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Inside guide to Music

Cannes Lions Awards Director Simon Cook answers all the questions you've always wanted to ask

What Simon and his team don’t know about the Lions isn’t worth knowing. We decided it was time their knowledge was shared with the world.

created on Tuesday 28 Mar 2017

Music has long been a major part of the awards culture at Lions. Between 1955 and the early 1980s, juries would occasionally bestow Music Diplomas to pieces of work in recognition of the use of music. There was even a short-lived Music Video Lion which existed for a brief spell in the late 1980s. This was replaced by a Lion for 'Excellence in Music', which by the mid-2000's had been absorbed as a category within other Lions. 

Launched in 2016 as part of Lions Entertainment and after several years in development, the Entertainment Lion for Music finally put musical creativity at Lion level, equal to other creative disciplines. 

Awards Director Simon Cook looks at the value people place on trophies, and ponders what Beyoncé did with her Entertainment Lion for Music Grand Prix...

Where does Beyoncé keep her Lion? by Simon Cook

"It’s funny where people choose to display their achievements."
Simon Cook
I won a Blue Peter badge once which, for those outside the UK, was an award given by the BBC children's television programme of the same name, in recognition of some achievement or endeavour. This highly coveted piece of plastic opened many doors, and granted me free admittance to every mediocre theme park, museum and child-friendly exhibition in the country – for life! At the time this blew my tiny six-year-old mind. And it helped me get into The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth for free. 

I am reminded of my childhood achievement every time I visit my family in Devon. A typewritten letter from the show’s presenters and ‘Everyone at BBC Television Centre’ hangs jaundiced and sun-bleached on the wall, increasingly relegated to less prominent areas of the family home over the years.

It’s funny where people choose to display their achievements. I hear that the impossibly earnest Kate Winslet keeps her Best Actress Oscar in the downstairs loo. ‘Creative genius’ Kanye West stores his many Grammys in a sock drawer in his laundry room. 

So where do Lion winners display their trophies? 
"Following the 2016 launch of the Entertainment Lion for Music, I’m forced to ponder something that has sparked much curious speculation... Where does Beyoncé keep her Music Lion?"
Simon Cook
A pride of Lions displayed on an agency front desk is the default position. But it’s by no means the only option. Ecuador’s first Lion win sits pride of place in a glass case in the national museum, alongside precious national relics and artefacts. I’ve also seen a Lion staring up at me from the bottom of an elevator shaft (elevator had a glass floor) in an achingly cool agency in Germany.  

Following the 2016 launch of the Entertainment Lion for Music, I’m forced to ponder something that has sparked much curious speculation... Where does Beyoncé keep her Music Lion? She’s got one, a Grand Prix no less. Does it sit on her desk? Does Beyoncé even have a desk?  Is it on a shelf between her Grammys and Golden Globe?

(Grand Prix material: Formation took home one of two Music Grand Prix in 2016)

When I asked Josh Rabinowitz, the inaugural Music Lion Jury President why Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ music video won the Grand Prix he explained that it was all about relevance and timing. ‘It started a conversation about race in modern American culture. That’s an extremely powerful cut-through, promotional tool for a pop star looking to galvanise her iconic status’. He went on to explain that the arrival of the Entertainment Lion for Music was very timely. ‘We’ve witnessing a very exciting time – the industry is being disrupted and that’s encouraging a new breed of creativity to emerge’.

With the Music Lion – timing has been a big factor. Believe it or not, the Entertainment Lion for Music was years in the making. The initial draft of categories collected dust in my top drawer for quite some time - and this is quite the norm. It’s a treasure trove that top drawer. A new Lion can sometimes exist in ‘incubation’ for several years before we decide to unleash it. An untold number of factors and moving parts need to come together, align, or in this case – get in formation – before we push the button. (There is no actual button, I wish there was). Timing is everything. It has to be right and the support of the industry is always paramount. 

