How quickly it all can happen.

A few months ago, most people had never heard of A Great Big World, the indie pop duo that recently teamed up with Christina Aguilera to give us the heart-wrenching No. 1 track “Say Something.” Recent events have spurred hefty growth in their online fan base, now they’re opening for Maroon 5 at a major venue, and performing on nationally syndicated award shows. All this exposure could prove invaluable as the band prepares to release their debut album this coming January.

In the past two months, A Great Big World has added about 20,000 new Facebook page likes, a 1,400% increase from the two months prior, and close to 80% of their current total. It is a similar story on Twitter, where their 12,000 new followers, is a bump of 2,600%, and more than 80% of their total following. They count close to 130,000 page views on Wikipedia, a leading indicator for sales, and spikes in their data coincide with key events.


Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, both 28, were students at NYU’s music business school when they first met. Axel, who had just transferred from Boston University, was looking for someone to collaborate with on music, sought out Vaccarino, and played him some of what he had been working on. “I freaked out, and said let’s write!” says Vaccarino, “and that’s how it happened.” That was eight years ago.

The band name comes from a lyric in one of their tracks, It’s a great big world, and there is no need to cry. “We felt like it was such a positive statement,” says Axel, “and that is what our music is all about.”

The pair continued to diligently pursue a career in music after college - their upcoming album is not the first release the two have collaborated on. Vaccarino first took on a management role and co-wrote on Axel’s solo album. Then they wrote “This Is The New Year,” and Vaccarino shared the stage at Rockwood Music Hall with Axel for the first time. “I’ll never forget it,” says Axel. “That was the start of the transition into A Great Big World.”

Coincidentally, this was the same track that started leading to sync placements. These started small, but soon the peppy, uplifting anthem caught the attention of the P.J. Bloom and Ryan Murphy, the music supervisor and the co-creator of Glee respectively, and while the show is typically known for covering only major hits “This Is The New Year” made the cut, and the cast covered the track in an episode this past January.

That’s when things started snowballing, and fast. Axel and Vaccarino launched the new band name the same day the episode aired. Now record labels had their eye on them, and in May they sat down with music mogul L.A. Reid and penned a deal with Black Magnetic/Epic Records. A few months later, a choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance wanted to use another one of their tracks - “Say Something” for a performance. That’s when Christina Aguilera first heard it, and immediately reached out.

The guys were blown away. “We were like, uhm… is she sure?” Vaccarino jokes.

Within weeks they had re-recorded the track as a duet with the pop star, and performed on The Voice. The support of Aguilera, who has a massive online fan base, with close to 17 million Facebook page likes, and 11 million Twitter followers was invaluable, and the performance certainly caught the public’s attention. The video itself has attracted about 1.5 million views on YouTube, and that week A Great Big World saw more than 26,000 Twitter mentions – close to a 275% increase from the week before. When the official music video for “Say Something” was released a few weeks later they saw their YouTube video views skyrocket. Since then, they have seen close to 7 million views on their official channel, an increase of more than 7000%.


“It kind of took off after The Voice,” says Axel, next they would be performing at major events like the American Music Awards and The Victoria Secret Fashion Show. “All in the past couple of months.”

“It’s impossible to process everything that has happened,” adds Vaccarino. “Because it has been happening so fast.”

A Great Big World are set to drop their debut album, Is There Anybody Out There, in mid-January, and will support the release with a headlining tour that kicks off at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. “This is everything we’ve always wanted,” Axel says, “It’s a crazy, unpredictable world, and we don’t know what to expect. We are literally expecting the unexpected every day.”

Photo Courtesy of Epic Records.

Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, Forbes, Billboard, Hypebot and more.