Last weekend, he won for best artist at Australia’s National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs), and in April, he took out best newcomer at the APRA Music Awards, where he was the youngest winner on the night. Presenters at this year’s ARIAs include Troye Sivan, Ruel, Lime Cordiale and The Wiggles, while Ed Sheeran will appear for a special video tribute to Michael Gudinski, the late Mushroom Group chairman and founder who passed away in March at age 68.
Sheeran has the honor of presenting the inaugural Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist award, a renamed category that honors the independent music legend and his “immense and irreplaceable contribution to signing, developing and championing Australian artists and music locally and internationally,” read a statement from ARIA. It’s a five-strong field, featuring Budjerah, Gretta Ray, Masked Wolf, MAY-A and Ngaiire.
The Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist category is one of many changes to this year’s ARIA Awards. The 35th edition will be an all-digital affair, streamed live to a global audience on YouTube, through a partnership with YouTube Music. As part of the ceremony’s evolution, organizers have dumped the gender-based categories, a progressive move that has been welcomed by the ARIA Voting Academy. And, for the first time, the ARIAs will beam out from Sydney’s iconic Taronga Zoo. Though the pandemic has, once again, altered plans for the Australian music industry’s big night, the 2021 edition will be a celebration of “an incredible year of creativity, dedication and perseverance,” said ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd in a statement.
“Our focus is about, in a year when we can’t be together in a big room with a big audience and stage,” Herd tells Billboard. “We still want to give the nominees and winners this year as much attention and focus on their work as much as we could. That’s been our guiding light.” As previously reported, Amy Shark and Genesis Owusu are the artists to beat with six nominations each.
Close behind, on five nominations, are Budjerah, Masked Wolf, Midnight Oil, The Avalanches, Tones And I and Vance Joy. “We want to make a really positive show to get people excited about next year and the fact that, despite everything, amazing music is still being made,” adds Herd. “We want it to be a really upbeat show this year.”