Downloading, both legal and illegal, has taken a lot of the blame for the sales collapse suffered by the music industry over the last decade and change. But not every artist has a horror story to tell regarding mp3s and filesharing technology.

Just ask Mark Foster, frontman for fast-rising rockers Foster the People, whose inescapable hit single ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ started out as a free download on the band’s website. The band’s manager Brent Kredel recalls a day last spring when he received a phone call from Foster. “Mark was saying, ‘I think I just did something good,’” says Kredel, who listened to Foster tell him about the online explosion that followed his posting ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ on his site. “‘Everyone is calling me and emailing me — what do I do? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys?”

Of course, it definitely helped that a month after Foster posted the track, Nylon magazine started using it in an online ad campaign. It also helped get him out of his day job and onto stages in front of screaming fans. In Kredel’s words, “He went from the guy who couldn’t get a hold of anyone to being the guy who had hundreds of emails in his inbox.”

What followed is an object lesson for any young artist looking to leverage the web: the band used their large email database, gathered partly through those free ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ downloads, and started promoting shows while building a management team. Next came a deal with Columbia Records, a warm reception at radio, and tons of television bookings.

“How often do you see a band like this come on the scene and completely explode in that period of time?” asks Columbia exec Scott Greer. “For all of that to come together in such a short period of time is pretty tremendous. It’s a great example of the team coming together and working hard in their respective areas to develop the best band.”

Currently, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ stands at number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Rock charts.

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