2013 Music Managers Award Finalists Announced

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 11.41.08 AMTonight, the Music Managers Award will set out to thank the thankless and underline the unseen forces behind the music we listen to. Granted, this mostly means music intended for the charts; but in a country where the independents and the majors are crammed in so close together –and an age where there’s little difference anyway– at least someone is celebrating the distinction. Only in New Zealand will we see an industry event where the forces behind an indie producer like Leno Lovecraft get recognised for the same award as those behind The Black Seeds, let alone invite him at all.

Though a closely-knit circle, the MMA finds a range of achievements to signpost; among them ‘Best Independent Tour’, ‘Self-Managed Artist of the Year’, and even an everything-else award, ‘Outside the Box’. In this miscellaneous category there are only two nominees, both of whom are selected for other awards already, but ‘Outside the Box’ appears to serve the achievements themselves rather than yet another pat on the back for the managers. And in all fairness, Home Brew’s Speakeasy Party album release is definitely one worthy of notice.

‘Outside the Box’ isn’t the only vague category, however. The ‘Online Achievement’ award recognises the internet only as a subsection, rather than the whole all-encompassing hivemind that it has been for years. There is little comparison between the selected achievements within this category, ranging from music videos to Facebook pages to the Six60 website — nominated for an overseas design award it received rather than the website itself. Indeed, the ‘Online Achievement’ award compares apples with flamethrowers.

To place music videos –at last count, a traditional format– alongside awards-for-awards and designated promo pages seems a little inconsistent. If already selecting two music videos for their massive view counts, couldn’t two others be found for its own award? And that’s if you think a manager has that much to do with the success of an online, self-uploaded video. Still, perhaps the story behind how the managers of Sons of Zion and the Jupiter Project directly impacted those hundreds of thousands of views, and how this can be compared in any way to website design and PR campaigns, will be illuminated at the event itself.

Clearly at a loss for awards in an already-small field (I counted 11 managers over the 4 main categories), the MMA dug up a selection of venues in the country to award for their perseverance in putting up with our damn racket. Yet, how often does a powerful venue rise within just a year? That is, Auckland’s 4:20 has been around a while, and it has done a fine job — but little thanks is owed little to its own achievements rather than a decline in venues in the last year. This award is less a bow to the new new kings (if there are any) and more a passing of the crowns of the dead ones. And then, nominating venues like Powerstation for Best Large Venue is akin to giving ‘Best Mode Of Modern Transport’ to the automobile.

Although the giants are omnipresent as ever, one wonders if everyone has been represented in the selection. What about Watercolours, awarded an NZMA Critics Choice award – can this not be seen as a great achievement for a self-managed artist? And then there’s Ben Howe from Arch Hill who has sleeplessly sent his artists to overseas promotional events year after year, often winning them widespread recognition at home. Or Kimbra’s managers, who have worked with her for years in cultivating a modern-age popstar of worldwide adoration and a number-one single appearance in dozens of different countries. And those working with Lorde, who with their protegé are launching towards the same success as Kimbra, are not even glanced at by the up-and-comer award. Given the nature of New Zealand’s music industry, however, it’s very possible that the most successful of these are the ones selecting the awards.

Not to say that the tireless supporters who are thanked don’t deserve their recognition. Clearly there is some disorder in the process of selecting awards, and it might be advantageous for the MMA to step back and refine their scope somewhat. Yet, we won’t cry wolf just yet – the event itself could indeed explain their reasoning for such selections. As the case usually is in small, isolated communities like that of music from New Zealand, it’s not the awards that count; it’s the recognition.

You can check out the finalists for yourself here – the MMA will take place at Auckland’s Backbeat bar –not one of those nominated for Best Venue– tonight.

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