More like The AMP Shitlist
Update (17/02): one of the judges, Andrew Mast from Street Press Australia, has quit in protest over this year's process, stating that he "[doesn't] think this year's shortlist is a true indication of the quality and variety of great Australian music that was released in 2011".
"Gotcha". Congrats mate.
The Australian Music Prize, self-described as "a renowned prize for originality and creativity", aimed at "[rewarding] excellence based on the merits of the album alone - not sales, radio play or media coverage", announced their 2011 shortlist this morning...
- Abbe May - Design Desire
- Adalita - Adalita
- Boy & Bear - Moonfire
- Gotye - Making Mirrors
- Gurrumul - Rralaka
- Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders - Hurtsville
- The Jezabels - Prisoner
- Kimbra - Vows
- The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy
We're obviously rooting for seven-foot-tall troubadour Jack Ladder. Hurtsville, while a fantastically titled record, is probably not the best local release of 2011. But definitely the standout amongst that incredibly bland bunch.
I've not noticed this in previous years (so apologies if this has always been the case) but this year The AMP website features a complete list of all entrants. I've always been under the impression that many independent and self-released artists simply didn't enter the competition, presumably because of the cuntload of CDs they need to provide with their entry (10 upon entry, another 40 if they make the longlist, and another 30 if they make the shortlist), which for records released in limited pressings is simply not financially viable. The classic equation of Risk, multiplied by Chance Of Winning, divided by Number Of Compact Discs in Existence, kept a lot of Classic Australian Albums from ever entering and, therefore, made it almost completely impossible for them to ever make the shortlist.
But, much to my/your surprise, included in that list of entrants are a whole bunch of Bloody Great Acts that released Bloody Great Albums in 2011 — including Royal Headache, Collarbones, Oscar & Martin, Ernest Ellis & The Panamas, Seekae, HTRK, Dick Diver, Single Twin, The Twerps, The Paper Scissors and Ghoul.
I'm not looking to get into an argument on why I think Collarbones are more deserved of this award than Gotye, or how Boy & Bear sound like an endless NRMA commercial, because we all like different music and, while the music you like is shithouse, I don't really have a problem with you getting excited about it. That said, it's unfortunate that The AMP's focus seems to have shifted, repositioning itself as just another J Award and/or ARIA establishment, confusing a record's quality by it's measurable success (ie. how often it gets played on radio).
In a statement about the 2011 shortlist, director Scott B. Murphy said:
And that highlights just how far any interesting/exciting acts were from even getting a call up (with the notable exception of Oscar & Martin). Royal Headache's chances of winning The 2011 AMP were roughly the same as that new KRAM dubstep album and/or that Norfolk Island Bagpipe Ensemble re-issue. And that's a bloody national disgrace.
Speaking of Going K.R.A.M., in addition to being on the judging panel he was also announced as one of "The Amp Ambassadors", alongside one of the 2011 nominees, Gotye.
Regardless of whether or not Gotye's inclusion in this group has any influence over his chances of winning the prize this year, it's still a huge conflict of interest. The perception of his involvement as both a representative of the award and a nominee undermines the overall validity of his nomination.
Meanwhile, back in the Entry Criteria, there's this little note:
Has this always been part of the entry agreement, or are the media partners (who aren't directly mentioned in the sponsors list) now just looking to get a bit more bang for their bucks? And what if the winning band hails from Broome, do they need to pay for their own transport to Sydney or Melbourne to play the (presumably) unpaid corporate gig? Sure, they've got $20,000 in their bank account now, but flights from mining towns are notoriously overpriced.
Furthermore, the industry sponsors — as they have been since the award's inception — are mostly record labels, publishers, distributors and management companies. All with their own vested interest. Again, this isn't some Smoking Gun conspiracy theory, but it has a negative effect on the award's integrity — something which the organisers frequently note as being of the upmost importance.
The Mercury Prize has always been the central reference point for The AMP. They've made no secret of their ambitions to have themselves mentioned in the same breathe as the prestigious British music award. In comparison, however, the Mercury Prize has only a handful of (obvious) front-line sponsors/affiliates — Barclay Bank, and the BBC. The main concern of those two brands is obviously to simply piggyback off the strength associated with the Mercury Prize itself. Thus, maintaining the reputation of the award becomes the single objective for all parties involved.
The AMP started off so positively. A decent reward (cash) and genuinely deserved winners in it's early years — The Mess Hall, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The Drones — helped not only establish the award's reputation, but also it's strength in transforming the path of artists, rewarding them for their years of service, helping them pay of some of their mounted debts and/or allowing them to get a couple of tickets overseas to try and throw it down with the Big Boys. But, alas, the last few years have seen the award fall comfortably into the world of conformity, communicating to the world that Australia is only capable of producing bands committed to playing it safe, rehashing existing formulas or angling themselves towards popularity. And we all know Australian music is better than that.