Wollongong band take YouTube by storm

Wollongong band The Contagious have never performed a live gig and their songs are written by a moonlighting financial planner, not a rock star.

Yet, as the city's live music scene grapples with venue closures, noise complaints and licensing red tape, The Contagious are making waves.

The Contagious are a studio project fronted by a belting blonde singer from Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts, Annalivia.

Their engine room, though, is financial planner David King of Dapto, a long-time songwriter, co-producer and social media obsessive.

Since releasing the band's first music video earlier this month, King has worked full-time to fan interest online.

He spends more than 12 hours a day engaging with fans across social media, most noticeably on Twitter, where he will easily fire off 150 tweets a day.

King's efforts have helped win the group almost 600,000 Twitter followers and this week put The Contagious on the top 20 global chart for music of all genres on Reverb Nation.

After two weeks, the clip for the hook-laden, 1990s-style rock ballad Waiting for the Rain has been played more than 56,000 times on YouTube, and 350 copies of The Contagious's four-track EP have sold.

"It's just been about getting on Twitter and talking to people; over and over just telling people about what we do," said King, who co-produced the project with Main Street Studio owner Adam Jordan.

"If people like what you've got and they feel that they're being engaged by either the band or the band site, it becomes an experience for them.

"Ultimately I'd like to see it turn into an international act."

MTV's Australian vice-president, Colin Blake, believes that live gigs have become "almost a reward" for bands that have already built a following online.

It is a change Mr Blake links to the shifting balance of power away from record labels and towards self-motivated bands, a shift he has traced over the past decade and especially in the past three or four years.

He believes the new order favours bands with the self-belief and energy to build a following online, unaided by a label.

"The old model meant slogging it out, gigging all over the place, trying to get noticed by a label. Now that need for discovery isn't essential for success," Mr Blake said.

At a seminar in Wollongong last month, Mr Blake encouraged up-and-coming musicians to produce online content, and upload it often.

He pointed to Australia's Short Stack - who made rough-cut viral videos from their lounge room - as among examples of the importance of constantly offering new content, even if the sound quality wasn't perfect or the production values were flawed.

"Short Stack got bigger and bigger and bigger because they just kept feeding it," he said.

"They built equity in themselves. They got themselves in the position where ... record companies have to stand up and take notice because if they don't they're squandering an opportunity."

Mr Blake said MTV's Australian workforce scarcely went to gigs any more, but "really, really actively" scouted YouTube and other music sites, looking for the next big thing.

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