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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:

It was tough on the judges - they had to spend their festive season listening to over 50 albums and making experienced judgments on each. It was tough to determine the top nine of these and many artists - like The Panics, Oh Mercy and The Orbweavers - were very close to the final cut. Some of the other albums singled out by the judges were by: Skipping Girl Vinegar, Oscar & Martin, Ben Salter, Big Scary, Eagle & The Worm, Grace Woodroofe, Husky, Leader Cheetah, Phrase, Teeth & Tongue, Josh Pyke and Drapht.

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.

In a new initiative for 2011, we are pleased to introduce The Amp Ambassadors. Five well-known and respected artists across all genres of music will represent The Amp speaking about the prize and its place in the country, the quality of Australian music and issues facing the music industry at this time. The Amp Ambassadors are GOTYE, HEIDI LENFFER (CLOUD CONTROL), KRAM (SPIDERBAIT), CATHERINE BRITT and PHRASE.

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:

If your entry is the ultimate winner of The 7th Australian Music Prize then within 4 months of winning you agree to undertake one live promotional performance in either Sydney or Melbourne to a limited audience of 250 whom can only obtain tickets from competitions run by our media partners or direct from The Amp.

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.

Filed Under
Articles
Australian Music Prize
Gotye
Abbe May
Adalita
Boy & Bear
Gurrumul
Jack Ladder
The Jezabels
Kimbra
The Middle East

 

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Comments

TNA

"And we all know Australian music is better than that."

No it's not. It's shite. Compared to a country of similar population such as Canadia (yes, that's my spelling), it hasn't produced anywhere near as many internationally important artists.

Rock n'Fail Australia.

More on this here; http://thenewaustralian.org/?p=1094
And here; http://thenewaustralian.org/?cat=14

2 years ago

Spoona

"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." haha

2 years ago

Rav

Got to disagree with @TNA on this one. And i'm a msve fuckin Canadia fan.

I think last year was bloody tops year for Australian music.

And I'm 100% with the J man on this one, the AMP has definitely been a massive let down this year.

Only other point I want to add is that I really liked Adalita's record. I think that totally deserves to be on the list.

2 years ago

Royal Milkshake

Dear god, look at that manically grinning psychopath. I get the feeling that image is going to haunt my dreams.

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

@tna never said Australian music was inferior to the music produced by the Great White North, just that the shortlist wasn't really indicative of the quality of music Australia is producing, sorry if that wasn't clear

@rav "the j man"

Shaun Prescott also wrote a fantastic piece about the shortlist, and the wider issues ("Sunday morning music"). He's removed it from his blog as it's going to be published somewhere in the next day or so... but here's the Google Cached version for those who can't wait...

2 years ago

whaley

Awesome article Jon Boy.

Totes agree that the only deserving record on that list is Jack Ladder's (haven't heard Adalita's though Rav). I know then it becomes a question of taste for a lot of people reading this article, and hence the simplistic argument would be to say that everyone's got their own opinion and taste which makes this list as valid as one that you or I or anyone else would put together etc etc. But in this case this is just farkin wrong and made so by this statement - "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".

Let's be honest now - where's the artistic merit to Boy & Bear's music?? More importantly where's the originality that as according to the AMP brief has made them eligible for this prize?? The fact is that it's not there. They are a complete exercise in mediocrity at every level and testament to the abysmal state of the popular Australian 'Indie' music scene. They are nothing more than a fleet foxes/mumford & Sons cover band that completely stink of fake cardboard cut out rich boy in waistcoat singing 'folk' songs about 'feeding lines' on which they've never stood, and only sing about because it fits the current aesthetic arc of mid wave indie trend. Anyone who can honestly go ahead and nominate them for a prize that is awarding 'artistic integrity and originality' is unarguably a person who has no real concept of what constitutes such terms.

2 years ago

TNA

@johnny yes yes,

Actually, I was saying that, comparatively, Australian music is shite.

