When the freakishly talented Remi won the Australian Music Prize on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only victor. Organizers of the annual award could be excused for feeling they’d climbed their own mountain; the AMP has just turned 10.
Founded by Scott B. Murphy, the Aussie honor is inspired by Britain’s Mercury Music Prize and is decided by a music industry panel, whose single goal is to identify and reward the outstanding creative Australian album of the past year. But unlike the Mercury Prize, the AMP hasn’t been branded by some members of the press, and a smattering of artists, as a poisoned chalice (Gorillaz famously withdrew from the 2001 Mercury shortlist, muttering something about dead albatrosses).
Murphy has more reasons to celebrate. The former Zomba Records Australia and Mushroom Distribution Services managing director can now turn his attention to the first edition of the inaugural American Music Prize.
Its ambition, he told Billboard last December, is to “encourage, discover, reward and promote new music of excellence by USA artists.” The judging panel, which includes producer Steve Lillywhite, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and Justin Kalifowitz of Downtown Music Publishing, was announced last month. 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 reside in the U.S. Eligible releases include the self-titled debuts by Benjamin Booker and Exotype, Jhene Aiko’s Sold Out, Meghan Trainor’s Title, Logic’s Under Pressure and Tasha Page-Lockhart’s Here Right Now.
The grand prize will be announced in late September and the full list of nominated albums can be seen here.
Billboard caught up with Murphy to chat about the two AMPs — the Australian Music Prize and the American Music Prize.
Billboard: Congratulations on 10 years with the Australian Music Prize. What’s been the secret to the longevity of this award?
Scott B. Murphy: It’s unique, it’s needed and it has its place concreted within the Australian music calendar. The artists of Australia unreservedly support this prize so its longevity is safe.
The Mercury Prize typically invites nominees to perform at the awards presentation and there are TV tie-ins ahead of the ceremony. Are these possibilities for the AMP?
Yes, that’s the plan moving forward…to be able to do more for the artists involved by increasing their exposure to music consumers, globally. We can’t just buy that type of exposure though, we have to let the prize grow organically.
So with that in mind, what are your ambitions for the AMP in the years to come?
The vision is to showcase the nine “winning” artists live — we think all shortlisted artists are winners — to as large as audience as possible. So, ultimately on TV. This would need to be done before the final winner is announced, which could be at the same event.
Your first American Music Prize winner will be announced later this year. What have been the big challenges to getting that off the ground?
We actually launched it late last year and it’s going really well. The judges are judging and within weeks we’ll be announcing albums that have made the longlist. Surprisingly the only challenge has been the geo distance and even then that’s only a cost challenge. The U.S. industry has been amazingly helpful and supportive.
How do you gauge the success of the American Prize?
On one level, it’s successful because everything has gone to plan. We’re yet to do anything that will engage the public but that changes over the next couple of months when we start promoting albums that the judges like — and using social media. Another level of success is sponsorship and we’re in deep discussion with some brands there that will result in a naming rights partnership. In the U.S. there is a desire by both industry people and brands alike to support a prize which fairly and independently promotes great music.
10 Years of Australian Music Prize winners:
2014 – “Raw X Infinity” by Remi
2013 – “Not Art” by Big Scary
2012 – “Hyperparadise” by Hermitude
2011 – “Prisoner” by The Jezabels
2010 – “Bliss Release” by CloudControl
2009 – “Wonder” by Lisa Mitchell
2008 – “Primary Colours” by Eddie Current Suppression Ring
2007 – “Devil’sElbow” by The Mess Hall
2006 – “Moo, You Bloody Choir” by Augie March
2005 – “Wait Long By The River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By” by The Drones