“Independence” As It Pertains To Australian Music Awards

I’m glad that Blue Mountains four piece Cloud Control and Melbourne singer-songwriter Dan Sultan shared top honours at Friday night’s Jagermeister Independent Music Awards. Cloud Control took home two gongs, Breakthrough Independent Artist and Best Independent Album for their fantastic debut record Bliss Release. While Sultan, who also took home two awards, won Best Independent Artist and Best Independent Blues and Roots Album for his stunning debut LP Get Out While You Can.

Congratulations are in order to all winners in fact (Midnight Juggernatus, Little Red, Urthboy and Parkway Drive to name but a few more) but with the moniker itself a contradiction in terms (what could be less independent than branded naming rights?), the term “indie” a futile and forever shifting exercise in semantics and the ceremony’s questionable alignment with commercial radio station Nova 969, you could see the jaded and joyless members of Australia’s music blogging community (of which I’m a begrudging member) poised over their laptops for the fallout. It’s our favourite past time after all.

The detractors are legion too. Marcus at The Vine deftly argues why most nominees and eventual “independent” winners were the beneficiaries of major label support. Best Independent Album winners Cloud Control for example, are signed to Ivy League records which is distributed by Universal Music Australia. A major label loophole The AIRs reluctantly acknowledge in their own definition of “independent”: “the title is released on an independent label/or, self released; and where it is either distributed through an independent distributor or where an independent label uses the services of a major or its subsidiary to distribute the title.”

While distribution doesn’t necessarily define independence it’s that nebulous definition of the term (bolded above) which runs at odds with the award’s self-aggrandized defiance of major label involvement: “You won’t find music from majors here” organizers claim “just the cream of the crop of Australia’s diverse and thriving independent music sector.”.

But who cares about the true definition of “independent” or the validity of AIR’s claim to be the “Official Home Of Australian Independent Music” aside from this guy? Well, you should too, dear reader. Granted, Cloud Control aren’t as ubiquitous as Megan Washington or Angus & Julia Stone but if The AIRs really did support independent local acts with no major label affiliation whatsoever (distribution or otherwise) we would all benefit by discovering brave, new talent who receive little to no exposure, even less financial backing and horrendously limited distribution. They are after all, the ones who need it most.

Jagermeister Independent Music Award Winners

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

Best Independent Artist
Dan Sultan (Independent/MGM)

Breakthrough Independent Artist
Cloud Control (Ivy League)

Best Independent Album
Cloud Control – Bliss Release (Ivy League)

Best Independent Single/EP
Little Red – ‘Rock It’ (Liberation)

Best Independent Blues And Roots Album
Dan Sultan – Get Out While You Can (Independent/MGM)

Best Independent Hard Rock Or Punk Album
Parkway Drive – Deep Blue (Resist/Shock)

Best Independent Country Album
Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill And The Little Hillbillies – Lost Music Blues (Liberation)

Best Independent Hip Hop/Urban Album
Urthboy – Spitshine (Elefant Traks/Inertia)

Best Independent Dance/Electronica Album
Midnight Juggernauts – The Crystal Axis (Siberia/Inertia)

Best Independent Jazz Album
Stu Hunter – The Gathering (Vitamin)

Title Image by Mark Metcalfe via Getty