Motern Media turning prolific and joyful silliness into profit
Regular visitors to this blog and listeners of the podcast should be familiar with the name Matt Farley and with his catch-all production name Motern Media.
We had Charlie and Farley on an episode of the podcast for an interview, Matt has guested as a co-host on a Woody Allen episode of the podcast, and we were very honoured to host the official commentary of his latest solo film project Local Legends.
I explain all that for three reasons:
Firstly as an explanation of why this mainly musical based bloke is appearing on this site, secondly to, up front, disclose what, some may see, as a bias in the blog and lastly in the hope that you may visit some of the links provided which would, in tiny but hopefully enjoyable ways for you readers, benefit both Matt Farley and The After Movie Diner.
Is that wrong?
Is it wrong to want even the tiny percentage of the tiny percentage that will even read this to maybe click on the links and support people who spend hours, days, months and years of their lives creating entertainment and putting it out there?
Anyway... moving on to the reason I felt compelled to write this blog. Matt Farley under the guise of Motern Media under the guise of a multitude of different band names writes songs, lots of songs, currently around 18,000 songs to be precise (yeah, you read that right) and, using the CD Baby service online, has those songs distributed to Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and Last.Fm (and probably lots of other places).
If you watch Local Legends then you'll learn the origin of this but basically Matt had an, equally prolific, indie rock/folk band with his long-time pal Tom Scalzo called Moe's Haven and despite writing 100s of pretty serious and beautiful songs about love, life, creativity, observations and dreams, they found the only songs that got any downloads/play were the occasionally silly ones they did about dead goldfish or monkeys.
Turning his attention on that, Matt started up a number of bands that sing about everything from food to your home town to your favourite sports team to poop to celebrities and much more. He even has a band that sings birthday songs for every name you can possibly think of, songs inviting every name you can probably think of to the prom and so on. Now these 'bands' are all just him, a keyboard and his incredibly creative, odd and fairly unique mind.
Some of the band names are as follows:
Papa Razzi and The Photogs
The Toilet Bowl Cleaners
The Vampire & Werewolf Experience
The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns
The Prom Song Singers
The Hungry Food Band
The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee
and so many more
The idea was deceptively simple, so simple that you will kick yourself when you read it: If a handful of songs are earning around $2 each per year, what if I had 20,000 songs and what if those songs appealed to someone, somewhere for some reason.
Of course all you need is 20,000 songs. The idea may make mathematical sense but there's the little business of creating that content. Luckily Matt is, as Bloomberg TV dubbed him recently, some sort of "unstoppable songwriting magician", I personally would've gone with wizard but, you get the point and while the "name songs" tend to be the same lyrics and tune for each one, just with the name replaced (which makes sense as you're likely to only purchase the song for you, or a loved one's name), the rest of the songs are, remarkably, mostly each different with catchy riffs, different styles, a variety of keyboard produced instrumentation and all produced well.
Each album that Matt uploads costs him $50. Doing research he found out the maximum songs he could upload at any one time was 100. While not every album has that many songs, the 'name songs' obviously do. He then thought about all the things he could sing songs about that might be popular: sports, animals, vampires and, eventually, of course... poop. He even includes his telephone number everywhere with his films and music so if you want a song written about you, your family, your friends or your favourite thing, you can!
Just call (603) 644-0048
It would be the poop songs that would attract the attention of a couple of comedians Brandon Walsh and Randy Liedtke from California who run The Bone Zone Podcast. They also discovered his phone number and called him up one evening on their show and, to their surprise, he answered. The very next week they had him on for a whole show as a guest. This increased Motern Media's twitter traffic and, recently his prolific song writing, along with the genius concept behind it, has attracted the attention of an NPR show, The Guardian Newspaper, A TV News show in Australia, Bloomberg TV and various musical and entertainment bloggers around the web.
While us fans and friends of Matt rejoiced in his burgeoning recognition, what has surprised me, however, has been some of the negative responses Matt's work has received. Like or dislike the songs as you wish, of course, people saying the music is bad is not something that surprised me or bothers me, it's the people who are saying what he is doing is bad.
