When you upload one of your songs to MP3.com, the site makes you choose a "genre" for the song. Is it Electronic --> Drum 'N' Bass --> Jump-Up? Is it Alternative --> Punk --> Emo? Maybe it's just good ol' Jazz --> Traditional Jazz.
We musicians hate to be pigeonholed like that, of course, and the standard answer to "What kind of music do you play" is a fake-humble "Well, it's pretty original, it doesn't sound like anybody else," when in fact it sounds exactly like your record collection minus the difference between your heroes' playing ability and yours, times how many drinks the audience has had. There are factors for altitude and time of day, but that's the basic formula.
Anyway, if you want your music on MP3.com, as my recently disbanded band, the Smokejumpers, did, you have to make that decision, and it was through wrestling with this feature that I discovered the most entertaining -- let's face it, the only entertaining -- corner of the site: Alternative --> Adult Content.
Adult Content is a ghetto. MP3.com warns artists that choosing the genre for a song means it won't be listed on any of the site's Top 40 lists, no matter how many downloads it gets. Since getting listed on those Top 40 lists leads to more downloads, which leads to money in the form of "Payback for Playback" funds, Adult Content is a commercial graveyard.
Except for the fact that the people in that section are raking it in. Wednesday's No. 2 "band" on the Punk Top 40 (No. 1 is Offspring, MTV favorites long before they put their music on MP3.com), Bigkidnow, which is actually a Phoenix label representing three bands, had earned $787.68. Ten people have been busily writing songs, rehearsing, presumably loading up the vans to play gigs and doing all those other things bands do for however many years, for not quite a C-note each from MP3.com. Meanwhile, over in Adult Content, meet Sexy Brown Sugar, a three-piece girl singing group that's made $3,667.97 with songs like "Extreme Orgasm," "Very Wet BJ" and "Big Black Mandingo."
These songs are basically canned rhythm tracks with the girls moaning and talking dirty over them. Not exactly "Say My Name," but on the other hand you can go to the Sexy Brown Sugar Web site and find "publicity photos" of two of the band members licking the bare breasts of the third, and you'll be searching till your mouse hand's numb before you find a similar shot of Destiny's Child.
But the point is, the overhead is probably pretty low, and the money is flying in, something that can't be said for the esteemed group Sound of Fuck, which is a British Columbia husband and wife ("You can call us Jack and Jill") who offer sounds from "our various sexual activities" sometimes backed by "ambient music produced on our Mac." For some reason, they're listed under Music --> Comedy, so hits like "Real Life Orgy (We Were There)," "Real Life Orgy Part 2" and "I Scream When I Cum (Can't Help It)" have earned them only $99.71, though to be fair that's a whopping $153.83 Canadian.
That's better than the $16.66 the Smokejumpers have made, which is fair enough since the Smokejumpers never came up with anything as charming as the British fellow on "Real Life Orgy" who says, "Think of England!" at a crucial moment. But it's peanuts compared to what SoundsErotica, of "Oh XXX Good" (the current No. 1 hit), "Wild West Feels Good" and "I'm Gonna Come" fame, have made ($1,083.02), and not even on the radar screen of a woman who calls herself Sexy Nasty ($7,959.21), another canned beats and orgasmic moans practitioner whose top "song" was only at No. 10 Wednesday.
If you can get past Sexy Nasty's little-girl voice, by the way, she seems to be a real artiste. Note the narrative implied by this track list: "Telephone Message," "Sexy Phonecall!!" "Quickie Sex," "Here I Cum Again" and "Three's a Charm!!" I can't wait for the next in the series, presumably "I Gotta Go, I'll Call You."
There are some folks on the Adult Content chart who seem to do actual music, rather than auditory porn, and they make even less money than the Smokejumpers. Shrimp 40, for example, a joke band with a top 10 song called "Stinky Britches," have yet to make a fin. Chemo, an angry young man from Pennsylvania, has made $136.33, most of it probably from hapless porn-searchers clicking on the song "Cocksucker," which uses the term in the metaphorical, rather than the literal sense. "I loath you more than you know," Chemo sings over angry metal guitar and ... canned beats. "You fuck with me, I'll kill you. What part of fuck you don't you understand? I can't wait for this to get out of hand."
But even taking the artistry of Sexy Nasty and the burning anger of Chemo into account, my favorite Adult Content artist is SEXXXY LaTiTsia ($836.73), who I think has invented a whole new genre: medical gross-out porn. Her latest hit is "Pork Colostomy," about which LaTiTsia explains, "This one is made from samples of what the title suggests, when a back-door bumpin turned into a little more than I was ready for."
And "Implant Surprise" has the greatest "about the song" blurb in the history of MP3.com, and maybe in the history of the whole music business:
"I hasn't had time to do much music lately, what with my new job at the Hootchi Cooze Club, but last week some dumbass jizzed on the runway and I slipped and fell on my chestal region. I got implants a while back, and I didn't know them little suckers could bust like that. I'm layin here with my boobs all bandaged after a little surgical repair, collectin workers' comp while I sits out the healin. NOW I has time to do a little music, featurin a few odd squeaks and grunts o'mine. This the newest."
That's what you want from an artist, isn't it? An honest emotional chronicle of her life, her struggles. It gets me every time, right in the old chestal region.