Following the exposure that came from A Walk to Remember, Switchfoot attracted attention from multiple record labels and ultimately signed with the major record label, Columbia Records/SonyBMG. Their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, under Columbia Records/Red Ink, represented the band's evolution from the predominantly lo-fi, indie rock sound of their early albums, toward a more layered, synth-influenced sound that helped launch the band to mainstream popularity. This shift sonically could be attributed to the fact that the album was the first to include keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas, formerly of industrial bands Mortal and Fold Zandura. Fontamillas had been touring with Switchfoot since 2000, following the release of Learning to Breathe.
The Beautiful Letdown has since been certified double platinum, selling more than 2.6 million copies, on the strength of constant touring and the huge mainstream radio hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move". A live DVD depicting one of the band's live concerts, Live in San Diego, went platinum as well, and a third single, "This Is Your Life" was released to radio. In addition, the song "Gone" received major airplay on Christian radio stations as well.
Following the runaway success of The Beautiful Letdown, a compilation titled The Early Years: 1997-2000 was released, which featured Switchfoot's first three indie albums released under Re:think records including the original artwork for all the albums. This collection has since been certified Gold, with total sales of over 500,000 copies.
In 2005 prior to the release of Nothing Is Sound Switchfoot announced that guitarist Drew Shirley (previously the guitarist for All Together Separate) had become the band's fifth member after touring with the band since 2003. Nothing Is Sound, was released on September 13, 2005, and with Shirley's inclusion saw Switchfoot's sound become even more densely layered and guitar-heavy, resulting in an album that was edgier and darker than any of their previous work. "Stars" was released as the first radio single to promote the album, and was a solid hit on mainstream and alternative rock radio stations. It was also used in ads for HBO. "We Are One Tonight" was released as the second single in early 2006, and was also featured in ads for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
The album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, an all-time high for the band, while bassist Tim Foreman attracted headlines by speaking out against the copy-protection used by the label and providing fans a detailed workaround on the band's message board, which was quickly deleted by Sony. This copy-protection is known as Extended Copy Protection, which has been identified by leading anti-virus companies as a trojan horse and a rootkit.
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