In its 12th year, the AIR Awards, presented by the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR), remains the benchmark of success for our bustling independent music arena.
While last year's awards were dominated by indigenous hip hop duo A.B. Original, this year sees the ladies take a commanding presence among the nominations including Alex Lahey, Stella Donnelly, Alex The Astronaut and Jen Cloher.
With the 2018 AIR Awards nominations recently announced, we speak with AIR General Manager Maria Amato about this year's crop of potential award-winners.
You've been in the GM role at AIR since mid-2016; have you initiated any major changes within the organisation in that time?
[Maria] As well as streamlining operations to make them more efficient, I secured significant commercial partnerships to deliver win-win outcomes.
This included a three-year deal with the South Australian Government to move the national AIR Awards and brand new, two-day music industry conference (Indie-Con Australia) to Adelaide as well as secure multi-year projects with Creative Victoria and partnerships with industry bodies and brands to deliver events/ outcomes for our sector and our members.
And what have you learned so far during your tenure as GM?
How to juggle many balls at once with enthusiasm.
With a greater focus being drawn to the work and contributions of female indie artists, how do you feel about the representation of women in this year's nominations?
We have so much great talent in the indie sector, its so inspiring to see them embrace their passion and forge successful careers on their own terms.
As the AIR Awards moves into its 12th year, what is the ongoing vision for their development?
To continue to promote and celebrate the success and growth of indie artists and labels and strive to build support and recognition of the independent sector as a vibrant and vital part of the Australian economy.
The AIR Awards return to Adelaide in 2018; what are some of the benefits that come from holding them in the UNESCO 'City Of Music'?
The State Government of South Australia recognises the value the arts brings to the cultural enrichment of society as well as the many flow-on effects and growth it provides to the local economy.
It leads the way in encouraging individuals to participate, which maximise business opportunities provided by the thriving creative sector, earning the city of Adelaide its place as the UNESCO ‘City of Music’.
This year will also feature the second Indie-Con Australia Conference; what were some of the highlights from last year's conference?
The calibre of our keynote speakers from around the world, the targeted topics up for discussion, the amazing panellists that explored issues affecting our sector that provided food for thought, insights on new technologies, b2b networking and professional development opportunities for attendees.
The AIR Awards also coincides with Umbrella: Winter City Sounds in Adelaide; how does this affect the entertainment landscape of the city?
It makes it the only place to be this winter. Last year, we had guests from five continents attending our inaugural Indie-Con Conference as well as members and industry figures from around the nation to be part of Indie-Con Australia and our exclusive invite-only AIR Awards; this year will see those numbers grow and with all the other activities taking place in Adelaide – clear your diary and enjoy all that’s on offer.
What has been the biggest step forward for Australian independent music in the past year?
Step forward: the strength and diversity of Australian independent releases continues to grow and thrive. We are seeing so many truly Australian voices being heard both nationally and internationally.
Why should we support Australian independent music?
These individuals created the music they wanted to create and did it on their own despite the challenges of limited resources. We owe it to them to support them and applaud them as they make their journey from micro to global business success, inspiring us all along the way.
What is the lasting legacy you would like to leave behind of your time as GM of AIR?
My life mantra is to do what I love on my own terms and AIR represents a sector that strives to do exactly that. I want to be remembered for having helped AIR to achieve win-win outcomes and for strong financial stewardship of which I am both passionate and proud.