Are you an artist looking for custom song income? Or someone who just wanted to have a song written just for you? You might want to look at Songfinch. Learn more about this through our guest, Jake Tuton, the head of the artist community at Songfinch. The different artists in this community help create songs for people based on their stories and memories, which is a win-win situation for both the artist and the customer. Have an in-depth view of this tool by staying tuned in this episode.
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Songfinch: Delivering Custom Song Income Solutions For Musical Artists With Jake Tuton
I’m excited to be here with Jake Tuton from Songfinch. I have heard about Songfinch a few times from artists I work with and have been curious. I’m so glad he reached out to me because I’m always looking for other streams of income for artists and this is definitely one. I know they’re looking to expand the artists that they’re working with. Before we get into how it all works, Jake, I’d love to find out a little bit about the background of the company, like how it got started, why it got started and how long have you guys been around?
First and foremost, thanks for the hospitality and for having me. Your product, services, your bio caught my eye because I know we’re both in the business of helping artists monetize their craft. To now answer the question, when I came across you and your website, it was a no-brainer, “I need to introduce myself and say hello to this woman because we’re both playing in the same sandbox.”
Songfinch is a pretty cool company. We facilitate customized personalized songs and we have a network of independent artists, songwriters and musicians that are compensated to create and facilitate these songs. On the one side of the marketplace, we’re having people purchase custom music and get very happy when they receive it. On the other side of the marketplace, I imagine you and I will chat about helping artists figure out another tool in their toolbelt to monetize their craft.
How long have you guys been around?
Songfinch was founded in 2016. Admittedly, it probably really went full foot on the gas around 2020 or so. It was around and doing its thing, but it’s been on an aggressive climb.
I’m sure during the pandemic, it was like, “This is stuff we can do.”
Every venue shut down all over the world, so that was helpful. It’s funny. It’s carried over. We had twin brothers whose last name is Ponce and that’s their act name as well. They’re back on tour and the whole deal and they were like, “We still want Songfinch in the tool belt, even while everything’s back open.” The pandemic helped plant a bunch of seeds and now they’re blossoming.
What are the use cases? What are people coming to you for to get custom songs done?
There’s what I call the standard stuff like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and things like that. There’s the quirky, fun stuff. Someone just put in a song from the perspective of their dog to the mom. It’s a total silly Billy kind of deal. We also get some intense stuff. We’ve had some like, “Thank you for adopting me,” type things. We have somewhere people are terminally ill and they want to leave like a legacy song. We run the gamut from very intense, heartfelt all the way to, “It’s silly. Bree’s birthday’s coming up. Let’s make her a goofy song about XYZ.”
I want to explore the customer side first and then we’ll get into the artist. I want to understand what your company is offering to people. Are you fully writing songs for people or are you taking songs and rewriting the words. How does that work?
The customer pays $199, full transparency. It’s $200 and what they do is fill out a quick questionnaire. They’ll say, “I’d like a country song from a female singing voice. The occasion is a wedding anniversary.” We prompt them for some background story. “What were some of your favorite memories? Where did you people meet, etc.? In seven days or less on the customer side, they receive a beautifully curated custom song in seven days.
What is the production value that you promised them?
The production value is radio quality on the customer side. I’ll be fully transparent. We can get as granular as you’d like on the artist side. They’re getting a product that when they play it on their Spotify next to whatever they’re listening to, it would not affect the listening experience. It is a high-quality radio quality song.Songfinch helps artists figure out another tool in their tool belt to monetize their craft. Click To Tweet
Pretty much any artist that is working with you needs to be able to have access to be able to record that on their side.
On the artist side, to change vernacular a little bit, it’s what I would call a high-end demo. Right? It’s higher than a working tape. You need to be able to put a nice mix on the track, add some EQ and that sort of things, but you don’t need to send it out to get mastered and it doesn’t need to be a 64-track masterpiece. A lot of time, it’s instrumentation. It depends on the genre, but a single instrument, maybe a little bit of software instrument underneath, a nice clean mix on it and you’re good to go. Most of our artists are doing it through some kind of home, what you would call bedroom set up. I’ve got Logic in my “studio.” All this stuff, I do myself.
It’s right next to your bed. I was going to ask about the arrangement. It could be just acoustic guitar and voice or piano and voice. Does the customer make any recommendations around that or is it more about the genre?
The customer can give some recommendations around tempo. The genres, too, are laid out pretty well. A singer-songwriter is more than acceptable that it’s just one instrument and vocal. Acoustic pop is laid out for the customer. We’ll probably have a little bit more of a rhythmic driving force again. On the artist side, it doesn’t need to be fully 64 tracks again, but you’re probably going to have some drums underneath it, a shaker, or some software instrumentation.
