Features July 13, 2016

Q&A: Liberation’s Warren Costello talks single strategy & Mid Year trends

Former Editor

As part of the inaugural Singles & Market Share Mid Year Report, TMN interviewed Mushroom Group’s Warren Costello about the 100% independent AIR Singles chart.

As Managing Director of Liberation Music, Costello has witnessed many notable wins for Mushroom Group artists in the last six months. The Rubens’ single Hoops topped the largest publicly voted music poll in the world, the triple j Hottest 100 and came in at #3 on the AIR Singles chart, while Vance Joy had two tracks land on the chart and saw Fire and The Flood take #3 on the Australian Airplay Top 10.

Speaking to TMN, Costello chats about the campaign behind Hoops, single strategies and the two acts he thinks will break internationally this year.


In your opinion, what’s the biggest takeaway from the AIR Singles chart results from the past six months? 

The dominance of Sia and Flume. The depth of penetration of the singles – particularly of Sia’s record – are just extraordinary. She’s got to be congratulated as do Inertia for the job they’ve done.

The Rubens’ [chart placing] was definitely a big highlight and a highlight for Ivy League because it was such a thrill to get the Hottest 100 obviously. I guess the other takeaway from the chart is how long a tail you can generate from that kind of sustained success. The Rubens have just finished a national tour and that’s five or six months after the Hottest 100 victory, so it’s great that the momentum is continuing on.

The other one is Violent Soho, they have a couple of really big songs in there which I thought was really pleasing. They’re a band that’s got their touring cycle down to a fine art; they don’t overplay it but when they do, they really support their records with a strong touring plan. A lot of things have come into play; they had a great spot on Splendour, they’ve just capitalised on every opportunity they’ve been given.


What trends do you see either emerging or confirmed in the chart?

It’s not necessarily about songs or singles, but about a broader strategy. If you see the impact that particularly Vance Joy, Flume and Sia have had, I think [their teams] have taken the time and energy and focus to build their careers, rather than just try and take any opportunity to break a song per se. It also opens the door for other songs to follow. Hoops did such a great job for The Rubens but then you’ve still got Hold Me Back in the Top 20 as well. Fire & The Flood was amazing for Vance Joy but Riptide three years after release is at #11, and Straight Into Your Arms got a leg-up by virtue of the fact that the singles prior to it being so successful. 

The Rubens are just building their overseas following. What strategies do you have in place for them in the final half of 2016?

Most of the A&R is coming out of Australia but [The Rubens have] just had a change in terms of their management structure. Previously they had American and Australian management that were quite separate, but now the American management are taking a stake in the Australian set up as well. I think it will give a much more cohesive approach to the next record. You’ll find that they’ll have a much better focus on America for the third album when that comes around. 

The Rubens’ album Hoops was always going to be a big release for you guys, did the title track at #3 place as high as you’d expected?

We’re very pleased with the whole Rubens campaign. It was one where we scratched our heads a bit to be honest after Hallelujah, which was the first single off the record; that probably didn’t stick as much as we thought it would. We were probably coming off the back foot a bit with Hoops, but for whatever reason it just connected with people at every level, whether that was at gigs or on radio, it was just one of those cracking songs that people just liked from the minute they heard it. 

How big was the campaign for Hoops? 

It was definitely organic for want of a better word. I guess the excitement was building only in the few day prior for a label point of view because I think the band were very confident it had a crack. We had dinner with [The Rubens] the night [the triple j Hottest 100] was announced because they did a show for us at the Australian Tennis down here in Melbourne. They were quietly confident but they’re certainly not the kind of guys who get ahead of themselves. Gudinski and I thought it might be Top 5 or even Top 3 but the fact it came in at #1 blew us away. Also to be #3 on the AIR chart is a fantastic indictment being beaten by a couple of bigger records.  

Which acts on the chart can you see breaking internationally in the second half of 2016?

Meg Mac is one to watch along with one of ours, [Mushroom artist] Gordi. There’s two female artists who I think will be very successful in the next six to 12 months – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both of them. I think Meg Mac’s set up, the way she’s released her music is impressive, she’s just on an amazing upward curve.



A free version of the Singles & Market Share Mid Year Report, with charts, analysis, interviews and market shares can be downloaded here

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