In many countries, the following news would be considered little short of a national disgrace.

The AMP (Australian Music Prize) has just announced its shortlist. Notice anything familiar about any of the acts? Yes, they’re all from that broad church… white indie music.

  • Cloud Control – Bliss Release
  • The Holidays – Post Paradise
  • Dan Kelly – Dan Kelly’s Dream
  • Sally Seltmann – Heart That’s Pounding
  • Gareth Liddiard – Strange Tourist
  • Pikelet – Stem
  • Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours
  • Tame Impala – Inner Speaker
  • Richard In Your Mind – My Volcano

Lest we forget, the AMP purports to represent the best in Australian music. Broadly speaking, it’s the Australian equivalent to the much sought-after UK Mercury Music Award, or whatever it’s called these days.

“The thing about the Australian Music Prize,” stated the 2008 director Tracey Grimson, “is that it’s about rewarding creative excellence. The albums are all listened to and judged on creative merit. It doesn’t matter if someone has been number one or never heard of before. They have an equal chance of making it through.”

So why is it, in a year when Australian hip-hop and hardcore were agreed to be particularly on-form, there isn’t a SINGLE representation from either genre?

This raises a few, fundamental, questions – particularly with regard to the absence of hip-hop (or roots, or reggae, etc). Is the Australian music industry – ‘alternative’ or not – racist at its heart? Or is the absence of pretty much anything that isn’t male white indie more a reflection of poor selection criteria applied when it came to choosing the judges… i.e. it’s literally a case of whether you’ve been drinking in the right Melbourne and Sydney music industry pubs.

Folk have already pointed out that only a handful of hip-hop acts applied to be considered for the AMP. Well of course only a handful did. They already knew they weren’t going to win.

Here’s a list of previous winners (last year’s controversial choice at least proving that the judges are open to charges of sexism):

The first four recipients of the reward all won it for playing noisy abrasive guitar-based indie rock – the sort of which is so greatly represented in this year’s shortlist.

So here are a few suggestions of my own.


Plus a couple of token ‘indie’ acts that were unaccountably left off the shortlist

I might not have featured that much music made by non-white ‘indie’ females on my own personal Song Of The Day blog on Collapse Board. The crucial difference is that I’ve never claimed that the blog is anything more than a reflection of my own tastes. The AMP claims to represent an entire country and not just an entire country, but the ‘best’ that country has to offer.

The music industry, as ever, is blasé to charges of bias, and indeed rather self-congratulatory.

During a puff piece for the AMP, written by Bernard Zuel for The Sydney Morning-Herald, David Chitty (organiser of Perth’s One Movement music industry conference), says ”it matters to me … we definitely use it as a programming tool”.

‘It has credibility,” Chitty adds, “certainly with the judging that’s an impressive list. ‘It has fast-tracked the careers of some of the artists who have made it into the final list, even if they don’t win.”

It’s a shame then that his conference is going to be booked solid with white male indie acts for a fifth year running. Zuel coincidentally has been one of the AMP judges since the prize’s inception.

*Music critic Everett True blogs at Collapse Board.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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