News October 27, 2015

Hot Seat: Milly Petriella – Executive Producer APRA Awards

Stagnation is like a cancer to an awards ceremony. With that in mind, the APRA Music Awards is on the move this year – quite literally. APRA’s flagship awards gala returns to Melbourne, where it’ll take place June 17 at the Convention & Exhibition Centre. TMN can reveal the performers on the night will include Jessica Mauboy, Georgi Kay with Robert Conley, British India, Architecture in Helsinki, Abbe May and Ballpark Music. A new venue isn’t the only change. There’s a new category created for “pop,” and a new Executive Producer in Milly Petriella. She’d served as understudy to APRA/AMCOS’ Head of Member Services Sally Howland, but now Petriella gets to call the shots for one of the biggest events on the Australian music industry’s social calendar.

Petriella knows the dynamics of the APRAs as well as anyone. She has 17 years experience with APRA/AMCOS, the last three as Director Membership across the two societies. The Sydney-based exec also serves as EP for this August’s Art Music Awards (formerly known as the Classical Music Awards), and the Screen Music Awards, which shifts to December to coincide with the end of Tropfest and the launch of of Tropscore and Tropscore Jnr in July 2013. Petriella is on the board of Music NSW. She joined the Board of Forces Entertainment two years ago and, in May 2008, was elected to the board of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia. Earlier in her career, she managed artists and booked live entertainment in Sydney venues.

What exactly does a Membership Director with APRA/AMCOS do?
Well, it encompasses both areas of writer services and publisher services. Essentially, it’s looking after all our members in their daily business — the infrastructure of the registration of the works and collecting their information for our database in order for us to distribute accurately. Our distributions are now more frequent; we pay monthly for overseas earnings that have been received and processed at APRA, and quarterly for our local distribution. In member relations, we’re looking at creating opportunities, collaboration, acknowledgment and education.

Have you identified ways you can better help your members?
We have to find better ways to register works or ways to notify us of performances. That’s ongoing. There’s a lot of work being undertaken between membership, IT and our Comms department in delivering a better, user friendlier Website and the facilities that we have for the log-in area, which is where our members log information about their works and performances. That system needed a review, which we’ve been doing. We’re going to launch some new facilities for our members, including easy-to-use digital mobile services. It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s coming to fruition.

Are you talking about an app for members?
Yes. It includes an app. And we’re looking at launching it later this year.

Are you studying other societies’ apps as a model?
Absolutely. The ASCAP and BMI apps have given us some ideas of what we want to offer our members. But it’s slow and steady work. It’ll take a while to get it to where our members want it. We have to keep updated with what’s available and ensure it doesn’t remain static. We’ve surveyed our members, and will incorporate their feedback in the design and use of the app.

This is your first year as EP of the APRA Music Awards. What are the biggest challenges to putting this thing on?

Having it in the European summer is tricky because a lot of acts are touring over there. That and the budget constraint. We are not-for-profit; we are spending our members’ money, so the budget is really tight. If you’re going to Melbourne and you have to move a lot of people around, performers, it does become expensive.

So how much does it cost to put on the APRA Awards?
The budget is in the hundreds of thousands, but considerably less than half a million dollars. The cost of the awards does not come from APRA’s operating costs and is a very small percentage of the cultural fund within our music grants budget. It’s a major concern for us to keep the costs low and we’re constantly seeking ways to bring in sponsorship and partners.

The Seekers, of course, get the top honour — the Ted Albert Sward. Considering Judith Durham’s health problems, will she be fit to make an appearance?
It’s still early days. But at this stage, it’s unlikely. Our main concern is her health and we believe she is recovering well. All remaining members of The Seekers will be joining us on the night.

You’ve added the “pop” category this year. There has certainly been criticism in the past that pop artists were taking some of the shine from urban nominees. 

Yes. In the past, pop used to really change the outcome and make it more difficult for our urban and rock artists to shine. So we’ve taken “pop” out of rock and urban categories. We’re really excited about “pop” performers having their own category.

What else is keeping you busy? 
I’ve just got back from the Bali Invitational songwriting camp, which APRA co-sponsors. Our involvement ensures that 30% of the writers and artists that go to Bali are Australian and they get to write with mostly-pop writers from Sweden, U.S. and U.K. Part of the sponsorship arrangement is that they provide three or four of the international writers to come back here and be part of the Song Summit — if it’s in cycle — and help us in judging the Professional Development Awards and the Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition, which for the first time ever we’ve been able to raise $65,000 for the 1-2-3 prizes. We’re also involved in the “Art of Music Live” fundraiser for Nordoff Robbins on June 24 at the Sydney Opera House. Suzie DeMarchi has just joined the bill, along with the likes of Josh Pyke, Tim Finn and Katie Noonan.

There’s a dearth of annual music conferences in Sydney. Is there any chance the Song Summit will become an annual event?

At this stage, no. It’s not possible due to the cost of the event. And also the strain on resources to deliver the event. We do the Song Summit Presents programme in the off-year, in conjunction with Vivid. The Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre has been our home for the Song Summit for the last couple of events, but it will be demolished at the end of this year. We’re currently looking at Song Summit and its future and where we’ll be housed in 2014. We’ll need to figure out whether it needs to go to another city, perhaps. There’s a lot to look at.

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