The global music industry is in a current state of reckoning. Post-#metoo, post pay gap acknowledgement, and following our understanding of the powerful advantages of diversity in the workplace, the industry is changing.

So when Vicki Gordon debuted her Australian Women in Music Conference and Awards (AWMAs) last October in Brisbane, it was met with thunderous applause from non-male industry workers and their allies, and… silent observation from many who are vastly overrepresented in our sector.

In an interview with TIO last year, Gordon responded to the detractors with:

“If we really believe in a world where men and women are equal, in the home, in the workforce and in a country, then we need to acknowledge their contributions,” she said.

“Up to this point we have been dealing with bias or unconscious constraints to acknowledging natural merit and we have an enormous opportunity to consciously redress that imbalance now.”

The conference and awards were a runaway success. Sparking an “unprecedented moment for music”, the event dove into pathways for music makers, new and emerging digital platforms, and the role of music as a political songbook. It also featured a film screening of ‘Her Sound Her Story’, a photographic exhibition and a keynote by Kate Ceberano.

The Awards saw Ngaiire take out the Twitter Australia Artistic Excellence Award; Anna Laverty take home the AWMA Studio Production Award, Gordi take out the APRA AMCOS Songwriter Award, and Wendy McDougall take out the Music Photographer Award.

It was fitting then, that in March this year as organisers prepared the AWMAs’ return, Vicki Gordon gathered together just a few of the women endeavouring to make the industry a better place for a photoshoot in Sydney.

Artists Melinda Schneider, Kween G, Ngaiire, Katie Noonan, Alethea Beetson, Kaylah Truth, Zela Margossian and Cheryl Barker were joined by photographer LaVonne Bobongie and The Brag Media’s Poppy Reid at Sydney’s SUNSTUDIOS.

It was also fitting that rock photographer Wendy McDougall, who won Best Photographer at the inaugural AWMAs, took the photos.

The brief: Empowerment.

AWMAs photoshoot

Meet the changing face of Australian music

Ngaiire, who last week earned multiple nominations for the 2019 AWMAs, is using her platform following last year’s win to empower others.

“AWMA to me is about women celebrating women,” she said. “We have a habit of tearing each other down and I feel this industry is very conducive to that. If we’re working towards the same goal then there should be less of an excuse to bicker amongst ourselves.”

Artist and producer Alethea Beetson recently took on the role of BIGSOUND First Nations Producer to make informed and on-going changes to the event to ensure it remained inclusive and culturally appropriate.

Speaking to TIO, Alethea Beetson said:

“The matriarchy have been celebrated on these lands for a very long time. As an Indigenous woman I understand the importance of an intersectional lens when planning events like AWMA, and this year I can definitely seen that lens applied in various aspects of the program.

“The matriarchy have been celebrated on these lands for longer than they haven’t so I am grateful to be part of something bringing (back) that energy. I also understand the importance of an intersectional lens when planning events like AWMA, and this year I can definitely seen that lens applied in various aspects of the program.”

Six-time Golden Guitar-winning country music standout Melinda Schneider has been in the spotlight since making her acting debut on A Country Practice, aged 13. The entertainment industries has evolved in that time, for the better, Schneider explains.

“It’s an exciting time to be a woman in the world and an empowering time to be a woman in music. I love everything the AWMA stand for and I’m proud to stand with them…using my voice,” she says.

Ngaiire
Ngaiire

As previously reported, future soul singer Ngaiire snags AWMAs nominations for artistic excellence category, diversity in music and the songwriter award, a talent-filled category that also features Mojo Juju and Thelma Plum.

Christine Anu, the former ARIA female artist of the year winner and award-winning stage performer, is another multiple AWMA finalist, earning nods for artistic excellence and diversity in music.

Claire Edwardes
Claire Edwardes

Also in the leadup to the AWMAs ceremony, virtuosic solo percussionist and chamber musician Claire Edwardes takes nominations for creative leadership and excellence in classical music.

Edwardes is no stranger to awards galas. She is the first person to take home the APRA AMCOS Art Music Award for excellence by an individuual on three occasions (2016, 2012, 2007).

Schneider, Ngaiire will join Renée Geyer, Katie Noonan, Clare Bowditch and other performers at the 2019 AWMAs, to be held Oct. 9 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

On the night, 15 awards will be handed out, including new categories for excellence in classical music, music journalism and image making.

The AWMAs will also host a two-day program at the Powerhouse on Oct. 8 and 9 that includes a series of forums and panel discussions, and a keynote address by Eddie Ayers, the broadcaster, musician, writer, teacher and philanthropist.

Vicki Gordon 2019 press shot
Vicki Gordon

Speaking ahead of the event, Vicki Gordon AWMA Founding Executive Director, explained:

“Australian Women in Music Awards is a new model of collaboration for the Australian music industry and for the future of women and diverse people in positions of power and creative control. We all benefit when musicians and artists and those who work with them are empowered from a diversity of places, cultures and identities.”

See the full list of 2019 AWMAs nominations below:

ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE AWARD
Christine Anu
Nai Palm
NGAIIRE

CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Claire Edwardes
Elaine Chia
Katie Noonan

DIVERSITY IN MUSIC AWARD
Christine Anu
Lisa Cheney & Peggy Polias (Making Waves)
NGAIIRE

EMERGING ARTIST AWARD
Alice Skye
Ella Fence
Lisa Caruso

EXCELLENCE IN CLASSICAL MUSIC AWARD
Caroline Almonte
Claire Edwardes
Sarah-Grace Williams

EXCELLENCE IN IMAGE MAKING AWARD
Chloe Jean
Melaine Knight
Ntombi Moyo

FILMMAKER AWARD
Aimée-Lee Xu Hsien Curran
Tashi Hall

HUMANITARIAN AWARD
Alison Hams
Dami Im
Lindy Morrison, OAM

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joy McKean, OAM
Marcia Hines, AM
Vika and Linda Bull

LIVE PRODUCTION AWARD
Jenny Moon
Kait Hall
Laurie May

MUSIC JOURNALIST AWARD
Ange McCormack
Jane Gazzo
Jules LeFevre

MUSIC LEADERSHIP AWARD
Elise Reitze-Swensen
Lynette Irwin
Sue Telfer

MUSIC PHOTOGRAPHER AWARD
Jessica Vaini
Kerrie Geier
Tashi Hall

SONGWRITER AWARD
Mojo Juju
NGAIIRE
Thelma Plum

STUDIO PRODUCTION AWARD
Elise Reitze-Swensen (Feels)
Kathy Naunton
Virginia Read