Vicki Gordon & Australian Women In Music Awards: Creating A … – scenestr

In the years leading up to COVID-19, the Australian music industry was facing a very different set of challenges – ones people like Vicki Gordon recognised and decided to change.

Gordon, who has decades of experience across marketing, A&R and advocacy roles to name but a few – saw the considerable lack of diversity and inclusion across the industry, and decided to do something about it. Hence, the Australian Women in Music Awards was created. “AWMA was established, really, to address the chronic gender inequality in the Australian music industry,” Gordon explains.

“I’ve worked in the industry for some time and I have always been aware of that, and so have many other people, and in 2018 when I established AWMA the leadership in the Australian music industry was appalling when it came to recognising women, empowering women, promoting women, and putting women into leadership roles.”

Even festival line-ups were up to 100 per cent male, Gordon says, with no females appearing on some stages whatsoever. The gender statistics in tech and production were equally bad. “I produced Australia’s first training programme for female DJs in 1992, when I was running the Australian Women’s Rock Institute – and nothing had changed between 1992 and 2018,” Gordon says, “and in 2018 we were also looking at an appalling lack of women on the boards of our major organisations. Absolutely appalling, in fact, with very little representation.”

Vicki says it became important for her to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and do something outside the box to create change – because change doesn’t happen just because we want it to, she explains. “We know that the Australian Music Industry Review came out last year, which was the report through ARIA; we’ve also seen a number of other reports like the Skipping A Beat research report, which I founded in 2017, which started a lot of the conversation,” Gordon says. “So all you’ve got to do is look into some of those statistics and some of the background into the status of women and there’s no question as to why AWMA should exist. In fact if anything, I think it will continue to lead the change, and it will continue to be really progressive on many issues.”

As a female-led project, AWMA creates a safe space within the typically male-dominated industry for non-male artists and practitioners to come together and share their experiences.

“For so many years women have had these shared experiences around feeling excluded and not empowered, and suddenly AWMA creates an environment where we are empowered and we can come together,” Vicki says. “I guess what I’ve tried to do, and I think we’re doing it relatively successfully, is to create an environment where we’re able to embrace and work with all of those great men and women in the industry that really do sincerely want change to happen, and they are also prepared to check in on themselves and their own behaviour in relation to how we forge the change as we move forward. There’s a lot of work to do – just because AWMA exists doesn’t mean the work has been done.”

This year, AWMA will celebrate its second year after returning post-COVID, with a stellar conference, concert and awards ceremony bringing some of Australia’s most accomplished women in music to Brisbane 26-27 September to network, celebrate and party together. The conference will include panels discussing diversity and inclusion, and will give a platform to First Nations voices, multicultural artists, practitioners with disabilities and a panel featuring women in heavy music.

“Breaking Metal Barriers has really come about because the area of heavy music is, again, another area that has been so unrecognised for women in the industry,” Gordon says, “and what happened, too, is that when we opened up that award category and the nominations call, it was probably one of the highest categories of engagement. And what that indicates to us, is just how hungry that sector is, and how much support those women working in that area really need.

“So we’re just so proud to be able to present that forum, and we’ll also have a really amazing heavy music performance at AWMA this year as well, which will be unprecedented.”

Vanessa Amorosi is this year’s keynote speaker – a special guest for Gordon, who played an instrumental part in Amorosi’s early career. “We signed Vanessa when she was 15; her album was five times platinum and ‘Absolutely Everybody’ went top five in 23 countries around the world, and we did all of that independently – I was one of the only female MDs of an independent label at that time,” Gordon says. “So for me it’s incredible to have Vanessa back. It’s been 23 years, and she’ll be performing and it’ll be amazing to just reconnect with her.”

The Australian Women In Music Awards take place at Hotel X, What’s Golden, The Tivoli on 26-27 September. The ceremony-concert will be broadcast on ABC TV at a later date.

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