Brit nominees Charli XCX, Nova Twins and Rina Sawayama spoke out on the issue of female and diverse representation as they took to the red carpet at the annual awards show.
The biggest names from the world of music, from Stormzy to Harry Styles and Sam Smith, have descended on London’s O2 Arena for the annual ceremony.
Styles and indie rock duo Wet Leg lead the nominations with four apiece, while grime star Stormzy follows with three.
She told the PA news agency: “At the top it is straight white men. It is. So the more you have of that, the more you are going to get amplified voices that are that.
“It is just something that we really need to work on because artists are diverse. There is a lot of diversity in artists but there is not enough diversity in record labels.”
Heavy rock duo Nova Twins, who are nominated in two categories, walked the red carpet wearing colourful punk patchwork outfits they designed and partly made themselves.
Asked about the absence of female artists in the best artist category this year and a general lack of representation across the industry, singer and guitarist Amy Love told PA: “It is putting them as headliners at festivals. Women, especially bands, you don’t see them headlining festivals. They always regurgitate the same male acts.
“Again, awards – putting more women to the forefront. Little Simz could have been in the best artist category. I think you just have to lift each other up and really be aware of our decisions and our choices.
“But it is not an even playing field just yet. The conversation is being had and it is still going and things are improving, which is really, really great. But obviously we can always do a lot better still. We should keep moving forward.”
Addressing the same issue, US country music superstar Shania Twain said: “I think change if done with the right intentions is progress, so I am all for that.
“But I am a very inclusive person. I am always just cheering for the talent – the best talent.”
The Brits have faced a backlash this year – their second with gender-neutral categories – after the best artist list was dominated entirely by men – with Central Cee, Fred Again, George Ezra, Styles and Stormzy featuring.
This was despite an increase in female artists or all-women groups across the board.
Sam Smith, who is non-binary and spoke out in favour of genderless categories before the change, said the lack of women on the list shows there is “still a long way to go”.
“But I was in album cycle and had a number one, critically acclaimed album, so yeah. That is really all I have to say.”
She later jokingly added: “I just know that I am iconic.”
Rapper Loyle Carner, who is nominated in the hip hop/rap/grime act category, told PA he was excited to be at the awards but his true prize was being able to make music as his job.
He said: “I am excited to be in a room with other creative people. Awards are cool.
“I said to my head teacher at the Brit School, because I went to the Brit School, that if I win I would give it to him and he could make it the front door for the school, so all the kids get to touch it.
“Awards are cool but my award is putting stuff out. Getting to do this every day as a job. People stop me in the street and say that my music is helping, saving a life or whatever.
“So this for me is extra curriculum. I feel very lucky to be here but it doesn’t change if I win or lose.”
Maya Jama and Ashley Roberts were among the first stars to arrive.
Love Island host Jama wore a strapless black midi dress with gold detailing as she posed for the cameras.
Pussycat Dolls star Roberts opted for a silver co-ord that she matched with a midi skirt featuring a daring thigh-high slit.
Other attendees included former Love Island contestant Zara McDermott, drag queen and DJ Jodie Harsh and YolanDa Brown, chairwoman of the British Phonographic Industry – which organises Brits.
Performers on the night will include Stormzy, Styles, Wet Leg, David Guetta, US pop star Lizzo, Smith and British singer-songwriters Ella Henderson and Becky Hill.
– The Brit Awards, hosted by Mo Gilligan, is live on ITV1 and ITVX from 8.30pm.