TIO‘s publisher Luke Girgis stopped by Unmade, the nine-month-old podcast run by former Mumbrella founder Tim Burrowes. Burrowes questioned Girgis on the origins of The Brag Media (the publisher of this masthead), and asked him to delve into his playbook.

As Girgis explains in the podcast, five years on from launching, the gameplan has delivered a string of victories, including the launch of Variety Australia and the acquisition of rival The Music Network in quick succession.

The idea for a vertically-integrated publishing house was hatched when Girgis, working at a label, noted a small fortune was squandered with plugging music to publishers, and not always for decent results.

So why not buy one, at the price of about two-year’s marketing spend? Or start from scratch.

Today, the group spans The Brag Agency, The Brag Creative and The Brag Events, and a string of titles which, combined, attract 40 million monthly page views in the youth and pop culture space.

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The Brag Media’s mission, explains Girgis, “is to be ubiquitous with Australian culture, be at the centre of culture.”

To be at the heart of all that, the group needs to do it all.

“We need to be running events. We need to be running record companies. We need to be managing talent. We need to be doing all these things. And if we have a thriving publishing business at the center of all of that, it’s going to make all of those other plays a lot more fruitful,” Girgis explains.

“And that’s what we started with. We started with the publishing business.”

Girgis partnered up, found the aces in his pack (Editor-In-Chief Poppy Reid is one).

The evolve-or-die mantra is at the baseline of every business operating in the digital era. It’s true too for the group Girgis runs as CEO, though the old-school factors of risk-spreading, growth and grabbing opportunities are key ingredients in the mix.

The business not only survived COVID, but revenues have doubled year-on-year, notes Girgis, though he declined to share the bottom line.

Although it was “true pre-COVID that 50% of our revenue came from the music industry, we have increased our revenue since then by over 200%, as I mentioned before. And now the revenue that comes from the music industry on our music titles represents less than 5%,” Girgis notes.

This week saw The Brag Media launch the venerated title Variety, a trade mag with more than 100 years’ history, and with over 800,000 sets of Australian eyeballs on its main site.

“We’re kind of famous for our music [publications]. That’s how we started. But it’s certainly not where we’re at now,” explains Girgis. “So we have a huge gaming network as well. The Variety launch makes sense when you understand that sort of mission statement to be ubiquitous with Australian culture. We want to be everywhere Australians’ passion points are. We identified that music was the number one interest for Australians. So that’s where we started. Also helps that I’m a music nut, and have been in the music industry for 15 years.”

Variety Australia launches through an agreement between The Brag Media and PMC.

It’s the second local edition of a global media brand in as many years, following the rollout of Rolling Stone Australia/NZ in 2020.

Also, Variety Australia is just the second international edition following the launch of Variety China in 2019.

Variety Australia joins the group’s growing network that includes The Music Network, IndieWire, Billboard, thebrag.com, Tone Deaf, The Industry Observer, don’t bore us, Funimation, Enthusiast Gaming, Life Without Andy, HypeBeast, and more.

For The Brag Group, the immediate next stage is growth, finding more eyes, ears and hearts, “to be ubiquitous with Australian culture,” says Girgis.

“That means where people are, if people go to events, we need to be doing events. So growing our events business is a big focus of ours. And it’s something that we’ve had a lot of success with over the last year, growing our publishing business, continuing to grow the network.”

He concludes, “We now reach eight million Australians every month, which is 32% of the Australian population. How do we get to 50%?”

Play the podcast here.

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