The customer picks the mood as well. They can say, “I want this to be happy and funny. I want it to be up-tempo acoustic pop.” We know on our side, “This artist would be great for that. Let’s offer it to Bree,” in this example. Bree receives the song opportunity. You can either accept it or deny it. It’s totally up to you. If you accept it, then you would write and record the song to the information provided in the brief.
Are they entirely unique to each customer? I understand that you’ve got each customer’s information about what they want, but if I’m writing for Songfinch, could I use a melody I used before and put new lyrics to it? Are we promising that this is a never-heard-before melody and lyrics?
Each song on the customer side is 100% personalized and customized. On the artist’s side, the lyrics 100% have to be new and specific to each song. It’s not like, “Here’s a stock chorus for a wedding.” It’s got to be new lyrically. That being said, we don’t mind if you maybe repurpose a little bit of melodies or repurpose some instrumentation, not in a blatant form, but if you’re like, “I liked that melody from that one. I want to flip it into this one and reuse ideas.” That’s absolutely okay on the artist side. Lyrically, 100% new each time, no matter what.
I have to ask. How does copyright work? It’s because if I write this song and it’s 100% written by me, I own the master and all that. Are we transferring the ownership rights of the master to the person that purchases it and what’s up with the copyright?
The answer is, it’s all yours, you being the artist in this scenario. We want to be and we strive to be as artists-friendly as humanly possible. The artist retains full rights, the master, the publishing, the copyright or whatever you want to call it. We then offer the customer a personal use license so they could post it on their Facebook and things like that, but they can’t do anything to monetize it at all. The artists, because they own the copyright, save and write a song for each song and they’re like, “I like this. I want to put this on my EP or whatever. They own it. It’s completely yours.
It’s almost like an incentive to write new music and giving you more ideas to write music. I’m not going to put something on my EP about Grandma Marge’s birthday. Let’s say it’s their anniversary and their cool story of how they met or whatever. If you didn’t include names or if maybe you did include names for them, but then you wanted to rerecord it where you took the names out or change them or whatever, it could spark a cool idea for a song that could then be on your EP. I love that idea.
That’s the whole deal. We want you to be active. We want you to be constantly writing and if we can spark an idea in Songfinch land that will translate into your personal artistry or whatever the proper way to say that would be like, “Perfect. Beautiful. Do it.” It’s happened a few times when artists have hit us, like, “I dropped my EP. Check this out. This is that one song venture, this melody or this came from that.” It’s always cool to see it in a different light. That’s on the table.
How cool if the song that was written for my birthday then becomes a hit or something. I can tell everybody, “This was actually about me.”
That’s what I get excited about too. One is the song and two is the artist. We’ve got approximately 1,500 artists right now. As 1, 2 or 3 or hopefully dozens of them continue to grow in their career, let’s say they “make it” or whatever that means to become an A-lister. Could you imagine that too of like, “I have one of one song from Beyoncé four years before she was Beyoncé or whatever? That always gets me excited for that prospect as well.
I got to ask, 1,500 artists, how can you possibly be looking for new artists? Do you have enough work for that many people or is it just that they’re available in and out?
No, it’s the opposite. We’re actively recruiting artists. At this juncture, we’re doing about 3,500 songs a week. On average, our artists receive three songs per week. A giant asterisk for any of the artists. A lot of that depends on the genre and the orders that are coming through. Right now, our country orders are far surpassing our hip-hop orders because of the nature of the beats. We were getting 3,000 to 4,000 accomplished per week around here, which is so fun and exciting. We’re so grateful.
I’ve got to say I’m very impressed by that and I want to know how are you getting these kinds of sales? Where are you advertising? Any musicians here that offer custom songs on their website or whatever are like, “How do I get in on this?” What are you guys doing to get that kind of business?
A huge kudos to our marketing team. This is the educated way to say it. A lot of these are internet stuff like search engine optimization, targeted ads and things like that. One of our biggest drivers is word of mouth. Usually, when someone receives a song or makes a song, they end up posting about it and telling all their friends about it. There are a lot of repeat customers and a lot of word-of-mouth action.
We’ve got an amazing growth and marketing team as well. All of our artists also have individual pages. In theory, you could say, “I’m on Songfinch. Come book me. Link in bio.” We never pressure any artists to do that, but some artists put that tool in their tool belt as well. Sometimes it’s direct marketing from the artists themselves as well.
