Chic frontman Nile Rodgers among Polar Music Prize winners

Chic frontman Nile Rodgers and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen have been announced as recipients of the prestigious Polar Music Prize 2024 – often described as the “Nobel Prize of music”.

Each year the prize typically honours two figures, one contemporary and one classical, for significant achievements in music.

The ceremony for the award, which was first handed to Sir Paul McCartney in 1992, will take place at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 21 in the presence of the Swedish royal family.

Rodgers, who is the chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has produced stars including the late David Bowie, Madonna and Diana Ross, as well as creating disco hits including Le Freak and Everybody Dance with his band Chic.

TRNSMT Festival
Nile Rodgers and Chic perform (Jane Barlow/PA)

Reflecting on receiving the prize, the US musician told the PA news agency: “It’s amazing when people that are from other countries give you prizes like this… because it shows you that this art form touches people all around the world.

“And maybe, and this is how I’ve always felt, that communication was the most important part of being an artist, because it may be something that you create (in a) very solitary place but what you do after the form is completed, is you want to share it with the world.”

Reflecting on how the industry has evolved for the digital age, he said: “The thing that’s great about streaming is it gives artists access to the world, that’s fantastic.

“But remuneration is nowhere near fair because the people who have the power in that scenario are the ones who own the physical masters, the record companies, and they’ve gone in and made secret deals that we’re not even privy to.

“Their deals are non-disclosure deals so right now I can’t tell you how much money Warner Bros makes from my own music… but I did know when it was really based on a purchase.”

Rodgers said he feels there needs to be more transparency from record labels to ensure the musicians are being fairly compensated for their work.

“There has to be an entirely new paradigm when it comes to remuneration for artists”, he added.

“It’s funny that the people who create the music, write the songs, which is the basis of our modern industry, without the song you don’t have an artist, you don’t have a record, but we’re the lowest person on the financial totem pole.

“We should be somewhere in the middle, at least, if not the top, because you’re creating the thing that everybody’s making tonnes of money on. This has to be looked at differently.”

The music veteran also advised younger artists to “embrace failure” and to allow space for the “what if” moments when creating music.

“If you’re in the art business, I guarantee you, there is no way everyone is going to love what you do, that’s just not going to happen”, he said.

“And if you worry about the few people who don’t, and it could be thousands, it could be millions, but don’t take these criticisms so personally because you’re an artist, and you’re trying to explore.”

Prince Charles visits the Royal College of Music
The King with composer Esa-Pekka Salonen (Arthur Edwards/PA)

Fellow recipient Salonen has established himself as an acclaimed composer and conductor over the years.

The Finnish artist is currently the music director of the San Francisco Symphony and is the conductor laureate for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Each recipient will receive prize money of one million Swedish kroner (£76,197).

The managing director of the Polar Music Prize, Marie Ledin, said they were “delighted” to welcome Rodgers and Salonen as the laureates for 2024.

She added: “In Nile Rodgers, we honour a ground-breaking pioneer whose legacy spans his work as co-founder of Chic and as record producer and creator behind so much of the world’s greatest music.

“Nile’s impact in pop culture is incomparable and his timeless songs will continue to delight, uplift and inspire for many years to come.

“Esa-Pekka Salonen is an innovator. His artistic curiosity, creativity and forward-thinking approach to composing and conducting paves the way in classical music.

“He is a master of tone, perfectly balancing sound and emotion to produce and lead music that deeply moves the listener.”

Previous recipients of the prize include Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Ennio Morricone, Bjork, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Sir Elton John and Metallica.