How to get famous online

How one band used YouTube, Twitter and file-sharing to create a community of fans

Hello Stranger

"I was terribly hungover sitting in the Institute of Contemporary Arts," admits Moore. "There was a book lying around and it said 'Please pick me up'. You get a book, you stick a number in it, you log the book number on the BookCrossing website and once you've finished reading the book you leave it for someone else to pick up. Whoever picks it up can type in the number and trace where the book's gone and read comments on what it's like. I thought: Why not do that with our CD?" Why not indeed?

The band's first CD was called Hello Stranger, and it all seemed to fit. "We found 30 of these durable, bright blue cases and we made little stickers that said: 'Hello stranger. I'm on a journey, please pick me up. I'm one of 30 numbered CDs. You can take me home, copy me, send me to a friend on the other side of the world or you can leave me in public'," explains Grant.

"The great thing about the cases is they have handles so you can hook them onto things," adds Moore. "So, we left some of them in various places around London. I sent a whole bunch to different people in different parts of England. We do know they ended up being sent to other parts of the world. They were found on buses, in pubs. Someone found one in a bookstore, another in a library."

"For the sake of 30 cases, printing off a few CDs, setting up a website and emailing a few radio stations, we had a story," says Grant. "The Hello Stranger campaign linked the reality of picking up the CD and listening to it to actually typing in its number and communicating with people," says Moore.

"As a publicity-generating PR stunt it was very good and because it was internet-related, people talked about it on the internet. It helped tell our little story. People picked up on it, and it cost us about £40."

Tweet to the top

With the rise of Twitter, the band has also found a way of becoming closer to their fans. "The previous CD was done in a panic because we ended up on tour supporting Simply Red," says Moore.

"Steph's dad lent us the money to record it. This time I thought, 'Well, it's been a year now, we have approaching 3,000 Twitter followers, people talk to us, people read our blogs, we've just been to Germany, people are actually starting to take notice and invite us to things; they're paying for stuff.'"

Moore came up with the idea of giving 30 people on Twitter the chance to pre-order four CDs for £20. To the duo's surprise, all 30 places sold out in just over two days. "When we went on tour with Simply Red we didn't have any money and no one knew who we were. Now we've actually got people excited to help us," says Moore.


"We were beside ourselves with joy. I could now go forward and get the artwork done like we wanted to, and not have to just do a digital release, which is boring."

"The other interesting thing," says Grant, "is that we've got people helping us not because they like our music but because they like what we're about. People just like the idea that you're trying and you're honest."

"Perhaps in a year we could ask for a thousand pre-sales next time and gradually build it up," muses Moore. "Perhaps in a couple more years of keeping on doing it like this we could build it up and ask for 20 grand or 50 grand because more people realise we deliver."

Original pirate material

Another method of getting the Georgia Wonder sound into as many ears as possible was, odd as it sounds, to allow it to be pirated. "At the beginning of the year, we became the 14th most downloaded band in the world," says Moore.

"We got talking to a guy called Leon from FrostWire. What they were doing was promoting bands for a week at a time on the front page of their site. As long as the stuff was Creative Commons and you let them do that promotion, they put a picture of the band up with a link to a torrent. They seeded it out before it went on the front page. A picture of Steph and the words 'Georgia Wonder – Free EP download' went up on the Wednesday."

The results were impressive. "They use the Pirate Bay tracker so we started watching it," adds Grant. "We appeared at number 75, and kept going up and up." "By Saturday evening we were 14th," remembers Moore. "So we ended up one above Katy Perry! It equated to about 50,000 downloads in three days."

"We were the only unsigned band in the top thousand!" laughs Grant. "It's probably the most impressive thing we've ever done, even though it was free. We're a new band and you've got to be heard; you've got to get your stuff out there."

If Georgia Wonder are anything to go by, the beleaguered music industry has yet another headache. Innovative bands can now find ways of openly approaching their audience without the need for layers of intermediaries.

In doing so, they become the focus of a community not only of fans, but also of people who simply like their style and who are willing to subvert the status quo.


First published in PC Plus Issue 289

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