This week will forever be remembered in musical history. After 7 weeks at number one on the ARIA album charts, we saw Michael Jackson’s reign toppled by an Australian emo band from Budgewoi called Short Stack.
Not only did Short Stack push Michael Jackson into second place, but this release was their very first album, and it debuted at #1!
So how did a group of kids from the coast overthrow the King of Pop?
Back in the 80s, before the members of Short Stack were born, bands kicked off their careers playing in pubs. But in 2005 Short Stack were still too young to tour the pub circuit, so they began placing their tracks on MySpace and entering band competitions such as Youthrock.
As their popularity on MySpace began to grow, the band extended their online presence to include Short Stack TV on YouTube, Facebook fan pages, Bebo, Absolute Punk and Twitter to name just a few.
Short Stack now have almost 60,000 friends on MySpace, and over 10,000 followers on Twitter. They have fan pages for not just the band, but for each individual band member. And back in 2008 they had so many views of their videos on YouTube that they beat Britney Spears to have the number one video of the day.
But lots of bands use social media to promote themselves… how have Short Stack managed to become one of the most popular Australian bands on MySpace, without having released an album until this week? What have they done differently to garner so much support online? How have they turned fans into fanatics?
Short Stack used the power of community, credibility and accessibility. And they used their link to a geographic community to strengthen their online community presence.
Community - Embrace Multiple Communities, Real World and Virtual
Short Stack’s home town of Budgewoi, is on the NSW Central Coast. It’s not a large place, but there are a lot of teenagers living nearby – and not a huge amount for them to entertain themselves with. Short Stack used the power of geographic community to initially harness this local young and somewhat-isolated crowd, and make them feel a part of something bigger. They tapped them into the emerging Short Stack online community, and gave them something to get behind when there wasn’t much else for a teenage emo to do. And from it's beginnings on the Central Coast, Short Stack’s music began to spread via online communities around Australia.
Credibility, Credibility, Credibility
The typical emo fashion is to go against the grain, disobey parents, ignore mainstream media, and not get sucked in by large commercial corporations – so Short Stack’s low budget marketing and the fact that they weren’t backed by a major record label at first, made them even more attractive to their fans. The band never discouraged illegal downloading of their tracks – understanding that getting large numbers of people to hear the music was more important initially than trying to push a small number of sales. They boys seemed ‘real’ and relatable which all added to their credibility.
Accessibility - Identify, Understand and Interact with your Audience
Short Stack were lucky that with their long hair and somber emo looks, they appealed directly to teenage girls. The band put their efforts into online communities where their demographic were already spending a lot of time, and tailored their messages directly to this audience. Short Stack have also made themselves accessible – and their fans love them for it! Fans can see the effort that Short Stack go to in responding to comments online, posting regular videos, and releasing free tracks, and they are happy to reciprocate.
It was this reciprocity that saw Short Stack take out Channel [V]’s Oz Artist of the Year 2008. According to lead singer, Shaun Diviney "Our fans are very, very rabid and really into what we do. If we ask them to vote for us they'll do it furiously and really get behind us," (source). Those fans got behind them in 2008 to the tune of 400,000 votes – to see them beat Silverchair and The Presets for the award. Those aren't just fans... they're fanatics. And it is fanatics you need if you want your debut release to topple the King of Pop.