but it’s not just about predicting the artists that will be famous in 2021 - the longlist often includes a mixture of mainstream and alternative acts. In recent years, Sound Of Alumni have included huge commercial success stories such as Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and Stormzy, as well as supporting more alternative acts including James Blake, Jai Paul, Banks and FKA Twigs.

Discover the previous lists, including archive content from the shortlisted acts

How does the voting process work?

The pundits vote by email, choosing their three favourite new acts in order of preference.

There’s only one panel of voters and only one round of voting. The 3 nominations from each of the pundits on the panel are counted, with a pundit’s favourite artist getting 3 points, second choice getting 2 points and third choice getting 1 point. In the event of the two artists getting the same amount of points, the order is decided by which artists has had the most votes as a pundit’s first choice. If the result of the first choice is the same, it then goes to second choice and so on. If in the unlikely situation the result of each choice is exactly the same, the artists will be awarded a shared place. Only the shortlist of the Top 5 artists (announced in January 2021) is listed in order by points scored, the artists placed 6-10 are listed alphabetically.

The BBC will exclude artists or individual votes at its discretion if it believes there has been a breach of these criteria, there is a clear conflict of interest or there is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the result but it remains impartial and unbiased.

What happens after the votes are counted?

The longlist (top 10) was announced in alphabetical order on 7th December on the BBC website.

The shortlist (top 5) is revealed in a countdown in January 2021 on the BBC website.

From early November, when the voting closes, until early January, when the winner is revealed, we work closely with the artists (and managers and labels) to get interviews and live performances which are used on the BBC website and in coverage of the project by BBC News.

What do the artists gain from being on the list?

The BBC Music Sound Of list, along with other similar new music lists such as the BRITs Rising Star award, are generally thought to be used by the UK music and media industries to give a broad steer when it comes to promotion priorities and live bookings, but this obviously isn’t guaranteed.

There’s no prize for the winner, and the artists on the list aren’t contractually guaranteed any future promotion from the BBC as part of their involvement.