This is how we do it.
By now most people who follow Polaris know that there is no submission process for Polaris. So how the heck does anyone ever get nominated if artists or their representatives can’t actually submit their recording for consideration?
Allow us to explain.
First, we select a jury. These opinionated recruits cover all sorts of music for all kinds of media. Our selectors work on a volunteer basis and come from daily, weekly and monthly printed things, websites, blogs, TV, and commercial, campus and CBC radio. Why media? They lack industry bias, so their picks are not sullied by direct financial relations with the artists. For the most part, they source and cover local music with authority. And they listen to more Canadian music than even your above-average music fan, so they’re in more of a position to judge what releases are Polaris-worthy.
Once recruited, they then join an email discussion group open only to them. Discussion in this space rages all year with arguments for and against voting for various records. Jury members can endorse or “suggest” certain titles to the rest of the group. The suggested recordings are then made available for download by the jury at large. This list of suggested titles presents each record in an equal setting, from the biggest major label release to the most local of independents.
When the time comes (and for 2010 that time is now), jury members cast their vote via a secure online ballot. They pick 5 titles. A number 1 pick gets 5 points. A number 2 pick gets 4 points. And so on. The jury is free to pick any title they like as long as it falls under the Polaris eligibility (see our rules and regs page on this site) and was released between June 1 of the previous year and May 31 of the current. They are not required to pick from the List of Suggestions. The 40 records with the highest point scores become the Polaris Long List.
Here’s where it gets exciting.
Once the 40-title Long List is released (June 17 this year), these same jury members have the option to revise their ballots, but only with titles from the Long List. The top 10 of these selections become the Short List, which we will announce July 6.
Here’s where it gets really exciting.
In August, Polaris selects 11 members of the jury to decide the winner. We call this the Grand Jury. This is the most challenging part of what we do. It is important to us that each record on the Short List gets equal representation from the Grand Jury, so we look at the ballots to ensure no prejudice for or against any one title. Then we try and give equal representation to region and media type, remembering to be mindful of gender and language inclusiveness. A jury member can sit on the Grand Jury only once, so there are no repeaters. At this time, we send each of these Grand Jury members a copy all the Short Listed records. They are required to listen to each of them, repeatedly.
The night before our gala, these Grand Jury members are convened for dinner where they discuss their likes and dislikes on the Short List.
On the night of the gala (September 20 this year), the Grand Jury gathers with Polaris Jury moderator Liisa Ladouceur (who does not vote) at the site of the event to vote for the winner, in three rounds. Once again, the number 1 choice is worth 5 points, etc. The first round eliminates the bottom five point-getters. The Grand Jury spends the next hour or so discussing the remaining titles. They eliminate two more. They then discuss the top 3 and cast one more ballot to decide the winner. Ballots are anonymous and Grand Jury members do not know the results until we finally announce the winner to the gala and the world at the end of the night.
Once the winner is announced, all rejoice and drunkenness and arguments ensue. And one lucky artist gets a cheque for $20,000.