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The changing face of the Australian music industry

Redfern-based music producer and manager Vicki Gordon has been named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s (AFR) 100 Women of Influence. Vicki is the sole music executive to be nominated for this year’s AFR awards. Encompassing 10 categories, the awards uncover and promote Australian women who have dedicated their time and energy to help and encourage other women in their industry, who are fighting for change every day and are leaders in their field.

Ms Gordon, founder of Australian Women in Music Awards (AWMA), has long championed gender and cultural equality in the Australian music industry. Among her career highlights, Ms Gordon founded the Australian Women’s Rock Institute in the ’90s, produced Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s contemporary music festival (With Open Eyes), first all-girl rock festival (Fast Forward) and first training program for female DJs (SCRATCH).

As a music manager and record label executive she guided the careers of Indigenous singer-songwriters Emma Donovan and Ursula Yovich and was key to the success of Vanessa Amorosi’s multi-platinum album The Power and its hit single, “Absolutely Everybody”.

Ms Gordon is also producer of the global success Barefoot Divas and co-producer for the Indigenous women’s rock musical Barbara and the Camp Dogs, which took out four Helpmann Awards earlier this year including best Australian Musical and Best Score.

As founding executive director of AWMA, she works closely with diverse groups of women and communities across all areas of the industry, including First Nations and culturally diverse women, LGBTQI and many others.

This year’s AWMA, presented by the not-for-profit charity Cicada International Inc., attracted double the nominations from last year’s inaugural event and includes three new award categories for Excellence in Classical Music, Music Journalism and Image Making.

Producers, engineers, film makers, photographers, songwriters, industry leaders, artist managers, music journalists and more are set to be acknowledged and celebrated in their own right at this year’s award ceremony.

“AWMA’s mission is to lead with generosity, to insist that our society benefits when musicians and those who work with them are empowered from a diversity of places, cultures and identities,” Ms Gordon said.

Fifteen AWMAs will be up for grabs following a highly competitive nomination process and judging by a prestigious group of industry professionals and practitioners. A special award will also be presented to Judith Durham (The Seekers) who will be inducted into the 2019 AWMA Honour Roll.

“Judith Durham has one of the world’s purest voices, she has a rare musical gift and is one of Australia’s most esteemed cultural leaders. An unforgettable singer, a visionary songwriter and composer, an uncompromising advocate for First Nations justice and numerous charities, Judith’s legacy is indelible! We couldn’t be more honoured to induct Judith into the 2019 AWMA Honour Roll where she will be joined by our inaugural recipient, the legendary Helen Reddy,” Ms Gordon said.

Judith Durham. Photo: Fernando Barraza

The AWMA ceremony, concert and party will include a dazzling mix of music genres and some of Australia’s biggest music names and most inspiring artists, with performances featuring Renée Geyer, Katie Noonan, Clare Bowditch, Melinda Schneider, Ngaiire, Kaylah Truth, Cheryl Barker, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and more.

In addition to the awards night, AWMA will host a two-day program at the Brisbane Powerhouse on October 8 and 9 that includes a series of thought-provoking forums and panel discussions: Visibility in Hip Hop: Women on the Front Line, The Art of Rebellion: The Intersection of Music & Politics, Image Making: The Changing Face of Music, and a keynote address by noted broadcaster, musician, writer, teacher, philanthropist and trans man Eddie Ayres.

The changing face of the Australian music industry. Photo: Wendy McDougall (Producer: Vicki Gordon)

“You cannot be what you cannot see. It’s important for women to see women earning awards, or playing festivals, or represented equally in media,” said Ella Fence, a nominee for the Emerging Artist Award.

Ella Fence. Photo: Grace Elizabeth

Fellow nominee, Alice Skye, is a Wergaia woman from Horsham, Victoria. She released her debut album Friends With Feelings in 2018 and toured nationally with Emily Wurramara.

Alice grew up aside the sandstone mountains and wildflowers of the Grampians. Still inspired by her roots, Alice’s songs resonate with a sensitivity and maturity well beyond her years. Accompanied by the gentle and hauntingly sparse melodies of a piano score, her journal entries are transformed into well-crafted, articulate lyrics on love, loss and life.

Skye first caught national attention back in 2015 with her debut single “You Are the Mountains”. Recorded at the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) studios in Alice Springs as one of eight winners of the Alukura Songwriting Competition, late 2015 saw Alice chosen as finalist in the Triple J Unearthed NIMA competition and “one of the five new Indigenous artists you need to hear”.

“You Are the Mountains” earned Skye radio airplay, a record deal with Indigenous record label CAAMA Music and a management deal with Penney and Logan. Invited to return to CAAMA Music’s Alice Springs studio to record her first full-length album, it turned out to be a fortuitous and pivotal life moment.

Alice Skye. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Claire Edwardes, nominated for the Creative Leadership Award, is an internationally acclaimed percussion soloist, chamber musician and artistic director of Ensemble Offspring.

Graduating as Student of the Year in 1997 from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where Daryl Pratt was her teacher, she went on to win the coveted Symphony Australia Young Performers Award in 1999. She subsequently relocated to the Netherlands to undertake a Masters Degree at the Rotterdam and Amsterdam Conservatories under Richard Jansen, Peter Prommel and Jan Pustjens.

Resident there for seven years, she was the recipient of many international awards and prizes including first place at the 2000 Tromp Percussion Competition and 2001 Llangollen International Instrumentalist. Claire was the 2005 MCA/Freedman Fellow and she is the three-time winner (2016, 2012, 2007) of the APRA Art Music Award for Excellence by an Individual for her contribution to Australian music. In 2014 she was granted a prestigious Australia Council Music Fellowship and in 2016 Ensemble Offspring won the APRA Art Music Award for Excellence by an Organisation.

Claire has performed concertos with all of the Australian orchestras as well as numerous European orchestras and has premiered works by an array of composers worldwide such as Harrison Birtwistle, Matthew Hindson, Elena Kats-Chernin and Matthew Shlomowitz.

Claire Edwardes. Photo: Monty Cole

Ms Gordon said “the ’90s conversation around gender and diversity was very sidelined in a tokenistic way. The challenges and fights were exhausting and resistance to change enormous. The industry was certainly not ready to engage with the sort of conversations we are having now! History is finally on our side.”

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For more information about the AWMAs and tickets for forums, panel discussions and concert ceremony visit https://womeninmusicawards.com.au/.

The AFR’s 100 Women of Influence Awards winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on October 22. See https://bit.ly/2liIM5P/.

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