The first Félix gala was held on 23 Sep 1979, at Montreal's Expo-Theatre. The event was organized by Guy Latraverse, and televised on the CBC network. The awards, named in honour of Félix Leclerc, then numbered 28 and covered the main musical genres and all aspects of recording and entertainment production. Among the winners at the first gala were Claude Dubois, Serge Fiori, and Richard Séguin.
The annual gala grew rapidly in popularity and with television ratings reaching approximately two million viewers, the Gala de l'ADISQ-Prix Félix has become one of the most widely viewed special televised events in Quebec. In coordination with the activities leading up to the gala, ADISQ also produces special programs for Radio-Canada and ARTV dedicated to highlighting nominated artists and to introducing musicians from diverse musical backgrounds to the general public. The results of these promotional efforts are considerable, and the gala has an appreciable effect upon the popularity of artists and record sales.
The number and categories of awards have evolved over the years. The televised gala honours the best-selling album of the year as well as best album in the genres of pop, pop-rock, and rock. Other categories include best songwriter, best song, best female and male vocalists, best group, and best debut artist. The best show of the year is also awarded in the genres of singer/songwriter, comedy, and vocalist. Another award honours the Quebec artist who is the most popular outside of Quebec.
Many other Félix trophies are awarded at a special non-televised ceremony preceding the gala. Categories include: album of the year in the genres of alternative, classical (large ensemble), classical (soloist and/or small ensemble), country, contemporary folk, hip hop, comedy, jazz, youth, world music, traditional, electronic music or techno, instrumental, and original soundtrack. Trophies are also awarded for best music video as well as for the Quebec artist with the most success in a language other than French. During this ceremony, awards are also attributed for excellence in the recording industry. Trophies are awarded for best event, publisher, promotional team, public relations, CD label, producer, sound engineer, concert hall, choreographer, lighting design, arranger, distributor, Web site, and agent of the year. Awards are also given for the best television program in the genres of comedy and chanson.
In contrast to the Juno awards, whose nominations are based on record sales, the nominations and the awarding of the Félix are decided by juries composed of members of ADISQ, including delegates from Quebec recording industry companies as well as the directors of the magazine Le Palmarès. In 1989, ADISQ introduced a new method of popular ballot to choose the public's favourite female and male singers. Among the principal recipients of the Félix in this category are Claude Dubois, Ginette Reno, and Céline Dion.
At the beginning of the 1980s, ADISQ reorganized its juries and began to base its decisions more and more on standards of quality. In 1983 lyricist Luc Plamondon (the song of the year: 'J't'aime comme un fou') created a great commotion by taking advantage of his appearance at the gala, in the presence of Quebec and Canadian ministers, to denounce the copyright law. In 1990, Céline Dion publicly refused the Félix for anglophone artist of the year, protesting that she did not consider herself to be an anglophone artist.
Author Christian Rioux, Christopher Moore
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