Michael Chugg is spinning a new music venture.
The legendary concert promoter and his business partner Andrew Stone launch a new label, City Pop Records, and debut its first signing, the teenage TikTok star Mia Rodriguez.
City Pop Records is distributed by digital specialist Believe and sits within Chugg Music, the independent management, record label, label services and publishing company established in 2012 and today boasting a roster of artists including Sheppard, Lime Cordiale, Casey Barnes and Avalanche City.
Chugg and Stone are ambitious. They see the new enterprise as a pop music powerhouse, an indie taking on the majors at their own game, by connecting young, social-savvy signings with top songwriters, producers and music industry networks around the globe.
“We want to go where the audiences these days are and help these young artists in their development by providing access to the best pop writers and producers in the world,” Chugg tells TIO.
“These young creators know what their fans want and we can try to connect the dots with the wider industry. We have always had an independent mindset when breaking artists, and going global from the outset is a big priority for us. The majors aren’t interested in artist development, so there’s a real opportunity for us to nurture the development of the next generation over a number of years.”
The first signing Rodriguez (or just Mia, to her existing fanbase), is a 17-year-old social media whizzkid from Sydney whose TikTok following has blown past 2 million. Some 85% of her audience hailing from the U.S.
Mia, who is also signed with the company for management, was brought to the attention of Chugg and Stone by colleague Mark Muggeridge, Chugg Music’s day-to-day manager and head of touring.
Mardi Caught, founder of The Annex, is handling all the frontline marketing on the label, and all the artists signed to it.
Also, Sean Carthew, a longtime friend of Stone and co-owner of the Burger Urge chain in Queensland, has come in as an investment partner. Carthew comes from a musical family and has “always wanted to get involved in the music business,” explains Stone.
Mia’s talents aren’t difficult to spot. Her cover songs and uploads are tracked each day by millions of fans on TikTok, Instagram (169,000 followers) and YouTube (84,000). Clearly, the audience is there. It’s growing, it’s global and she knows them like besties.
Watch Mia Rodriguez’s ‘Emotion’:
Making that leap from social star to bona fide recording artist, however, is the tricky bit.
“Here are these kids who have a total realisation of what their fanbase wants and need, its built into them to speak to them every day, even a couple of times a day, posting stories posting content, being a self-generating content machine,” Stone tells TIO.
“We can apply what we’ve learned over the years in terms of A&R and relationships we have with L.A. and Sweden and publishers and the songs we have that maybe didn’t make a Sheppard record because it may not have been stylistically suited to them.
“We’ll try marry the two together and develop something for the pop space. Artists don’t have to come via ‘The Voice’ or ‘Neighbours’ or ‘Home and Away’ to have a career. And we don’t think the majors have a monopoly on the pop space in Australia. Let’s look at social media as a direct-to-fan marketing outlet, but apply what we would apply to a top-tier artist.”
Stone recounts a moment when Mia attended a Lime Cordiale show in Sydney. The moment she was spotted, “all these kids started screaming and trying to get a photo,” he recounts. “She can’t walk through a Westfield without being recognised.”
The label debuts with Mia’s first studio recording ‘Emotion,’ which dropped on Saturday and was created with producer Dave Hammer (Lime Cordiale, Thundamentals, Jeffe). Mia has done her bit by promoting the single across her socials with a string of posts, helping the music video rack up more than 52,00 hits over the weekend.
Judging by early comments on YouTube, many of those eyeballs belong to Mia’s TikTok followers.
In the year ahead, Chugg Music is gearing up for new releases from Sheppard and Lime Cordiale. Chugg’s team plans to spend some time in the U.S. with Dre London and Post Malone, who both showed a lot of love for Lime Cordiale in recent months.
When Dre was Down Under, he met with Mia and heard some of her songs. “We’re looking at collaborations for the Australian artists and U.S. producers,” notes Stone. “I don’t think there’s a reason why we can’t take it globally very quickly. And partner up with teams around the world as its appropriate.”