Yes, there's some real quailty and always has been but very little of it ever translates abroad. Canadia is my favourite comparison because of the size similarity; where's Australia's Neil Young, K.D.Lang, Nickelback, etc.? I suppose INXS cancel out Brian Adams (what a happier universe if they had).

Forget the musical style and personal preferences for a while, why don't the rest of the world like your music?

I sit bemused in front of Spicks and Specks as some Aussie "legend" is introduced and a big question mark forms over my head as I wonder if anyone outside of Footscray or Coogee has heard of them.

2 years ago

newcolony66

@ TNA - holy shit you're serious... what a lame-o

2 years ago

TNA

@newcolony66

The great news for new is that you'll always be able to see your favourite local ct in a nice cost venue because they are unlikely to be playing the Brixton Academy or the Whiskey a Go Go.

It's the equivalent of Wong the best AFL team in the world.

2 years ago

TNA

Being. Damn iPhone.

2 years ago

newcolony66

Don't worry, I can see plenty of great Nickelback wannabes at the local as well.

2 years ago

TNA

@newcolony66

Missing the point by a mile.

Try a bit of role play; imagine you're a TV executive in a country other than Australia and someone is trying to sell you the rights for an awards ceremony for Australian indie music. How much are you going to pay for that and which window in the schedule will you broadcast it?

Exactly......

2 years ago

newcolony66

And how much would we pay for a Canadian indie music award ceremony?

Jesus, what forum is this again??

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

valid points @tna,,,

but i would argue that Australian music doesnt translate well abroad because...

a) the powerful music entities within our country (triple j, the AMP) don't do enough to promote these acts and/or these entities don't have global recognition/"reach"

b) geography,,, we're an isolated country, a fair way from the US/Canada/UK, bands need to go seriously into debt (or get strong label backing) to go overseas and try and "make it"

and boy & bear are obviously australia's nickelback,,

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

and by "these acts" i obviously mean Royal Headache

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

and Collarbones

2 years ago

Royal Milkshake

Paul Kelly seems to get the Neil Young comparisons, though I'm not convinced he deserves them. I have no idea why anyone would want a KD Lang, but there are dozens of Australian female singer-songwriters that could fill the old muff-divers shoes. As for Nikelback, well, we had Silverchair.

Putting that aside though. I think your question is based on a false premise. It's unfair to compare the Canadian music industry to the Australian music industry seeing as most Canadian artists develop followings and raise of most of their income touring the United States, which is right next door and a much larger market.

2 years ago

TNA

Sorry chaps, my bad; I forgot to take into account the cost-free travel between Canadia and the US. Niagara on the Lake border crossing is always chocka with upcoming bands cycling across with their amps and axes strapped to their bikes.

The Wiggles are the biggest and best selling Australian exported band. Presumably that's because they've got a set of (big red wheels) to travel to gigs?

2 years ago

Royal Milkshake

It actually doesn't cost anything to cross the Canadian/US border.

And if you're a musician you can get a P2 working visa, which lasts for a entire year for only about $300. That's if you wanna do things legitimately.

And I know this sounds crazy, but they actually have these things called roads that you can use, which means no airline fees, you can take a van loaded with gear with you and everything!

Fuckin' nuts hey?

But by all means continue. You were saying something about how the international success of Australian and Canadian artists is directly comparable based purely on the fact that they have similar populations (Australia - 22 million) (Canada -35 million) and completely failing to take into account our isolation or their industry basically being a little sister to that of the US.

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

Back on Topic - that Shaun Prescott article I was talking about is now up on Mess + Noise...

2 years ago

TNA

Ok, I'll accept your point; Australia has had and continues to have a disproportionately weak influence on the international music landscape because of geography.

2 years ago

newcolony66

I guess Royal Headache will never be as "internationally important" as Nickelback or KD Lang.. shame.

2 years ago

TNA

There's that mile thing again. You're confusing examples for a statement of personal preference. It's probably easier to do that than to confront the accusation of parochialism and quality.

Jeesh, it's like trying to explain to a Frenchman that 99% of the rest of the world haven't even heard of Jonny Halliday, let alone actually have an opinion of him.

