On January 5, we posted Walk Off The Earth’s cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” to the O Music Awards Blog, impressed that four members of the band — as well as singer Sarah Blackwood — played the tune collaboratively on one guitar. Today, that video has been viewed more than 10 million times, and the band has tripled its Facebook fanbase. Not bad for an stripped-down, acoustic performance, huh?
Walk Off The Earth‘s viral success is just another addition to the canon of musician cover songs spawned by YouTube. Bands like Pomplamoose have made their proverbial bread and butter off of adorable original covers of popular songs, as have acts like O Music Awards-nominated singer, Kina Grannis. Those covers later leveraging the artists’ own careers.
In fact, the band has learned from the success of its predecessors. It’s not as if this is their first YouTube video; singer/bassist Gianni Luminati has been cultivating the band’s YouTube channel for more than a year now, creating original content like the five person/one guitar video and promoting the band’s own music. In fact, at the time of writing the first post on the vid, the band had around 25,000 Facebook fans and nearly 30,000 subscribers on YouTube (they now have around 96,000 Facebook fans and 118,321 subscribers). So when the most recent cover hit the web, they had a base of fans willing to share and make it go wide.
We chatted with Luminati Wednesday — amid all the craziness — to find out more about the viral video and its effect on the band. Check out our Q&A below:
First of all, I just went to look at your Facebook Page and you have more than 95,000 fans. When we wrote about your video the other day, you had around 25,000 fans. Wow.
We’re super stoked about that. It jumped our fanbase triple or more and it keeps rising. So that basically means we’re going to be able to do this for a while now — no matter what happens in the next couple months we’re going to have these people behind us. So that’s pretty awesome. We’ve been working at it for a long time, so we’re all super happy about it.
So how did the video get out there so quickly?
I honestly don’t know how it happened so quickly, because it literally happened in four hours. We put the video out at 4 a.m. and I woke up at 8 a.m. and it already had — I don’t know if you know the YouTube system, but it freezes at 300 views [when a video is newly posted], but the ‘Like’ button keeps going up. Normally we get like 1,000 ‘Likes’ the first day, or 500. And I remember Sarah calling me, and I was really pumped to pump this video so I was texting all the guys in the band and Sarah and saying, ‘Everybody post the crap out of this video today on your social networks, because I really want to get 10,000 views by the end of the day.’
A lot of our videos would mostly get to 5,000 views per day — on the first day. So then [Sarah] called me back and was like, ‘There’s something wrong with YouTube… The ‘Like’ button says that there are 10,000 ‘Likes’ already. [But there are only 300 views.]‘ So if you have 10,000 ‘Likes,’ that’s about 50,000 views. So we knew something was going on with it.
I think the reason that it happened so fast was because we had a lot of followers on YouTube before this happened. So when we put out videos, they get sent to that many people, and I think just the way the video looks and sounds — those people started pumping it to everyone they know. And it hit some of the right people — some radio people from Toronto and stuff were playing it the morning that it came out.
So you said you already had a big YouTube following and I know you’ve been doing innovative videos like this for a while. How did you start out on that path?
I started doing it about a year ago. It was actually Sarah [Blackwood] — I was recording her album at the time and she asked me if I wanted to cover that Rihanna, Eminem song ‘Love The Way You Lie,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.’
I was messing around with loop pedals a lot during that time and there was a lot of downtime for Walk Off The Earth, so we planned on making a loop video. But she got whisked away on tour with her other band, The Creepshow, and went to Europe. So I decided to do the song myself. And I made it and it ended up getting a lot of attention at the time — maybe 10,000 views in a couple of weeks because of the way I was looping stuff.
And I started understanding more about YouTube and how people really join the community and how musicians have a lot of different subscribers and a fanbase and how it’s really helping people get out there and make money and stuff. I just dove right in and starting researching everything I could about it and got the band into the idea. The reason there are a lot of videos just with me and not with the whole band is because everyone is so busy all the time and I work at a studio. After-hours I have access to some of the video gear and the recording gear and I would just stay to all hours of the night working on music and working on making videos.
So far, you’ve built up your own fanbase without any help. After this viral success, do you plan to continue DIYing?
I think at this point no one really knows. We’ve definitely had a lot of offers from people, but we’re not jumping on anything right at the moment because we know that we could be doing it our own way. We do need help, obviously, with getting to Europe and getting to the States and getting the right shows booked. But all that stuff is coming our way right now, even without the labels.
So we’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do. We’re just going to keep our ears open. We have a good friend helping us out with some management stuff right now that we trust. So he’s sifting through all the stuff that’s coming at us and finding out what’s legit and what’s not. At this point, I don’t see how [a label] could really help us. But it depends. It always depends. Record labels are changing every day. So we’ll see what happens.
So what’s been the most interesting effect this video has had on your band?
It’s pretty interesting and pretty awesome that a lot of our backlog stuff — like we are obviously an original band and we have two albums and we have one that we have been working on for about a year now. Record companies are calling us from Europe trying to release our first album and our second album, and all these fans are asking about our original music, which is super cool, considering that we have this fame from a cover song. It’s cool that we’re not getting stereotyped as this band that made this one song.
Does it make you feel weird that you’re getting famous for doing a cover song instead of your own music?
Not really. I know we have enough fans that were into our original stuff — this is just going to help other people realize that we’re legitimate and that we have other stuff to offer, too, and we’re going to keep making original videos and putting out cover songs if we feel like it and doing whatever we want to do. We don’t have to answer to anyone at this point.
So how did you come up with the idea in the first place? When did you realize that you could all play one guitar?
I’m always trying to think of different ways to present music because I really believe that performances should be very visual. I’ve always wanted to make a video with two or three people playing guitar — I’ve had the idea for a while. I was just waiting for the right song. And then I heard that song around Christmas and fell in love with it.
Every time I listen to a song I wonder whether it could translate into some of my ideas. Originally I was only going to try to get four people on the guitar, but then at the last minute I thought, ‘I think we could get one more person on here’ and got another part for them. That helped a lot. I’ve seen videos with four people trying to play guitar, but I guess five has never been done.
By Brenna Ehrlich