Johnny Marr, Debbie Harry, Idles and Dave led the list of winners at the Association of Independent Music (AIM) Awards on Tuesday.
Dave took two prizes – best independent album for Psychodrama and best independent track for Funky Friday.
Punk band Idles said they were “very confused” to win best second album and best breakthrough on the same night.
Blondie star Debbie Harry received an outstanding contribution honour, while Johnny Marr won the pioneer award.
The musician was presented with his prize by The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy, a long-time friend, who later joined him on stage to play The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now.
Marr also received a video message from Chic’s Nile Rodgers, who called him “off-the-charts cool”.
The awards were established in 2011 to celebrate artists who achieve success without the support of the “big three” record labels – Sony, Warner Music and Universal.
Debbie Harry was delayed getting to the ceremony after presenting her friend Iggy Pop with a lifetime achievement award at the GQ Awards in central London.
However, the singer handled the slip-up with characteristic style, joking: “The reason I’m late is that I’m just so goddamn independent – and proud of it, thank you.”
Other highlights from the ceremony at London’s Roundhouse included:
AJ Tracey’s surprise set
One of the breakout stars of 2019, AJ Tracey kicked off the awards with a surprise performance of Ladbroke Grove – which broke into the UK top 10 earlier this year on the record label he set up.
The star, who was nominated for best live act, told the BBC it felt like “a greater achievement when you accomplish something on your own”.
“It’s a lot more hard work, but it’s a lot more rewarding. And of course, good monetary gain,” he laughed.
Ms Banks, who also performed at the show, said the advent of streaming had democratised music for independent artists.
“Young people have access to platforms that distribute our music,” she said. “You have easy access to everything on your phone, and it’s put the power back in the hands of the people. I feel like that’s why UK rap has become more successful, because you just can’t stop it.”
Johnny Marr’s acceptance speech
The guitarist dedicated his speech to the spirit of indie musicians across generations.
“When I started out with The Smiths, indie punk was over,” he said. “We learned a lot of great things from it, it left a great legacy, but it was from an older generation to me.
“So when it was time to get The Smiths together, it felt, for me, like year zero: A complete open vista.
“It felt like my generation were about to stand for something, and to stand against other things. Gender politics were involved in a big way, there was party politics, there was a difference in the way music was going to be produced, the way it was going to sound and definitely the way it was going to be distributed.”
The Smiths went on to rewrite the rules of indie music, and Marr paid tribute to the artists, managers and labels who were “driving music forward” today.
“I’d like to thank anyone in this room who puts their time and energy and passion and sleepless nights and credit cards into music of any genre,” he said.
“It’s not easy for young musicians. It was never easy. It seems more difficult now. But one thing that this weird little island still does is spread innovative music around the world – so thank you.”
Jade Bird wins international breakthrough
With her powerhouse vocals and anthemic country-pop songs like Lottery and I Get No Joy, Jade Bird has burst out of the gates on both sides of the Atlantic – earning her a prize for international breakthrough.
Unusually for her generation of singer-songwriters, she composed the entirety of her debut album solo, without calling in more experienced co-writers.
“I didn’t want to dilute how I felt because it’s all so personal,” she told the BBC. “I couldn’t have had someone in the middle of that, telling me how to write my feelings.”
But the star admitted she was eyeing up one potential collaborator for her next record.
“I’m flying out Thursday to work on new songs in LA with Linda Perry,” she said, namedropping the writer behind Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful and 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On.
“I’m really fond of her and what she does, so I hope we can get something together.”
Debauchery is dead
“Brunch is the new rock ‘n’ roll,” said Billy Duffy as he observed the orderly and polite proceedings on the red carpet.
“Most people in bands these days aren’t really partying. That myth of the rock star falling about like some bad B-movie has gone. There are exceptions, and God bless them, but in general most rockers are pretty together.
“It’s progress, I think. Things change.”
Georgia wins “one to watch”
Georgia, a former Arsenal player and one-time drummer for Kate Tempest, was named “one to watch” by BBC Music Introducing, thanks to the success of her blazing, euphoric club track About Work The Dance Floor.
“When I put it out, I didn’t know what to expect,” said the singer. “I didn’t even know that people would listen.”
The song went on to amass three million plays on Spotify, followed by a buzzworthy set at Glastonbury, giving the 25-year-old a boost as she records her second album, a collection of songs about “thrill-seeking and expression in a world of routines and trappings”.
“There’s a lot of collaborations coming out soon, which I’m really excited about,” she confided to the BBC. “There’s one in particular, I can’t wait ’till people hear what it is…”
But would she spill the beans? After a sideways glance from her publicist, the answer was, sadly, a “no”.
Full list of winners
- Best independent album – Dave: Psychodrama
- Best independent track – Dave: Funky Friday (ft Fredo)
- Best [difficult] second album – Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance
- UK independent breakthrough – Idles
- International breakthrough – Jade Bird
- Pioneer award – Johnny Marr
- Outstanding contribution to music – Debbie Harry
- Best live act – Gerry Cinnamon
- Best independent video – Hot Chip: Hungry Child
- Most-played new independent artist – Freya Ridings
- One to watch – Georgia
- Best independent label – Partisan Records
- Best small label – Scruff of the Neck
- Best creative packaging – Various Artists/Rolling Stones: Confessin’ the Blues
- Innovator award – Allen Kovac
- Indie champion – Charles Caldas