Believe It: How Cub Sport and Believe Landed an ARIA No. 1
The holy experience that is a No. 1 eludes most bands. Few homegrown acts taste the glory of a chart leader, fewer still get there with an independent music company.
Cub Sport got its hallelujah moment when Jesus At The Gay Bar led the ARIA Albums Chart last month, beating titles by U.S. rapper and songwriter NF, American country stars Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs, and, well, Taylor Swift, thanks to a combination of targeted marketing, exclusives, must-have experiences, old alliances and killer tunes.
Released through the Australian affiliate of Believe, the Paris-based global digital distributor and label services provider, Jesus roared to No. 1 on the national chart last month, earning the Brisbane electro-pop outfit their first crown.
Not bad for a band five albums deep.
“So proud of the four of us for the years of hard work and for building to this moment as a self-managed and independent band,” Tim Nelson and Co. enthused in a statement,
The chart victory was nothing short of “an incredible triumph, particularly as an independent band,” declared ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd.
Jesus went one better than the No. 2 best for Cub Sport’s 2020 release Like Nirvana, also released through Believe.
For that triumph, the four-piece tapped into its “amazing dedicated fanbase,” which Believe engaged on various fronts, notes Mick Tarbuk, country manager, Australia & New Zealand for Believe, which has represented the group since 2018.
“We’ve had some great results with strong pre-order campaigns in the past,” he explains. “We tried to replicate that again for this campaign offering several exclusive bundles.”
Cub Sport is a big cat in the queer music scene, including the United States, where the group nabbed a top 5 slot on Billboard’s Next Big Thing chart in 2018.
Jesus At The Gay Bar, however, leans confidently into the electronic, dance and pop spaces. More ears, more opportunities, and hitting it without leaving their fans behind.
One key marketing driver behind the LP launch was the “Club Nights with Cub Sport,” held at a secret warehouse in Melbourne. There, superfans were treated with the first play of the new album in the round alongside interactive installations.
Previous strong support from all DSPs carried through with the new LP, as Believe’s editorial, marketing and partnerships team locked in early for campaigns around singles, album release and Pride Month.
Among the wins, a New York City billboard and 14 playlist covers across the project, while, closer to home, Triple J lined-up the LP as its “Feature Album.” Its four singles were added to full rotation with the youth-focused network.
At physical retail, Believe partnered up with indie record stores in each state on the week of release, with Cub Sport attending fans signings.
Led by Tarbuk, Believe’s partnership with Cub Sport began with the distribution of the band’s self-titled third album, peaking at No. 12 on the ARIA Chart in 2019.
Next up, Like Nirvana, for which Believe partnered in a greater capacity via its Artist Services division, a relationship that included full artist/label services, from project management to digital marketing management, PR and radio (via third party teams). In the same year, Believe cracked the Tinnie for independent distributor of the year.
The indie has also handled physical distribution for the past two Cub Sport albums, on a global basis.
Since opening for business in these parts, Believe has worked on releases for the likes of Tash Sultana, Our Golden Friend, Nicole Millar, The Delta Riggs, Big Wett, Kira Piru and Megan Washington, the former ARIA female artist of the year who came on board in late 2022.
Washington, like others on its roster, “just wants to get out there and release new music at her pace without interference,” says Tarbuk, “or when to do it and why to do it and be creatively independent.”
Currently, Believe Australia boasts five staff, with two in Sydney and three in Melbourne, across the artist services and distribution activities.
Tarbuk is based in Melbourne managing both.
TuneCore, the global DIY platform for independent musicians, has operated under the Believe umbrella since its acquisition in 2015. In the same year, Tarbuk took the reins at Believe’s Australian presence, joining from Shock.
When the global company’s country heads and leaders meet later this month for a summit in Bali, Tarbuk should have some stories to tell.
For the local team, he tells The Music Network, it’s “more plugging into the philosophy of what Believe stands for, those are the missions that we want to embrace with independent artists and offering a level of expertise that independent artists should get.”
The mission is “all the same. Just when I plug in to other territories, even big south-east Asia territories, it’s how to instill those philosophies and what are we doing to drive them, and making sure we’re aligned with everyone else. The key factor for us is we’re local focused at the same time.”
With Cub Sport’s Jesus, Believe has gone two straight.
In 2022, Northlane snagged the No. 1 with Obsidian, and earned an ARIA Award nomination. Believe managed and executed that campaign globally via its Artist Services division, and landed two Tinnies nods.
The Cub Sport story doesn’t end with Australia.
The group is currently in the U.K., on a tour that includes sold-out Glasgow and London shows. In June and July they head off on a 21-date tour of the U.S., where the band has landed college radio adds and press, before returning for Splendour In The Grass and their Australian jaunt in September.
“It’s right up there,” reflects Tarbuk on the latest No. 1. “I’m extremely proud that our partners can entrust us with their masterpieces.”