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 Everett True

It’s just another shitty music award. Who gives a crap?

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Folk are getting hot under the collar about the recent Jagermeister-sponsored AIR (Australian Independent Music) awards. Particularly the awarding of the “best independent album” category to Cloud Control for Bliss Release, an album distributed by Universal Music. And also particularly at the fact the host of the “independent” music awards was one of Nova 969 breakfast time hosts…. Nova 969 being particularly noted for its generous support of Australian independent music.

See Marcus’ fine piece at The Vine on the subject.
And Brisbane blog Passenger Side’s amusing rant.
And several Mess And Noise articles on the subject, where a lot of the more entertaining commentary occurs in the comments sections.

Several worthy folk have seen fit to quote my old sparring partner Michael Azerrad from his Our Band Could Be Your Life idiot primer stating “that if an artist has any ties with a major label then that artist cannot be called independent”, in a somewhat futile attempt to define independent once and for all. Seems pointless. As Marcus points out in his Vine article, ” in the music industry such a definition seems laughingly obsolete. Whether through links to subsidiaries, grants, prizes, or flat out donations, the artists that can say they are truly self-sufficient or ‘independent’ are few and far between.”

So listen up. I only have a couple of points to make.

1. If you call your awards “independent… anything”, you’re on a hiding to nothing. Sure, the AIR misuse of the word is blatant, but they weren’t breaking their own definitions. Their own definitions were clearly spelled out… well, sort of. And they should know, because they are the “Official Home of Australian Independent Music”, as their website has it. (You can tell they’re ‘independent’ as they can’t even afford a proof reader on their About page.)

The very notion of independent is ridiculous, as Marcus rightly states (the irony of using a definition of the word from an American critic who has done nothing but define the mainstream throughout his career is, I’m sure, not lost on him). The AIR awards are a crock of shit, not worthy of even semi-serious discussion, but how – in that – do they differ from any of the other feted awards the Australian music industry sees fit to give away on an alarmingly regular basis?

There’s the Triple J awards, given to the artists that are played most on Triple J. There are the ARIAs, given by the Australian music industry to the artists that have shifted the most units for the Australian music industry that year. There’s the AMP, Australia’s own Mercury Music Award (although of course the Mercury Music Award is now called the Barclaycard McDonalds Texaco Debussy Vodaphone Nationwide Prize) – given to the artist who wasn’t awarded either a Triple J gong or an ARIA. Brisbane even has its QSong awards, sigh. One more way of redistributing money to the same handful of musicians.

2. A conversation with one of my blog students earlier today.
“People are treating our blog like it has value.”
That’s because you treat your blog like it has value. If you don’t, why should anyone else?

This is a question that the organisers of the AIR awards might want to consider, and very soon – to judge from the chorus of condemnation from what would be termed the ‘independent’ music sector in any other part of the Western world, the very sector they are presumably claiming to represent.

3. It’s usual form for folk in the closeted world of the Australian music industry to accuse anyone who disapproves of the way stuff gets done of ‘jealousy’. (It’s a very common excuse up here in Brisbane.) Like, all we want is to be in with the hep cats. Yep. That’ll be right.

I got asked one time on ABC radio how I had the gall to slag off Silverchair when they’d been the recipients of several ARIA awards the year before. “Who would you have given the awards to?” the presenter aggressively demanded. You don’t understand. I don’t like awards, full stop. Isn’t it enough reward that hundreds of thousands of people have bought their CDs and love their music?

Pause.

“Yes. But who would you have given the awards to?”

39 Responses to It’s just another shitty music award. Who gives a crap?

  1. Darragh October 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Welcome back Everett. I never even thought of this angle, “one more way of redistributing money to the same handful of musicians.” Bang on the money there.

  2. Tim Footman October 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Didn’t the strict definition of indie become redundant in the late 80s when Kylie and Jason topped the UK indie charts, because PWL wasn’t tied to a major? This was of course before a) IndieKylie and b) Pete Waterman complaining about “indie fans on the internet” who ensured Belle & Sebastian won the Best Newcomer Brit with their third album.

  3. Sophie October 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Well said. The QSong awards sent me apoplectic with rage, until I reached a zen-like state of enlightenment about how little they matter in the scheme of anything, let alone good music.

  4. Darragh October 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    On the Mess+Noise Article you linked too

    “Most Popular Independent Artist (as voted by Nova Listeners)
    John Butler Trio”

    I guess Nova listeners must be the pulse by which Australian independent music beats.

