Meet Matt Farley. He works from home full-time in Massachusetts, making money by recording songs and releasing them on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon music. (You can find his work here: more than 19,000 songs so far).
As you might imagine, he's discovered a pretty clever trick that enables him to do this. You might have heard some of his songs, which he records under 72 different stage names, such as:
- The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man
- The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns
- The Strange Man Who Sings About Dead Animals
- The Guy Who Sings Your Name Over and Over
Here's his story, his secret, and just how successful this strategy is for him.
"I love Hugh Grant."
Farley is 40, a married father of two. He's been working from home like this full-time for two years, but previously he spent 17 years working in a group home and performing on the side with a band called Moes Haven.
The band had very little professional success, but they wrote a funny song called "I Love Hugh Grant" about the British actor, and it started making money on iTunes and Spotify.
Well, comparatively speaking, anyway.
"We'd write these serious songs and sell nothing. And then, whoa, 'I Love Hugh Grant' made like 74 cents last month!" Farley told me in a phone interview.
Obviously, 74 cents a month is not exactly a fortune. But Farley said he had an epiphany: "Most people would quit, but I was like, if I can make 20,000 songs that are as successful as 'I Love Hugh Grant,' I'll be doing pretty well!"
So he set out to do just that, recording song after song after song--most of them inspired by terms that people might search for on digital music platforms. And then, it started to work.
"A Song for Waterbury, Connecticut."
Farley is incredibly prolific, working from the basement recording studio in his home. Many of his creations are not exactly great art, he's the first to admit. For example, he's written and performed 1,800 songs that are literally him just singing people's names over and over.
But people search for their own names. And if they come across one of his name songs, they're likely to play others, too--just to marvel at the sheer number.
And he's written more than 1,500 songs about different towns across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. He's visited almost none of them; he just looks them up on Wikipedia.
"They're funny. They make you laugh, and there's value to that," he said. "Part of the joke is that you're like, 'Wait a second, he did one about that town? There's only 6,000 people in that town.' Half the joke is people saying, why would he do that?"
Soon he was seeing some success with songs like "A Song for Waterbury, Connecticut," "I Made This Song About Wollongong. What Do You Think of It?" (Australia), and "Rock Out to This Song About Haverhill, Massachusetts, OK?"
But nothing--nothing--prepared him for what would happen when he came upon perhaps the most-successful musical search term of all time.
"Hundreds of songs about poop."
By far, Farley's most successful and lucrative songs are about poop, pee, and all the other gross stuff that our bodies produce. And they're all really a search engine optimization play.
He has hundreds of these songs on the three big digital music services. Why? Because it occurred to him a few years ago that most little kids seem to go through a phase when they're obsessed with bodily functions.
So now, if your 3-year-old says something like, "Alexa play a song about poop!" it's Farley's work that comes up first. (As the father of a 3-year-old, I can vouch for this.)
In fact, he records this genre under two distinct band or artist names, both of which rank really well for search terms that probably nobody else will confess to trying rank for.
The two aliases: "The Toilet Bowl Cleaners" and "The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee."
"It's kind of like how a big company will have multiple brands," he said. "I just want to intimidate any potential competitors."
Just do the work.
I think the part of that last quote about intimidating the competition is at least partially a joke. But the revenue he's making from this each month isn't. It's not exactly retire-to-a-beach money, but he said he's bringing in about $65,000 a year from this kind of SEO-oriented music alone.
On top of that, he says, his wife has a full-time job, so it's more than enough to live on. Importantly, it also allows him to be at home to take care of his two kids.
Along the way, Farley says he's figured out how to cut costs, churn out music, and push the envelope on what some of the digital systems will allow.
One example: He uses Cdbaby to post his music across all digital platforms, and since they charge by the album, he said he records massively long albums, usually with 80 songs or more on them.
"Part of what I like about this is there's this whole 'tortured artist creative person' myth," he told me. "My approach is it's just going to work every day. If you force yourself to just do the work, you're going to come across some really creative ideas."