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Features/Music

Music industry awards announced as Federal Government increases funding

25 March 2021

This week the WA Music Awards celebrate the resilience of the local music scene, as the industry welcomes new RISE funding from the Federal Government.

The 2020 West Australian Music Awards were announced this week, bringing joy to a sector still struggling with the ongoing impacts of COVID restrictions. The awards coincided with the Federal Government’s announcement of an increase in funding for live music and entertainment.

On Tuesday night a ceremony at His Majesty’s Theatre celebrated WA’s vibrant and resilient music scene. Fremantle success story Spacey Jane led the way with a massive four award wins for Best Pop Act, Most Popular Act, Best Single, and a tied win with WA music royalty Tame Impala for Best Album.

Not far behind was the evergreen Grace Barbé, taking home three awards including Best Global Music Act, Best Vocalist and Best Bassist. Mojo’s Bar continued its reign as WA’s most-loved live music spot, taking out the award for Most Popular Venue for the seventh year in a row. 

The coveted 2020 Golden WAMi was awarded to the highly deserving Will Backler of RTRFM. The night also paid tribute in honouring this year’s two Hall of Fame inductees, Paul McCarthy (RIP) and Fitzroy XPress.

Special congratulations also to Rachael Dease, winner of Best Experimental Act. The award follows her acclaimed Perth Festival concert and her 2020 album Hymns for End Times. Guy Ghouse, whose concert Koort” with Gina Williams was recently reviewed on Seesaw, was awarded Best Guitarist.

A woman leans against a tree holding four saxophones in her lap
Saxophonist and band leader Gemma Farrell was one of the WAM Award winners. Photo supplied

In great news for the jazz scene, saxophonist and band leader Gemma Farrell was winner of the Best Brass/String/Woodwind Instrumentalist and the Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group took out the Best Jazz Act.

The awards come at the end of a difficult year for the music industry, which hasn’t bounced back to the same extent as other parts of the creative sector, due to COVID-19 restrictions on live music performance.

A survey released by I Lost My Gig Australia last month suggested over half (53 per cent) of businesses in the creative and live entertainment industries would close when JobKeeper runs out on March 31.

The Federal Government announced this week that funding has been increased for the live music and entertainment industries, with an additional $135million allocated to the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund and $10million to music crisis charity Support Act.

The RISE fund’s minimum grant threshold has been lowered from $75,000 to $25,000 in a bid to encourage small to medium sized organisations to apply.

Federal MP for the Arts Paul Fletcher said the government’s focus had turned to “stimulating activity so the work opportunities can flow”.

“This new funding comes at an important stage in the resurgence of Australia’s arts and entertainment sector. The purpose of the RISE program is to get shows put on, bringing employment to performers, crews and front-of-house staff,” he said.

The increase in scope and funding has been welcomed by Live Performance Australia. Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson says the music industry’s recovery had been uneven, and would be unable to reach full capacity until 2022 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Extending the scope of the RISE program will provide a targeted and temporary measure for the sector to retain its core skills base as it prepares for full reactivation in Q4 [Fourth Quarter] onwards. In addition to music promoters and festivals, this will encourage more direct applications from micro-businesses such as managers and booking agents for contemporary music tours and events.

“It will also help support employment retention in the live music sector over the next six months when it will still be operating well below capacity. Making it easier for businesses to get support to plan shows and claim pre-production costs, which includes key entertainment workers, is critical.”

The full list of winners are on the WAM Awards website.

More information about the Federal Government’s RISE funding package is available here.

Pictured top is bassist and vocalist Grace Barbe. Photo by Annie Lila.

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She was co-managing editor and founding board member of Seesaw Magazine 2018 – 2023, is author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine (UK). She loves park percussion instruments.

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