Jan 082015

Prolific songsmith Matt Farley’s primary source of income is a three-day-a-week gig at a group home for teens. Gluekit | Henrique Plantikow (Farley), Alamy (Stapler, Monkey), Tony Barson/Filmmagic/Getty Images (Gosling).

Two hundred songs—that’s how many Matt Farley will record this month. That’s about 50 songs per week. He records whenever he’s not at his day job; over the past seven years, he has written more than 16,000 songs—he’s on keyboard, vocals, and occasionally guitar—available on iTunes and Spotify. Are they any good? No, of course not. But there sure are a lot of them. “I realized people will type weird stuff into search engines, and there’s not always songs for the stuff,” he says. “If you search for ‘love’ on iTunes or Spotify, you’re going to get something like 15 million songs. If you search ‘monkey,’ you’re going to get fewer.” So Farley decided to fill that gap.

The results are something between a giant, online art installation and the first true example of search-engine-optimized music. Farley says the trick is to write songs about everything: from celebrities (“Ryan Gosling, You Are a Great Singer and Actor. Will You Be My Friend?”) to office supplies, about which Farley composed a 92-song album (he recommends the one about staplers). “I’m a big fan of follow-through, for the sheer joy of it,” he says. His scheme has gotten his music out to an improbably large audience and earned him a nice paycheck in a business increasingly inhospitable to independent musicians. He made more than $27,000 in 2014, about $13.50 an hour. Farley’s goal? To quit his day job and make music, any music, seven days a week.

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