Interview: Founder Richy Muirhead reflects on the 2020 Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA)

As we approach the end of a year like no other, we caught up with SMIA Advisory Group member Richy Muirhead to discuss this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA) campaign; which went digital for the first time in 2020 in light of the covid-19 pandemic.

Tell us a bit about how this year’s awards worked, and what changes had to be made for its delivery in light of the current restrictions?
Usually the event is held in a busy Saint Lukes in Glasgow with performances, awards, special guest presenters and more. Initially, we wanted to rework this format into an online show and invite the audience. Performances are a really important aspect of the show, so we decided to pre-record sessions with two 2019 nominees, Walt Disco and Nova. These sessions were recorded with a smaller team, strictly in line with government social distancing and tracing regulations.

Opportunities for artists have been highly limited this year. Why was it important for the SAMA to go digital in 2020 and continue providing a key platform to celebrate emerging artists in Scotland?
The SAMA are an important event as it brings together artists of different genres, their audiences and the music industry. It showcases what exists in genres, such as hip hop, metal and electronic music. Despite the country being in a lockdown, it was clear artists were continuing to write, record and release music. This is why we wanted to host the event to shine a light on the new talent and ignite some positivity into the music scene. Hosting the event online was a great opportunity to invite a larger audience, and for more people to see the event online.

Tell us a bit about how the SAMA process works, and the award categories. How do you get to the point of announcing the winners?
There are 7 SAMA categories: Best Electronic, Best Best Metal, Best Live Act, Best Acoustic, Best Hip Hop, Best Rock/Alternative, and Best Newcomer. Each award has a group of nominators who work as a team using our music criteria to determine 4 outstanding names in their category. The nominators are representatives of the UK music industry, from radio producers to journalists and artists. The winners are decided by the public following a 3 day vote, with the announcement taking place at the event. 

The SAMA digital ceremony was broadcast place on Wednesday 18 November, and included live sets from previous nominees Nova (who won this year’s SAY Award for her debut album ‘Re-Up’) and Walt Disco (who’s ‘Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us)’ was recently voted as Tenement TV’s top track of 2020). What’s your thoughts on the strength of new music in Scotland in 2020? 

I say it all the time but for a country of its size we seriously punch above our weight, from globally successful artists like Calvin Harris and Lewis Capaldi to relatively new artists like The Snuts who recently sold out three nights at The Barrowlands. Music is embedded in Scotland and there are always exciting new artists emerging. The one thing I really missed this year is going to multiple gigs in one night and discovering different artists playing live!

Looking forward to 2021, what’s your hopes and ambitions for both the SAMA and Scotland’s music scene?
In May 2021 SAMA are set to host a showcase at Liverpool Sound City. Plus, a new hybrid event dedicated to Scottish grime and hip-hop, and finally the music awards. It will be really great to stage these events in a physical format with a live audience. My biggest hopes and ambitions are for the vaccine to be rolled out to allow for touring to return. Touring is such as an important part of bringing artists to Scotland and also for exporting.  

The 2020 SAMA winners are:

Best Acoustic – Jenny Sturgeon
Best Electronic – TAAHLIAH
Best Newcomer – TAAHLIAH
Best Hip Hop – India Rose
Best Live Act – Callum Easter
Best Metal – Saor
Best Rock/Alternative – Fauves

You can watch back the Scottish Alternative Music Awards Ceremony on YouTube now:

Find out more about the SAMAs via their website:

And keep up to date with the SAMAs across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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