Saturday, January 19, 2008

Eric Hutchinson learns the power of positive blogging

How an unsigned singer-songwriter landed in the iTunes top ten on the strength of the ubiquitous gossip blogger's mention.

When Eric Hutchinson woke up on the morning of September 5th and checked his email, his overflowing inbox initially confused him. "It was like my birthday, times ten," he says. "I started reading the messages and realized that something huge had happened."

A few days earlier, a high school friend of Hutchinson’s had emailed gossip blogger Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson's MySpace page, and the self-proclaimed "queen of all media" liked what he heard enough to post a link and some effusive commentary on his site, which receives three million unique visitors a day.

In the next 24 hours, Hutchinson had 3,000 new friend requests on his MySpace page, and 30,000 spins of the songs he posted on the site. He also saw his album break in to the iTunes top ten, entering at number nine and rising to number seven. At an LA show that night, says manager Dave Morris, "there were crowds of industry people milling around, pissed off that they couldn’t get in."

Until the Perez post, Hutchinson had been just another unsigned singer-songwriter. He had been signed to Maverick and released a live record, but when the label folded in the midst of him recording an album, he was left without a musical home. In the end, Hutchinson decided to buy back the rights to his live album and release his new music on his own. With no distribution deal, he resorted to selling the album at shows and online at and iTunes. His jazzy, soul-influenced work had begun to attract some attention, and Morris says, "buzz was definitely building around Eric."

With the Hilton post, though, the buzz increased to a roar. Hilton has championed other bands in the past, most notably rockers The Gossip and pop star Mika. But Hutchinson is the first unsigned artist to benefit from Perez’s spotlight, and the increased exposure has rocketed him out of obscurity.

When asked what he plans to do next, Hutchinson first laughs and says, "retire." Then he says, "I’m going to keep touring and work on the new album. I’ve been at this a long time, and I don’t feel like an overnight success." But, he acknowledges, "Perez changed everything."

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