ARIAs look to be leaner, nearer and hungrier

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, who won't be at the ARIA Awards, once sang that everybody's got a hungry heart. Australian musicians such as rapper 360, pop star Ricki-Lee and teen favourite Reece Mastin, who will be at the ARIAs this year, may be hoping it's only their hearts that go hungry.

In a move that could be seen either as a cash-strapped industry looking to save money or a prudent shift to a Grammys-style show, the ARIA Awards on November 29 will be leaner, nearer and maybe even quicker.

Gone are the tables and three-course meals, which cost upwards of $500 a seat for guests. Gone, too, is the venue that has hosted the ARIAs for pretty much all of the past decade: the large, multifunctional but not widely loved arena at Sydney's Homebush. In their place comes finger food in theatre/concert seating at Sydney's inner-city Entertainment Centre, which may be half the size of its suburban competitor but won't face the whining from industry types not used to straying so far from town.

The ARIA chief executive, Dan Rosen, who is known for taking a very positive view of all developments, said the widespread industry dislike of the long-running location, which is a lengthy bus-ride away from the after-show parties, was not a factor in the move from Homebush to the city.

''I think it was about bringing it back into the city and trying to keep the vibe before and after the show,'' Rosen said. ''And correlating with ARIA Week, which will be in and around the inner city.''

ARIA Week will involve a series of performances, panel discussions and conferences leading up to the Thursday night show.

It will be, Rosen was quick to assure, nothing like the now infamous 2010 ARIA Week.

That was the year many awards were presented at poorly attended and even more poorly covered events days in advance of the main event at the Opera House, which was itself widely and accurately described as a debacle.

As for the food, that has nothing to do with cost cutting either apparently, although the Herald understands that among the options initially discussed with the venue was not serving food at all (an idea that lasted as long as it took someone to remember that an open bar but no food usually leads to rather ''entertaining'' acceptance speeches by the end of the night).

''[Cost] is not material,'' Rosen said. ''We're still paying staff to serve drinks and food.''

Pressed on whether he was saying cutting costs wasn't an issue for downsizing record companies facing reduced circumstances - and, in the case of the takeover of EMI by Universal, disappearing circumstances - Rosen did say, ''We are always looking to do things economically but that's not the driving force.''

Hungry or otherwise, among the nominees announced today at the Art Gallery of NSW, for what is being perhaps optimistically described as ''a punchy show'' next month, will be 360, who leads the field with six nominations including album of the year, best live act and best male artist.

It won't be an easy run for him though, because he'll be up against last year's behemoth, Gotye, in those categories.

''It feels weird, man, surreal. Everything has changed in the last year, I'm stoked,'' the Melbourne rapper said.

He expects to lose to Gotye, ''but it's still awesome, something to put on your CV''.

The rockabilly/blues/swing revivalist Lanie Lane, has a chance at four awards, including best female artist. As with 360, the competition is heavyweight for Lane: a former female artist of the year, Missy Higgins, is in that category.

''It's kind of hard to see things clearly. Once you've been working that hard, you can't see things like this with any perspective,'' Lane said.

Speaking about her fellow best female artist nominees, she said: ''They're really special artists and it's incredible to be there with them.''

The story ARIAs look to be leaner, nearer and hungrier first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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