SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 10, 2013

The perfect 'promposal'

Danvers musician pens customized songs that do the asking for you

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — For countless lovelorn teens with little or no musical talent in search of the perfect prom proposal, Danvers musician Matthew Farley and his “band,” The Prom Song Singers, have just the tune that might win them a date to the big dance.

Last year, Farley, 34, came up with the idea to record prom proposals with different names. Over the course of a month, he created 500 songs with common girls names like Hannah, Angela, Janie and Abby, to sell on the popular music service iTunes.

“They are basically customized songs for people who have yet to ask for them,” Farley said.

Somehow, hundreds of boys found it, downloaded the song and used it to make a prom proposal video called a “promposal.” Some teens have even posted these videos to YouTube.

“Katie, will you go to the prom with me, to the prom, to the prom, to the prom with me,” lip-syncs a young man in one video as he sits at a piano while his friends pop up in the background to sing backup.

Last prom season, Farley, who creates music in his basement and has his own production company called Motern Media, sold about 2,500 prom songs on iTunes. He netted more than $1,500 for his efforts.

So far, Farley has stumbled upon at least 40 different videos of the prom song posted on YouTube. One of the first videos he found got 14,000 views on the site.

After graduating from Bishop Fenwick in 1996, Farley became an English major at Providence College, graduating in 2000. In college, he and a friend would churn out songs on a small four-track system. Their serious songs in the style of Bob Dylan did not sell well.

“We would write silly songs, and the sillier the title of the song, the more apt it was to sell,” Farley said.

Using a service called CDBaby, an independent online music seller, and paying $50 per album, Farley can self-publish an album on iTunes with up to 100 songs on it. He gets 65 percent of the revenue from sales. The cost to create the prom song with all those different girls names was $250.

Some of Farley’s songs only make a few dollars. The idea is if he puts up lot of songs that earn him a few dollars each, it would add up to something, and it has.

He’s now up to 12,000 songs published online.

“I have 12,000 misses that add up to one, big hit,” he said. He earns about $2,000 a month from his songs, he said.

The idea for the prom song came from an original “Happy Birthday” song by The Family Party Song Singers (Farley), in which he sang the tune 1,700 times to a different name. This song proved so successful, he tried to come up with another topic he could personalize in a song, which led to the minutelong prom song.

Farley has also created songs about food with The Hungry Food Band (again, he’s the only member). These are the kind of songs that kids might like to download, he said. He croons about the joys of macaroni and cheese, pickles, or bacon and the horrors of skim milk.

“I love coffee, I’m addicted to caffeine,” he sings in one song.

“It’s just silly enough so people will buy it as a novelty,” he said.

Farley’s also produced songs about animals with titles such as “Cute, Cuddly Kittens.”

There are novelty sports songs, too, themed for different teams. He wrote a song called “Tom Brady’s Back” when the Patriots quarterback came back from a knee injury in 2009. A couple of years ago, one of his sports songs was played on a nationally syndicated sports talk radio show, “The Dan Patrick Show,” and sales of this album spiked, Farley said.

There are other genres, as well. Farley’s band, The Toilet Bowl Cleaners, has not one, but seven family-friendly songs about poop. On one song, he sings “poop” over and over for two minutes. On another, he replaces the words to “Jingle Bells” with the word “poop.”

What hasn’t sold well? Personalized marriage proposals, for one. Farley has sold only about 20 of them.

“I did that,” Farley said. “Flop. The reason being is you can do a silly, fun song to ask a girl to the prom, but to propose, it needs to be a little bit more serious.”

Every few years, using the money from the song sales, Farley will make an old-fashioned horror movie. He’s just coming out with his latest, filmed around the North Shore and New Hampshire, starring his friends, family and co-workers, called “Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You!”

Making music and movies does not pay all the bills, though. Farley works at a group home for teens called Webster House in Manchester, N.H.

“It’s more than a hobby, for sure,” Farley said of his music. “But it’s good to have a day job, too.”

Farley, who formerly lived in Salem and was married in June, even had his wife, Elizabeth, create a girl version of the prom song, singing the tune to 200 boys names.

As to whether the prom song will get you a date, Farley can’t guarantee that. Every now and then, however, he will stumble upon a comment to a video in which the object of affection says “yes.”

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.