Dean Ormston on 40 years of the APRA Music Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

This Tuesday’s APRA Music Awards mark their 40th anniversary.

“Everyone in this industry knows that becoming a songwriter requires strong willpower, creativity and drive,” said Dean Ormston, CEO of APRA AMCOS. TMN.

“Recognizing our members and giving visibility to their achievements locally and globally is something we do day in and day out in different ways.

“Being nominated for and/or winning an APRA Music Award is often the culmination of years of hard work, and we absolutely love celebrating that with songwriter and publisher members and the community at large.”

The awards were first held on November 26, 1982 at the Sydney Hilton.

Little River Band singer Glenn Shorrock was an MC and won one of five gold awards presented that night, for his song “Cool Change”.

Other hosts over the years include Daryl Somers, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Richard Wilkins, Julia Zemiro, Jonathan Biggins, Missy Higgins, Clare Bowditch, Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor of The Chaser and Briggs at the 2020 virtual event .

Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year were introduced in 1991.

The first winning songwriter was Phil Buckle of Southern Sons, who collaborated on six of the twelve songs on John Farnham’s 1990 album “Chain Reaction”.

Yothu Yindi was the first to win Song of the Year and the first band to perform live that year.

Over the years, gender categories have evolved.

The Classical, Jazz, and Film & Television categories have their own Screen Music Awards and Art Music Awards.

Dance music was recognized in 2002, with blues & roots and urban in 2006, and best rock work in 2010 and pop work in 2013.

2020 saw the introduction of alternative work, with the word “urban” replaced by the categories hip hop/rap and R&B/soul in 2021.

Addressing these changes, Ormston said songwriters are the ones driving the changing musical landscape — they innovate, collaborate, adapt, and create entirely new sounds.

“In our core business, we see firsthand how genres emerge and evolve, and strive to support our members as they blaze new trails and achieve success,” he said.

The Breakthrough Songwriter Award was established in 2002.

The first winners were Sia alongside Jennifer Waite and Grant Wallis (Aneiki).

Sia won Songwriter of the Year for three consecutive years (2013, 2014 and 2015) and Song of the Year in 2015 for “Chandelier,” which was covered by Jimmy Barnes during the awards ceremony at Carriageworks in Sydney.


* ‘Friday On My Mind’, written by Vanda-Young, was voted best song among the 30 best Australian songs collected by 100 musical identities in 2001 as part of APRA’s 75th anniversary.

At the awards show, You Am I performed the Easybeats classic, while Ross Wilson voted runner-up, Daddy Cool’s “Eagle Rock.”

* The youngest winners were Ben Gilles (15) and Daniel Johns (16) of Silverchair for Songwriter of the Year 1995.

* The youngest nominees are The Kid LAROI, Ella Hooper, Holly Findlay, Ruel and KIAN – all were 17 at the time.

* Sia won the most with 11, while Savage Garden’s Kasey Chambers and Darren Hayes/Daniel Jones are runners-up with 10.

* The oldest breakthrough songwriter was Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu at age 38 (2009). Louis Schoorl was also 38 when he won in 2014.

* Oldest winners:

Joy McKean OAM, 91 in 2021 when she received the Ted Albert Award

Studio owner Bill Armstrong, 77, recipient of the 2006 Ted Albert Award.

Paul Kelly, 63, Song of the Year 2018.

* The Ted Albert Award for Achievement was won in the first year (1991) by Alan Hely of Festival Records.

Other winners included Michael Gudinski, Joy McKean, Cold Chisel, Ian Molly Meldrum, The Wiggles, Lindy Morrison and Fifa Riccobono.

* Over 500 artists have performed including Powderfinger, Tiddas, Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Little, Tex Perkins, Tina Arena, Daniel Johns and Slim Dusty.

* The music directors for the awards were Kate Miller-Heidke, Robert Conley, PJ Harding and François Tetaz.

* The most successful New Zealand winner is Neil Finn with eight gongs. They include Song of the Year for “Distant Sun” and Songwriter of the Year, twice, in 1994 and also alongside brother Tim in 1992 for their album “Woodface”.

* The Licensee of the Year category arrived in 2018, designed to reward licensees for their “good musical citizenship”.

* In terms of stints, AC/DC songwriters Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott took gold for “Highway To Hell” in 1982, and are nominated in 2022 for Most Performed Rock Work for “Shot In The Dark”.

Rob Hirst, who won gold for “Beds Are Burning” in 1991 (with co-writers Peter Garrett and James Moginie), is nominated in 2022 for Song of the Year for “First Nation.”

He won Song of the Year at the 2021 Apra Music Awards for “Gadigal Land”.

“Having a lasting legacy as a songwriter can mean a lot of things, but writing songs that connect and inspire is the common bond,” Ormston said.

“I talk a lot about the power of songwriting and how song is central to the creation and business of the music industry.

“The APRA Music Awards have grown in size and stature over the past 40 years thanks to the Australian songs and stories our members tell that start at home and travel the world.

“For all of us at APRA AMCOS, it is a privilege to work to support the breadth of our membership and to create opportunities, like the APRA Awards, to shine a light on the success of our members who are among the best authors- composers of the world.”

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