There have been declarations of 'spamming Spotify' and 'figuring out vulnerability in algorithms' and one blog comment even went as far as to hilariously and histrionically call it 'fraud'.
While some comments about the 'worth' of the music grate a little as it assumes there should be some official standard by which something is considered actual 'music' (which if you spend 30 seconds listening to the crap in the pop charts you'll realise is laughable), the real reason I wanted to write this blog, in the first place, was to address the spamming comments.
How is, what he does spam, playing on vulnerabilities, conning people out of their money or fraud?
Seriously. I want to know.
Just looking at streaming for a moment:
The facts are:
- Matt makes a fraction of a cent every time a song on Spotify is played. A tiny tiny amount.
- The streaming services, like Spotify, account for less than half of the $23,000 that is being reported that he earn doing this last year.
- Spotify is, mostly free. I understand there is a premium service that does away with ads and allows you to download stuff etc. but the individual tracks are still free.
- Spotify is filled with content from everywhere, including cover versions, karaoke versions etc.
So, let's do an experiment:
Let's say you're really really stupid. Ok? Just for the purposes of exercise. Let's say you search 'Radiohead' on Spotify. Let's say, after scrolling past ALL the Radiohead tracks (of which there are 100s) and all the other bands cover versions and karaoke versions (of which there are also 100s, many with exactly the same track name as the Radiohead original) and let's say you THEN come across 1 solitary song called 'I'm Losing Interest in Radiohead. I am Feeling Disillusioned' by The Passionate & Objective Jokerfan and in a moment of utter delusional stupidity think that it's a new track BY Radiohead and you accidentally play this song.
Do you know what that's cost you, except maybe your time (which if you have got this far is clearly endless)? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Zip. zilch. nout. zero. nada. etc.
So where's the swindle? where's the spam?
Even if we take a look at a pay for product like iTunes the story is the same. I was fascinated to learn of all the independent, solo, individuals and bands which have cover versions out there to buy with exactly the same track name as the Radiohead original. Matt's Radiohead track is buried under thousands of other songs. The only way I found it was by ordering the artists alphabetically and scrolling down to the Ps and I am only able to do that because I know it's there!
Even then, if you buy that song accidentally, you're out 99c and learn not to do it again.
So, I am sorry, this accusation that he is spamming anything or scamming anyone is an absolutely laughable joke.
Others have said that by focussing on trending topics or populist words that he is somehow doing something wrong. These people rarely qualify what exactly that is but I suppose praying on the minds of people who uncontrollably throw money at songs about their sports teams or vampires or poop?
Or maybe that he is doing tacky, populist work solely to make money? that somehow the pursuit of money is evil (despite it literally being the pursuit of EVERYONE).
Well, firstly, if you want a good art versus commerce debate I seriously suggest you watch Local Legends as it examines the problem faced by many struggling independent artists in, possibly, one of the best ways I have ever seen. Secondly, the accusation, that Matt is in this life only for the money is ridiculous if you actually listen to the songs, watch his films or ever have the decided pleasure to meet the man. I wager you could probably make more money getting naked online or writing Twilight fan fiction or getting naked enacting Twilight fan fiction. There's definitely got to be an easier and less creative way than coming up with 18,000 songs, or even, if you want to split hairs and say some of those 18,000 have the same tune, 9,000 songs. Hell most so-called 'real' artists/musicians out there today struggle to write 10 and you'll throw money at them.
Even taking your opinion on the quality of the finished product into account OR even taking opinion out of it all together, he recently has released albums about transportation, things around his house and is working on an album about clothes. Big high money makers there I am sure.
Also if you meet the man, he'll give you free stuff, if a blogger wants to review his films and he has a spare copy of them, he'll mail them out for free. After getting free copies of his films to review myself I tried to go to the film-makers Schock Marathons site to buy a t-shirt and another DVD they had and they sent the purchases along with another FREE t-shirt and a baseball card from one of the characters in their film!!