"quoi?"

2 years ago

newcolony66

You're confusing popularity with quality... important with shit

2 years ago

TNA

Ah, are you one of those folk who hate the band once everyone discovers them?

The perennial dichotomy of Indie.

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

gotye is probably gonna win

2 years ago

flukazoid

Hey TNA, thanks so much for coming along and prematurely derailing a great conversation. The AMP isn't about comparing Australia to the rest of the world, it's about celebrating the best of what we have. Which this list didn't do. So even if we're radically inferior (I don't think we are - export impact and influence isn't a measuring stick for quality, as you've proven by citing KD Lang and Nickelback). But this has been said. I just wanted to reinforce - way to miss the point, bro.

Really great piece Jonny.

2 years ago

TNA

@flukazoid. Thanks. Missing the point about KD Lang or whoever, neither of which feature in my library.

Anyway... I got taken to a Cat Empire gig in London once (yeah, I know, shit friends). There were several (i.e. multiple people had the same idea) Australian flags up over the balcony. Who takes their national flag to a gig? Why? Seen any other instances of this at other gigs, say from bands from other countries? What does it say about the fan/band/nation?

Name an iconic artist from here that changed the face of music. It's not about volume sales, is it? 40 people were at the first Sex Pisols gig and they all went off to form a band.

That's why any AMP list will be a shit list. Doesn't stop you from liking it of course.

2 years ago

flukazoid

What, ever? Are you really asking that question?

I think you don't know what you're asking anyway - what influence have KD Lang or Nickelback had on music worldwide? They've shifted units, that's about it. Nickelback for sure are nothing but a byproduct of the last decade or so of music.

Look, my knowledge is far from encyclopedic but you'd be a fool to say that the following artists didn't have a significant effect on music on an international level:

Go-Betweens
The Birthday Party + Nick Cave
AC/DC
John Williams
INXS
Bee Gees
Peter Sculthorpe

Also, clearly you have never been to a Dave Matthews Band gig in Australia.

2 years ago

whale

peter sculthorpe i'd hope not

The Avalanches if you want the biggest contemporary example

2 years ago

flukazoid

He seems pretty massive from what I've been able to chart though? I'd rather it was someone like Phil Houghton, but he just doesn't seem to rate in terms of "peer" "respect".

2 years ago

flukazoid

(internationally)

2 years ago

Jonny Yes Yes

id like to throw the words Rodney and Rude onto that list and then exit with High Five's thrown at me like roses at Kevin Bloody Wilson during a 45-minute Dapto RSL encore,, you're welcome

2 years ago

TNA

40 people were at the first Velvet Underground gig and they all went off and formed a band.

40 people were at the first Sex Pistols gig and they all went off and formed a band.

40 people were at the first INXS gig and they all went off and formed a band.

Hmmm.....

2 years ago

pat4444

@TNA, wtf?

what is your point? the basic premis of this article is that the AMP, an organization that has previously succeeded in giving credit where credit is due to 'less popular', but 'more artistic' AUSTRALIAN artists, and backing it up with a paycheck to help make what they do easier, has released a decidedly average shortlist for this years award, sadly missing a bunch of great, hardworking, deserving artists, instead highlighting the same 'bland', 'mediocre', 'middle-of-the-road' bands as brought to you by the fading light of triple j.

wtf is up with this "40 people at x..." thing? what has that got to do with awarding an Australian artist with an Australian award? what is the problem with reporting that the AMP shortlist is deviating from it's previous track record?

it doesn't matter if you don't rate Australian music internationally, this award is still going to go to an Australian artist, ie, the one the AMP judges decide is the best (even if it's of a bad bunch)

which misses the point that last year was a great year for Australian music, whether the rest of the world noticed or not, what with Total Control, Twerps, Dick Diver, Ernest Ellis, Paper Scissors, Royal Headache, Collarbones, Ghoul, et al etc. releasing and touring some excellent tunes.

2 years ago

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