2003 Dance Music Awards: ITM puts the questions to DMA Producer Marnie Neck

With public voting for the 2003 Motorola Dance Music Awards presently underway, ITM decided it was high time to catch up with DMA Producer Marnie Neck to find out what goes on behind the scenes coordinating such a massive event. And, with the DMAs always such a hot topic of discussion, we asked some of our contributors and reporters to put their questions and queries on the awards to Marnie, here are the results!

barkus, Victoria: Can you please explain the voting procedure? Who votes, how do you choose them, and what are the assurances you give for the validity of the procedure?

The DMA nominating procedure was implemented to ensure each state is fairly represented in the initial nominating stage. A National Industry Nominating Panel consisting of approximately the same number of people in each state, of course taking into consideration population per capita, is collated and updated annually by DMA representatives in each state. These being: John Chalmers from Onion in Adelaide, Pete Carrol from Offworld Sounds and RTRfm in Perth, Cyclone Wehner and Khalil Hegarty from Inpress in Melbourne, Pat Whyte from Scene in Brisbane, Simon Mainwaring from Freshdisko in Tasmania and Matt Levinson ITM editor from Canberra. The national nominating panel is up to view on the DMA website year round. The final four nominees that are put forward by this panel are then put out to the public and the wider industry to vote on. In order to retain the integrity of the votes the DMA implemented Industry nominated and Industry voted categories, these being Best Album, Best Single, Best Compilation, Best Independent label, Best Producer, and Best Remix. The public also has the chance to have their say in the People’s Choice Categories. Once voting has closed the results are sent to an independent accounting firm, PDY Partners who collate and verify the nominations and final winners.

Al_Mac, Victoria: It seems that the DMAs are largely seen by the other states as a NSW dominated event, even though there are reps and nominees in each state. Is there anything that the organisers are doing to make it a truly more National event in 2003?

The DMAs have done everything in its capacity to ensure fair representation of the other states in the nominating and voting process. Each state needs to take responsibility to support their local talent and promote them on a national level, by using the DMA vehicle. It needs to be kept in mind that the DMA is a non-profit event, thus we have had to build the DMA slowly and within our capacity to ensure the longevity of the ceremony, and to ensure we do the right thing by the Australian music industry by building a brand that is both credible and accessible. Media Partners such as Channel [V], Triple J, Inthemix and national streetpress have realised the potential and importance of the DMA and have committed to getting the word out to the public on a national level. They do a fantastic job in ensuring awareness of the DMA brand, nominees and winners. Our main focus this year was to ensure a LIVE broadcast on the night, and for the first time Channel [V] has committed to this. [V] are broadcasting a live 2 hour special from the venue, and the DMA has organised satellite events in each state where invited guests can go along and watch the ceremony live for the first time. As the DMA brand builds, awareness for the DMA will grow nationally, thus the number of people voting will increase, it is a step by step process. The DMA as a business is still relatively new, we are only in our fourth year.

rchinn, NSW: Back when Itch-e & Scratch-e won an ARIA for ‘Sweetness and Light’ Paul Mac thanked the drug dealers of Australia for making their music possible. So many years on, to what degree do you think dance music still wears the ‘drug’ tag?

Firstly, I think it was very cool of Paul Mac to do that, it surely would have shocked the general public watching the ARIAs! Drugs are a part of music culture in general, and are definitely not restricted solely to dance music.

subpiXel, NSW: Who are behind the DMAs? I was surprised to find out last year that the 2002 DMAs were run as a side project by people at 3DWorld Magazine, and they had to fit organising everything into their usual workload of producing the mag. Is it still a 3DWorld promotion (under another name), and if so, what sort of assurances do we have that they don’t unfairly pander to the sponsors or main advertisers in the magazine?

Producing an event like the DMA’s is a huge task. It is a year round project that involves raising sponsorship, implementing and executing national voting procedures, production, script writing, talent wrangling, the list goes on and on. It is also a hugely expensive and arduous exercise. 3DWorld Publishing, which specialises in dance music and the surrounding culture recognised the potential of promoting Australian dance acts to continue to build the dance music industry. Therefore creating a vehicle like the DMA was the perfect platform.