I’m thinking about use cases. Let’s say, for example, I wanted a custom intro, a song for my podcast, or something. Is that something you guys do?
That’s that perfect gray area. When you think about company expansion, what’s next? Another potential lane is corporate offerings and maybe it’s a higher price point and things like that. I think right now, we’re in the case-by-case mode and it all depends. This is, “It’s a neighborhood podcast. You and your buddies and might get a couple hundred listens. No problem.” If it’s number one on the charts, we’ll probably treat that as a corporate offering and do a side conversation to figure out the best price point.
If they were to use that song on the podcast, is there an ongoing license that they would pay for to do that? How does that work?
The company was built in the footprint of a sync licensing company, by the way. Our founders had a sync licensing company for the long haul. The good news is they have a high level of IQ, acumen and lexicon in that world. Let’s say it was dealing with the number one podcast in the world. They would have the acumen to figure out a new site, deal, contract, etc. If it’s straight-up through the Songfinch channels, basically all you have is a personal use license.
You can post it, but if you start getting into the monetization game, it gets a little bit more unique, but I do not want to mislead. That is not my strength. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but the good news is there are people in the building who know the right thing there. I guess the short answer is it’s a little bit of a gray area on that.
Those areas have a lot of gray, in my opinion. It’s still a little bit the Wild West with the internet when it comes to sound licensing and stuff. I feel that people are still hammering it out. It makes sense and it is the use case thing until things get regulated.
I’m sure you’ve experienced and even independent of Songfinch, I’m hearing use cases like, “I own all the rights to this music I made, but I used a sample from splice, for example. Other major artists use that same sample and now YouTube is pulling my music or whatever because of the splice, but legally I’m cleared, but now it’s getting picked up in the algorithm. There’s a whole ball of wax going on right now with it. Even though the sample is cleared, will the algorithm find it?
I’ve heard of people getting their live feed shut down for playing their own songs because YouTube said they were copyright infringing on themselves.At Songfinch, we strive to be as artist-friendly as humanly possible. The artist retains full rights on the master, the publishing, the copyright, whatever you want to call it. Click To Tweet
I love that they’re trying to protect artists. It’s like the Catch-22, though. If I go live and dozens of people are watching and there’s a Pink Floyd song in the background, I say, “Let the baby have his ball,” but also you want to protect the artist. I am an artist protector myself. If you’re an indie artist and someone’s using one of your songs and they’re monetizing it, I wanted to protect that person. I don’t know where the line is drawn and it’s blurry.
Let’s talk about the artists. They have seven days to produce a song, which I know seems like a long time, but if you’re doing a lot of things as an artist, if you’re touring, if you’ve got shows, I do the occasional demo work on AirGigs and stuff. I’m always like, “Seven days, no problem.” All of a sudden, it’s day seven. I’m like, “Shoot. I need to do this. I didn’t even realize it was seven days ago.” Do you ever have a hard time getting people to produce them that quickly? Because if they are really good artists, they’re busy.
If they are good artists, they’re busy and what a good problem to have. Our artists can come and go as they please. We ask them to notify us. Once you are an artist on Songfinch, you have a dashboard and you can just hit, “Take a break.” You go on a tour, you’re unavailable or you’re swamped, take a break and then I’m back. Our music supervision teams know if you’re in the mix or not.
Even if you’re in the mix and we offer you an opportunity, artists have the right of refusal to either say yes or no to that song. The only thing we ask is if you say yes, please see it through and honor that commitment but the ball is in your court as far as A) Are you even available and then B) Even if you are, you can say no to any opportunity at all.
You have to be communicative as an artist. If you’re offered a song you need, how fast do they have to decide whether they can do it or not?
That’s the wild part. The offer comes via email to the artists. The artists have 24 hours to say yes or no. Let’s assume the artist says yes, their window is four days and record the song because the customer window is set. They get it to us on day four. We listen, go over it with a fine-tooth comb and then get it to the customer in seven or less. It’s even a quicker turnaround, which sounds daunting, but once you get in the groove of these things and you know the wave of it and your formula, it’s not as daunting as it seems.
If you’ve got a production template set up for it and you’re doing three a week or even more, you can easily crank them out. That’s why I get all screwed up when I need to do a demo. It’s like, “I got to pull out this software or pull out the mic or doing different tasks than I usually do to set aside time and like, “Let’s switch into this mode.”
