Well, I did it.
Last year, on Sunday, May 25, 2008, I was living in Atlanta, pondering where my life was going. I had moved to Georgia in the hopes of expanding my musical fan base – okay, of GETTING a musical fan base – and, a year-and-a-half later, I found myself not making any progress, working at a restaurant with good friends (and food) that was nevertheless NOT something I wanted to do.
And so, after another afternoon of work, I went straight home. I could have gone and hung out somewhere, but I had other things on my mind…
About a week or two prior, I had been surfing online and came across a guy named Jonothan Coultran. He was an ex-engineer turned touring musician who had created a fan base for his quirky rock songs by posting up a song each week for a whole year. His fifth song, a guitar remake of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” had helped him in reaching a wider audience, with radio stations playing the song all over the country for a decent amount of weeks.
I read about this, and thought to myself, “That’s not a bad idea. I could do that. I could do that!”
The question, though, was how I would post my songs. I could start a website, I thought, but how would people even know where to find/download the songs? I already had a MySpace account, but there were already millions of people putting music on those that were getting NO WHERE.
Then, I hit upon an idea: what if, instead of just posting up a song, I posted up a video for the songs as well? That way, people would have a visual element of me to go along with my vocal element, and I could, in time, grow a fan base of people to download/buy my music?
So, on that fateful Sunday, I headed back home and got to work. I opened up this website, and posted my first video – a song called “Erectile Dysfunction,” a parody of Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction” that I had posted a video for back in December of 2007. When I started the site, it was about 10 minutes before midnight, the start of Monday. In those 10 minutes, I started to think about what starting this site, and this project in general, would mean:
* Was I REALLY about to commit to a year’s worth of videos?
* Would I even be able to come up with a minimum of 52 different concepts?
* What if I got too busy, or moved, or someone died – would I still post up a video on that week’s Sunday, or would I give myself some leeway and say, “eh, I’ll make it up next week?”
* And – most importantly – would it work? Would doing these videos REALLY help give me the exposure I wanted?
After thinking about it for 5 minutes, I said to myself: “Y’know what? Let’s do it! I don’t know if I’ll be able to post a video up each week, but I’m certainly up to the challenge.”
And with that, I posted my first video, with 5 minutes left to spare. From then on, it was all systems go…
As I lie here on my futon in my bedroom, from my apartment in sunny California, I think back to the day I started this journey. And it still amazes me all that happened…
By now, those of you who have followed my story know what happened, but for those of you stopping here for the first time, I’ll summarize:
Above: The video for song #5, A.P.T.’s Lil’ Wayne “A Milli” Parody, “Obama Obama” (re-dubbed “Obama Milli Remix by the public).
I created a parody of Lil’ Wayne’s infectious “A Milli” song, “O-bama Milli Remix.” The song was turned into a summary of all things Obama, with the background words “A Milli” replaced with “Obama”‘s instead. I thought of it while walking around at work one day waiting for customers to come in, and I burst out laughing.
I wasn’t even going to make it into a song because I couldn’t find the beat without the words “A Milli” being said in the background, but I used my Fruity Loops music program to remake the beat. Then, using my H2 Zoom talk radio mic, I recorded myself saying “Obama” 12 times, then cut and paste it through the rest of the song. Then, after spending 2 days writing the song and figuring out how to flow on it like Lil’ Wayne, I recorded my verses and did a final mix-down. That Saturday, I recorded the video, and posted it on YouTube that Sunday.
When I posted the video, I placed it on my Facebook wall, as well as the walls of some of my friends, most of whom went to college with me and were familiar with my parodying of songs since I used to do it for my phone message machine Freshman year. (And Sophomore year, and junior year…) I also sent it to a few of them via e-mail. From then on, I didn’t think too much about it…
…until I noticed that it was getting quite a few views on YouTube. In the first 2 days it received about 100 views, which was impressive to me at the time. I figured the video would die down after a few days like my other ones had.
Boy, was I wrong.
Over 10,000,000 video views (thanks, in large part, to the number of re-postings of the song on other people’s YouTube & MySpace accounts), and countless world-wide radio plays later, it amazes me how I wasn’t able to see this coming. Part of it was probably because people told me I couldn’t sell the type of songs I do – namely, funny songs and parodies – to the public. I think they thought that was reserved for white people like Weird Al or something.
Regardless of what I thought at the time, though, the song WAS very successful. No, I didn’t get a lot of money from it since I didn’t know how to get it to iTunes, Amazon, or any of those other sites until recently (though, amazingly, I AM making money from it now, despite the song being 11 months old). And yes, there were people out there who tried to take my song and claim it as their own (Industry rule #4080: industry people are SHA-DY!!).
The reason I wasn’t too mad about any of it, though, was because the song helped me do what it was I wanted the project to do: (a) shine a light on my writing skills, (b) get a song of mine on the radio, and (b) give me enough exposure to help get me to “the next step,” whatever it may be.
Don’t get it twisted, though. There are still times when I look back and think: “Man… if only I had done this, or done that, I could have really capitalized off the song, gone touring, and other stuff.” I think everyone who’s had what I called “unexpected success” has that feeling, especially when they finally learn about the ways in which they COULD have done something better. At the same time, though, had I not gone about doing this whole project the way I did it, I may not have even been here in Cali right now.
