“I don’t believe my best has been delivered yet” – Kate Ceberano keynote blesses AWMAs day two
No one could accuse the Australian Women In Music Awards of being one dimensional. Over the last 48 hours, a wealth of smart industry professionals have spoken with agency about the world that they inhabit.
However, it has gone beyond the tired “how do we get more women in music” conversation which is trotted out every so often, only to be put away until the next time a festival is mostly men.
The most interesting thing about this event has been how many perspectives have been shared – young, old, established, upcoming, First Nations, LGBTIQ – all has been covered.
Which brings us to the keynote, Kate Ceberano‘s I’m Talking, My Life In Music. Ushered in with a montage of Ceberano’s career, a reminder that she remains one of Australia’s most accomplished artists (female or otherwise), a simple stage set up of a mic and a keyboard foretold an intimate conversation.
“It seems like a sometimes insurmountable task to keep a career going on in this country for 30 plus years,” Ceberano begin.
“We have the advantage that artists are treated equally in the community but we have no money and we can’t be self-sustaining. So what’s wrong with that picture?”
She went on to condemn the way artists are undervalued, saying that people view the perusal of the arts as a choice and that the arts aren’t supported sufficiently by governments.
“Today is the heralding in a new era in music and not just for women. The labels and their monopolising has changed in the country and the people in power are the artists.”
Rather than just a rally cry for the already converted, Ceberano gave us a peek behind the curtain of her illustrious career.
The sometimes strained relationship she had when her mother when she was also her manager (she refused to call her ‘Mum’ around other people), the time Michael Hutchence scaled the outside of hotel building only to fall asleep on her (“Let him in!” – her mother’s response when asked what to do about the man outside her door) and perhaps most touchingly and tellingly, her relationship with Chrissy Amphlett.
“I had the great opportunity to open Brisbane expo when I was in my teens, I spent the night in Fortitude Valley partying with the great Chrissy Amphlett,” Ceberano recanted to a mournful groan of recognition from the crowd.
“Chrissie was hounding me that night, she was completely trying to overcome and scare the living shit out of me – which she did!
“All the while I was completely in love with her. She wrote to me many years later and said ‘there are not many things in this world that I have regrets about but there is one thing I regret and it is attacking you for having threatened me and threated my position in rock ‘n’ roll.
“You came in so hard and so fast and just had to swat you and you came back and you still loved me.”
Not just content with sharing her wisdom, Ceberano shared with us the gift that got her to where she is now, performing Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman and her ’98 classic Pash.
Towards the end of her talk, Ceberano shared what she thinks is the secret to her success, “I am sincerely interested and in love with the people that I work with.
“Hence why I didn’t join Stock Aitken Waterman when given the opportunity. I just didn’t like their music and I didn’t enjoy their work ethic. I thought they took on people the way they took on someone thats lovingly adored and left in the corner until they’re needed. I didn’t dig it.”
Circling around to a short Q&A, Ceberano confided in the audience the all too real experience of men unintentionally insulting women (“I wish I’d had you when you were young”, a manager once told her.) but doubled down on her optimism about the industry and how staying true to yourself is the only true path to longevity in music.
“I don’t believe my best has been delivered yet,” concluded Ceberano to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Panel three: The Future is Female & Digital
Heating up the Powerhouse Visy theatre before the keynote, Tracee Hutchison returned as facilitator to delve into the pros and cons of music in the digital world with Double J content director Meagen Loader, Canon general manager digital marketing Nina Spannari, BIGSOUND First Nations producer Alethea Beetson and QUT’s Dr Kristina Kelman.
Kelman kicked off by detailing the changes that QUT have implemented to ensure women are encouraged to move into music technology.
“It’s not that women aren’t invited, it’s why women aren’t joining,” Kelman said.
“The inclusion of technology is starting to break down that divide but it is still thought of technology as a masculine thing. That’s when we decided to get rid of performance stream and production stream [in QUT music].”
Beetson went on to celebrate the space for connection that online community provides.
“What the digital space has done is create a space for connection. Its mobilised First nations people and not in a #woke sense, in an actual disruption sense.”
Loader, a pioneer in the digital radio space, shared her pride in the triple j Unearthed program and, as Kelman described, it’s ability to let people become their own gatekeepers.
“We’re thinking digital now, we’re all working digitally,” Loader said.