Belfast Telegraph

4m watch inaugural BBC Music Awards

Nearly four million people watched the inaugural BBC Music Awards last night to see Ed Sheeran and Pharrell Williams take the top honours.

But the average audience of 3.9 million on BBC One was still 700,000 less than this year's Brit Awards which had itself scored a ratings low for recent years.

The two-hour live awards programme saw Sheeran take the prize for top British artist of the year, while Pharrell triumphed as international artist and took the best song trophy for his hit Happy.

But despite taking two of the three main awards, the US musician, writer and producer was unable to actually attend the event and had to appear by a live link.

An audience of 13,500 attended the event at Earls Court in London with performances by Take That, Sheeran, Ella Henderson and Coldplay. The TV audience for the show - hosted by Chris Evans and Fearne Cotton - peaked at 4.7 million midway through the broadcast.

There had been some expectations that the show could have been a rival to ITV's Brit Awards, staged at London's O2 Arena, with the next ceremony to be staged in February and hosted by Ant and Dec.

Humble Sheeran collected his trophy from Sir Tom Jones, and the 23-year-old said he wanted to say "a massive thank you to everyone who has bought a record, bought a ticket, streamed on YouTube, done anything, listened to my music".

His career has exploded in 2014, and he has become one of the UK's biggest-selling stars, scoring the most- played album in the world on music streaming service Spotify in 2014.

Reflecting on his year as he collected his trophy, he said: "I always thought my career would stop at one album, so knowing my career is longer than one album is the highlight."

During the show at Earls Court he performed his number one hit Sing, which united the crowd as they chanted along.

Pharrell accepted his prizes via video-link from the US, where he was presented with the trophies by his friend Gwen Stefani.

He beat nine other nominees to take the song award, which was chosen by public vote from a shortlist of the most-played tracks of the year. Others in the running included Sheeran's Sing and Sam Smith's Money On My Mind.

Pharrell said: "How amazing it is to have a song that is considered among all of the other really, really great songs.

"As writers and producers we are beholden to what the audience thinks and what you guys want to do, so when you say song of the year, really it's not my award - it's your award."

The show devoted a lengthy slot at the beginning to plugging the BBC's support for the music industry and advertising the live events and concerts which it broadcasts.

The ceremony also recognised a new generation of performers with a lesser trophy, the BBC Introducing Award, for an up-and-coming act, which went to Catfish And The Bottlemen.

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