I think that’s why one of the reasons artists enjoy Songfinch. There’s a plethora I could list off, but one of them is we handle the organization. We have customer communication. You’re not chasing down the payment. You’re not doing anything like that. We handle everything you say yes or no. I’m an artist as well. I’ll do some Songfinch songs. I never try to take any food off of our other artists’ table, but sometimes we have so many words like, “Jake, can you do a couple of these for us?”
Not to be self-serving, but to say this, I use Logic Pro. I’ve got my song finished templates. I know exactly what the tracks are. They’re already mixed. Now you have to go back in and fine-tune them, but the bass is there. The template quite literally is there. I know if I’m doing a Songfinch song, I pull up a song session. There are my twelve tracks and here’s what I’m doing.
You can save so much time if you’ve got a template like that. From the customer’s perspective, after the seven days, if they listen, they’re like, “That wasn’t what I was expecting.” Do they have any right of refusal or can they ask for changes or anything?
The good news is and I don’t want to say the wrong number. Our five-star rating is 98% or something like that. We’re facilitating hundreds of thousands of songs and knock on all the wood, I think we’re at a 98% five-star. To answer your question, if they don’t like the song, but we checked all the boxes. You asked for a female acoustic uptempo, and we gave you a female acoustic uptempo. We checked your boxes. We love you but you can maybe pay a small fee to circle your way back around. Now, if the mistake is on our end of the artist’s and we’ll absolutely handle it free of charge. Consider it done.
If they said the wrong name or they said the wrong date or something.
We handle that. There is no problem at all, 100%.
That seems like a good policy.
We have a gray area too. “You guys did do it right. You did everything, but man, I would have loved if.” We’ll offer a small revision for a fee. We can go back to the artists and be like, “You did everything right, but they want you to mention if you can justify this or whatever, the sunset and the Grand Canyon where we met. Can you squeeze it in and then we’ll monetize that for you real quick. We’ll pay you for it.
That’s a great system because that gets them exactly what it is that they want. It’s not shortchanging the artists and making them go back multiple times to fix things. I love that system. One of the reasons that you have a 98% rate is because you do pretty heavy interviewing before you choose an artist. Can you let them know what the process is of how they can apply and what they’ll experience before they get chosen because you don’t just choose anyone?
You can apply on our website site at Songfinch.com under the community tab. Scroll down to the bottom. What happens there is you give us a little bit of info information about yourself and usually a link to whatever music you have, like Spotify or SoundCloud. Our team will review that link and if we say, “This would be a good fit.” We’ll invite you to take the next steps, which is an audition song, like a verse in a chorus, under a minute just to get an idea of, “Can you write? What’s the recording sound from home? A lot of times, the Spotify link you might get from an artist is recorded in a professional studio, but what are you doing from the home studio?
Audition song and then assuming that goes well, we say, “Welcome to Songfinch.” We’ll keep close ties with you in a good way for your first opportunity. Do you understand it? Do you have all the information you think? We have a great artist service and development team. Hats off to all of them. Once you’re off and running, it’s like, “Training wheels off. Go them, tiger. Have fun.”
In my experience, it’s writing for the song, which, if you have the skill set, which I know is so easy to say. It’s easy and if you don’t have the skill set, it can be a little bit of an uphill battle. It’s like getting the artists to the place of educating and encouraging them to get to that Songfinch space. We’ve got people that are amazing talents, but sometimes writing to a brief isn’t their thing.
There are also the people that they love just recording from home. They never want to perform live and this could be another stream of income for them or there are the people that have developed all these songwriting skills and production skills and they did it for fun. Now they’re retired and like, “I may as well make some money off all this money that I spent developing these skills. I think it’s a great opportunity for artists. The final question that I want to ask is how much do artists make from each song brief?
It’s a 50/50 split. $199 is the customer cost. The artist gets paid $100 for that. Of that, there’s some added incentive too. Right now, it’s $100 base. If the customer can add an additional verse, that’ll bump it up by $40. Customers are given the opportunity to add gratuity, which happens on about a third of the orders. I always tell our artists the answer is $100 and let’s consider anything else that bonus, but realistically, you might see some orders of $140, $180 or $200, but I think the safe, honest and transparent answer is $100 per song base.
Basically, it’s at least $100, but it could be more. I love that opportunity to tip. I think that’s great because the kind of people who are doing this appreciate artists and I think they might want to tip.
I’ve seen some absurdly generous tips that are the exception, not the rule. We had a $500 tip. We had a $300 tip. I think the average tip is usually $20, $30, or $40, but we’ve seen some end of the bell curve and it’s like, “That’s pretty fun.” You hit it on the head. You were saying something that sparked my thought a little bit. Our artists run everything from the gamut from someone at Belmont who is literally in their dorm room and twenty years old but has a great sound all the way up to we’ve got a couple of Grammy Award winners and people who have major cuts with like Tim McGraw. We care about all of our artists, but we speak into the bell curve. You can be at the forefront of your career or you could already be thriving. As long as the musical quality is there, we’re not overly concerned about your resume up to this point.
