Meet the Man Getting Rich Off Viral TikTok Songs About Poop
If you’ve used TikTok lately, you may have noticed a bizarre new meme: name poop songs. The popular app allows users to attach a short clip from nearly any song to their posts. In addition to current hits and classic songs from bands like the Beatles, TikTok’s music library contains something much stranger: personalized name poop songs. Thousands of them. The songs are the work of one man. And they’re earning him tens of thousands of dollars.
Name poop songs are simple. In each song, a man’s voice sings a name over and over, interspersed with the word “poop,” accompanied by original music from a variety of genres. There’s a name poop song for nearly every common name. In mid-2020, TikTok users started entering their own names and the word “poop” into the app’s music search engine, then filming themselves reacting or lip-syncing to their personal name poop song. The resulting videos quickly became a TikTok sensation. Several have received hundreds of thousands of views, and the craze has spread to other platforms. Celebrities including Charlie Puth and Billie Eilish have gotten in on the action.
Who’s behind these songs, and why would they possibly want to spend hundreds of hours singing about poop? Name poop songs are the brainchild of Matt Farley, one of the world’s most prolific musicians. In 2008, Farley made a strange discovery. When he uploaded original songs by his band Moes Haven to streaming services like Spotify, some of their music did okay. But if a song happened to have a popular keyword in its title, like a celebrity’s name, it performed far better and earned much more—on average, $2 to $8 per year in streaming revenue at the time—than the band’s other music.
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Farley divined, correctly, that users must be going to services like Spotify and searching for random keywords, like “Tom Cruise” or the name of their hometown. As Farley told me via email, “A lightbulb went off over my head!” To have a successful music career, he says, “All I had to do was make 20,000 songs like that!!” Farley devoted himself full-time to creating original songs about nearly every topic he could imagine. Over the past decade, he’s spent up to 12 hours per day on the project. As of 2021, Farley has created more than 21,000 songs, which have been published under 70-plus artist names. His music earns him more than $65,000 per year.
As Farley built his streaming music empire, he noticed another curious trend. Songs about bodily fluids, farts, and poop tended to perform unusually well. Farley guessed that kids were getting access to their parents’ Spotify accounts and entering funny words into Spotify’s search engine to see what would come up. Naturally, Farley leaned into this trend and started producing songs specifically about such things as poop, pee, and vomit, mostly published under the aptly named fictitious band The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee.
After writing hundreds of songs about poop, Farley had covered about as much musical ground as the topic would allow. So he mashed up his poop song concept with another popular song type he’d discovered: birthday name songs. These feature Farley singing variations on the words “happy birthday” with various common names inserted. People often send them to friends or family members as a birthday greeting. Farley subbed out the birthday lyrics for the word “poop” and composed new original music to accompany his singing. He sang hundreds of variations with different names and uploaded them to his platforms. The name poop song was born.
When I asked Farley if he was concerned that others would begin producing similar songs and steal his fans, he told me, “I don’t think anyone else would want to bother working this hard.”
At first, name poop songs were a relatively small part of Farley’s oeuvre. But in May 2020, Farley says that his distributor CD Baby began sending his catalog of songs to TikTok. Out of the blue, Farley “started receiving lots of emails, texts, and DMs from people, asking that I do a name poop song for their unique name.” Wondering what was going on, Farley did some research and discovered that his songs had become a TikTok meme.
Delighted, he started producing more of the songs. When I spoke to Farley in late 2020, he said that he was about to produce his 1,500th unique name poop song, including more than 1,000 based on names suggested by his fans. While many of us are experiencing Zoom fatigue during the pandemic, Farley says he’s feeling “name poop song exhaustion” from producing so many of the songs and is “taking a break before it drives me completely insane!” Once he’s recovered a bit, Farley says he still has hundreds of name suggestions to work through and plans to resume creating the songs later in 2021.
Farley isn’t just doing this out of the kindness of his heart or a fascination with the subject matter. Name poop songs are a big business. According to Farley, TikTok has yet to pay him directly for his songs. (CD Baby says in a help article that it’s working through a large back catalog of TikTok submissions, so presumably the revenue reporting process for TikTok is also lagging.) He told me that he’s “read articles suggesting that it’s not going to be a lot of money,” but that he’ll “wait and see.”
What Farley does know, however, is that the exposure his music has received as a result of his TikTok fame is already boosting his earnings substantially on other platforms. According to Farley, when name poop songs went viral, it “resulted in lots more streams on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, [and] Amazon Music.” Over the summer, Spotify listeners for the Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee doubled from 8,000 per month to 16,000. Farley estimates that TikTok traffic to that artist alone is earning him an additional $2,400 per year in streaming revenue. Overall, Farley says that his poop songs have earned him “tens of thousands of dollars.”
The money is surely part of the “why” behind name poop songs, as well as Farley’s other music. But as he shared with me, his true motivations run deeper. In his words:
“I’ve been obsessed with creativity since I was a kid. As I got older, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep doing so many creative projects if I wasn’t earning money off of them. So, even though it’s painful to sing 100 songs in a day, in which each song is the same, just with a different name each time, I look at it as just another step in the process of turning my creative projects into something I can continue to do full time.”
Farley also finds fulfillment in “having removed mystery from the creative process,” turning something like creating music into a daily practice which requires “work and dedication,” rather than a mysterious one built around “inspiration.” Alongside his silly songs, Farley still produces “legitimate works of art” which he describes as “masterpieces,” and he takes pleasure in projects like “writing songs about specific cities and towns” because he feels that “every city and town deserves its own anthem.” The fact that so many kids (as well as fellow artists like Puth) enjoy his poop songs brings him joy, too.
That makes Farley a strange hybrid. Earlier this year, a variety of shadowy companies reportedly discovered that they could cheat their way into making millions on Spotify by producing “ambient” songs for people to play while working or sleeping, with SEO-tuned titles designed to attract search traffic. Farley’s work is often portrayed as a similar type of hack or cheat. But Farley disagrees with this characterization. As he points out, producing 21,000 songs over ten years is a very difficult way to earn what amounts to the kind of living one could easily earn at a modest desk job. When I asked Farley if he was concerned that others would begin producing similar songs and steal his fans, he told me that “I don’t think anyone else would want to bother working this hard.”
Although he’s found and capitalized on a clever niche within the world of modern streaming music, Farley appears to be undertaking his work more out of a genuine desire to succeed as an artist — at any cost — than as a way to get rich quick or game the system.
If you want to make your own name poop song video, it’s easy. Open TikTok, create a new post, and go to the Sounds tab. Search for your name plus the word poop. Select your personal poop song (if Farley has created it already), and record whatever video you’d like. If you don’t use TikTok, you can also find your name poop song on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube music. If there’s no poop song for your name yet, message Farley on Twitter or text him at 603–644–0048 to request it.
Farley’s success with name poop songs is a testament to the broad reach of modern streaming music services — as well as the strange, viral dynamics of social media apps like TikTok. When a concept blows up on today’s social networks, it can result in the minting of new celebrities, the donation of large sums to charity, or the creation of potent new sources for revenue for individual artists and creators like Farley.
As to Farley himself, has he ever produced his own name poop song video on TikTok? “No”, he told me, “I don’t even have a TikTok account!”