Walk Off the Earth viral hit of week: YouTube

From left to right, the band members of Walk off the Earth members (from left), Joel Cassady, Gianni Luminati, Sarah Blackwood, Marshall and Taylor, are shown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

TORONTO - Online videos all-too-frequently get classified as "viral," but there's no disputing that Burlington, Ont.-based band Walk Off the Earth is now a veritable web sensation.

Even YouTube itself has declared that the independent band's cover of the song "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye is the viral hit of the week with more than 17 million views.

In the video, the band performs the song with all five members clutching and playing the same acoustic guitar. One taps the guitar's body for percussion while the others strum, pluck or hold down strings.

The band was confident the video would be popular but wasn't expecting millions of hits and praise from the likes of Russell Crowe and Alyssa Milano, said band member Sarah Blackwood.

"We kind of had a feeling people were really going to like it, mostly because of the idea of five people on one guitar hadn't been done before," she said.

"I had a feeling when I woke up in the morning that it was going to be good ... and we had planned for this moment as a band, we just didn't know it was going to happen this time."

It took a couple of weeks of rehearsal and about 30 takes before the band was ready to share the video, Blackwood said.

The viral hit has given a boost to the group's other videos too. YouTube says in the span of about a week the band had more than 20 million views overall. Other unique covers that have surpassed the one-million-view mark include renditions of "Someone Like You" by Adele and "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO.

The band also found itself at the top of the iTunes Canada singles chart with the "Somebody That I Used to Know" cover.

But their web success so far hasn't translated into much money, since their most popular videos have been covers and not original songs.

"There is a little bit of money involved but it's not a big amount and it's a lot of work," Blackwood said.

"We all work different jobs, even if one of our videos gets 300,000 plays if it's not your song you don't make the money off of it.

"But for us it's good because you get the attention and then when you do put an original song up, more people watch it."

The band had an original tune, "These Times," ready to upload in the aftermath of the viral attention.

They're travelling to the U.S. this weekend but Blackwood was coy about who they'll be talking to, other than to say, "we're going down there to view some options on expanding our careers as musicians."

But they hope the attention they've received this past week will mean they can focus on their music full time.

"People can make a living off having a steady income from YouTube but we're definitely not there yet," Blackwood said.

"We don't want people to think we're just a one-hit YouTube sensation off somebody else's song, we're hard-working musicians, we have a lot of great original stuff, and we hope we can do this now as a job for real."


On the web: "Somebody That I Used to Know" performed by Walk Off the Earth http://bit.ly/zIzMfQ