How Shouse’s ‘Love Tonight’ Became a Lockdown Anthem, Pulling 1 Billion Streams Without Major International Radio Support
The story of Shouse and “Love Tonight” would make for a cracking script. It has all the elements — a slow burner, motivated protagonists, questionable kingpins on the periphery, parties around the world. It’s an independent success story with one billion streams behind it. And a happy end.
The song, an ethereal number that somehow melts a religious experience into dance culture, emerged from inner-city Melbourne sometime in the mid-2010s. It would evolve into an anthem for folks locked indoors on the other side of the world.
“Love Tonight” is the creation of Jack Madin and Ed Service, one a primary school teacher, the other an arts community manager, who, together, record and perform together under the moniker of Shouse.
OneLove general manager Ant Celestino got the buzz the moment he caught “Love Tonight” in action.
It was during a night out on May 6, 2016. Celestino went to see the headline act, caught a “primitive version” of “Love Tonight” and was blown away.
He documented the performance on video, to look back upon later impartial eyes.
It was the real deal, and a relentless four-plus-year effort to break the record was lit.
“It was like an unhealthy obsession,” Celestino told TMN on stage at 2022 Indie-Con. “We never stopped. I just thought the record was so good.”
The wheels started turning in early 2017, when OneLove struck a partnership deal for global digital distribution and label services with Ingrooves Music Group, an arrangement that helped paved the path for “Love Tonight.”
In that year, after a lengthy stretch of tinkering, the single was recorded and released. The result, a dark wave odyssey stretching over eight minutes, and featuring saxophone, flute, and a choir of local friends and artists.
The initial plan was to cut remixes and slip them into the hands and onto the decks of “future forward and leftfield DJs” to champion it, Celestino notes. DJ Solomun played a cut in 2018, Burning Man lit up with the track, and the story moved forward.
Celestino and his team approached “so many DJs” and had “100 knockbacks, no joking,” but the tune kept spreading, and additional partners were sought.
In 2019, Celestino pounded the pavement. Doors opened at majors and indies in the U.S. and U.K., though not for long. “I played them the record. People stopped, looked at me, like, ‘what the fuck,’ this is not for us, it’s too long, it’s not our genre, there’s 1,000 reasons not to.'” They did “everything short of throwing me out the office.”
Unperturbed, an international network was assembled, numbering more than 100. “We kept plugging away,” he says. “We had to claw our way to every goal. Every highlight of this has come after a lot of dredging through the mud to get to it.”
Double J was an early supporter, and after commercial radio in Australia came on board later it became one of the most played tracks in the country (with over half a billion radio impressions and 55,000 radio plays locally), but radio largely tuned out in the traditional major territories of the U.S. and U.K.
Then, the pandemic hit. And an opportunity.
In January 2021, Celestino and his team considered “this could be a coming-out of lockdown anthem.” With the right mixes in hand, the track was worked with tastemakers worldwide. And as vaccines rolled out, optimism was infectious. The team threw everything at the song.
By March 2021, “Love Tonight” had generated one million Shazams.
“That’s when alarms started going off at majors,” Celestino notes. Approaches came, sometimes with silly money.
“The reason we never licensed this out,” he explains, “I didn’t want to be in a deal-or-no-deal situation. I’ve worked with other artists who were in that situation, whether it’s a big indie or a major. Those big companies have a pipeline on those records” and the “gate would have come down five times on it.”
When it comes to knowing when to call time on a record, “no one can tell us when to stop, as an indie,” he says.
The song, in its many incarnations, now had a life of its own.
Its follow-up, “Won’t Forget You,” recorded between trips to Europe and an appearance for New Years Eve 2022 live at the Sydney Opera House, has been well received – and Shazamed on more than 2 million occasions.
Madin and Service have “done a lot of writing,” which, in time could yield an EP or album.
“You’ve got all these people who love and are fanatical about the song,” enthuses Celestino, “if we can turn them from fans of one song into fans of the artist, that’s something we could build a career on.”
The numbers bear out that fanaticism.
Today, “Love Tonight” boasts over 1 billion streams across all platforms, 12 million Shazams, top 10 chart status in France and Germany, and a No. 18 peak in the U.K. It’s Gold, Platinum, Double Platinum and Diamond certified in over 30 countries, including the U.K. and U.S. It was the most played track at EDC Las Vegas, and one of the most-played at the recent Tomorrowland.
All that without major radio support in the U.S. or U.K., without influencers, without major label backing, and coming before the phenomenon of TikTok.
“It’s the story of true independence, tenacity, unbreakable belief in the power of dance floors – and proving unconventional means can still break both dance records and dance artists worldwide,” notes Celestino. “It’s real movie shit.”