Q&A: Inside Flume’s #1 single campaign, with Future Classic’s Ed Sholl
It’s been eight years since Harley Streten went from late night bedroom producer to playing solo at the 17,000-capacity Forest Hills Stadium in New York. A master of his own style, Flume’s low-end distortion has not only made record sales in his native country, but he’s beaten those records in the world’s biggest music market, the USA.
If Never Be Like You, the first single from Flume’s ARIA #1 LP Skin, seemed like it gained global ubiquity overnight, that’s because it did. But behind every globetrotting single is a unique campaign pulled together by Future Classic.
The Sydney-based label purposely let radio silence do the talking in the lead-up to Never Be Like You’s release, allowing fans and media conjecture to take care of publicity. Following its timed and unconventional worldwide release in all key markets, the track has since sold over 245,000 units in Australia (as of late June) and even more than that in the US.
TMN talked to Future Classic Label Manager Ed Sholl as part of the inaugural Singles & Market Share Mid Year Report. Sholl discussed Never Be Like You’s inception, the campaign behind it and its ensuing success.
How did Never Be Like You come to be?
Flume connected with Kai via a publishing contact and at the Red Bull writing camp in New York that we were running last October. They went back and forth online, sending over different parts to each other and I remember when Harley made the major breakthrough to get it to where it is today […] I was at the ARIA’s. I went and listened to it in a cubicle.
What was that major breakthrough?
It was the arrangement. Kai’s vocal delivery is amazing, I think it was breaking the back of the arrangement and how it was structured… Getting the hook just right. There were a lot of different versions.
Tell us about the launch campaign behind the single.
We had identified as a real objective to enlist [BBC] Radio 1 as a champion of Flume. [Never Be Like You] was premiered by Radio 1 as the Hottest Record In The World with Annie Mac. It was an amazing way to start the ‘album two’ campaign and a kind of early signifier of where that single would end up internationally.
The US is still working the Never Be Like You cycle right now, six months after it was released. We probably started the US commercial radio conversation in late February. It started to connect in March and it’s just been a steady increase in audience each week with new additions. It went from one million to two million, five, 20 million in the last little while, and now it’s sitting at #22 or #23 on the Top 40 radio charts in the US.
It’s at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, which is a combination of radio, streaming and sales. It’s still growing there, there’s room for it to build and build. Last I checked its at about 250,000 units which is a symbolic moment. It’s the first time ever for Flume that a single in the US has outsold Australia.
In Australia Never Be Like You has had its time under the sun and certainly on radio, as it has in the UK.
At what point did you see fans begin to respond?
On SoundCloud the moment you upload you get an instant feed with comments and play counts. In this campaign, the feedback was fairly even on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Apple Music and Apple Connect. We saw all of those things begin to spike at once.
It had been a long time since Harley had released anything and the 15-second album teaser a week-and-a-half beforehand had put some fuel in the fire with his online fanbase. The Viral charts on Spotify were a big part of it; we were pushing to get to the top of the Global Viral Chart and it took about a week to get it there.
What was the reaction at the Future Classic office when the song hit #1 on the ARIA chart?
It was the highest debut we’ve ever had for anyone on Future Classic and for Flume. The highest we’ve ever gotten on the Singles chart was #6 with Chet Faker’s Talk Is Cheap off the back of the Hottest 100.
Did Future Classic stop the campaign for Never Be Like You once follow-up single Smoke & Retribution was released?
No, because the more an artist grows to new demographics and markets, the longer a single continues to work. Never Be Like You was still growing at commercial [radio] in terms of spins and charts shortly after we released Smoke & Retribution and Say It as the next singles. But we were still working Never Be Like You in very different market segments.
The bigger an artist gets, the quicker it goes from one market segment to the next. When we first released Say It, it was core fans reacting with it on whatever platform and it only took a couple of weeks for it to hit all the market segments Never Be Like You hit. When you take that to an international level, singles are being worked in very different time cycles, different territories. So it becomes a real challenge to maintain a focused, synchronised campaign globally.
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A free version of the Singles & Market Share Mid Year Report, with charts, analysis, interviews and market shares can be downloaded here.