where are the women in this year’s ARIA nominations?
Male artists have dominated nearly every category in this year’s ARIA Award nominations. Flume, Birds of Tokyo, and Tame Impala lead the way with eight, seven, and six nominations repectively. There are no female artists in the running for the Album of the Year gong, and Samantha Jade cuts a lonely figure as the only woman with a shot at Song of the Year.
The gender ratio has shifted noticeably since 2012 when a significant (though still modest) number of female artists scored nominations including Kimbra, Missy Higgins, and Kate Miller-Heidke. Missy Higgins picked up two awards last year in categories contested by both male and female artists, as did country music sister act, The McClymonts. The Jezebels, who feature two female members, won the ARIA Award for Best Independent album.
Although the headline categories are short on female talent, ARIA mainstays Clare Bowditch and Sarah Blasko have both been nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Release, whilst Mama Kin has a chance in the Blues and Roots category. Jasmine Rae, Kasey Chambers (along with partner Shane Nicholson), and Sara Storer will fight it out over the Best Country Album trophy.
ABC has reported that industry insiders are displeased with the gender imbalance in this year’s nominations and that some are pushing for the adoption of quotas to ensure female artists get equal recognition. ARIA Award nominations, not to mention wins, undoubtedly increase the exposure and sales of artists, and local female musicians are certainly in need of both. But as ARIA chief executive, Dan Rosen has said, this year’s list is a pretty accurate reflection of the past year, with artists like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Tame Impala, and Flume more than deserving of their nods.
Rather than introduce award quotas (thereby ending what little credibility or relevance the ARIAs cling to), more needs to be done to raise the profile of female artists – and particularly groups – when they are establishing themselves in the industry. Despite the boom in online music consumption, radio still plays a critical role in delivering new music to a national audience and female artists need the same support from Australian stations that male artists have always received as a matter of course.
Triple J, along with various local, community and student-run stations, have always led the way in promoting new and independent Australian talent. The number of ARIA Award winners such as Gotye, Powderfinger, and Missy Higgins, who received huge support from independent stations early in their careers is testament to the importance of radio airplay. In contrast, Australia’s commercial networks are notoriously light on for local music, let alone music made by Australian women. The Australian music industry is currently pushing for quotas to boost the percentage of Australian-made music in broadcast media to 25%. It would be brilliant if all radio stations plugged Australian (or any) female musicians like they do male artists, but until they do, it may pay to require them to.
After all, the more Beaches/Super Wild Horses/Abbe May/Courtney Barnett/Jen Cloher/Adalita in our ears, the better off we’ll all be.