Smith's Cloud has an international hit, thanks to a blind kitten and a YouTube video.
In the past two weeks, the Lincoln band has made iTunes charts around the globe with its song and album "A Change of Days," all because of a kitten named Oskar and the video "Oskar The Blind Kitten and His First Toys."
The story starts in July when band member Mick Szydlowski and his wife, Bethany, drove to Iowa on an instrument-buying trip. When they stopped at a farm where he was to look at an autoharp, a kitten bumped into their car. The little cat was blind. The Szydlowskis brought him home and named him Oskar.
"That day Mick brought him a little ball with a bell inside so he could hear it," said Smith's Cloud leader Evan Todd. "He videotaped the first time the cat was playing with it."
A couple of months ago, Szydlowski put the song "A Change of Days" over the video and put it up on YouTube. Two weeks ago, the video went viral.
"It got posted on some big blogs and it kind of blew up," Todd said. "It's got over 2 million views now. I'm just delighted and surprised."
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Szydlowski has been on ABC's "Good Morning America" via Skype and MSNBC, and Oskar's story has been told by the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News and other U.S. media outlets. Now he has his own Facebook page ("Oskar the Blind Cat (Official)") and more videos online.
But the Oskar phenomenon -- and its impact on Smith's Cloud -- isn't confined to the U.S. That became clear when Todd got the sales accounting for the song and album from iTunes late last week.
"We're in the top 100 in several countries in the singer/songwriter category," Todd said. "It keeps getting crazier and crazier. All these people all over the world bought the music. People in Japan, Brazil, Argentina, the U.K., Poland, just all over bought the music."
"Bought" is the key word there. Smith's Cloud sold songs and albums rather than having them downloaded free, as is standard.
"People were interested enough to buy it," Todd said. "I got this email from a guy in Chicago who said he hadn't bought an album in years but he wanted to support us. That was really great to have people respond to it like that."
The unexpected success of "A Change of Days" has Todd a bit taken aback.
"It's strange to me to have something that I wrote in my bedroom be heard on every continent but Antarctica and have people respond in ways I'll never know," Todd said. "What does that say about the way the world works now?"
It says one thing for sure.
"The Internet loves cats," he said. "We were able to capitalize on that, I guess. We spent hours and hours working on the record. Mick just videotaped the cat for a few minutes and threw our song on it, and that's what's getting us all the exposure."