In Depth: 2012 Mercury Prize Shortlist


Tomorrow night twelve acts from the UK and Ireland will battle it out for the coveted 2012 Mercury Prize. Established in 1992, the hotly contested trophy – awarded for musical merit alone – has been taken home by the likes of Primal Scream, Dizzee Rascal, Arctic Monkeys, The xx and – last year’s winner – PJ Harvey. Here, introduces this year’s finalists, all in contention for the ‘Album Of The Year’ accolade – and £20,000 in cash!

As usual, Thursday’s prize will be presided over by a panel of industry experts, including luminaries from the world of radio, music journalism and previous nominees, but the real story is in the listening data. Studying the scrobble stats for each album, we’ve uncovered some fascinating insight on each of the 12 nominated releases, based purely on our users’ listening habits. Will the judges’ decision be in tune with the people’s verdict?

Initially we looked at the listener and scrobble count for each album – usually the best way to gauge how popular a release is. But since each of the twelve albums were released at different times across the year, the fairest way to determine popularity was to look at average plays per day, as well as how many times each user has listened to the release. Read on to find out who came out on top …

The twelve finalists are:

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

The bookies’ favourite, Alt-J have already won legions of fans with their intricate, self-described take on ‘folk-step’. Forming at University in Leeds but now residing in Cambridge, the four piece have seen a meteoric rise over the past year. With a sold-out UK tour, TV appearances on the likes of ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ and a recent seal of approval by Mumford & Sons, it’s hard to see the triangle-loving four piece losing.

An Awesome Wave in statistics:

  • 3,366,745 scrobbles
  • 84,241 listeners
  • An average of 23,218 plays per day
  • An average of 39 plays per listener


Ben Howard – Every Kingdom

Every Kingdom‘ is the debut album from Devon-based singer-songwriter Ben Howard. Released in October 2011 and debuting at #7 in the UK album chart, the impressive release has seen the young troubadour graduate from tiny venues to selling out three nights at the 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy in November. The heavily touring Howard has also impressed crowds across the Atlantic, with even more sell-out shows and a fantastic appearance on ‘Live on Letterman’. Although he’s had a great year, Howard isn’t expected to challenge for the prize.

Every Kingdom in statistics:

  • 4,081,716 scrobbles
  • 161,194 listeners
  • An average of 10,439 plays per day
  • An average of 25 plays per listener


Django Django – Django Django

The self-titled debut release from this Edinburgh-formed, London-based foursome took four long years in the making, and it’s hard to argue it wasn’t worth the wait! Here Django Django have mastered a confident take on art-rock infused with psychedelic and 60s-styled harmonies. In with a chance for this year’s prize, there’s no doubt about it.

Django Django in statistics:

  • 1,623,890 scrobbles
  • 74,082 listeners
  • An average of 5,948 plays per day
  • An average of 22 plays per listener


Field Music – Plumb

Field Music, aka Sunderland-raised siblings Peter and David Brewis, released their hugely anticipated fourth album ‘Plumb‘ earlier this year to a rapturous reception from many mainstream publications. Cramming 15 tracks into 35 minutes, ‘Plumb’ further strengthens the duo’s case as one of the more experimental acts to be nominated for the prize in years.

Plumb in statistics:

  • 336,806 scrobbles
  • 19,569 listeners
  • An average of 1,300 plays per day
  • An average of 17 plays per listener


Jessie Ware – Devotion

First displaying her vocal talent on the SBTRKT track ‘Nervous‘, Jessie Ware has gone on to make one of the most sophisticated debuts in recent years. The soulful, aptly titled ‘Devotion‘ oozes class, with standout tracks such as ‘Running‘, ‘110%‘ and ‘Wildest Moments begging for repeated listens. Don’t be surprised if this South Londoner comes away as a winner on Thursday night.

Devotion in statistics:

  • 982,770 scrobbles
  • 42,716 listeners
  • An average of 14,243 plays per day
  • An average of 23 plays per listener


Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough?

Is Your Love Big Enough?‘ by young chanteuse Lianne La Havas is another debut album in the running for the prize. After two well received EP’s, a BBC ‘Sound of 2012’ nomination and an unforgettable appearance on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ in 2011, La Havas’ gorgeous voice has won her many new fans in the past 12 months.