Matt even leaves his Moe's Haven CDs on sidewalks, in stores, in bus-stops and when he's out for walks, just lying around for anyone who wants them. For years he definitely spent way more than he made.
I like to believe that the world needs more silly. It just does. You look out there and everything is oppressive or serious. The news, economy, politics and religion are all horrible, all films and TV have to be gritty and 'real', even Mr. Primary-colours himself, Superman, has to have stubble and kill people and so we need silly. I know Matt loves recording songs, I know it because he said it but I also know because I record songs myself and sometimes it's not the thrill of writing the perfect song or rhyming some convoluted lyrics together that I look forward to but rather the act and excitement of recording itself. Putting a song together. Editors get the same thrill from editing and they didn't even create the content they're editing in the first place.
I think Matt does what he does to record, to be silly and to explore the world. To give out songs to people, like the people who call him and he writes a personal tune for, often giving them away for free and people, like the hundreds who have used his prom songs in cute YouTube videos for that girl at school, who they so desperately would like to just dance with or hold hands with. Is that not as artistically and culturally important as any other love song? Where's the difference between that and the boy that mimes a love song by your latest teen pop sensation to win a girl?
Also I think and hope Matt makes music to, yes, make money. I hope he makes lots of money. After all, he more than deserves it and I happen to know he has a child on the way, internet haters going to begrudge him feeding his child by writing songs?
Matt is as decent a person as you could hope to meet. A good family man, he works 3 days out of his week at a care home for troubled teenagers. He doesn't swear, he doesn't have tattoos, a mad haircut or piercings or anything and he has a child like exuberance about things like coffee milk. A coffee flavoured syrup you can add to milk. He likes to do long walks, listen to baseball on the radio and even produces a monthly, sometimes handwritten newsletter all about long walks. When he's not doing all these things, he makes low budget monster movies with his friends and family.
Please note that none of this is opinion, it's all just facts about Matt.
Come on internet cynics, do your worst!
However, let's say that deep in his black heart he JUST wants money, money, money and to do that he truly believes he's scamming you all... well I am ok with that. I liked his song about the freezer being broke so he had to eat all the ice cream... it made me laugh and it's insanely catchy!
A lot of people reading this, who may know me personally (or may not), may call me an absolute hypocrite as I have, of course, been known to criticise and attack other so-called celebrities, movies or musicians in the past. Firstly, to repeat, I have no problem people voicing their opinions about the songs themselves. Secondly, I like to believe when I am critical I do so with an informed opinion, I don't just listen to one song and attack the whole process. Thirdly, I am normally taking tiny potshots at vast wealthy conglomerates and the millionaire artists they represent, not guys living in a Boston suburb writing songs about mini vans.
I just find the Internet's tendency to so quickly poop on one of their own, out of what I can only assume is jealousy that they didn't think of it or that they don't have the ability to do it themselves, really troubling. Especially as so many of those commenting or blogging are trying to do exactly what Matt is doing in their own medium. I had one blogger tell me that all he was doing was aggregating content but he had done it with this big negative, pointed slant. Which was hilarious as aggregating content (getting popular news stories from other places and putting them on your blog so that when people search for news, your blog is one of the ones that comes up) is kind of a similar thing to what Matt does anyway!
If it is solely out of dislike for the songs themselves then people need to learn how to separate the finished article and the procedure, effort and mechanics of that finished article being there.
It's a trait all to common in lazy reviewers and lacklustre, imbecile critics everywhere and if you think I am now solely attacking internet bloggers, I'm not, this trait extends to the professionals too. Just watch a moron like Pete Travers from the Rolling Stone review an action film. It's all about why he, personally doesn't like something, masquerading as actual deep criticism about the different aspects and mechanics of the film itself.
Anyway, I am not going to change the world, I merely wanted to help people find something silly today, something inventive, creative, entertaining and just plain silly. Enjoy!