The 2012 Jagermeister Independent Music Awards, held by the Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR), are just around the corner, and for the first time ever 2012 sees the addition of a new category for Best Australian Independent Label.

The award recognises the amazing companies that make Independent music in Australia what it is. Over 100 AIR label members were asked to choose the Best Independent Label for 2011-2012, and last night AIR announced the inaugural nominees:

Elefant Traks – Sydney Hip Hop collective who in the past year have released albums from The Herd, Urthboy, Hermitude, Sietta, The Last Kinection and Sky’High.

I Oh You – a label that in its short existence has achieved great things with a roster including DZ Deathrays, Bleeding Knees Club, Snakadaktal and now Violent Soho and City Calm Down.

Jazzhead – A trailblazing Australian jazz label who have had a nominee in every one of AIR’s Independent Music Awards since its inception.

Inertia Recordings – the label arm of Inertia Music, Australia’s biggest independent distributor. Inertia Music released incredible albums in 2012 by The Bamboos, and Dappled Cities.

Stop Start Music – whose roster includes Ball Park Music, Hungry Kids Of Hungary, Millions and North East Party House.

The definition of what should classify as independent has dogged AIR since the beginning of the awards, with the head of the organisation Nick O’Byrne admitting that the question “is going to come up every single year.”

“We made a choice three years ago the we needed to find a way to define it,” O’Byrne says. “For every different artist there’s a slightly different deal with their label with different people taking different percentages for distribution and stuff like that. So we thought the easiest way of actually doing it was by asking who owns the actual recording.”

“If the ownership of the actual recording is independent, then they’re eligible for the awards. It does make it difficult, you’ve got to acknowledge that someone like 360 who is 100% signed to an indie label through Soulmate, is then licensed through EMI. And so while he’s independent, being licensed to EMI has certainly had a hand in his success.”

“It works in different ways, there are plenty of bands who promote themselves in an “indie” way who are major label bands. The whole concept is very important to a lot of people, which is why there’s always controversy I suppose.”

AIR also announced earlier in September that the awards will once again be held in Melbourne in the middle of October, with the recent news that along with regular presenting partner Jagermeister, that Virgin Australia would be taking flight with the awards ceremony.

The airline joining the list of partners that includes music station Channel [V] and the support of DMG’s Nova radio network (recently bought up by media mogul Lachlan Murdoch) in rewarding the country’s highest achieving independent artists across all genres.

Nominations for the rest of the awards categories have also been announced, with Melbourne buzz man Chet Faker leading the pack with a total of five nominations including for Best Independent Artist, while rising hip hop star 360 is nominated for four awards including Best Independent Album.

Joining the nominated artists are a number of Australia’s most loved  musicians who will be performing on the night and celebrating independent music. Topping the bill is arguably Australia’s most influential and prolific singer/songwriter, Paul Kelly. Who is set to release his 26th(!) studio album this year, the debut record for his own independent label.

The seventh annual awards will be held on Tuesday 16 October at Kensington’s Revolt in Melbourne.