3D World Publishing financially invested into the DMA hoping that the surrounding industry would embrace and support the event. As any new venture, the process is slow and it could not be run as a stand alone event, therefore 3D World has had a crucial involvement in getting the event off the ground.

Jade Harley and myself took on the task of Producers whilst still running 3D World and CAT Magazine in 2002 to ensure the event went ahead, as the DMA had reached a point where it could no longer sustain paying staff independently. It was the only viable way of the DMAs going ahead. In 2003, I had the opportunity to leave working on 3D World after 4 years and am now Producing the DMA full time alongside Jade Harley and Director of 3D World Promotions, Monica Nakata. This has ensured that the DMA is kept seperate to 3D World’s day to day running.

The DMA team consists of approximately 10 people working together on this annual project, including Noel Burgess as Musical Director, Stu Connelly as Script Writer and Ant Hampell as Live Event Director. 3D World’s involvement in the DMA is now one of a paid sponsors roll, standing alongside all of the other DMA supporters.

As you would have read, it is impossible for 3D World to unfairly pander to advertisers due to the strict nominating and voting process implemented. For the DMA’s longevity and credibility it needs to be run like an open book, every aspect can be legitimately justified.

barkus, Victoria: What is the definition of a ‘new artist’? Is it limited by release date?

Within the DMA nominating stage, the industry panel is required to stick within strict rules and regulations when nominating in each category. The criteria for the Best Debut Artist category reads, “Must be an Australian artist with their first release (single or album) under that moniker during the June 2002 to May 2003 period.”

Candyflip, Victoria: Why isn’t there a category for Best Dance Music Website, or overall Best Dance Music Media included?

Over the past four years the DMA has had to grow and develop, learning from previous years and implementing procedures to ensure a credible awards ceremony for the future. We have found in our experience that Australia is not yet ready to include categories such as Best website or Best radio show, as at this stage there are limited national media networks.

barkus, Victoria: Are the “Best Song” nominations based on sales, similar to the traditional music scene?

Neither the final winner or nominees are based on sales figures, as the Best Single category is industry nominated and industry voted, therefore ensuring a controlled voting environment. It may be assumed however that the highest selling singles are the most popular/highly publicised and therefore the most likely to be nominated/win. However, if you look at last year’s winner, Infusion for their single Legacy, it was up against Disco Montego’s Beautiful, a very successful single commercially, yet Infusion clinched it.

Dabedo, Victoria: Do you place as much importance on the behind-the-scene players as those who grab the limelight? I know there are awards for best nightclub and festival, but what about those individuals that put in the hard yards with little or no public recognition?

We absolutely recognise every person that helps make the Australian Dance Music industry what it is. That is why the DMA is so important, as it is the one night in the year that all these people can get together under the one roof and celebrate what they have all achieved.

Candyflip, Victoria: What backing are you getting from record companies? Does the music industry still regard dance as a growing genre, or are they pulling back now?

We added a new category this year being, Best Mix CD. We have found over the past year that Mix CDs are what record companies are injecting a lot of money into. There have not been a great amount of new local artists signed to record labels through last year, nor have there been a great amount of albums released. It seems the majority of focus has gone into remix work and mix CDs. I guess it is a commercially viable way to support local talent (as they are mixed by local DJs) whilst still retaining sales figures, as the majority of the content is from overseas labels and artists. It was an area of the dance music industry that has been undeniable in its growth over the past year, hence the new category.

rchinn, NSW: How developed is the Australian Dance Music scene – we have world class producers and some outstanding festivals – but can we get better, or will our talent flow overseas?

The Australian Dance Music scene is still growing, it will always grow and develop, there will always be new artists coming through and artists that will collaborate with overseas artists and therefore move offshore.

Ground level support for our artists comes from events such as the DMA, festivals, media, record companies, promoters, etc it is an industry that is constantly developing, there is no one person or organisation that is solely responsible for building it. Continued support for local artists needs to come from all these areas and this will in turn build the industry, creating more awareness for our artists, creating a demand from the record buying public, and thus hopefully building an industry that our artists can sustain a decent income from, here in their hometown.

Be sure to have your say in the 2003 Motorola Dance Music Awards. To cast your vote, simply head to www.dancemusicawards.net.