Last week, as I caught up on my backlog of podcasts, I heard a song on net@nite that Amber and Leo were laughing — hard — over. The tune was “Codemonkey” and a fan had posted a video to go along with it on YouTube. [Watch that version here.]
In fact, it turns out that there were a lot of user-created videos built around the song.
I watched several, thoroughly enjoying the catchy tune with a techie humor twist. Here are my favorites, in no particular order:
- The Codemonkey Dance
- Jocopro’s early homage
- A mashup of Codemonkey and Traders, a Canadian TV show
- Another mashup, this time of Codemonkey and the animated virtual reality of the Sims.
- There was even a WoW version of Codemonkey, perfect for MMPORG geeks like me.
Little did I know that yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Magazine would feature an article, Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog, by Clive Thompson, that would provide both a backstory for Codemonkey! The piece delves into the daily life of the musician (Jonathan Coulton) that wrote the song and explores at length the changing face of music, artistic expression and artists’ control over their work.
There’s a great video exploring how Codemonkey became a viral hit at nytimes.com as well.
Jonathan quit his job as a computer programmer 21 months ago to become a full-time singer and songwriter. Ten years ago, that might seem, on the face of it, either very ambitious, wildly inadvised (as the .com boom ramped up) and touchingly naive. Maybe all of those things. Whatever concerns he (or his wife) may have had, his discipline and passion, along with considerable talent and energy, have turned him into one of new media’s successes. Every week, he writes a new song, which he then publishes and markets online. In the process, he’s built a widespread fanbase and a reasonable income as an independent artist.
Not everyone can pull this off, of course. Just read the Wall Street Journal’s Tech section’s cover story today,”How to be a Star in a YouTube World.” It’s a great piece that drives home both the shift in the media landscape and the challenge in getting your voice heard in the increasingly-frenetic mix of artists on MySpace on YouTube. Thousands vloggers, podcasters and aspiring artists like Jonathan are all using a combination of these platforms to create, syndicate and, increasingly, monetize content. It’s not easy, but for those who have the time and talent, like Ask A Ninja, LonelyGirl15 or Rocketboom, it can work. It’s important to note the amount of writing, production, editing and marketing that is necessary for that success: the Ninjas, for instance, can take up to 18 hours for each 3-minute short.
Can the Web can allow more funny, creative artists like Jonathan to make a living? What do you think? Do you buy the premise of the articles?
And which version of the Codemonkey video is your favorite?