Angel Olsen, Radiohead, Jagjaguwar Among Winners at Sixth Annual Libera Awards

Amanda Marsalis
Angel Olsen

The independent music business last night celebrated, fed and feted its own at the sixth annual Libera Awards, an event organized by the American Association of the Independent Music recognizing achievement in the independent music community. The event capped off the trade organization’s 12th annual Indie Week (June  5-8) which saw a broad swath of the independent music industry descend upon the Clemente Soto VĂ©lez Cultural and Educational Center on NYC’s Lower East Side for four days of meetings, panels, discussions, keynotes, performances, shmoozing and more.

This year’s big winners included Angel Olsen whose album My Woman (Jagjaguar) took Album of the Year honors; Radiohead (XL Recordings) who won two Libera statuettes for Best Live Act and Video of the Year (Fan Vote) for “Daydreaming;” and the Jagjaguar which won Label of the Year (More Than Five Employees).

Other winners included Bandcamp, a digital platform spotlighting primarily indie music and which won the Independent Champion Award; Triple Crown Records which received best label with less than five employee, and the beloved and late-Sharon Jones (Daptone Records) who won Best Sync Usage for a Lincoln MKZ spot (full winners list below).

"Holy Shit," were the first words out of Triple Crown Records' president/founder Fred Feldman's mouth upon winning. "I was shocked" he told Billboard. "I really didn't think we'd win." The label's recent releases include Sorority Noise (a number one the Billboard Heat Seekers Chart), Caspian, Boxing and Tiny Moving Parts. Feldman attributed the win to his label's success to "consistently over the course of 20 years in the music business, luck and serving our audience really well and being really true to what we do." 

Ani DiFranco, who started her own independent label, Righteous Babe Records, at the tender age of 18 and has recorded some 21 studio albums over the course of her career, won A2IM’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “If you started an indie label, we have something in common,” DiFranco said in her acceptance speech. “You’re the kind of person who gets an idea in your head and you don’t let it go. If your label still exists, your tenacity is bona fide,” she said alluding the may difficulties indie labels face today with the rise of free music and a vastly changing landscape.   

DiFranco sang two songs including her classic “32 Flavors” from her album Not a Pretty Girl with musician Dar Williams, who introduced the icon and sang exquisite back-up harmony. “A Network,” DiFranco said, "is so much stronger than an individual."

Veteran British musician, “pub rocker” and producer Nick Lowe won the Independent Icon Award presented by Michael Huppe of SoundExchnage, the digital performance rights organization and one of A2IM Indie Week's title sponsors. Huppe noted that Lowe had released 14 albums, 23 singles, six compilations, three EPs and one live recording in addition to running seminal punk indie Stiff Records, producing the Damned's first album and eight Elvis Costello albums among others.

Lowe was exceedingly modest describing himself as just “another aging gent from across the sea” who  “along the way managed to make one or two good records and hundreds of terrible records that no one remembers—which is why I’m  here today.”  His short set of course included his smash “Cruel To Be Kind” which seemed to enliven the relatively well-heeled audience.

While the night also included performances by Twin Peaks, Nick Hakim and Talib Kweli, the ceremony ran like clockwork with master of ceremonies and indie artist Ted Leo keeping the night train moving on time. Leo himself said he is in the process of releasing his own album and is just starting to realize that I“it’s a ton of f**king work. Something not lost on this crowd.

Under new A2IM CEO Richard Burgess’ direction, who began last year, the Libera Awards have doubled in size with this year’s ceremony at the PlayStation Theater drawing some 1,000 attendees. “It gets bigger and better every year,” noted board member and the evening's award presenter Portia Sabin of the Kill Rock Stars label.

The not-for-profit trade organization;s membership includes more than 450 Independently-owned American music labels whose interests A2IM advocates for in the market, the media and on Capitol Hill and beyond.

In 2016, Billboard put the Independent music label sector as 35.1 percent of the music industry's U.S. recorded music sales market in 2016 based on copyright ownership, according to Nielsen Soundscan data.

A2IM’s  board of directors consists of the following: ATO Vice President Stephanie Alexa, Razor & Tie COO Craig Balsam, Redeye Co-Owner Glenn Dicker, INgrooves EVP & General Manager Amy Dietz, Epitaph/Anti General Manager Dave Hansen, Big Machine COO Andrew Kautz, Beggars Group Founder/CEO Martin Mills, Hopeless Records Owner Louis Posen, Dualtone CEO/Co-Founder Scott Robinson, Tommy Boy Owner & CEO Thomas Silverman, and Secretly Label Group Co-Owner Darius Van Arman. A2IM’s Advisory Committee includes: Randy Chin, Alisa Coleman Amit Nerurkar


Full list of the 2017 Libera Award Winners.

Best Live Act
Radiohead (XL Recordings)

Marketing Genius
The xx, I See You (Young Turks)

Best Sync Usage
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “Lincoln MKZ Spot” (Daptone Records)

Breakthrough Artist
Whitney, Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian)

Creative Packaging
Thundercat, Drunk (Brainfeeder)
Best Blues/Jazz/R&B Album
Charles Bradley, Changes (Daptone Records)
Best Classical/World Album
Tinariwen, Elwan (Anti-)
Independent Champion
Best Country/Americana/Folk Album
Margo Price, Midwest Farmers Daughter (Third Man Records)
Best Dance/Electronica Album
Bonobo, Migration (Ninja Tune)

Independent Icon
Nick Lowe
A2IM Lifetime Achievement Award
Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe Records)
Video of the Year
DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels, “Nobody Speak” (Mass Appeal Records)
Video of the Year - Fan Vote
Radiohead, “Daydreaming” (XL Recordings)
Best Metal/Hard Rock Album
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO Records)

Best Rap/Hip-Hop Album
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 3 (Run the Jewels, Inc.)
Label of the Year (<5 employees)
Triple Crown Records
Label of the Year (6+ employees)
Album of the Year
Angel Olsen, MY WOMAN (Jagjaguwar)