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News October 27, 2015

Case Study: Elen Levon’s Italian crossover

Charts & Music Manager

Ukraine-born, Sydney-raised singer-songwriter Elen Levon is currently at the forefront of the most successful time of her career, sharing success both home in Australia and overseas in Italy. Levon’s Italian fanbase currently makes up just over a third of her entire Facebook following. Her track Wild Child, released through Ministry of Sound, peaked at #48 on the ARIA Singles chart but has charted within the Top 30 on Italy’s FIMI chart, as well as achieving Gold certification in the region.

TMN had a chat with both Levon and her A&R Manager Chris Fraser to talk about successfully breaking into the European, the Italian radio landscape and much more.

Part 1, Chris Fraser:

So far Wild Child has been the biggest hit in Italy, peaking in the 20’s and reaching Gold certification (15000 sales).
It was a pretty long campaign. It wasn’t one of those songs that smashed the Top 10 and goes Gold quickly, but it has a really sustained long tail on it. Even now, they’re still travelling over to Italy and meeting people at radio and maintaining on the airplay chart.

Do you expect Elen’s latest single Kingdom to follow suit?
Yes, absolutely. Radio is running with Over My Head, which is her previous single so they are a little behind over there just because of scheduling. It’s still pumping along really well and receiving a lot of support. Kingdom is going to happen a little later than when we do it here in Australia because [Over My Head] still has momentum over there. […] You can see it actually growing while we were there across the show. It’s really great having started with just large festival shows in the south and watching it move to different territories and have more and more people become familiar with the record. So Kingdom is up next and our Italian partners are really excited about it and the potential it has for the rest of Europe, which is what we are setting up for.

What’s the main difference between the Australian and Italian markets?
Where do you start? It’s a lot more high voltage over there, whether you are talking about their style or their media. Elen doesn’t speak the language although she is learning it quickly because of the success. When we do radio interviews they’ll ask her the question in English, translate her answer back into Italian for the audience and you just sit there and listen to them repeat it in Italian and kind of have no idea what they are saying but they’ll say it with so much energy. It’s kind of their style of radio, it’s a very exciting thing to see and be a part of.

There is quite a lot of momentum for Elen in that country at the moment so we’ll show up to the show and there will be a hundred screaming Italian school girls waiting for her sound check, which is obviously something we aren’t used to here, at least not yet anyway. It’s been a very exciting thing to see, even to have people at the shows in the front row sing a long to songs or to see fans tear up when Over My Head comes on.

Do you think that energy that fills Italian radio is a factor that makes or breaks an artist in Italy?
There are loads of factors. We’ve been lucky to have a very strong partner there in EGO Records, they’re one of the two biggest independents in Italy and are a really dynamic and proactive label. They obviously know their territory really well and have great relationships with radio in it Italy, and there is a lot of radio to work with in Italy. They were really successful with getting support early on from some key players like Radio Deejay, which is the second biggest network in Italy. They came on board from the get go with Wild Child and having their support really helped everything fall in place.

There are a whole variety of things that will help a record crack a territory, it just felt like we had the right combination of those tools, a great artist and a great song at the right time.

What do you think it is that makes Elen so successful in Italy?
It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves. I think it comes down to all of those factors I just mentioned but also that she’s an artist that has a very international kind of look and sound that can slot into the European landscape really easily. It started with Italy and things are humming along there so it’s a really big focus for us. We are certainly looking to other territories in Europe where you can see a lot of things starting to happen. We’ve started to receive recording and touring interest from places like Germany, Poland and Romania so the focus now is on expanding the footprint there and working with our partners in those territories and try and replicate the Italian success.

What are some of the bigger obstacles here in Australia in regards to breaking her through to commercial radio?
The radio support for Elen back here has been tremendous. Overall, across the last few singles there has been really great support. With Kingdom so far we’ve had EDGE and KIIS come on board which is fantastic. I think any artist that does not have a platform via TV or something like that is always going to face a harder road. With Elen, everyone who works on the project has always had an unshakeable confidence in her talent and commitment to working hard so I have no doubt that the support that we are building on in Australia will continue to grow. It’s also great to have an opportunity like Europe alive and developing the project on a wider stage.

Kingdom was serviced to radio quite some time ago now. Why do you think commercial radio has taken so long to jump on board?
There are a variety of reasons. There is a lot of content at the moment, a lot of artists releasing records. Sometimes it just takes radio some time to get to things and that’s just something we have to accept. You have to work around it as best you can. Most people who listen to Kingdom think, ‘Wow, give this record the right time and place and this thing is a smash’, it’s the kind of record you don’t give up easily on. So if it doesn’t take off we know there will be plenty of other opportunities for it.

Do you expect Elen’s move further into Europe will be difficult?
There are already great signs of enthusiasm from label partners and media. Places like Poland are relatively new territories but we are already getting high caliber show and media interest so I think we are off to a really good start.

Part 2, Elen Levon: 

In July, you played to a ridiculously large crowd at a radio DJ event in Catania, Sicily. What was that experience like for you?
It was definitely an experience, I didn’t expect there would be such a big crowd. I walked out and I don’t know how many people there were. I think ten thousand? I was thinking, someone could have warned me that there would be this many people [laughs]. It was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done, everyone knew the words and it was crazy.


Was that the biggest crowd you’ve ever played to?
Yep, that’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to. I’ve had a performance televised to a million people but I’ve never performed to that many people.

On top of the Catania performance, you’ve made appearances at radio stations requiring police escorts out of the building. Italy is clearly a huge market for you right now, what do you think it was that made you cross over to that market so well?
To be honest, if I had the answer to that then I’d probably have the answer to every artist’s success, but I have no idea. I have no idea why, no idea how. I guess they just bought into the music and I think that is really wonderful.

Did you have any input in the lead up to the release of Kingdom, as well as any of the marketing done for Wild Child?
I wrote Kingdom and Wild Child myself so I’m always involved in the creative process of it. What ever else happens with it is its own magic, it creates itself.

How integral has your label and the management team behind you been to your success so far?
My management has been with me since I was 13, that’s 7 years. They’ve been a really big part of it, they have been by my side this entire time, always looking for opportunities and always on the phone trying to make the best out of everything, which I think is just the best attitude ever. They are definitely part of it and it’s always important to try and have the perfect team. Once you have that perfect team it always works out well.

You definitely have a strong fan base here in Australia, but it’s incomparable to the fan base in Italy.  What’s your biggest obstacle here in Australia in regards to appeal?
I don’t really think there is a science to it. I think it’s just who ever connects with you. I was born in Europe so maybe that’s why I connect to them all. Me and my family came here to Australia when I was 8 months old. My whole family is European as well, we moved our lives here.

Are there any other markets that you’d like to see your singles chart in?
Definitely, it did kind of well in France and I think that is amazing; I love France and I’ve always been a fan of Paris. I’ve always dreamed of being global so I think anywhere in world would always be a treat.




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