  5. Graham October 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    It’s laughable to complain about sloppy journalism only to display it so profoundly yourself. The QSong Awards are run entirely from earned income, not from government subsidy. Is it unreasonable to expect the most piss weak attempt at research before spraying out an attention seeking ‘opinion piece’? Perhaps we should start an award for the worst written blog? Research? Accuracy? Nah… this is music criticism. The clue is in the title, right?

  6. Everett True October 4, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    My apologies, Graham. I was under the impression that the QSong Awards are organised by QMusic, who receive funding from various government bodies. I am only too happy to have that impression corrected.

  7. Darragh October 4, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Quick look on Arts Qld website reveals that that Q Music are contracted by the government to provide some services (see ‘Role of Q Music’, http://www.arts.qld.gov.au/policy/inter-contemp-music-market.html%5D) . I guess that counts as receiving public money, doesn’t it? (though noted, it doesn’t talk about the Q Song awards directly).

  8. Graham October 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    “My apologies, Graham. I was under the impression that the QSong Awards are organised by QMusic, who receive funding from various government bodies. I am only too happy to have that impression corrected”. So will you correct the inaccuracy in the body of the article text now that you’ve been informed? Here’s a fact for you. Government funding bodies don’t provide funding for awards – full stop. You could have checked that out by doing a little research.

    Darragh – well done mate. You have located a link on the interwebs to the work that Q Music does for Arts Qld to administer their export programs. Case closed. Did Everett teach you how to research?

  9. ed October 4, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Interesting. Does that mean QSong is entirely ring-fenced from the rest of QMusic? The other interesting thing (well, to me anyway) is that because you have to pay more to enter a song in the QSong Awards if you’re not a QMusic member, it’s a competition based on anti-competitive conduct.

  10. Everett True October 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Graham. I have removed the offending word (‘public’) from the blog entry. The point still stands. You are aware, I hope, that a whole bunch of my friends work for QMusic. I would hope that they – unlike you – understand, and value, my differences of opinion with them over the music that is promoted in Brisbane.

    (From the QSong Music Awards 2010 website)

    Over the past 50 years, Queensland has produced some of the finest songwriters not only in this country, but the world. From Keith Urban to Grant McLennan, The Grates and Powderfinger, to up and comers The Gin Club, The John Steel Singers and Kate Bradley, Queensland’s music stands tall on the world stage.

    Actually, no. It doesn’t. That’s a gross, and misleading, exaggeration. Ever think you might be redistributing the money among the wrong people?

  11. Darragh October 4, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Well Graham, I have located a published piece of material that indicates that QMusic does receive public funds, albeit on a contractual basis.

    You stated that Q Music fund the awards from their own pocket. How do they earn money? Well, for one, administering export programs for Arts QLD. By inference, as Ed has inferred with his ‘fence-ring’ comment, one could link contractual work for the government with the awards.

    I don’t have a problem with the Q Song awards, I was simply pointing out that to say that public money isn’t involved with the awards, in some way, might not be 100% accurate.

  12. Everett True October 4, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    P.S. I was asked if I wanted to be one of the (numerous!) judges for the AIRs a while back, which I actually thought was very decent of them. I figured that there really wasn’t any point.

  13. Richard October 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Judging by that recent thread of yours on M+N which saw you fishing for the most basic info about Australian bands, I wouldn’t have thought so.

  14. MarkyZnO October 4, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    “Isn’t it enough reward that hundreds of thousands of people have bought their CDs and love their music?”

    Never a truer bunch of words spoken, I’m not amazingly familiar with the AIR awards but *all” award ceremonies are pretentious back slapping affairs that are for for no purpose other than marketing and advertising…

    Will I buy something because its won awards? Hell no, infact it usually drives me in the opposite direction. Jeebus look at the Mercury Music Prize here in the UK – dreadful coffee table wack.

  15. Everett True October 4, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    That was my point precisely, Richard. (Although I think you somewhat misunderstand my motives in starting that Australian garage band thread on Mess And Noise – I knew it would flush out the genuine experts, and what the hell is wrong with seeking some expert opinion?) Plus, I really don’t like awards.

  16. Annon October 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Nearly every musician in Brisbane is disgusted with Q-song. There are two stages, the first stage the Q-music people choose the songs that go to the judges. The second stage the judges select from those songs. It just so happens that a whole bunch of artist either managed or represented by people who work there or who are on the board of Q-music win! What a coincidence!

    Further this process isn’t disclosed publicly. How odd?

  17. Darragh October 5, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Related news: M+N Exclusive: AIR Responds

  18. Miguel Ramirez October 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Book awards are also pretty meaningless with respect to the quality of the work, but they’re an opportunity for authors to get their works carefully read – all submissions have to read – and eventually published since the crap that gets the prize becomes a cash cow that pays for the good stuff which is bought by a handful of people.

