A glimpse inside the mind of the world's most prolific musician
The verdict is still out on whether music streaming services like Spotify have made a positive or negative impact on the industry as a whole. Artists like Thom Yorke argue that these services are awful for musicians, changing the business model in a way that dramatically reduces cash flow. However, these services further allow for the democratization of new media, ensuring equitable distribution for acts large and small.
There is no shortage of lesser-known independent acts utilizing the virtually unlimited shelf space Spotify has to offer to distribute music that falls outside traditional themes and genres. An example would be Papa Razzi and the Photogs, which performs songs exclusively about celebrities, particularly how wonderful and nice they are.
Another notable act is The Passionate & Objective Jokerfan, a parody performer who creates aggressively literal interpretations of popular song titles out of context. By using the same titles as the top 40 tracks the songs are inspired by, listeners are prone to fall for a brilliant bait-and-switch tactic. For instance, when people think they're clicking on Meghan Trainor's breakout hit "All About That Bass," The Passionate & Objective Jokerfan has a lovely tune about his passion for a great fish waiting for them.
Other acts are much more direct in their intentions, such as The Strange Man Who Sings About Dead Animals. You can probably guess what his albums are about.
In case it was not immediately obvious, these three acts (and many more) are all the work of one man: Matt Farley, founder of Motern Media. From his home studio in Massachusetts, Farley, along with a few frequent collaborators, has released over 15,000 songs that are available for purchase on iTunes or streaming through Spotify. This absurd amount of constant output should immediately raise suspicion, as surely nobody could make that much music and have any of it be good, right?
While most of Farley's music does recall fond memories of slamming down on an electronic keyboard and shouting nonsense over kitschy prerecorded MIDI tracks, there is something absolutely mesmerizing about the frequency of which a Motern Media song is genuinely, objectively good. By incorporating shovelware, the preloaded sounds on a computer, into the overall aesthetic, Farley gave himself free reign to be a musical savant, experimenting with form and function to create some incredible comedic work that also serves as honestly stimulating art.
It is important to mention that Farley is an improvisational comedian in the truest sense, naturally adept at coming up with funny observations about any topic he has even a faint interest in. Despite the sheer quantity of output, there is a specificity to everything he does. This is especially apparent in his work based around classic fictional characters, as what he has to say about them also speaks volumes about the people who have propped them up as cultural icons.
In songs that are often two minutes or less, Farley tells uproarious stories about how wrong it is for Kerouac's beat hero Sal Paradise to borrow money from his aunt so he can "go on adventures," while Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire" is out of her mind for thinking she can complain about the state of her sister's house while living there rent-free. Even if you are not familiar with the source material, these songs can still be appreciated merely on the grounds that they are also extremely catchy. Slapdash lo-fi sensibilities aside, they are arguably perfect.
These are hardly isolated gems in what would otherwise be considered a crap chute; Matt Farley has produced more near-masterpiece music than most artists have produced music period. That is not even taking into consideration Moes Haven, his collaboration with fellow prolific songwriter Tom Scalzo, or the several feature-length films they have made with Charles Roxburgh. If you are faint of heart, do not even go down the rabbit hole of music Farley has produced just about a certain bodily function. You would not think there are hundreds of unique ways to address going to the bathroom in the form of a song, but be assured that there definitely are.
What Farley and Motern Media are doing simply could not have happened until a few years ago, thanks to this changing media landscape. Luckily for us, our generation's Andy Warhol does not plan to be stopping any time soon. While the Thom Yorke's of the world are hot and bothered by shrinking residuals, Farley does not seem to be complaining. He made a killing off Spotify royalties last year.
You can reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel.