Spotlight: A Sustainable SAY Award

29 Nov 2021


2021 marked the tenth year of the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award – Scotland’s national music prize – which since 2012, has celebrated Scottish music and both the cultural impact and contribution of outstanding Scottish albums. The award has now distributed almost £300,000 in prize money and championed 200 Longlisted albums.

On Saturday 23 October, artists, industry professionals and music fans gathered for a landmark Ceremony which took place at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. The event marked not only the award’s 10th birthday, but the first major Scottish music industry gathering since before the pandemic. Mogwai’s ‘As The Love Continues’ claimed this year’s coveted title, while Edinburgh-based singer and producer LVRA walked away with the inaugural Sound of Young Scotland Award. Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ received the first ever Modern Scottish Classic Award – as chosen by the artists making up The SAY Award 2021 Longlist – in recognition of an outstanding album from Scotland’s past which still inspires music being made today. 



A return to a physical event in the context of Covid-19 meant many new processes and procedures were required. As well as this, the SMIA made an active commitment to place sustainability at the heart of The SAY Award’s plans; recognising the unique opportunity to promote best practice and be the catalyst for inspiring essential cultural change industry wide. 

To deliver on our ambitions, we were delighted to welcome OVO Energy as a new partner of The SAY Award for 2021. OVO is on a mission through its sustainability strategy Plan Zero to tackle the most important issue of our time; the climate crisis. Their partnership centred around supporting the SMIA in implementing key changes to the delivery of 2021’s SAY Award Ceremony; looking at a range of actions which would reduce our carbon impact and see us to help address the climate and ecological emergency. Their support also allowed us to better articulate the key aims of our Charity Partner – Music Declares Emergency – in the lead up to the event; further encouraging artists and industry professionals to stand together and play their part in making key changes as an industry to protect all life on Earth. 



Design Commission 

The first strand of our partnership with OVO Energy centred around 2021’s Design Commission. From our very first ceremony back in 2012, The SAY Award has highlighted the enduring links between music, art and design in a country overflowing with talent. Through working with Edinburgh-based design curators Local Heroes, we put out an open call to find an exciting design talent whose practice is informed by circular design, ethical considerations or a zero waste approach.



Glasgow-based design duo Still Life were selected for the commission, and they were tasked with delivering 2021’s prizes. Utilising 21kg of waste plastic, they created bespoke vases and engraved trays made from salvaged recycled materials; changing perceptions around what we consider as waste altogether.

In this short film, we speak to both Still Life and OVO Energy about 2021’s commission, and learn more about the concept, design and delivery of the prizes that were created…



Artist Content

Through their unique cultural power, musicians and music businesses have the opportunity to lead the way in inspiring essential change across society. 

OVO Energy’s support allowed us to commission content with SAY Award alumni who were particularly passionate about how the music industry can play its part in addressing the climate emergency. In this short film, we speak to former winners Sacred Paws, along with former nominees Comfort, Declan Welsh & the Decadent West and Blanck Mass



Award Ceremony

For the Ceremony itself, OVO Energy’s support enabled a range of sustainability-focused activations.

We took the decision to remove all print branding (such as flags and banners) and promotional materials from the event, replacing them with digital alternatives. This included the introduction of two new additional hexagon screens on stage, which illuminated the Usher Hall with engaging visuals celebrating Nominees, performers and showcasing the talent that has been celebrated through the history of the award as part of a special celebration of #TenYearsofSAY.



We replaced printed tickets with e-tickets, and we worked with a web developer to replace our traditional printed programme with a digital offering available via Not only did this allow us to reduce our carbon impact, but it meant that those who attended on the night could easily engage with Nominated artists online; following them on social media platforms, saving their Nominated albums and ultimately increasing The SAY Award’s impact in terms of digital audience development.

All food at the event, including canapés at our welcome reception, artists’ riders and staff/crew catering was vegan and sustainability sourced; allowing us to again make important steps in reducing impact whilst supporting local businesses. 



In terms of operations and logistics, we were able to coordinate production to allow all PA equipment, lighting and backline to be brought to and from the venue in one large truck; saving multiple vehicles traveling. Where possible, we also replaced halogen stage lighting with LED alternatives, and we replaced our traditional branded guest lanyards with paper wristbands; again significantly reducing waste.

Whilst Covid-19 meant many considerations had to be made this year, OVO Energy’s support allowed us to place a significant focus on sustainability, and gave us the means to both explore and action a range of important changes to the delivery of our event. 

Speaking of the partnership, OVO Energy said:

OVO is delighted to have played a positive role in supporting this year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award in becoming more sustainable. The SMIA team share our ambition to limit the impact of music industry events, and the multi-layered initiatives put in place for this year’s campaign and ceremony were a progressive step in making the coveted SAY Award as sustainable as possible. 

At OVO, we want to develop purposeful partnerships which reflect our commitment to make zero carbon living a reality – not just in the home, but in the things we love doing too, like going to see our favourite band or artist. That’s why we’re working with organisations like the SMIA and Scotland’s home of live entertainment, the OVO Hydro, in making lower-impact live events a headline act in their own right.

The SAY Award 2021 marks the start of a much broader and longer-term sustainability focus for the SMIA. Across 2022, we will be working with our membership to devise and develop a 5-year sustainability plan for Scotland’s music industry; looking at areas in which all artists and industry professionals can make essential changes to reduce carbon impact. 

 If you work in music in Scotland, you can become part of this journey by joining the SMIA now.


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Scottish Music Industry Association

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The Scottish Music Industry Association receives Regular Funding from Creative Scotland, the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.

Creative Scotland distribute funding from the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.