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News September 15, 2021

2021 ARIA Awards move online as organisation promises ‘innovative digital show’

Editorial Operations Manager
2021 ARIA Awards move online as organisation promises ‘innovative digital show’

It will be another year of a virtual awards ceremony for the ARIA Awards as the country’s unpredictable COVID-19 situation barrels on.

The 2021 ARIA Awards will be held in partnership with YouTube Music on Wednesday, November 24, and streamed live on YouTube.

CEO of the organisation, Annabelle Herd, told The Music Network, while she would have preferred to have put on an in-person event this year, ARIA wasn’t willing to do things by halves, so taking it online was the right call.

“We would definitely rather be in a position where we can have a massive show at an amazing Sydney venue with thousands of people and amazing performances, but we have to deal with the situation we’re in, not the situation we wish we were in,” she told TMN.

Despite the challenges and disappointment, Herd said ARIA was going to really ‘lean in’ to the partnership with YouTube Music and experiment with experiences and interactions it hasn’t tried before.

“I am really excited though about the possibility and the opportunity that we’re being given, and we still don’t know exactly what life is going to look like in Sydney by November 24, but we didn’t want to keep planning for a half-and-half event. We wanted to make a decision and turn around and really put all of our resources into making a really great digital show that really celebrates and recognises the incredible nominees that we’re going to have this year,” she said.

“Sometimes when you have to take a different turn than you would have expected, it can lead to some really exciting changes and differences, and this year, we’re going to lean into the YouTube stream experience, and try some things that we haven’t tried before, and be a bit more innovative, use some cool technology, get greater fan and audience engagement than we’ve ever been able to do before.

“But again, at the core of that is really going to be doing a lot more work around celebrating the nominees and the winners and the industry.So it’s going to be exciting,” she added.

Herd also insisted that the ARIA Awards remain relevant in 2021 while the live sector is on its knees, noting that in the face of insurmountable challenges, Australian artists have succeeded locally and internationally, and continue to deliver for audiences.

Herd says the awards remain important for recognising talent and celebrating the industry 

“The ARIA Awards are still important because despite the industry being on its knees from a live music point of view, we’ve had some incredible releases this year from Australian artists. 11 artists hit #1 on the Album Chart. And even the artists that are succeeding overseas in massive ways – The Kid LAROI opening the VMAs and being one of the hottest acts in the world right now. And we felt it was more important than ever to recognise that achievement even in the most difficult of circumstances,” she said.

To increase the Awards’ relevancy, accessibility and equality in 2021, the organisation also announced it would be ditching gendered categories, which you can read about here.

Newly elected ARIA chair, Natalie Waller, said in a statement that the Awards would be back in-person in 2022, but for now “the choice to go digital was obvious”.

“Taking into account the uncertainty around restrictions and overall public safety, the 35th annual ARIA Awards is taking a new digital show turn this year. It is vital for us that the event goes ahead in some form or another, to celebrate the determination, resilience and achievements within the music community during this very challenging period. The Australian music industry has been a beacon of light for many of us for almost two years now, we are delighted to be bringing this year’s event to people in a different format,” she said.

Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s global head of music, meanwhile, noted the depth and breadth of Australian talent.

“YouTube is proud to be part of the ARIA Awards for a third year and to help stream the celebration around the world and into Australian homes for the very first time. Since March 2020 it has been really tough for the music industry. It has made creating shared moments even more important – and last year’s Awards did just that as people from around the world, including me, watched incredible Australian talent like Lime Cordiale and Sampa the Great perform and be recognised. Australia has an outsized weight in the global music scene, 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,” he said.

2019 ARIA Awards

Tone and I celebrating an Award win at the in-person event in 2019 

The Awards also have support from the NSW Government via Destination NSW. Minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, alluded to Australian artists’ ability to enliven a city.

“Australian artists who continue to bring life and light to Sydney and NSW however they can. Although we will be acknowledging the work of our creative industries via a digital show this year, we look forward to welcoming the ARIA Award ceremony and Australia’s music industry and fans back to the Harbour City for an unforgettable live show in 2022,” he said.

TMN’s full chat with ARIA CEO, Annabelle Herd, including a discussion of ageism, what the industry hopes to achieve by year’s end, and why it removed award categories based on gender will be published later this week. 

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