Billy Bragg leads judging panel for 2021 Australian Music Prize

Nominees for this year’s AMP are being announced in stages, with 23 albums currently in the running

Judges for this year’s instalment of the Australian Music Prize (AMP) have been announced, with folk-punk icon Billy Bragg serving as the award’s first international judge.

In a press release, Bragg said: “Australia has given me so much encouragement and support over the years, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to return some of that sentiment to up and coming Australian artists.”

He joins over 40 Australian musicians and industry professionals on this year’s judging panel, including a suite of artists that were shortlisted for the AMP in 2020 – namely Alice Ivy, Blake Scott, Fanny Lumsden and Ziggy Ramo.

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“The AMP is such a wonderful reflection of the calibre of music that was released in one year and I truly love that it’s judged on the music itself and the album as a whole, no matter who you are or who you are ‘represented by’,” Lumsden said.

“I have always had such a high regard for it and having our album make the shortlist last year truly was mind blowing. Now to be on the other side and listening to all the incredible works that have been released so far, it is a heartening sigh that regardless of what’s happening in the world, the quality of music and art being created is forging ahead.”

Also shared today (October 5) was the announcement that SoundMerch would be returning as the AMP’s major sponsor for 2021. As such, the cash prize will be increased to $30,000 (as it had been prior to 2020), after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meant last year’s amount had to be reduced.

“Our partnership with The AMP last year worked exactly as I had hoped,” SoundMerch owner Tim Everist said in a statement. “SoundMerch was able to give back to the artists that we do business with whilst promoting new business, so this year I’m pleased to be able to increase the cash prize by $10,000 to $30,000.”

Nominees for this year’s AMP are being announced in stages, with 23 albums currently in the running. Among these are ‘Smiling With No Teeth’ by Genesis Owusu, ‘Terra Firma’ by Tash Sultana and ‘Today We’re The Greatest’ by Middle Kids. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard also have both of their 2021 albums – February’s ‘L.W.’ and June’s ‘Butterfly 3000’ – long-listed for the prize.

A full list of nominees is slated to be unveiled in the early weeks of 2022, with the winner being announced on Thursday March 3.

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Last year’s AMP was awarded to The Avalanches, who took out the top spot with their third album, ‘We Will Always Love You’. Sampa The Great won in 2019, earning it at the hand of her debut album, ‘The Return’. It made her the only musician to have won the AMP twice thus far, previously receiving it in 2017 for her mixtape, ‘The Birds And The BEE9’.

Bragg is set to tour Australia in January, with three dates each locked down for Fremantle, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. It comes on the back of his tenth album, ‘The Million Things That Never Happened’, which lands this Friday (October 8) via Cooking Vinyl.

Full details and tickets for all shows can be found via the Handsome Touring website.

[Editor’s Note: NME contributors Sosefina Fuamoli, Mikey Cahill and Kate Hennessy are volunteer judges for the 2021 Australian Music Prize.]

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