First of all, I love the ARIAs, it’s a celebration of our talented artists and a night during which the whole industry comes together to drink and have fun. Who could hate that?
The Industry Observer even put on our own awards night for the music industry in order to shine light on the people behind the artists. Last year’s The Industry Observer Awards was a fantastic night and it was amazing to be reminded of all the brilliant people who work for our Australian artists.
But there is a problem with the ARIAs, The Industry Observer Awards, the APRA awards and almost every other music awards night you can name if you start looking at the results… just who wins and loses is all a bunch of subjective bullshit.
Why? Ultimately the winners (aside from public voted or chart awards) are decided by a select few people on a panel, and that is the definition of subjective. Add the layer of commercial bias/incentives and there is no awards night in the world which truly has perfect integrity.
Eminem talking about the nonsense of the Grammy Awards
As an arts industry, this is a problem no one in history has really solved. Sport has it perfectly. If you win in sport, it’s because you were the better team or player. If you lose, it’s your fault. You either weren’t good enough or you didn’t put in the effort required for success.
It makes sense, and it’s the ultimate objective and fair outcome.
Sport fucks up when it tries to introduce awards nights like the arts have. The AFL Brownlow for example has a long history of awarding the Brownlow to midfielders. Why? Because midfields seem to be all the umpires see, and the umpires are the ones who subjectively decide who wins the Brownlow. Again, it’s a bunch of subjective bullshit.
I manage creator Simone Giertz, and she has a global footprint which means every week or so she’s getting invited to some awards show somewhere in the world for various different reasons. Of course she can make her own decisions, and she does, but my position is always:
”Simone, hoping for an award is lose/lose. If you win, you’ll think you’re better than you are, and if you lose, you’ll think you’re worse than you are”.
Also, either result will have no commercial impact on her business or growth as a creator, so really what is the point?
We need Awards nights to thrive
As an industry, we do however need the ARIA and APRA Awards to continue to thrive, and we need The Industry Observer Awards to come back next year bigger and better than ever. Why? Because unlike sport, we have a very fragmented industry and commercially speaking, award nights are our only signal of consolidation to the wider world.
Consolidation is critical for the success of our industry, both politically and commercially. Politically, we are up against the sporting industries who continue to get billions of dollars of government funding for useless bullshit, where we as a music industry celebrate when we have a party pledge a measly 10 million dollars or so to our industry. This doesn’t even take into account the damage the lock out laws have done to Sydney, and the harmful festival policies implemented to our promoters.
Commercially, music is massively left behind when it comes to receiving sponsorship and marketing budget from brands. The following numbers are from the US, but they are likely similar in Australia.
Only 59% of people consider themselves sports fans — a number that’s remained relatively flat over the past decade. In contrast, according to Nielsen, 91% of people listen to at least 24 hours of music every week, more than any other form of entertainment. And yet, marketers spend about 10x more on sports than music annually. Crazy right?
Why does this happen? Sports are consolidated industries.
There is one AFL body for Australian Football, one Cricket Australia body for Cricket and one NBL body for Basketball. That means in you’re a marketer and you want to reach all Australian Football fans, you put some budget towards the AFL. It’s easy.
If you want to reach music fans, and you’re not in the music industry, how do you do it? Contact Live Nation? Media businesses? TEG? AEG? Record labels? Publishers? What even is the difference between a record label and a publisher? It is very confusing for outsiders.
Sport is easy, and more importantly consolidated, that’s why they get so much political and commercial support.
Broadly speaking, as a music industry we need to work out how we can consolidate and do it fast. I believe these award nights are the first step towards that, and it’s why (for people in the music industry) they should never actually be about the awards themselves, it’s about consolidation and a signal of strength to the political parties and CMOs all over the country.
Awards nights should be about celebration, community, togetherness, a signal of industry strength and fun; who wins and loses is background noise.
To the artists and music industry people who lost this year, I hope it doesn’t deflate you for long. And as an industry we all start to see awards not for who won, but for who was in the room and what everyone has achieved together.
Remember art is not a sport
It is not a competition, and even if it was, no matter how successful you are you’ll never be able to influence the outcome – because it’s all a bunch of subjective bullshit.
Please see Jerry Seinfeld’s speech about awards in the below video, it’s perfectly articulated:
“The whole feeling of reverence and honouring is the exact opposite of everything I have wanted my life to be about […] awards are stupid. […] It’s all a big jerk off […] awards don’t mean a god damn thing.
“It is beyond me that we feel the need to set aside a night to give out these jag off bowling trophies so all these people can pat each other on the back about how much money they’re making boring the piss out of half the world.”