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American Music Prize to Launch in 2015

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The U.S. has a new prize to recognize the year's best debut American album.

The American Music Prize is the brainchild of Scott B. Murphy, who established the annual Australian Music Prize back in 2005. Its ambition is to “encourage, discover, reward and promote new music of excellence by USA artists.” In a nutshell, it's "an American Prize, for American artists, judged by American judges," Murphy tells Billboard.

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To be eligible, an artist’s debut album must have been released between Aug. 1, 2014, and July 31, 2015, and at least 51 percent of the act's line-up must be residents of the U.S. The recording should also have some commercial clout; it has to sell more than 1,000 units and be registered by SoundScan. There's no fee for submissions to the AMP. Details can be found here

Like the Australian Music Prize, the American version is an art-based initiative whose single goal is to identify and reward an album on its outstanding creative merit. And the victor receives a cash sum (plus exposure). The winner of Australia’s version earns a A$30,000 check (collecting society PPCA contributes the cash). The U.S. winner will earn “a significant” amount. Negotiations are ongoing with a naming rights sponsor, which will determine the final target. Organizers are eying a cash prize somewhere in the region of $75,000-$100,000, and an announcement will be made in the New Year. 

A panel of judges will be announced in late January. They'll be tasked with boiling-down an initial longlist and, after much debate, a shortlist of 12 will be published in late August 2015. Each of the shortlisted artists will receive a prize, and they’ll be invited to perform at a live concert in late September 2015, when the winner of the inaugural AMP will be unveiled. 

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Murphy is modeling the competition after his Australian edition, which itself was inspired by Britain’s long-running Mercury Prize. The exec, whose music biz posts have included managing director of Zomba Records Australia and Mushroom Distribution Services, is keen to see the new prize become a fixture alongside national music awards which also include Canada's Polaris, Ireland's Choice, Scotland's SAY, Nordic, France's Prix Constantin and New Zealand's Taite.

The new initiative is the culmination of 14 months of legwork. Murphy has undertaken two research trips to the U.S., and met with about 100 music industry execs and artist managers. The response was “'100% yes. We must have one of these, how can we help you,'” Murphy recounts.   

For the record, Big Scary’s Not Art won the most recent edition of the Australian Music Prize in March 2014. The winner of the tenth Australian prize will be announced in Sydney on March 4, 2015.

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