Long before the prolific Toronto-based musician Andrew Huang became a YouTube smash and branded content producer for Netflix, Google, and other ginormous clients, Huang made a living writing and recording short, personalized songs for people under the title Songs to Wear Pants To.
Huang wasn’t the first musician to offer personalized songs.
American singer-songwriter Parry Gripp (lead vocalist and guitarist for the pop punk band Nerf Herder) was doing the same, and went on to write music for television and advertising. Yet Huang remains one of the biggest, most creative pioneers, and the field of personalized songs has only grown.
- Some weeks ago, for example, the personalized song startup Songfinch received $2 million in seed money from investors like the Weeknd, XO Records CEO Sal Slaiby, and Alantic Records CEO Craig Kallman.
- On August 18th, 2021, Bring My Song to Life CEO Mylène Besançon announced, “To the best of my knowledge, Bring My Song to Life is the first music-as-a-gift service that lets clients hire their favorite artist,” and unveiled a roster of celebrity singers for hire that included Anne Reburn, Adam Barta, James Maslow, and Michael Starr (lead singer for the comedic glam metal band Steel Panther).
- Other companies currently offering personalized songs include Songlorious, Romance Outsourced, and Tuneriver.
Like Huang did, the new personalized song companies work from lyric ideas and musical genres suggested by clients, and generally offer quick song turnaround. They also tend to offer choices of song length with corresponding pricing that varies depending on the complexity of instrumentation.
Generally, personalized songs go for around $50 for a 30-second song to $150-$500 for a full three-minute song (or about the same prices Huang charged when he was starting out).
What Set Huang Apart
Three things primarily set Huang apart from competitors:
Cue up any sample song from a current personalized song company and you’ll basically hear nice regular songs that can be called radio-friendly, with straight-ahead lyrics and composition. And there’s nothing wrong with nice regular songs. If there wasn’t a market for them, personalized song companies wouldn’t be growing. Yet Huang (like Gripp) carved a niche right out of the gate with humorous, wildly creative songs that were so unique, they immediately grabbed widespread attention. Customers quickly started lining up, and soon, companies came knocking.
Said more simply: Huang immediately stood apart from competitors by not trying to sound like a regular songwriter.
Personalized song companies tend to have numerous musicians in their creative stables, and that makes sense. People are interested in all kinds of musical genres, and musicians tend to specialize in certain genres. So, having a stable of creators ensures companies can deliver on any (or most) song requests by customers. Yet this does not ensure a steady payday for creators. If a company mainly gets requests for country songs, for example, and one of its musicians writes rock, that musician may not get much work.
As an independent musician, Huang was versatile enough to write songs in many different genres and thereby place himself in a position of steady customer delivery and income.
When musicians sign with a personalized song company, they sign up as agency clients in a B2B model (or, business-to-business model). That means, creators only receive a portion of any payment made to a company. (Taking a cut is how personalized song companies pay their bills and stay in business.)
Creators also don’t really make a name for themselves. Yes, personalized song companies tend to feature an Our Artists page. Yet they’re really not in the business of promoting any single creator, and when a customer receives their personalized song, the customer effectively only knows the name of the company that delivered it.
Huang (and Gripp) worked for themselves. They marketed their own names, found their own clients, and delivered personalized songs directly to customers (or, B2C). That meant, they became their own brands and received 100% of all payments.
- The personalized song market is growing, offering musicians full-time or sideline income opportunities.
- Embracing uniqueness, versatility, and B2C modelling may be the best way to realize those opportunities.
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