    Music awards do not even work as a platform for artists to showcase their works, with perhaps the exception being the Canadian Polaris awards. If a musician wants to have his stuff heard and publicized he just needs to do some research on which are the most influential blogs out there, send a few demos around and eventually one of these bloggers will publish a piece featuring those demos. Quite a few recent “independent” phenomena have used this vector to great effect.

  19. Paul October 6, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Hey Anon,

    Just thought i’d pick you up on a point there, the shortlisting for QSong is not done through any QMusic staff, they select industry folk from around Qld to shortlist each category. Sort your facts out pal.

  20. Annon October 6, 2010 at 10:17 am

    So Paul tell me. Why don’t they publicly disclose the process?

  21. Paul October 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Buggers Me, I just thought i’d point out that it’s not QMusic that shortlists.

  22. Cracker Jack October 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Hey folks

    I think there are a few people missing the point here although I have read in another blog comment that someone did refer to awards as a marketing campaign.

    That’s exactly what these events are and there are a host of other great reasons to have them beyond the fact that they provide a spotlight on areas of the music scene AND industry that more often than, get not swept off to the side while the major conglomerate companies control the exposure and access points by hogging the media.

    Breaking it down to two issues here: the AIR Awards + the Q Song Awards.

    First up – the AIR Awards or Independent Music Awards as they’re now called
    My first point on these harks back to Nick O’Byrne’s view – the master recordings are owned by an Australian entity. How those owners choose to then exploit them to make a living for themselves and the artists is of no concern to anyone and shouldn’t have any bearing on this discussion.

    That Nova is involved is again a good thing. I personally don’t listen to Nova (or much radio for that matter) but have worked in the industry for long enough now to know that having a radio station like Nova playing your music is a huge achievement and enables the artists involved to reach a much bigger audience base and therefore make an income to sustain themselves. Certainly can’t rely on the “hundreds of thousands of records” as mentioned by Everett for people to love your music. Everett – you are deluded if you think that any of the artists (excepting John Butler) are selling those kinds of units these days. I should have stopped at deluded though.

    Furthermore do people seriously believe that independent artists want to make their music exclusive and share it only with a select few? Barricade it up and keep it from the masses? Hey wow what a crazy thought. Honestly if Nova decides to get involved in supporting independent music then great – it’s actually quite a breakthrough for the independent sector in Australia that Nova actually wants to align itself with the brand “Independent” and perhaps play more independent music (i.e. where the copyright owners are getting their dues directly) and let ordinary Nova listening Australians get a chance to hear a Dan Sultan or Cloud Control where they otherwise wouldn’t. Is that such a bad thing?

    Jager – big deal. Jager (funnily enough still owned by the original family who started it the Masts) sponsors music events all over the world. It has been a friend and enemy to us all – why wouldn’t it want to be involved in helping Australian independent artists in Australia? And sell some booze on the way through? Geez, cause there’s no association between drinking and the music industry is there…..

    That some of the labels are distributed by majors. Ask Michael Gudinski (the outright owner of Liberation) if Universal (his distributor) asked him to run his company in a certain way and what do you think he would say? He’d tell them to get fucked. He’s made a commercial decision to enable Universal to take a minimal slice of his physical sales and that’s it. Liberation retain full and complete “independent” control. Get over it people.

    That the events are stupid and pointless and back slapping and distributing money to the same handful of musicians. Well it may be all of these things but in reality, it is none of them. It is, as I eluded earlier, a marketing campaign. It helps to generate interest in the scene. There’s a lot of focus here on the winners but all of the artists who are nominated and get exposure in the lead up to the actual event are benefiting. If gives media a reason to demonstrate their interest (or their critical skills) and gives artists, labels, industry folk and opportunity to engage with a broader audience. Why is this a bad thing? And yes we do get to hang around and do some back slapping. I thought it was great at last year’s awards to see the drummer from the Drones (who is not in any way dripping in cash) to acknowledge that for him it was re-affirming that what he’s doing as an artist is actually noticed. It made him feel good and so it damn well should. We have a great opportunity at these events to add to the artists’ (and art generally) sense of worth in the Australian community.

    In terms of the Q Song comments.

    The guys at Q Music work their arses off to give people a range of opportunities to hone the craft either as song writers and performers or as people wanting to have a role to play from behind the scenes. They also do very well at getting music – Qld music – on the agenda in the public and also at a public policy level.

