The awards began in 1977 and as annual event in 1982 under the auspices of the British record industry's trade association. The last BPI Awards show took place at the O2 and was the first of the ceremonies to be broadcast on television, by the BBC the awards transferred to ITV in 1993. In 1989 they were renamed the Britannia Music Awards to echo sponsorship by Britannia Music Club and this was shortened to BRIT Awards.
MasterCard has been the long-time sponsor of the event.
The Brit Awards were broadcast live until 1989, when Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood hosted a poorly organised show in which little went as rehearsed. Subsequently, the event was recorded and broadcast the following night. This was part of a revamp by Jonathan King, who had hosted the show in 1987. He created the "BRITs" moniker and released a megamix of British dance acts, including S'Express and A Guy Called Gerald, called BRITs 1990. He also persuaded Margaret Thatcher to sing "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" for a pre-recorded segment.
From 2007, the Brit Awards reverted to a live broadcast on British television, on 14 February on ITV. In that year, comedian Russell Brand was presenter and three awards were dropped from the ceremony: Best British Rock Act, Best British Urban Act and Best Pop Act.
On 18 February 2009, the venue for the BRITs was once again the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. The 2011 Brit Awards were held at The O2 Arena in London for the first time in its history, moving from the original venue of Earls Court.