Lion winners – the international creative elite - are constantly regaling me with tales of their post win experience. They tell me that winning a Lion really does open doors. I’m sure Queen B, armed with her Lion, can strut through any metaphorical door she wants. Although I bet she would still need a Blue Peter badge to jump the queue at The Donkey Sanctuary. 

The Entertainment Lion for Music: essential information

CANNES LIONS: Let’s kick off with the official definition of the Entertainment Lion for Music
SIMON COOK: "The Music Lions celebrate creative, musical collaborations and original music content. Entries will need to demonstrate original production, promotion or distribution of music for brands; work where a recording artist or platform is innovatively leveraged to communicate with consumers."

CL: And what does that mean in reality? 
SC: "Over the last few years, we've seen a great deal of work where music plays a fundamental role and sits very much at the core of the creative. As we know, music has the power to enhance or complement a brand's message and bring storytelling to life. It tells us how to feel. The Entertainment Lion for Music really shines a spotlight on music and brand partnerships, technology, craft and live experiences, and heroes the brand associated work that is now driving the music industry forward."

CL: Give us a brief history of the Entertainment Lion for Music
SC: "For two years, the Branded Content and Entertainment Lions jury decided not to award the top gong – the Grand Prix. At Cannes, this is a big statement. The juries fed back that there was too much emphasis on branded content instead of Entertainment - an area of dynamism, new thinking and culture shifting progression. In 2016 we decided to replace the Branded Content & Entertainment Lions with a more expansive Entertainment Lions program and a separate Music award felt like a natural step forward.

"Music overall, as a general facet of media communication, has taken on a considerably larger and more significant role in the creative executions of branded initiatives, and a music-focussed Lion had been in the pipeline for many years. With the launch of Lions Entertainment; a dedicated stream within the festival, we had an appropriate platform for this highly specialised Lion with a unique purpose."

CL: Wouldn’t it be easier to just call it the Music Lion? 
SC: "Ha! I knew you were going to bring this up. Yes, I guess it would be easier. But the ‘Entertainment’ bit is very important. The Music Lion is an important part of the entertainment ecosystem. It helps anchor the focus of the Lion and sends a clear message to the industry. It lends purpose and context."

CL: How is the Music Lion different to other big awards like the Brits, or the Grammys?
SC: "Great question. I think it was Josh Rabinowitz (2016 Jury President) that spoke very eloquently on the subject. In his mind, the Lion should be seen as important, if not more important than other traditional awards. In his words: “A Music Lion deals with those aspects of the music business that are forward-leaning and current, rather than steeped in traditional, old-school, recording models and distribution. To me, this appreciation and dedication to current and emerging models, rather than historic aspects, is much more relevant."

CL: What sort of work can win in Music? 
SC: "Well let’s take last year’s double Grand Prix. They couldn’t be more different – hence the need for two. Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ music video and the Edeka ‘Home for Christmas’ campaign. The jury awarded both a brand that used music in its marketing, and a musician that used her creativity as a powerful marketing tool. The breadth of work entered in year one really showcased the wide reaching power of music and we fully encourage this diversity. There are also categories that recognise composition, technology, live experience and fan engagement to name a few. We hope to see a broad mix of work that champions each of these verticals (and more) in years to come."

CL: What sort of music are you listening to right now? And be honest...
SC: "[Glances at ‘last played’ on iPhone] The last thing I listened to was, oh... ‘Wishing Well’ by Terence Trent D’Arby. What else? [scrolls through lists], the Wu Tang Clan, Prince, Frank Ocean, Solange, some Brazilian dude a friend recommended and Bach. It must have been a stressful day."

Home for Christmas, by Edeka

The Entertainment Lion for Music is attached to Lions Entertainment, one of the specialist streams of the Cannes Lions Festival. Lions Entertainment is open to Cannes Lions delegates. The Entertainment Lion for Music is attached to Lions Entertainment, one of the specialist streams of the Cannes Lions Festival. Lions Entertainment is open to Cannes Lions delegates. Specialist Entertainment-only passes are also available. 

More information about the Entertainment Lion for Music, including an entry kit, can be found in the Awards section.