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Australian Independent Record Labels Association: CEO Interview Maria Amato

Australia’s independent music industry will descend on Adelaide for the prestigious AIR Awards in July.

Adelaide will host the awards – for the first time in its history – for the next three years.

The Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) represent the labels for acclaimed Australian artists including Adelaide’s own Hilltop Hoods, Courtney Barnett, Vance Joy, Chet Faker, Seth Sentry and John Butler.

The Awards attract many high-profile industry leaders – 700 attended in 2015 – while a 2-day music industry conference will include an international guest speaker, successful Australian independent musicians and businesses. We chat with AIR CEO Maria Amato.

What role does the Australian Independent Record Labels Association have within local music scenes and independent music in general?
[Maria] AIR is a non profit, non government association dedicated to supporting the growth and development of Australia's independent recording sector. Established in 1996, AIR represents Australian-owned record labels and independent artists based in Australia.

AIR's primary purpose is to foster an increasing marketplace for Australian independent music and assist in the long-term development, growth and success of Australia's independent recording industry. We are a trade body that negotiates with industry and government to facilitate deals for the benefit of the industry. Through our services we help companies of all shapes and sizes with the tools and information they need to do business.

For the uninitiated, what are the AIR Awards?
The AIR Awards have evolved from a small gathering of people at the inaugural awards in 2006 to become a key event in the Australian music industry calendar. The event showcases and pays tribute to Australian independent artists and labels, delivering performances from some of Australia’s finest acts.

Over 100 individual awards have been presented to date and for many winners it has been the first industry acknowledgment they have received, serving to help springboard them to national and international attention, recognition and success.



2017 will see a new home for the AIR Awards ceremony as you have partnered with the South Australian government and the city of Adelaide to host the awards during Umbrella: Winter City Sounds. Why the move to Adelaide and how did the deal come about?
AIR is a national body and we wanted to move the awards from Melbourne to other cities. Adelaide is the UNESCO City of Music and the South Australian Government is a strong supporter of arts and culture and we see this as a very exciting move.

The list of musicians who have been honoured by AIR Awards is incredible; everyone from Goyte, Chet Faker, Courtney Barnett to Violent Soho, Hilltop Hoods and Gurrumul. The industry prestige associated with the AIR Awards must be significant?
Yes. For some acts the AIR Awards is their first industry acknowledgment that has helped to springboard them to national attention.

2017 will also see AIR host an inaugural two-day music industry conference (also during Umbrella) that will be hosted in Adelaide the next three years; what is the target/ aim of the conference?
AIR is providing the first conference of its type in Australia that truly addresses the needs and issues affecting independent artists and label businesses that are the backbone of the burgeoning Australian independent music community. It is designed to enable participants to gain insights into the latest innovations and technological advancements in products, services and strategies available to the independent music sector as well as providing an opportunity for the advancement of professional development, leadership and business performance skills.

2015 Air Awards
2015 AIR Awards - image © Facebook

Three years time; where do you hope the conference has evolved/ grown to?
We hope to build upon it so that we can address the many issues affecting our sector, include a greater number of participants and industry leaders and grow the audience.

Is Adelaide the future for the AIR Awards? Or do other cities have a chance to host in coming years?
AIR is very happy to be in Adelaide for the next three years and possibly longer. However, given we are a national body that does not exclude any other city from reaching out to invite us to hold our key events in their city in future years.

The 11th Annual AIR Awards take place at Queen’s Theatre (Adelaide) 27 July. The two-day conference happens 27-28 July in Adelaide as part of Umbrella: Winter City Sounds.
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