The Australian Record Industry Association announced on Wednesday the annual award show “must go on” and will be available for streaming on YouTube – in partnership with YouTube Music – on November 24.
“After Australian lives have been reshaped by another round of ongoing border closures and lockdowns, rendering live music and national touring all but impossible in 2021, ARIA is determined to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the talented artists and industry professionals who released music this year,” the association said.
The Best Artist award will consider 10 nominees – expanding the number from five under the previous gendered categories.
ARIA has announced a new gender-neutral award ahead of the 2021 ARIA Awards. Picture: Sunday Telegraph / Gaye Gerard
The change was prompted by a desire to ensure the ARIA Awards “reflect and embrace equality and the true diversity of the music industry in 2021”.
“It will guarantee that all artists have the opportunity to achieve the recognition they deserve for their work on an equal platform,” the association added.
ARIA Chief Executive Annabelle Herd said the association was “working hard” to achieve gender equality and inclusivity across the industry but acknowledged the announcement was “just one step in the continuous journey of reassessment, progression and ultimately evolution that we are committed to undertake”.  
“The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed,” she said.
“We’re determined to make the future of the ARIA Awards and the future of Australian music as bright as it can be.”
The announcement saw a split reaction online, with some praising ARIA for trying to incorporate gender equality, while others criticised scrapping the gender-based categories.
“I won’t say ‘go woke, go broke’ – no one watches anyway,” one Twitter user wrote, while another raised concerns female artists would be disadvantaged.
ARIA was commended for the move by some Twitter users, with one writing “We simply love to see it”, and another “Hell yes #ARIAs, lead the way”.
ARIA Chair Natalie Waller said one of the key principles of the Australian music community and of ARIA was “that peers are given equal opportunity and treated to the unity they deserve”.
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“Therefore, we are incredibly proud to enter the next chapter of ARIA’s ever-evolving journey by removing the gender-based award categories, reconstructing the way in which the event has been traditionally held,” she continued.
“Removing the gender titles and celebrating all artists together within their respective genre groups feels like an organic step forward for the future of ARIA.”
The new award will bring the Australian award show into line with American music events including the Grammys and MTV VMAs.

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