Aria awards go gender neutral: ‘The music industry is demanding a more equal space’

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The Aria awards – Australia’s most high profile music ceremony – will go gender neutral in November, discarding the industry’s best male and best female awards.

Instead an award for best artist will be introduced, and the number of nominees will be expanded from five to 10.

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The Australian Recording Industry Association’s chief executive, Annabelle Herd, said the change would better reflect equality and diversity in the music industry, and afforded artists the opportunity to achieve recognition on an equal platform.

“The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed,” she said in a statement.

“The music industry is demanding a more equal, inclusive, safe and supportive space for everyone and Aria is working hard to achieve that across the Aria Awards and everything we do.”

In March, the non-binary British singer Sam Smith called out the Brit Awards on social media, arguing that the gender-specific categories in the premier UK music awards was routinely excluding artists who identify as neither male or female.

“Music for me has always been about unification, not division,” Smith posted on Twitter.

“I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”

The Grammys have been gender neutral since 2012 and, according to an analysis by Statista, since 2013 about 45% of Grammy nominees for the best new artist award have been female.

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But the industry’s longstanding gender imbalances remain unshaken: when it comes to record of the year and album of the year, for instance, more than 90% of Grammy nominees have been male; and more than 70% of nominees for song of the year have been performed by male artists.

For the second year in a row, the Arias will be digital only, in partnership with YouTube, due to Covid-19. The association’s chair, Natalie Waller, who took over from Denis Handlin after his controversial departure from Sony Music Australia in June, said the board had made the decision to go digital after taking into consideration public health and uncertainties over what restrictions might still be in place in November.

“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,” she said.

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