2023 UNIFIED Grant Recipients Announced: Bush Music Fund, Solar Sessions, RELEASR & More

23 November 2023 | 4:44 pm | Ellie Robinson

The other two winners were Music In Exile and the ARIA-nominated Nat Bartsch.

Alex Pinte (Solar Sessions) / RELEASR / Bush Music Fund / Joe Alexander (Music In Exile) / Nat Bartsch

Alex Pinte (Solar Sessions) / RELEASR / Bush Music Fund / Joe Alexander (Music In Exile) / Nat Bartsch (Supplied)

The UNIFIED Music Group have today (November 23) announced the five recipients of their industry enrichment initiative, the annual UNIFIED Grant, giving each $5,000 to “assist their innovation’s growth and development”.

The winners will also receive “ongoing industry support and mentorship” from the UNIFIED team, which in a press release, they will “ensure [the winners] maximise their potential and make as much of an impact as possible”. This year’s initiative marks the UNIFIED Grant’s seventh year, having been formally launched in 2016. The grants are not linked to any specific roles within the Australian music industry, so long as those who receive it use the funds to make a positive impact. “The aim,” they explain, “is to help foster new business ideas and empower founders to sustainably propel their projects forward.”

This year, there were more than 120 industry professionals who applied for the grant, all “looking to transform the music industry, increase its positive impact, and create safer, more creative spaces”. Addressing the incredible effort, UNIFIED CEO Jaddan Comerford (who also founded the UNIFIED Grant) said in a press statement: “The fact that there are so many innovators, thinkers, creators, entrepreneurs and performers out there bursting with ideas, is a good problem to have – it means the music industry is in good hands.

“It shows our sector is filled with future leaders who have creative and business skills, and want to use those talents not just to help themselves, but also to better the lives of others. It also shows how much the music industry needs to come together to support the next generation.

“Over 120 people and groups applied for The UNIFIED Grant, seeking financial assistance and mentorship support to get their ideas off the ground or grow them further. We need to make sure there are systems and structures in place so that this can become a reality, and ensure the culture in the wider industry continues to improve so we can collect and foster the best talent and ideas out there.” 

This year’s recipients covered a broad spectrum of ideas. First up is the Bush Music Fund, a “long-term pathway program to support First Nations musicians living in remote parts of the country”. The program’s team are devoted to celebrating the sounds of rural Australia, giving artists in those areas the resources they need to create great music, and the platform to spread it nationwide.

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Coco Eke, co-founder of the Bush Music Fund, said of how the program will benefit from the UNIFIED Grant: “The Bush Music Fund was created to support and promote the rich musical heritage of rural and regional areas, specifically focusing on unique Indigenous music. This fund aims to provide financial assistance to aspiring bush musicians, organise events and festivals to showcase their talent, and preserve the cultural significance of this music for future generations. By creating the Bush Music Fund, we hope to celebrate and preserve the traditions and stories that are deeply rooted in the Australian bush.”

Next up is ARIA-winning pianist, composer and podcaster Nat Bartsch, whose $5,000 will fund meet-ups for music industry professionals who are neurodivergent, many of whom “find traditional networking opportunities overwhelming, difficult or unsuitable”. The tailored events will be held in Naarm/Melbourne, with accomodations like “pre-arrival materials, a craft corner, quiet space, conversation cards and drinks” aiming to make the experience more comfortable for attendees keen to “build a community” within the Australian music industry.

Bartsch said in a statement of her own: “This grant will help me to foster a sense of community amongst neurodivergent members of the music industry, by hosting some meet ups specially designed to accommodate our differing and unique sensory and communication needs.”

Also receiving the $5,000 grant is Music In Exile, “the only not-for-profit record label in Australia supporting refugee and migrant artists”. According to project coordinator Joe Alexander, their funding will allow the label – whose roster currently includes the likes of Chikchika, Elsy Wameyo, Gordan Koang and Mindy Meng Wang – to “put an artist with lived experience of migration or displacement through our Artist Accelerator program, providing the skills, networks and resources necessary to start building a viable career in Australian music”.

He continued: “UNIFIED funding will kickstart this artist on the road to a viable career, creating a path to write, record and release original music, and ultimately generating infinite opportunities for career development and growth. It may well change their lives.”

Solar Sessions was another major grassroots initiative to benefit from this year’s UNIFIED Grant. Thanks to this boost in funding, the concert series – presented by solar-powered audio and lighting company Wildlive, with an aim to combine “a passion for music with a commitment to sustainability” – will be able to boost its roster of events in 2024.

Celebrating the win, Alex Pinte said of his team’s ambition is to “set a new standard for green concerts”. He expounded: “We are on a mission to combine the magic of music with the power of sustainability to create unforgettable experiences that delight your ears and make the world a better place. This concert series strives to minimise its environmental footprint and inspire attendees to do the same.”

Last (but certainly not least) is RELEASR, a service that “automates and simplifies admin processes” for musicians and their teams, allowing those new to the industry to “build correct music metadata and submit their data to all of the platforms through automation, eliminating the time they need to invest in the admin of their music careers”.

As explained by owner Jaz Yates, the $5,000 injected into the company gives them the ability to “[build] our RELEASR community through facilitating panels and workshops that give insight into the industry’s solutions”. She said of how the grant will bolster her and her team’s initiative: “The support this generous grant gives us will allow us to truly begin to make an impact towards automating and simplifying the admin process for the entire music industry.”

All five winners were selected by votes cast by every UNIFIED staffer. Comerford said it was “a joy” for him “to read all of these passionate entries”, congratulating the recipients by declaring that they “should all be so proud”. He added: “I can’t wait to get stuck in with my amazing team and watch what happens over the next 12 months as your ideas come to life with the support and mentorship of UNIFIED Music Group.”