Some of Australia’s biggest artists – including Tones and I, Hilltop Hoods and John Butler – are taking part in the first ever virtual APRA Music Awards tonight. Here’s how you can be part of the action.
Some of Australia’s biggest artists – including Tones and I, Hilltop Hoods and John Butler – are taking part in the first ever virtual APRA Music Awards tonight. Here’s how you can be part of the action.

The stars of Australia’s first virtual music awards

Tones and I, Hilltop Hoods and John Butler were among the nominated artists that tuned in for the first ever virtual APRA Music Awards to see if they would need a bigger trophy cabinet.

The show had to go on despite COVID-19 restrictions vetoing an awards night, so the annual celebration of the songwriters of Australia's big hits switched to a compact online event from 7pm.

Despite a rocky start with technical difficulty and a gateway time-out, the usually industry-only shindig - and hugely popular among artists because they can hang out without the presence of television cameras - went global this year. It was broadcast by streaming platform Hyvio.

The glitz and glamour was also preceded by a half-hour "red carpet" on Instagram, where nominees and fans were encouraged to post images of their awards "outfits" and hashtag #vapras.

The first of the Song of the Year nominee covers featured bluesman William Crighton dramatically reinventing the 5 Seconds of Summer song Teeth about relationship conflict as a menacing, snarling rock song.

Tones and I, who had filmed "acceptance speeches" along with other nominees ahead of the awards, was the first recipient of the APRAs donut-shaped trophy for Breakthrough Songwriter.

She spotlighted the fact artists often get all the credit over the songwriters.

"As an artist, we don't get recognised, a lot of the time, as songwriters; but as an artist that does write my music, I want to say thank you," she said.

Tones and I was the first recipient of the APRAs donut-shaped trophy for Breakthrough Songwriter. Picture: Supplied
Tones and I was the first recipient of the APRAs donut-shaped trophy for Breakthrough Songwriter. Picture: Supplied

Tones and I - who has redefined what a breakout career looks like after only her second single Dance Monkey smashed chart records in Australia and the UK, and racked up a whopping three billion track and video streams - also took out the Song of the Year with Dance Monkey.

"Whoa! Song of the Year; that's really huge," she said.

"This song has really grown for me and really helped build my career and I just want to say thank you for the recognition."

Rapper, actor and writer Briggs (pictured) hosted the 75-minute awards.
Rapper, actor and writer Briggs (pictured) hosted the 75-minute awards.

"When I write, I started with the keys but I play with different synths, different effects and if a sound really hits me, I will continue with that but usually I will just play with the straight piano," she said, explaining how she wrote her global smash.

"And that's when I speed it up, put a drum in here, the bass in here and I just keep going and make it the song I want it to be."

Other early winners include John Butler for Just Call, a song which spent more than a decade in hibernation before he recorded it with his trio.

Other early winners include John Butler for Just Call. Picture: Supplied
Other early winners include John Butler for Just Call. Picture: Supplied

"Greetings from isolation! I'm here in a room by myself to accept an award that I don't know if I'm getting or not, it's really odd. We've all been asked to do these acceptance speeches before we know. Anyways, its all good, it's a weird time," Butler said in his prerecorded acceptance speech.

"But, if you are seeing this, that means, I've won, for this song called Just Call which is a dear song to me. It's a song that knocked on my door 13 or 14 years ago and earwormed me and would not let me leave it until I finished it."

Nashville-based artist Morgan Evans, who completed a hat-trick of wins for Most Performed Country Work, winning the 2020 award for his song Young Again.

Nashville-based artist Morgan Evanswon the 2020 award for his song Young Again. Picture: Supplied
Nashville-based artist Morgan Evanswon the 2020 award for his song Young Again. Picture: Supplied

The 17-year-old indie folk pop rising star Kian picked up the inaugural Most Performed Alternative Work with his breakthrough hit Waiting.

He was unearthed by Triple J two years ago and was a first-time multi-nominee.

The legendary Hilltop Hoods claimed yet another Most Performed Urban Work for their smash Leave Me Lonely.

"Thank you all very much. And, if we didn't win this is humiliating. Please make sure this message selfdestructs," the band's Suffa said.

Hilltop Hoods claimed yet another Most Performed Urban Work for their smash Leave Me Lonely. They are pictured during the awards.
Hilltop Hoods claimed yet another Most Performed Urban Work for their smash Leave Me Lonely. They are pictured during the awards.

They broke Australian box office records with their Great Expanse tour last year and were named Songwriter of the Year - one of the biggest trophies of the night.

Rapper, actor and writer Briggs, who hosted the 75-minute awards, described the Hoods as "very generous friends".

He presented the award and joked about how he and his A.B. Original partner Trials beat them to the coveted gong a couple of years ago.

"There was a massive gap between that album and Walking Under Stars and a lot changed in the music industry in those five years, a lot changed in our lives as well," Daniel "Pressure" Smith said.

"We had more time to come back with something different, our songwriting process changed in that time too.

Guy Sebastian even made an appearance at the APRA Music Awards 2020 after being nominated for the Song of the Year. Picture: Hyvio
Guy Sebastian even made an appearance at the APRA Music Awards 2020 after being nominated for the Song of the Year. Picture: Hyvio

"The album veered away from classic hip hop sampling and we taught ourselves to be songwriters, composing music with producers because it's very hard to sample now. It's very expensive."

After a dramatic avant-garde, operatic interpretation of Dance Monkey by NY-based emerging artist The Dawn of May, much-loved country star Troy Cassar-Daley was pretty shocked to pick up the Most Performed Rock Work.

NY-based emerging artist The Dawn of May performing a dramatic avant-garde, operatic interpretation of Dance Monkey. Picture: Supplied
NY-based emerging artist The Dawn of May performing a dramatic avant-garde, operatic interpretation of Dance Monkey. Picture: Supplied

Casser-Daley won for Shutting Down Our Town, written for his mate Jimmy Barnes and featuring on his My Criminal Record album.

"Most performed Rock Work! Who would've thought an old country hack like me could win an award like that. So thrilled," he said.

Country star Troy Cassar-Daley was pretty shocked to pick up the Most Performed Rock Work at the awards. Picture: Supplied
Country star Troy Cassar-Daley was pretty shocked to pick up the Most Performed Rock Work at the awards. Picture: Supplied

"I'm more thrilled to have written a song for Jimmy Barnes. I think this song was really inspired by his book so I have to thank Jim for the inspiration in the first place."

Sydney electronic producer Hayden James and his co-writers picked up Most Performed Dance Work for his pop crossover hit Better Together, featuring Running Touch.

Dean Lewis took out Most Performed Pop Work with 7 Minutes.

Rapper, actor and writer Briggs hosted the 75-minute awards which featured performances of the Song of the Year nominated tracks - Dance Monkey, Better in Blak, Choir, I Get Up and Teeth) recorded in bedrooms and loungerooms by husband and wife duos John Butler and Mama Kin, Nikka Costa and Justin Stanley, bluesman William Crighton, indie power pair Kira Puru and Mo'Ju and newcomer the Dawn of May.

John Butler and Mama Kin performing during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
John Butler and Mama Kin performing during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio

Originally published as The stars of Australia's first virtual music awards

The Teskey Brothers during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
The Teskey Brothers during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
Dean Lewis during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
Dean Lewis during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
Thelma Plum during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
Thelma Plum during the APRA Music Awards 2020. Picture: Hyvio
Kira Puru and Mo’Ju performing during the awards. Picture: Hyvio
Kira Puru and Mo’Ju performing during the awards. Picture: Hyvio