    The Q Song awards is simply another way to give artists and song writers a chance to get exposure not just to a potential audience but also to each other. The value of that interaction cannot be underestimated. There are hundreds of people who submit their songs and yes they have to pay, so what. This shit doesn’t happen on fresh air. Nor do the government fund it. Yes they fund Q Music and so they should. They should in fact fund them more because they do a great job at galvanising an industry that is utterly fragmented at the best of times and finds it difficult to promote itself because its too fucking busy sharpening the knives for anyone who shows any initiative towards bettering everyone’s lot instead of just their own (for the record I am not a member of staff or on the board – I am a paid up member and have been on and off for the better part of 10 years).

    As a kid I grew up in a country town and I was critical of a particular organisation that provided arts and music outlets for folks. I was intensely critical of them as I felt that it looked after its own and programmed only those bands who knew someone who knew someone. So instead sitting around having a royal whinge about it I got off my arse and got involved and to be honest it was the one thing that created a desire to be part of the music machinery. That there was an organisation there that provided me with an outlet to play music with others and build a community of interested people around that notion was in retrospect an unbelievably lucky thing to have. I was a teenager, you lot aren’t. So perhaps arm yourselves with some information before you start going off half cocked. I have no problem with debate and critical thought – it’s incredibly healthy however the majority of interjectors here believe they are doing so with some maligned sense of authority. Get involved properly if you’d like to see real change otherwise get back in your blog and be righteous about everything you don’t agree with.

    Cracker Jack

  23. Blake October 6, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Can we do something about q music being run by old government hacks and washed up musicians and managers please?

  24. Everett True October 6, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Blake, can we try and keep this decent, and not resort to personal insults, please?

  25. Jodi Biddle October 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Also a fair bit of solid conversation going on over here, which Cracker Jack copied across and I followed up on – http://passengerside.net/2010/10/04/indie-music-awards-warning-this-might-piss-you-off/

  26. Darragh October 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Cracker Jack, even though I might still be personally skeptical, that is a great comment. Kudos to you.

  27. Mav October 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Good discussion and well said Cracker Jack, but surely QMusic would be doing themselves a huge favour if:
    1. They made the judging process & judging panels public
    2. They sourced some judges from out of town/state to remove any question of bias.

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  29. Dave October 7, 2010 at 12:21 am

    @Sophie (comment #3) – clearly you have excellent taste and judgment.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0VvoNk0H_A&feature=player_embedded

    Did you get the job with the Finger? So I take it you think Powderfinger constitutes ‘good music’?

  30. Darragh October 7, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Well Dave, Sophie is a music journalist. She has to earn a crust somehow, regardless of individual tastes. Thankfully, the song she chose a song from Internationalist as the soundtrack.

  31. Dave October 7, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Darragh. Of course. That explains and excuses everything!! Hmm… let’s see.. isn’t that defense a little inconsistent with the Collapseboard line in this thread?

    No, you guys are prepared to take hypocritical shots at others ‘earning a crust somehow’, but defend your own tendencies to ‘sell out’. Let’s find the thread where you guys tear into Dom Alessio shall we? Oh here it is.

    http://www.collapseboard.com/shoot-me-now-more-nominations-for-the-2010-j-award

    Nice.

    You guys are shameful hypocrites. One finger pointed at others, three at you yourselves. It’s painful and it isn’t even amusing. Just sad. You better turn the comments off on this blog if you don’t want to be challenged for this crap.

  32. ed October 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I can’t see that YouTube link but am guessing it was for the Powderfinger blogging competition. You argument seems to be about what you think is “good” and what you think is “bad”. As far as I know Sophie hasn’t been printed somewhere as saying Powderfinger are “good” in one place and “bad” in another. If she likes them and wanted to win the blogging competition, then where’s the problem?

  33. Everett True October 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Darragh mate, please don’t use the phrase “music journalist” in my vicinity. The correct terminology is “music critic”.

  34. Everett True October 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Dave, I had a look at that thread, and aside from one comment from Ed where he briefly mentions Dom Alessio’s Wikipedia entry, I can’t find any other reference to the man at all. Are you sure you’re not thinking of another thread altogether?

  35. Dave October 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Ed. The problem here is the concept of someone who tries to win a Powderfinger blogging competition passing judgment on ‘good music’ and the QSong awards. Do I need to explain this further to you?

  36. ed October 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    It’s a matter of personal taste and I don’t see why you think it’s hypocritical. What is hypocritical is hiding behind the veil of internet anonymity whilst using Google to search for information about people who put their name to a comment in order to bag them out.

  37. Everett True October 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    FYI, that was the 666th comment on Collapse Board, Ed.

  38. ed October 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    And who thought it would have been used to defend a Powderfinger fan for her right to like Powderfinger…

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