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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Stars back classical music prize
UK proms
The Gramophone is a respected title in the classical world
The prestigious Gramophone music magazine awards are to be endorsed by celebrities for the first time in an effort to boost album sales.

Six CDs will be selected for a shortlist and their merits outlined by famous names on TV and radio.

Gramophone editor James Jolly said the aim was to point consumers to the year's best recordings, but rejected any suggestion of "dumbing down".

"I think it's possibly wising up to the demands of today's media," he said.

"The process itself hasn't changed. The way we get the awards hasn't changed. It's really about saying, 'if you only buy one classical record this year, the record of the year is one to buy'."

Expert magazine

The celebrities, who have not been named, are being drawn from theatre, TV, film and the arts. All are said to be "passionate" about classical music.

They are expected to appear in TV slots on BBC Four, as well as on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 3, in advance of the prize being presented on 1 October.

The Gramophone, founded in 1923, is widely regarded as the most expert magazine in its field. Its critics' reviews are respected the world over, and its annual awards began nearly 30 years ago.

But the Gramophone's yearly handout does not have the profile of other UK arts awards such as the Booker or Turner prizes.

Mr Jolly said Gramophone's new direction gave it something in common with rock music's Mercury prize which involves a heavily publicised shortlist and targeting of consumers.

He said the move was also good for the magazine's brand. "It is a fact that our awards issue sells about 30 or 40% more than the others," he said.

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