Interview: Vicki Gordon, founder of the Australian Women In Music Awards
Image: Sarah Marshall. Vicki Gordon (centre) Katie Noonan (left) Christine Anu (right)
Vicki Gordon is the founder and executive director of the inaugural Australian Women In Music Awards, which will be held in Brisbane on the 9th and 10th October. An Australian first, the awards will shine a spotlight on female artists across all areas of the music industry, including performance, production, education and leadership. The inclusion of dedicated awards for Indigenous artists make the awards the most inclusive in the Australian industry.
Vicki Gordon has worked in the music and arts industry since the 1980s and has championed gender equality and Indigenous artists throughout her long career. Amongst many career highs, Gordon founded the Australian Women's Rock Institute in 1990, produced the first All Girls Rock Festival and was part of the team behind the huge success of Vanessa Amorosi in the early 2000s.
Women In Pop recently chatted to Vicki to find out more about the Australian Women in Music Awards.
Hi Vicki! You have had a long and incredible career in the music industry and are an inspiration to so many women. Who were the females musicians who inspired you when you were growing up?
I am drawn to soul & roots music and exceptional female vocalists such as Shirley Bassey, Dionne Warwick, Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading and Judith Durham. I admire female
artists such as Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro, Grace Slick, Phoebe Snow, Dolly Parton, Carol King, Sinead O’Connor and Annie Lennox.
How difficult was it for you to break into the music industry as a woman in the early days, when attitudes to gender equality were even worse than they are now?
I have created my own opportunities and been lucky to carve out a very diverse and exciting career for myself. It requires a tenacious and determined spirit and brings enormous financial challenges at times - I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How and when did the idea for the Australian Women In Music Awards (AWMA) come about?
I have been working toward this event my entire career. The AWMA’s are an impassioned plea to the industry, in the context of a celebration, to encourage debate, inclusivity and discussion and to empower women by acknowledging their contribution. AWMA is an action that both women and men in the industry are saying we need and I am proud to be a part of that impetus for change. Equity, equality and justice is at the heart of AWMA.
Why do you think Australia needs the Australian Women In Music Awards?
Women have been absent, and therefore less visible on our peak and independent boards; in key business decision making roles; in technical and production areas; in music photography and film
making; in publishing and the list goes on. It is important to differentiate between the business side of the industry and artists and performers. There have always been extraordinary and highly
successful female artists and singer/songwriters in Australia, however, this only serves to underline how few women exist in other areas. By the business, I am referring to the decision
makers. It is the decision makers who determine the culture and future of the music industry. It is the decision makers who shape the face of the music industry and are responsible for how it is
projected and perceived by the mainstream, by young people, by young men and indeed by young women. It is in the business areas, where so few women were represented in the late 1980’s, that we see so little change today.
Women have not been given the opportunities to gain experience and excel in these areas and they will not unless we agitate publicly and very visibly.
Have you met any resistance or had people be less than supportive towards the Australian Women In Music Awards?
I think people have to ask themselves how change happens and if they have ever been involved in creating change. Most people think that change is inevitable, whereas those that are involved in
working for structural change know that it is always a fight. If it’s all just going to change on its own then why do we still have a significant gender imbalance on radio, in festival line-ups, as
award recipients and in the boardrooms in the Australian music industry? Women represent only one-fifth of songwriters and composers registered with APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association), despite making up 45 percent of qualified musicians. Of the 100 most played songs on commercial radio in 2016, only 31 were by a female act or act with a female lead. Forward thinking people know this and they have supported the development of AWMA all along.
What do you hope the Australian Women In Music Awards will achieve?
Women ‘focussed’ awards are about visibility and empowerment, they are about esteem-building and public acknowledgement. AWMA provides an opportunity for this long overdue conversation to be on the table and is a platform to provide a voice for those that lack the confidence to speak up. Industry statistics regarding gender equity unfortunately show that gender representation is, in some cases, worse than it was 25 years ago. The AWMA’s are about saying that the culture of the music industry needs to change, equality and diversity are no longer optional.
Supportive men are involved on the AWMA Juror Council and form part of our sponsorship and production partnerships & discussions which are framing and shaping significant aspects of the award ceremony. AWMA has also established a ground swell of support from both high-profile male and female artists, industry and media leaders who are working with us to achieve our objectives and long term goals.
What can people expect from the awards ceremony in October?
A seriously fabulous, glamorous cocktail party celebration. 14 award presentations, an induction into our inaugural Honour roll, a series of unique and culturally diverse performances, heart felt
tributes and tears and a high profile surprise reunion staged specifically in support of the inaugural AWMA’s.
Never before have women been heard and believed in the way they are today. Those that are genuinely interested in creating change do not want to miss the inaugural AWMA’s.
How do you see the future for the Australian Women In Music Awards?
It will be one of the most exciting events on the annual music industry calendar.
What else do you believe needs to happen to change the gender inequality in the music industry in Australia?
Men will empower women in leadership roles in record companies and on the boards of our independent and peak industry bodies; women will be paid equally to men; women will share the stage equally as musicians and artists; we will see an increase in female songwriters, music photographers and film makers; more women will be empowered to work in technical and production areas; inclusivity and diversity will become the norm, women will be able to attend music concerts without being sexually harassed and be able to walk at night without fear of being attacked, women will be acknowledged for their extensive and important contribution to industry.
The Australian Women In Music Awards will be held at the Brisbane Powerhouse October 9-10 2018. For more information, head to the website or follow AWMA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.