BMG Music Publishing-signed artists Ben Lee and Bernard Fanning were the big winners at the 15th annual Australasian Performing Right Assn. awards, held today (June 5) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Syd

BMG Music Publishing-signed artists Ben Lee and Bernard Fanning were the big winners at the 15th annual Australasian Performing Right Assn. awards, held today (June 5) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney.

Lee's "Catch My Disease" took out the prestigious song of the year category -- voted on by APRA's 30,000-plus registered members -- and most performed Australian work.

Lee, who is currently touring the United States, recalled in a taped acceptance speech, that when he began recording at 14 in his bedroom, he had no money, style or technique.

"But what I did have were songs that I believed in," he said. "Over the last 14 years I've started to get a bit more ability, more consistency and bigger budgets, but what still matters is the songs. I'm really glad to be part of an industry and really grateful that the Australian music industry still recognises the value of a songwriter and realizes that the song is the most important part of a record."

Fanning, frontman with rock band Powderfinger, was chosen as songwriter of the year by APRA's board of writer and publisher directors, following his solo success with the Universal Music album "Tea & Sympathy".

The board also gave the breakthrough songwriter award to power rock trio Wolfmother, who are published in Australia by Universal Music and have not assigned their publishing overseas.

Jet won most performed Australian work overseas with "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" for the second year in a row. The song was penned by singer Nic Cester (BMG Music International) and guitarist Cameron Muncey (Famous Music OBO Get Jet Music, Inc).

Most performed urban work went to Guy Sebastian for "Oh Oh," co-written by Sebastian with Jarrad Rogers (the latter with Mushroom Publishing). Most performed blues and roots work went to John Butler's "Something's Gotta Give" (Family Music). Both are new categories.

Kasey Chambers took out most performed country work for the fourth year, this time with "Pony" (Sony/ATV Music Publishing Australia). The Necks received the most performed jazz work award for the second year, this time for "Mosquito" (self-published). Rogue Traders' "Way To Go" (ORiGiN Music Group) took out most performed dance work, while Rob Thomas' "Lonely No More" (EMI Music Publishing) was named most performed foreign work.

Among the night's performances, Icehouse reunited to play its 1982 hit "Great Southern Land." Augie March's Glenn Richards teamed with Dan Kelly and Dan Luscombe for a tribute to Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens, who died May 6.

The APRA board awarded this year's Ted Albert award for outstanding services to Australian music, to Bill Armstrong, founder of Melbourne-based Armstrong Studios.

APRA's celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.