Is Your Love Big Enough? in statistics:

  • 338,724 scrobbles
  • 20,296 listeners
  • An average of 3,024 plays per day
  • An average of 17 plays per listener


Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Earlier this year Michael Kiwanuka took home the prestigious ‘Sound of 2012‘, presented by the BBC. Beating the likes of Frank Ocean and Skrillex to the gong, he was instantaneously thrust into the spotlight as the ‘next big thing’. In truth he hasn’t quite reached the heights most people were expecting, but with one listen to the beautifully crafted love songs on his debut album ‘Home Again‘, it’s hard not to become a fan.

Home Again in statistics:

  • 1,128,927 scrobbles
  • 82,476 listeners
  • An average of 6,488 plays per day
  • An average of 14 plays per listener


Plan B – Ill Manors

2012 saw Ben Drew, aka Plan B, return with his third full-length album ‘Ill Manors‘. As expected, Ill Manors provides a platform for Mr. B to showcase his lyrical depth in what he describes as a “bass-line, soul, hip-hop” record. With the title track causing a big stir earlier this year, he may be in with a shout for the Mercury.

Ill Manors in statistics:

  • 284,922 scrobbles
  • 33,111 listeners
  • An average of 2,907 plays per day
  • An average of 9 plays per listener


Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Standing at the Sky’s Edge‘ is the seventh studio album from Sheffield’s very own Richard Hawley, Released to universal acclaim, the album, as with all of Hawley’s albums, is named after a location in his hometown. Debuting at #3 in the UK album chart, many people believe he already has one hand on the Mercury Prize!

Standing at the Sky’s Edge in statistics:

  • 197,077 scrobbles
  • 17,674 listeners
  • An average of 1,126 plays per day
  • An average of 11 plays per listener


Roller Trio – Roller Trio

Hailed by Giles Peterson as the ‘new sound’ of the UK Jazz scene, Roller Trio are another act exploding out of the fertile Leeds music scene. Their self-titled debut is as rife with riffs as with evocative electronics, being the result of many improvised jamming sessions. Though bursting with energy, the three piece have little hope of winning the grand prize.

Roller Trio in statistics:

  • 1,255 scrobbles
  • 138 listeners
  • An average of 14 plays per day
  • An average of 9 plays per listener


Sam Lee – Ground of its Own

Another relatively unknown act on the shortlist is Sam Lee, with his striking debut ‘Ground of its Own‘. The 8-track release (partially mixed by by John Wood of Nick Drake fame), is more than a treat for any folk fan. Taking inspiration from English Gypsy, Irish and Scottish traveller communities, his ability to verbalise traditional songs is a talent many wish they had.

Ground of Its Own in statistics:

  • 13,626 scrobbles
  • 2,303 listeners
  • An average of 107 plays per day
  • An average of 6 plays per listener


The Maccabees – Given to the Wild

Earlier this year indie-pop titans The Maccabess introduced their third album ‘Given To The Wild’ to much critical acclaim, and played the biggest show of their careers at London’s Alexandra Palace, proving there is still a market for British guitar bands. Even with positive reviews from both the NME and The Guardian, they’re not considered to be in with a shot for the prize this year.

Given to the Wild in statistics:

  • 1,953,080 scrobbles
  • 79,238 listeners
  • An average of 10,388 plays per day
  • An average of 24 plays per listener


Based on scrobbles alone, Ben Howard leads with an incredible 4,081,716. However his album has also been out the longest, having been released in October 2011. Second place is Alt-J with 3,366,745 scrobbles followed by The Maccabess with 1,953,080 album scrobbles.

Ben Howard also has the highest number of listeners (161,194) for ‘Every Kingdom‘, though this could also be attributed to his early album release. Second place again falls to Alt-J with 84,241, and third goes to Michael Kiwanuka with 82,476.

Alt-J recieve the most scrobbles per day with 23,218. They also boast the highest average scrobbles per listener, with the average listener clocking up 39 track plays. Jessie Ware is a distant second with 14,243 scrobbles per day and Ben Howard is third with 10,439 track plays per day.

If our users had their say, it seems Alt-J are the clear winner highest number of scrobbles per listener and per day since the release of ‘An Awesome Wave‘. Sadly it’s not down to our users, but UK residents can watch coverage of the Barclaycard Mercury Prize on Channel 4 at 10pm GMT and see how close the judges get to the people’s choice!