Features May 22, 2020

APRA’s Breakthrough Songwriter gong a stepping stone to stardom

APRA’s Breakthrough Songwriter gong a stepping stone to stardom

We’re days away from the 2020 , a celebration that recognises Australian songwriters for the impact their work has had on the world stage over the past twelve months.

The awards night, which takes place online for the first time amid the pandemic, will see hotly contested gongs like Most Performed Australian Work, and the coveted Song Of The Year.

The APRAs will also shine a spotlight on the artist hotly tipped to become one of Australia’s next big exports, via the Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year category.

The list of previous recipients reads like a who’s who of Aussies to break global barriers.

Damian Trotter, managing director Sony/ATV Publishing Australia & New Zealand, tells TMN it’s a great award and one of his favourites of the night.

“It has so often shown the prescience of the board (if I must say) in recognising new talent who in many cases have gone on to be awarded Songwriters of the Year,” he said

Damian Trotter with 2003 winner Glen Richards (Augie March)

In recent years the award has gone to Dean Lewis, Sarah Aarons, 5SOS and Troye Sivan.

But cast your viewfinder further into the past and you’ll find Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year alumni includes some of Australia’s most decorated songwriters.

Sia, Delta Goodrem, Missy Higgins, Empire Of The Sun and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu are all members of the coveted breakthrough club. So how is the category judged?

“The award is assessed by an independent Advisory Group made up of industry experts appointed by the APRA Board, for an emerging songwriter or group of writers,” explains Trotter.

The committee includes music journos, producers, agents, managers, radio and songwriters.

“The recipients’ work should reflect achievements in the previous year based on single and album releases, charts, awards and tours/supports; and the Advisory Committee’s assessment that the recipient has, in the past year, released songs of outstanding quality.”

2019 winner Dean Lewis

As usual, the category will be tightly fought, with Toni Watson (aka Tones And I) an early favourite. She has four nominations overall.

But it’s far but sewn up for Watson, who is up against the likes of 17-year-old Ruel (2018 ARIA Breakthrough Artist), Thelma Plum (6x ARIA nominations in 2019) and the history-making Sampa The Great (who became the first person of colour to win the ARIA for Best Hip-Hop Release).

Then there’s The Teskey Brothers, who broke the US market in 2019 after making their North American TV debut and won the ARIA for Best Group in the same year.

Looking at previous winners, three Breakthrough Songwriter recipients would go on to win Songwriter of the Year, and on six occasions the winner also took home Song of the Year.

Trotter admits that, as with all music, the selection process is somewhat “subjective”, and that “you will always get some pretty passionate opposing views”.

But, he added, “more often than not, each year will throw up an emerging writer whose success is undeniable to the Advisory Group, The Board, and hopefully to the APRA membership.

Sally Seltmann receiving her Breakthrough Award in 2008 with Kram

The 2020 Virtual APRA Music Awards will be hosted by acclaimed rapper and songwriter Briggs, and will take place on Monday (May 25).

There’ll be performances by John Butler and Mama Kin, Nikka Costa and Justin Stanley, Kira Peru and Mo’Ju and many more on Monday, directed by Kate Miller-Heidke.

The VAPRAs recently unveiled some of the early award winners, which included Mark Ronson, Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando for ‘Shallow’ (Most Performed International Work) and Meredith Music Festival (APRA Licensee of the Year).

Catch up on the full list of nominees here, ahead of Monday’s virtual ceremony.

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