The performance lineup at this year's MTV Video Music Awards included such pop, R&B and hip-hop stars as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Adele, Bruno Mars and Chris Brown. However, there was only one act holding down the rock front: up-and-coming indie outfit Young the Giant. And within hours of the show's end, the five-piece band--a former MTV PUSH Artist of the Week--found itself on the Billboard 200 for the first time.
"We didn't know we were the only rock act until a couple days before [the show] and that made us a bit more nervous," recalls lead singer Sameer Gadhia, whose fellow members include guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bassist Payam Doostzadeh and drummer François Comtois. "With the new generations of bands, it's very hard for rock to hit that realm; we're not on top 40 radio. But playing to an audience like that at the VMAs was amazing for us."
Following Young the Giant's performance of first single "My Body," which included 300 fans from the group's hometown of Irvine, Calif., the band's self-titled Roadrunner Records album bowed on the Billboard 200 at No. 130. The full impact of the group's VMAs performance was felt the following week when the album skyrocketed to No. 42 (10,000 copies sold), according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set was initially made available through digital outlets last October; its physical version was released in January.
"We wanted to give as much of an incubation period as possible for people to discover the band," co-manager Drew Simmons of Foundations Artist Management says about the split release. "We've found a lot of value in discovery, especially when it's in an organic way. One of the roots of our campaign has been, 'Let people own this band and fall in love with the music but also feel that they are a part of this band's growth and development.' Luckily, over the past year, we've been afforded the opportunity for that growth."
The next step: fortifying the momentum. "That's our primary goal," Simmons adds. "After a year of growth, this is the band's prime opportunity to take a larger step."
Those larger steps include a tour with Incubus running until early October, an iTunes "Live From SoHo" release and, as a treat for fans, a free EP featuring eight remixes of Young the Giant songs created by fellow rock acts including Two Door Cinema Club, Tokyo Police Club and Ra Ra Riot. The EP, released Sept. 12 and available only through the group's Facebook page, also includes two winning fan submissions chosen by the band.
"They've always felt that connecting and giving back to their fans is very important. You don't always have that with an artist," says Madelyn Scarpulla, senior VP of marketing and creative services for Roadrunner.
Both the band and Roadrunner hope to make even bigger strides in the final months of 2011 and well into 2012 through the development of creative partnerships with various companies, as well as the group's headlining tours and crossing over to pop radio with second single "Cough Syrup." The track is No. 13 on the Alternative tally this week.
Conventional wisdom would've had Young the Giant performing its latest single on the VMAs. However, co-manager Ben Adelson says the main intent was to build awareness of the act. "Our thinking was to expose the band," he says. "It really wasn't to expose one song. And we felt 'My Body' [which peaked at No. 5 on Alternative] was the best one to do that.
"If you're a band that can sell albums, you can sustain a career and a live following," Adelson adds. "And that's been our focus: 'Whatever exposure we get, let's get people to go back to the album.' So far, so good."