By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News website
Essex rock band Koopa could become the first unsigned group to land a UK top 40 hit thanks to new chart rules.
Koopa have built up a fanbase on the internet and on the live circuit
Their download-only single Blag, Steal & Borrow is on course to enter Sunday's top 40, early sales figures suggest.
Chart rules were changed at the start of January to count all digital single sales, even if there is no CD version.
"It's fantastic that a band like us can have an opportunity to put ourselves into the top 30 with Razorlight and U2," manager Gary Raymond told the BBC.
Until 1 January, an artist needed to release singles on CD or another physical format - and therefore have a record deal - to qualify for the chart.
But bands who sell songs themselves through approved download services are now eligible.
Koopa were at number 17 in the unofficial midweek chart - based on Monday's sales - and are expected to end up in the lower half of this week's top 40.
"With the new rules, it does give hope for genuine talent," singer and bassist Joe Murphy said.
"You don't need to be dictated to by the big boys, by the record labels.
"You can release a song and if you've got the fanbase and people buy it, you'll get into the charts - it's great."
Other unsigned bands with healthy followings were likely to follow suit, he said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few more but it would be great if we could be the first."
Koopa, from Colchester, have been together for seven years in various forms and have built up a fanbase on the internet and on the live circuit.
They have played almost 500 gigs in the past three years, including a headline show at the Mean Fiddler in London last summer.
Record labels have already contacted them on the strength of this week's chart showing.
"It's absolutely out of this world and fingers crossed it could be the start of a good career for us," Murphy said.
"If someone comes along and gives us an offer, we'll talk to them.
"But it depends whether we need it. If we can get enough exposure and get in the top 40 by the end of the week, do we necessarily need a large label?
"Probably nowadays, no you don't. We'll get the exposure ourselves just from being in the charts."
Their success is a result of years of hard work, he said.
"It's not easy to get people buying, and we've done quite well because we're quite big on things like MySpace so we've been able to advertise ourselves via the internet.
"But it's not as easy as people think, even with the new rules. They need to be genuine bona fide sales."
The live experience is just as important as sites like MySpace, according to Mr Raymond.
"There's no point being an internet band. You've got to be a live band and you've got to be able to hack it."
The bulk of Koopa's followers are teenagers who are buying the single using a mobile phone rather than an online store, Mr Raymond believes.
It costs £1.50 to send a text message and receive a code to download the song on a computer.
"The average 16-year-old doesn't have a credit card but they've got a mobile phone," the manager explains.