The Brag Media
Features December 3, 2019

NLMAs founder Larry Heath on ‘exciting’ state of Aussie live music

NLMAs founder Larry Heath on ‘exciting’ state of Aussie live music

The National Live Music Awards (NLMAs) have announced the latest lineups and details for the December 4 celebrations.

They are held in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Launceston, Canberra (for the first time), Alice Springs and Fremantle.

The Sydney show, for which The Music Network is the media partner, includes Georgia Mooney’s Open Mic Night.

Hosted by All Our Exes Live in Texas singer and mandolin player Mooney and the Supergroup series at Giant Dwarf, the night is held at the Newsagency.

There’s a superstar lineup of female voices including Montaigne, Alice Terry, Sam Buckingham, Imogen Clark, Bonniesongs, Alison Avron, Katie Brianna, Elizabeth Fader and Lisa Caruso, with a few surprises on the night.

In the lead-up, NLMA founder Larry Heath made few observations about the state of Australia’s live music sector.

What changes have been made for NLMA 2019?

The biggest changes for this year has been the addition of the new Jazz and Classical categories, broadening the scope of the artists we’re able to support with the awards.

The move to make 4 awards in every state and territory public voted had an overwhelming response.

Over 12,000 unique votes were cast nationally – a huge outcome for our first year making this move. Those who attend the Brisbane gala have a new format to look forward to.

We’ll be setting up the stage like a living room, and our three hosts Jeremy Neale, Patience Hodgson (The Grates) and Aimon Clark (The Creases) will keep things moving hilariously and – almost more importantly – quickly.

With 5 performances and more than 20 awards to be handed out, we are looking to finish it in record time. We’re working hard to keep the night as tight as possible.

Meanwhile, I’m very excited to be partnering with MONA FOMA and the Mofo Sessions for our Tasmanian event.

It’s allowed us to actually showcase a festival for the very first time, making for quite a unique night of music.

With Georgia Mooney bringing an Open Mic Night to The Newsagency in Sydney we’re providing some truly special experiences all over the country.

I hope we can continue to explore collaborations like this moving forward.

From the feedback you got, what effect has the NLMAs had on the live scene and on acts’ profiles?

In our first year, Didirri performed at our Melbourne event – from memory, he was a last-minute addition and almost unknown at the time.

This year, after a huge 12 months, he’s nominated and one of the favourites to take out the public voted category in Victoria.

Glitoris were nominated in ACT categories in earlier years of the event, and now they’re nominated in the national Best Hard Rock category. There are examples of that throughout the entire list of nominees.

What we’ve been able to do with the awards, especially thanks to the localised events around the country, is provide national exposure for artists who are working hard to make a name for themselves.

You can see now only their growth as artists within the results of our awards, but of their touring schedules and other prospects.

I wouldn’t suggest we’re changing lives and careers, but we’re certainly about to shine a light on growing artists, and provide a great platform for them early in their careers.

I’m very proud of this, and it’s very much part of the reason I started the awards.

More people seem to be coming on board to strengthen the awards, agree?

Yes! There are some fantastic collaborations that have come about this year, like the Mofo Sessions I mentioned and working with the great Georgia Mooney.

The Triffid and Brisbane City Council have expanded the scope of their work with us to ensure we keep the gala in Brisbane.

This is the first year we haven’t moved the gala’s location. We’ll be back again (in Brisbane) next year.

With the way the live industry, especially in NSW, banded together to successfully fight the lockouts and festival legislation, is there greater cohesion and cooperation, or was it just cause-driven for those two issues?

I think there’s a lot more cooperation in the industry now.

We know how fragile it is, and we are united to ensure that our voices continue to be heard.

It’s been such a slow, frustrating process given how quickly and without care the lockout laws were put in place. But news of a precise date of the rollback is a great thing.

We’re so lucky to have great champions for our industry sitting in positions of influence, like The Honourable John Graham MLC, shadow minister for music and the nighttime economy in NSW.

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to sit on some of the roundtable discussions that have been happening in Parliament House, led very much by his initiatives and PFOAM (Parliamentary Friends of Australian Music).

I have been constantly floored by how attentive everyone has been to listen to the industry, and the work the industry is doing to unite behind simple messaging and a clear plan to combat the harmful legislation.

We will continue to face challenges in NSW with this current government – as we will on a Federal level.

So I do think that cooperation and cohesion will continue to evolve – with everything from improving the rights of venues when it comes to noise restrictions, to encouraging pill testing at festivals.

The creativity in the Australian live scene in the last 12 months has been terrific. What are some elements or acts that have pressed the buttons for you?

It has been fantastic! I think we’re in the most exciting time for Australian music in decades. There are more acts breaking overseas than ever before.

That’s a result in part of the incredible hustle Sounds Australia have done in the last decade, not just paving new paths for artists, but the industry around them. There’s never been a better time to be an Australian musician.

What I’ve loved about this year, in particular, is the diversity of voices that have been getting bigger stages, more attention and creating some of the finest music this country has to offer.

There are stories being told in their music that are important – stories that have often been silenced because the industry deemed them uncommercial, or too risky.

Thelma Plum, Mojo Juju, Wolfjay, P-UniQue, Stella Donnelly, Gussy, MEER, Kira Puru… I could go on and on.

The music is powerful, their stage presence phenomenal and people are taking notice not just here in Australia but around the world.

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