Who knows what would have happened if I actually HAD gotten the fame and accolades that normally come with having a hit song? I might have gone on tour for a bit, but I could have ended up being a “One-Hit-Wonder”. I mean, I still COULD end up being that; however, I would have started doing shows and forgotten about doing a video each week, meaning I wouldn’t have had the motivation to train my brain each week to come up with video scenarios, practice my directing skills, and other things needed to really function out here in California. By NOT getting those accolades, I basically had no choice but to put myself through film school for a year, teaching myself each week how to edit, light a “set,” use certain computer programs… it’s really all in how you look at it!
Now that the project is complete, what are my final thoughts? What have I learned from doing all these videos?
1. TRULY, EXCUSES ARE LIKE @$$HOLES: THEY ALL STINK.
What I mean by the above statement is this: Back in the day, when I’d hear someone give me an excuse for anything, I’d take it at face value. Now, though, I realize that, if someone truly WANTS to do something, they’ll figure out a way to do it, no matter what.
I managed to make a video and post it up EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY for 52-weeks in a row. If I was sick, I’d put up a video. If I had to go out of town, I’d put up a video. If I moved – and I moved TWICE in the last year – I’d put up a video. If my computer crashed, slowed down, or – in one freak incident – the cord stopped working, I’d managed to get it fixed by Sunday… IN TIME TO POST UP A VIDEO.
So now, when people give me an excuse, or try to flake out on me, or say, “gee, I know I said I’d do this, but I just can’t”… to me, it’s B.S. Of course, I don’t TELL them that, but I’m definitely thinking to myself: “this excuse wouldn’t even be spoken if they WANTED to do it!”
2. STICKING TO A COMMITMENT CAN BE TOUGH AT TIMES… BUT IT’S WORTH IT.
I cannot begin to think of all the times I wanted to quit doing this project.
Sure, it was fun – especially once I had a hit video that everyone and their Mom wanted to here – but not every week was a walk in the park. There were times when I couldn’t think of a video concept until the last minute, or people who agreed to help with a video would pull out at the last minute. Not to mention the times I had to work on Sunday and stayed up all night Saturday editing a video, or spent 9 hours editing a video because my slow-as-molasses PC couldn’t handle the large amount of memory my videos was asking it to handle.
But, even when going through all those tough times, there was always a part of me that said, “You’ve made the commitment, and you’ve got to make it work.” And, regardless of how much agony I was going through to make some of those videos, I was always happy at the end simply because I was able to post the video and follow through on the commitment I had made.
3. WORKING BY ONE’S SELF CAN BE PROGRESSIVE… BUT THINGS MOVE QUICKER IF OTHERS ARE INVOLVED.
As much as I liked making videos by myself, I learned that having others to help you out can certainly take the load off.
Now that I’m in Cali, I’m making new videos for another site I’m working on. Because I don’t have to do everything, I’m more relaxed and able to focus on the parts I’m good at. The camera work, business aspects and negotiation parts are handled by others, while the creative aspect is handled by me.
I used to think that I could get famous on my own, or make a lot of money by doing it all by myself. And I still believe that. I just believe that it would take LONGER, and working with others is a better way to get money FASTER.
4. WHEN I DO FINALLY GET RICH, I AIN’T TELLIN’ NOOOOO-BODY.
I didn’t get rich off the “Obama Milli Remix” song. What I DID get, though, was people contacting me that I hadn’t heard from in YEARS.
Some of the messages I got was to congratulate me on my success, and to them I’m grateful. However, some people sent those “hey, when u make it big, don’t forget about me” messages that really piss me off. I’m like, “I’m sorry, but aren’t y’all the same people who wouldn’t return my Facebook/MySpace/Hotmail messages BEFORE the song came out??”
With that said, I’ve learned that the vultures are out, and it’s probably best to keep the number of any large amounts of money I make to myself. Heck, I’ll probably end up dressing worse than I do now and driving a bummy-looking car just to throw off the gold-diggers!
And, most importantly…
5. THE EASIEST WAY TO SUCCESS IS TO “LET GO AND LET GOD.”
I grew up in a family that was (and still is) heavily involved in church. Like any kid, I absolutely HATED going to church (and I still do – it’s the whole “public displaying of praying” I hate. Like, why do I have to put on a show for others to prove I have a relationship with God?).
However, I’ve always believed that God would take care of me, no matter what I was going through, and that He would be the one to lead me towards the successes I needed to have. What’s funny to me is, most people who go to church worry from day-to-day about how, if, or when they’ll be able to achieve their goals, or if they are even possible. Me, I don’t go to church (momentarily – still looking for a church in CA), yet probably live more by faith than any church-goer I know.
Think about this: I’ve been trying to figure out how to afford to move to California for-EVER. Who else but GOD could have allowed my song to get as big as it did, have the video/song go worldwide, have it get noticed by people out in Cali who just HAPPEN to be doing projects of their own, and make things happen so that I end up in Cali so I can further expand upon my success??
Bottom line: if you don’t have faith in GOD and faith in yourself, you’ll never be successful. God wants his people to be successful, but if a person isn’t willing to let go of their worries and be mindful that God is doing his half (so long as you’re doing yours), there’s no reason for him to help you.
And that’s it! The project is done. So, what’s up next? I can’t say too much just yet, but all will be revealed soon….
In conclusion, though, I am so grateful for all the experiences I had in the past year, and I’m glad I have a time-capsule of videos documenting various periods in that year. And to all those that helped out with my videos and songs in anyway, your friendships and extended hands were, and still are, truly appreciated!