Great rock'n'roll swindle fools the father of Britpop

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It is the music scam that fooled the father of Britpop and two of the hottest bands on the music scene. A spoof indie group with no musical experience found itself on the verge of achieving overnight success after chancing its luck on the internet site MySpace.

The set-up was simple. Q magazine persuaded the office work experience student and two of his mates to pose as the ironically named Hope Against Hope.

With their Fred Perry shirts and skinny jeans, the band certainly looked the part. A "rough" demo was supplied, courtesy of a musician friend, and the results downloaded on to the website.

Within four weeks, Hope Against Hope had not only built a devoted fan base but convinced the music guru Alan McGee, one-time member of Tony Blair's Creative Industry Taskforce, discoverer of Oasis and manager of the Libertines, to sign them up for his ultra-trendy Death Disco club.

The pop industry is in thrall to peer-to-peer sites like MySpace, where fans can set up their own home page, list their favourite bands, books and films, and make "friends" with each other. When a new acquaintance is made, they are added as a link to the home page, forming networks of like-minded people. Rupert Murdoch, a belated convert to the powers of the internet, recently paid $580m to buy MySpace and its potential community of 83 million users.

Evidence of the awesome power was first highlighted when a fan of the Arctic Monkeys set up a page on behalf of the band. The buzz helped make their first album the fastest selling in British pop history.

The site is credited with creating the "queen of MySpace" Lily Allen - daughter of the actor Keith Allen - as well as helping propel Sandi Thom to the top of the UK album and singles charts. Thom's success has been mired in controversy. Some reports suggested that her famous "21 Nights From Tooting" tour, broadcast over the internet from her south London bedroom, may not have been as spontaneous as first thought - but still the record industry has been quick to clamber aboard the phenomenon. MySpace is now a vital promotional medium. As well as acting as a shop window for established bands the networks are a crucial meeting place for talent-spotters and young acts.

By accessing the pages of trendy bands like Babyshambles, and the Subways, Hope Against Hope were able to get in contact with influential "friends" like Radio One DJ Zane Lowe. After a week, they were signed up as "friends" of successful groups like Editors. After three weeks, they had admirers as far away as Los Angeles. By day 28, with nearly 600 fans, they received this message from McGee: "Send me an e-mail and I'll sort you out with a DD [Death Disco] gig."

Gareth Grundy, deputy editor of Q, was delighted. "You don't really expect you are going to get an offer of a gig from the man who signed Oasis within a month - for a band that doesn't even exist. I'd call that quite a result."