Warren “Waz” Costello, a kingpin of Australia’s independent label industry, died Sunday (May 29) after a battle with cancer. He was 64.
Costello co-founded Liberation Records with the late Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski, and remained one of Gudinski’s closest and most trusted allies until his own passing in March 2021.
The Mushroom family is “deeply saddened by the passing of Warren Costello after a long battle with illness,” reads a statement from the indie music company.
Since joining the label division “he has been an essential fabric of life at Mushroom. He was a true music man, a beloved friend to our artists and integral to the success of our business over the past three decades,” the message continues. “Warren was renowned for his positive energy, integrity and family values, all of which are now etched into the DNA of Mushroom forever.”
Based in Melbourne, Costello joined Gudinski’s independent music giant in 1990, exiting in 1999 following the sale of Mushroom Records to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
He returned to the fold in March 2000, when he joined forces with Gudinski to launch Mushroom Group’s Liberation label, and later, as managing director of the indie powerhouse’s label activities.
In 2017, Costello and Gudinski co-founded the Bloodlines label, offering creative services to its stable of heritage acts. Bloodlines has had several No. 1s on the ARIA Albums Chart, including Jimmy Barnes’ Flesh And Blood, the title track for which Barnes dedicated to Gudinski at the late industry legend’s state memorial.
Waz, as he was affectionately known, was respected across the industry, a good guy and a quiet achiever in a sea of chest-thumpers. Throughout his career, he showed a knack for spotting an opportunity. In August of 2021, he launched Mushroom Group’s new film distribution and production company, Long Play Music Films.
With Long Play, “we’re positioning ourselves as a vehicle to tell the stories, the real stories and hopefully using a lot of pre-existing footage, rather than shooting from scratch,” Costello told this reporter at the time. “There’s a lot of gold out there, sitting in archives and record company shelves and warehouses.”
The idea for that venture was workshopped with Gudinski “right up until just before he passed,” he explained. “We were trying to cook up ideas, ones that would complement each other, and this was one of them. I’m pretty determined to see it through.”
Several months later, Costello stepped down to focus on his health and spend time with family.
Costello is survived by his wife Leith, three daughters Caitlin, Alex and Hannah, and grandson Finn.