Levi's Music Prize is giving local artists a leg up

Plenty of music genres have a synonymous fashion. From pop to punk, disco to dubstep, there are certain styles that are almost as identifiable as the music itself. But few can hold a candle to Levi’s jeans. It’s fitting that the brand has teamed up with Bigsound and Sounds Australia to launch one of the biggest prizes out there. A $100,000 annual prize pool will be up for grabs for Bigsound alumni over the next three years.

We sat down with the prize’s creator, Levi’s Australia/New Zealand marketing manager Nicky Rowsell to tell us more. “We’ve got Levi’s music initiatives around the world,” Rowsell says. “One of which was partnering with Alicia Keys a couple of years ago to create the Levi’s Music Project, coming out of where she’s from in Brooklyn. We built and donated money to fostering music talent in the schools there, creating opportunities for students to have instruments and learn music in their curriculum.
“We’ve had initiatives in every country’s backyard. As a consequence, I created the Levi’s Music Prize wanting to give back to the Australian music industry, to foster our talent – which is amazing, and I’m super proud of it – and give it a voice on a global scale.
“It’s giving local artists a leg up to get their music heard at a festival, or recording with someone abroad, or bringing that producer to Australia. I think we bat well above our weight in producing talent. So we partnered with Bigsound and Sounds Australia, because I felt they were the best music bodies for this export angle.”
This year, Bigsound is going to be featuring around 135 artists from across the country (and beyond) and as always, will expose these up and coming acts to a trove of international bookers, agents and tastemakers. In short, it’s an incredible chance to leave an impression on folks who can genuinely take your career to the next level, and the Levi’s Music Prize just made the deal that much sweeter.
“It’s $100,000 a year for the next three years, that’s a signed commitment. There will be 12 winners by the end, and if it goes well we’ll potentially continue on. There’s going to be four winners a year. The first artist will come from this year’s Bigsound, which will be announced at the festival. That winner will be judged by the international panel of guests, as well as Bigsound, Sounds Australia and myself.
“Effectively, it will be the buzz band of the week. Those festival bookers who have all flown in for the week, which band do they all want to put on their festival lineup? That will mostly be determined by the live performance element. Who kills it on stage at Bigsound during that week, because each band has the opportunity to play more than once this year. We’ll be going to a lot of gigs,” Rowsell says.
“One prize winner will get $25,000. The other three winners will come from Bigsound alumni over the past five years. That could stem from say, Courtney Barnett or Kingswood, The Preatures, any number of bands who have performed there in that time. It’s a pretty heady array of artists, if you look back through the archives.
“They’ll submit an application form, giving a rough idea of how they would invest that $25,000 to achieve their creative project at that time. It might be to make a video, or get on a plane and go and meet a publicist in LA, or fly over a London producer, buy equipment. There’s no limit to what they can spend it on. It’s up to their imagination, their own specific creative project, and which artists we feel will be able to accomplish that if they are given that leg up.
“Just because you have a tour or an EP, we still know a lot of musicians who have three jobs and still aren’t making a living from being a musician. It’s tough. So the prize is there to help with that.”

The Levi’s Music Prize is open to artists that have featured on the BIGSOUND Festival lineup in the last five years, including 2017. For more information on how the apply head to Bigsound’s website.