VoiceCouncil asks Mister Tim of moosebutter how his YouTube success might apply to all vocalists.
Your John Williams-Star Wars vocal tribute is nothing less than inspired. How did this come about?
Star Wars was conceived and arranged by me and the other two original members of the A Cappella comedy group moosebutter waaaaay back in 1999. We premiered it the night before Episode I opened in the US. It’s been on YouTube a few times, but it never got big.
We’ll talk about going viral in a moment — let’s talk first about the birth of this idea…
The song itself was born the way that most moosebutter material is born – out of a love of geeky stuff. Also, just a natural tendency to see the goofy humor in life.
What attracted you to adding lyrics to John Williams’ material?
We all love Star Wars and the three original moosebutter guys are fanatical musicians (We ended up with the trifecta of Masters degrees: Band conducting, Orchestral conducting and Choral conducting). A genuine admiration for John Williams inspired us to pen a heartfelt tribute to his music, along with a tongue-in-cheek, but no less heartfelt, tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy.
There’s been a huge difference between posting this on YouTube in other forms and this version, which now has almost 6 million hits! — Why?
Last summer a guy named Corey Vidal, a YouTube partner who generates content for YouTube, contacted us about making a video of the song. I thought it was a great idea and said ‘yes’. I sent him the mp3, the sheet music and we did what we could to help. Corey finished it, did the split-screen thing where it looks like he is singing all four parts, and then he posted it.
So, why do you think this version went viral?
I don’t know if it was his connections, his marketing savvy or simply because the time was right, but the video exploded. Part of the appeal, I believe, is that people really thought it was one guy singing all the parts. That seems mundane to me as I literally make my living singing all the parts to music for recordings.
Do you see this kind of collaboration as a key to YouTube Success?
A definite yes, no and maybe! There is really no way you can plan for success on that scale. Even people who are good at it say that there’s no guarantee; they’re “viral” precisely because they spring up unexpectedly.
OK, but surely there are some common factors that might apply to other vocalists posting on YouTube.
Yes there are: unusual, home cooked and low budget ideas can be very appealing to YouTubers. Quirky is key. But remember, even people with great video product seldom see this level of success – it may be that the YouTube ‘mood’ isn’t right or that something similar to your music video was posted just a few weeks ago.
Tell us more about YouTube success…
It’s not necessarily about great art or quality, unless the quality you are measuring is knee jerk laughing – stuff that evokes laughter in fifteen seconds: “Baby Panda Sneezes”, “Guy Jumps Bicycle Off Roof”– anything that has to do with skateboards and bicycles and crashes.
So maybe singers should give strange titles to their postings? ‘Singer Crashes, Sneezes and Has Diarrhoea During Concert’.
There’s our next video!
Just remember that you can produce a beautiful video to a beautiful song and it won’t go viral – but that isn’t worthless because you can still use it. Hey, if 17,000 people see it over a couple of years, you’re sure to sell more CDs and make great connections for your career.
Do you recommend that vocalists collaborate with those with YouTube knowledge?
Collaboration is a great idea, especially if you don’t have the skill with video. Many artists have contests for their fans to make videos and this can lead to collaboration. It’s no guarantee of success but it helps to have someone who knows what they’re doing.
So, you recommend gigging singers make use of YouTube?
It’s a great, free resource to get your material out there. There are singers and musicians who have gained a big following just by posting stuff on YouTube. They’re just on camera doing their thing. That kind of home-cooked, low-budget approach can generate a large following. But not every artist wants to do this, nor should they.
Is YouTubing as easy as it looks?
If it looks spontaneous on YouTube, just remember that it seldom is! I’ve met a lot of YouTube stars and they’re a business-savvy, hardworking bunch of people. A lot of them play characters in their web logs – it is a kind of work. I’ve carried on working with Corey but I’ve also been doing something on my own: check out Enter Kazoo Man and some recent videos of me ‘live-looping’ on my YouTube Channel.
So tell us: how has this success worked for you?
moosebutter has seen a huge surge in interest, both in merchandise sales and in bookings. I’ve worked with Corey on several other projects, me recording the music and he doing the video (for example, an e-Christmas card for a San Francisco consulting company). I’ve also started making my own videos, which are great for attracting new fans and as promotional/demo material!
Mister Tim is a professional singer in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He creates, directs, sings with, and composes music for over a dozen successful a cappella acts and has his own solo vocal live-looping show.