Awards

2021 ARIA Awards Scrap Gender Categories, Sets Digital Event

BRISBANE, Australia -- The times, they are a-changing. And the ARIA Awards are changing too.

The 35th edition of the ARIAs will be an all-digital spectacular, held Wednesday, Nov. 24 and pumped out live to a global audience on YouTube.

The changes keep coming with the trade body announcing today (Sept. 15) that it would scrap the gender-based categories, a progressive move that has been welcomed by the ARIA Voting Academy.

Right now, more than half the population of Australia is experiencing lockdown, including the residents of Sydney, the home and birthplace of the ARIAs.

Any member of the jet set in these parts has first-hand knowledge of the letdown from lockdowns ruining their travel plans.

For organizers, a waiting game wouldn’t work. And nor would a hybrid show.

"Unfortunately," notes ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd, “we are still living through a pandemic. As much as we wish it were different, it is just not possible to come together for an in-person event.”

The entire show will stream on YouTube and other platforms, including the free-to-air Channel 9 network’s 9Now digital channel.

“There are some cool things you can do on YouTube and we are going to take advantage of those,” Herd tells Billboard. “We’ll try some different things that we haven’t tried before.”

Necessity, she adds, is "the mother of invention.”

Reinvention could be the catchphrase for the 2021 ceremony, the first to be guided by Herd and ARIA Chair Natalie Waller.

The categories of best female and best male artist will be replaced with the ARIA Award for best artist, a change designed to ensure that the awards “reflect and embrace equality and the true diversity of the music industry in 2021," a statement reads. "It will guarantee that all artists have the opportunity to achieve the recognition they deserve for their work on an equal platform.”

The development is just one step in the journey of reassessment, progression and, ultimately, evolution of the ceremony, explains Herd.

“The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed,” she notes. “The music industry is demanding a more equal, inclusive, safe and supportive space for everyone and ARIA is working hard to achieve that across the ARIA Awards and everything we do.”

As part of this evolution, the shortlist for the new category will be expanded from five to ten.

Additionally, the ARIAs category of engineer and producer of the year has been amended to allow nominees to be recognized for a body of work.

Nominations for the 2021 event will be announced Wednesday, Oct. 6, and streamed via ARIA’s partnership with YouTube Music, now in its third year.

“Australia has an outsized weight in the global music scene,” comments Lyor Cohen, Global Head of Music, YouTube, “and we will continue to empower and help local artists grow their audiences, connect with fans in meaningful ways and break songs around the world. I'm excited to see what will come out of Australia this year."

The ARIA Awards are supported by the New South Wales government through Destination NSW.