BIGSOUND have announced the six recipients of the 2021 Levi’s Music Prize, with $90,000 in grant funding split equally between the artists.
This year’s winners comprise Melbourne artists Ashwarya, Birdz and Jerome Farah, as well as Brisbane’s Beddy Rays and Sycco, and Tweed Heads rapper JK-47. Each will be awarded a $15,000 grant, as well as access to an online mental health workshop run by “progressive psychology practice” The Indigo Project and marketing agency Bolster.
All six of the recipients were drawn from last year’s BIGSOUND50 initiative, which aimed to showcase up-and-coming artists in the wake of BIGSOUND’s in-person 2020 event being cancelled.
“The past 18 months have been a particularly trying time for new artists to break through given the uncertain nature of touring throughout the pandemic,” said Casey O’Shaughnessy, Levi’s Music Prize judge and senior booking agent at Select Music, in a press release. “I’m a genuine fan of each of the winners and I look forward to watching them flourish over the years.”
Trent Boz, head of marketing for Levi’s’ Australian and New Zealand division, added: “We believe that music is a force for good. But belief without real backing isn’t enough to help aspiring musicians fulfil their ambitions, and our dream and desire is that this contribution can help these incredibly talented artists do just that.”
The news comes at a particularly difficult time for up-and-coming Australian acts, with lockdowns affecting New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – the former of which had its restrictions extended for another four weeks today (July 28) – and hard border closures in other states and territories.
BIGSOUND’s 2021 edition was cancelled earlier this month as a result of the most recent COVID-19 outbreak.
In a press release, QMusic CEO Kris Stewart acknowledged the difficulty faced by Australian artists, saying he hoped the Levi’s Music Prize afforded its recipients a safety net to continue their output throughout the pandemic.
“Our musicians and the music industry at large continue to be one of the hardest hit sectors, having to prove their resilience time and time again in the face of cancellations and tougher restrictions than other industries,” Stewart said. “The Prize will go a long way to supporting these talented BIGSOUND artists to not only survive but thrive through COVID and beyond.”
“Winning the Levi’s Music Prize has always been a dream of mine,” said Sycco. “I remember seeing G Flip and Hatchie win over the last few years and manifesting in those moments! Hopefully we can tour overseas next year so the money will definitely assist with getting over there! This is so awesome, I cannot believe it!”
In addition to G Flip and Hatchie, previous winners of the Levi’s Music Prize include Amyl And The Sniffers, Stella Donnelly, Gordon Koang and Alex Lahey. In 2020, the initiative was rebranded as the Levi’s Music Relief Fund, with $4,500 grants awarded to The Beths, Tkay Maidza, Miiesha, Haiku Hands and Jaguar Jonze.