Mallrat calls out ARIAs for male-dominated awards nominees, CEO responds

ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd says she agrees "it is frustrating to see non-male artists under-represented"

Mallrat has called out the ARIAs for its male-dominated list of 2022 ARIA Awards nominees, noting in a series of social media posts that only a fifth of this year’s nominated artists are non-male.

Nominations for the 2022 ARIA Awards were announced yesterday (October 12). Among the artists up for an award this year are RÜFÜS DU SOL, Amyl and the Sniffers, Flume, Vance Joy, Baker Boy and The Kid LAROI.

Mallrat – who has not been nominated this year – released her debut album ‘Butterfly Blue’ back in March, peaking at Number Two on the ARIA Top 20 chart in the week of its release.

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In a series of Instagram Stories posted yesterday (October 12), Mallrat – real name Grace Shaw – said: “Fuck the ARIAs. When I looked at the list of nominees this morning my initial reaction was to feel personally underestimated and misunderstood by my album being snubbed.

“Then I took a deep breath, then I realised it’s not about me. Approximately [one fifth] of the nominees are non-male. In categories like heavy rock there are no non-male artists at all.

“So I’m again reminded that the Australian music industry, like many industries, is dominated by men and in this case men who don’t think an artist is credible unless it’s a nonchalant dude playing guitar rock music. Fuck you guys, you don’t get it.”

Only one out of five artists in the Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Pop Release, Best Dance/Electronic Release and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Release are non-male. As Shaw acknowledged, none of the acts nominated in the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal category feature a non-male member.

Overall – including both solo artists and bands with at least one female member – there are 40 female nominees in this year’s ARIA Awards, compared to 72 non-female nominees. That accounts for a representation of 36 per cent, up one per cent from last year.

In a statement shared with triple j, ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd said that while the overall female representation in nominees was “slightly up on last year”, ARIA “agree that it is frustrating to see non-male artists under-represented.

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Herd added that it was ARIA’s “mission to create opportunities for Australian music to be heard by all who create it”, and that if female or non-binary artists were not “getting enough success”, they needed to “tackle that at source”.

“The awards and the charts are reflections of the music released in a year and how Australians engage with it, that’s why we are lobbying at a government and industry level for overall systemic change and representation,” she continued, pointing out that award nominees nor winners were chosen by ARIA or its board.

“They are chosen by voting panels made up of industry professionals, genre experts, and people from radio, media and with other connections to music. That’s why it’s so important our voting panels are reflective of our industry and why it’s so important people vote.”

Last month, in an interview with NME, Herd addressed the criticism and backlash to the body’s 2021 decision to make removed gendered categories from the ARIA Awards. “The criticism was: are you going to be reducing the representation of women from five guaranteed nominees to perhaps none in one given year? Music is so cyclical and last year, it was four out of 10,” Herd said.

“We’ll see what it is this year, it could bounce around quite significantly depending on the releases of the year. Our intent is to promote diversity in artists as best we can while still maintaining the integrity of the awards. We’re trying to recognise the best of the best in this industry. Things are not set in stone, they are not black and white.”

Speaking to triple j, Herd said that ARIA had been reviewing their voting panels over the last year to ensure an equal balance in representations across gender, First Nations and people of colour, and other criteria. She said that process demonstrated there is “rebalancing work to do”, something which they’ve made “good progress on” but have not yet completed.

“In the interim, we will use any opportunity we can around the Awards and outside the Awards to promote those artists and those categories who deserve equal representation,” Herd concluded.

In a tweet this afternoon, Mallrat said she “appreciate[d] the response” from Herd. “As she said, ARIA results are voted on by industry panels. My frustration is with the industry as a whole,” she continued. “The ARIA award process just creates an opportunity to try and quantify that culture and imbalance.”

It’s not the first time the ARIAs have come under fire this year. Rapper Tasman Keith also called out the ARIAs and its eligibility system, referencing his own debut album, ‘A Colour Undone’, in his criticisms. “‘A Colour Undone’ does not meet the voting criteria for Best Hip Hop Release or Album of the Year,” Keith wrote. “The criteria is still structured mainly around a system which upweights physical formats and downloads. Not streams.

“My validation doesn’t come from an outdated award platform held up by privileged white record executives who’s entire purpose is to sell our stories while keeping majority of the profits.

“My mission has always been to occupy all of these spaces and in doing so represent for my community,” Keith said.

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