There are many opportunities for people at all different levels and all different career stages.
Everything you speak about and everything you educate people and artists on about the best ways to monetize. We all know that those are tools in our toolbelt. If I’m gigging out twice a week and I’m lucky enough to get a placement and I’ve got some merge and now I’m doing Songfinch. I’m missing out on all the tools you teach. You look up and you’re like, “I’m a full-time artist or musician because I pieced it together.
Songfinch wants to feed that middle-class artist that is so close, but they’re still having to do their side hustles. Our goal is like, “Let’s get you out of that side hustle. Let’s maybe with all the respect to all the side hustles, let’s stop driving and dropping off food and being a bar back. Let’s write three songs a week and be a full-time musician instead.
If you want to replace your side hustle, which is not music related with this, this could be your side hustle at first and maybe you love it and maybe you make it a full-time thing or maybe you still do it as a side. Maybe you still do it as a side hustle, but you’re also creating assets that you can use. As you said, you own these songs. Now, you have more things to submit to placement opportunities for licensing and things like that.
You’re strengthening your core crafts, which are writing, recording, and building a catalog while at the same time making money up front and building genuine, authentic fan connections. Because when these people received the songs, they were like, “I’m going to go follow this person. Slide in their DM, sing their praises and that sort of deal.” We all know the adage right now. I won’t say poetically, but it’s better to have 100 rabid fans than 10,000 passive fans. If you’re doing three songs a week and then a year goes by, you look up and you’re like, “These are all people that know my name now or at least heard my name, which is like a cool way to grow a fan base as well.
Are there any rules of how long you have to wait to release it or once you send it off to the customer, could you then release it as a single if you wanted and build some momentum around that?
The artist owns the rights. We’ve got artists that use us in their marketing tool belts and we’ve got artists that don’t use us as much in their marketing tool belt. It’s totally up to them, but if they want to build it into, “I did the song after song and I’m going to live stream how I created it. I’m going to release the same instrumental with my own different lyrics.” Please put it in as much spotlight as you want to put on that. Feel free. It’s totally up to the artist.
How amazing that the person that got the song could be like, “Now my song is on Spotify,” and they might tell people about it. You could get some plays. It all feeds into more people hearing your catalog and all of that stuff.
Stealing a phrase from one of our founders, but it’s a karma flywheel of just happiness and that sort of thing. The customer is happy, and the artists are happy. There’s not a downside genuinely because it is artists-friendly rights. Everyone’s always waiting for that other shoe to drop. We are facilitating a lot of happiness from every angle of the process.
Karma flywheel is much better than a win-win. I’m so sick of hearing people say, “It’s a win-win.”
I have a habit of speaking in metaphors like karma flywheel, win-win, rising tide lift all ships. Outside of teasing about how you say it is, all those things ring true. It’s pretty cool to be a part of.
Is there anything else you want to tell us? I think we’ve covered mostly everything. Is there anything that we’ve missed?
No, we hit everything on the head for Songfinch. I would like to reiterate my appreciation to you for both the platform and the voice you’re providing Songfinch and myself, but also, we’re playing in the same sandbox anyway. We’re both trying to help artists monetize their craft and put another tool in their toolbelt. Independent of this conversation we had, thank you because I think we’re all strengthened artists and the community of artists that exist in the world. All of the good energy and vibes to you and I very much appreciate the platform.
Thank you. I have been known to say many times that a rising tide lifts all ships and all of that. I’m a metaphor too, and I think that’s true. That’s something I’ve said from the beginning of what I’ve been doing online. You guys are part of that rising tide. Thank you so much and I appreciate sharing everything that you’ve done. How can people find you again, your website and any social media handles?
Songfinch.com. We’re lucky enough that all the social media handles are just @Songfinch on Instagram, Twitter, all the standard ones, TikTok, but our website is the place to be. I can’t thank you enough. If anyone has any follow-up questions or whatever, just shoot us a note and we’ll gladly respond to you directly.
Thanks so much.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
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About Jake Tuton
Jake Tuton (Two-tin) is the Head of Artist Community at Songfinch, a custom song company. He is also a hip hop artist under the name, Southside Jake and a voice actor. He has previously worked with Cameo and the Chicago Blackhawks.