Guest Post by Chris Robley on
The DIY Musician
“If your music is good, your fans will want to buy the
In one week, Starbomb sold almost 6,000 CD copies of
Selectalbum through CD Baby, including 3,438 in
The comedy synthpop/hip-hop group (comprised of Leigh Daniel
Avidan and Brian Wecht of Ninja Sex Party and animator/internet
personality Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson) went on to become
Billboard’s third best-selling comedy artist of 2014.
“There’s no doubt in our minds that YouTube is a big
part of the reason our albums have done as well as they
have,” says Starbomb’s Brian
Wecht. “Through YouTube, we reached the people we
were trying to reach — and anybody can do that with time and
New media fueling old media
The business-y way to explain Starbomb’s success might be to
say that they used collaboration and YouTube Channel
cross-promotion to leverage multiple, loyal subscriber bases —
using new media to power the sale of older, more profitable
music formats, like CDs.
But here’s a better way to put it: the members of Starbomb work
their asses off making songs and videos that fans love, and
those fans are constantly connecting with the band
via YouTube and social networks,
alleviating any need for expensive, traditional album
promotion. Whenever they release a new album, many of those
fans are clamoring to pay for their music, whether it’s a
download or a physical copy. It’s a numbers game, sure, but
it’s more than that.
“The big tip I’d give to artists who want to sell more
albums is to just keep providing real content, as much as
possible,” says Wecht. “Make it
clear where fans can get your stuff, but don’t constantly shove
it in their faces. And then if the fans love your content,
they’ll want to support you by buying the albums.”
This approach has not only yielded impressive CD and download
sales for Starbomb; it’s also bringing in YouTube ad revenue
that helps cover some of the costs of video production (their
primary promotional tool). With CD Baby, the band has a single
solution for tapping into multiple revenue streams: CD sales,
downloads and streaming, YouTube monetization, and more.
“It really has taken a lot of the hassle out of
figuring out how to sell our stuff,” says
Wecht. “It just makes what once seemed like an
impossible problem — how to get our music on the various
digital outlets — now seem like the easiest thing in the
I recently spoke with one of the members of Starbomb to learn
more about their use of YouTube, and how they used the video
platform to drive CD sales. Here’s our discussion:
An interview with Brian Wecht of Starbomb and Ninja Sex
Can you talk a little bit about the creative beginnings
of Starbomb? What were you wanting to do that you couldn’t do
in your previous projects?
The original idea was to do a single track collaboration
between Egoraptor (Arin) and Ninja Sex Party (Dan & Brian),
with Arin on rap vocals. I think Arin had the idea to make the
song a very profane thing about the video game character Kirby,
and we developed it from there. And once that was done, we were
all like “That was awesome! Let’s do more.” And thus the album
was born. So it didn’t really come from a desire to try
something brand new — it just came from doing something that
turned out to be even more fun than we expected.
How did you handle introducing Starbomb to your
existing fanbases? Are there any challenges in presenting a new
collaboration to existing (and slightly different)
It wasn’t that much of a challenge, since by the time the album
came out (December 2013), Dan had already joined Arin on Game
Grumps, and was well-known to that community. We decided to
promote the album via our three related YouTube channels: Game
Grumps, Egoraptor, and Ninja Sex Party. Since those channels
had collectively around 4 million subscribers, that was a
natural way to get the word out. Certainly there was a bit of a
challenge introducing the project to fans on the Egoraptor/Game
Grumps channels, since neither of those channels had done much
in the way of music before, and some of the subscribers to
those channels were skeptical. But by and large the fans were
Since you’d already had experience with building up a
community on YouTube, how much of the music for Starbomb was
conceived alongside the videos, or at least with specific video
elements in mind?
We always had the prospect of animated music videos in the back
of our minds, but the songs weren’t written explicitly for
videos. Some things were natural to write songs about — Super
Mario Bros, Pokemon, and Zelda are perennially popular subjects
— but generally it isn’t until the songs were finished that we
started putting thought into the videos. For Player
Select, our goal is even more music videos, so we’ll see
how that turns out!
Do you think of YouTube as a way of driving CD and
download sales? Or has it become a primary source of revenue on
its own? I guess an easier way to ask this is, what is the
place of YouTube in your career?
In most cases, the YouTube ad revenue from an individual video
won’t even cover production costs, and we consider ourselves
lucky if we break even. Thanks to our large fan base on
YouTube, the videos do drive sales to the albums, so that helps
a lot. From a larger perspective, though, YouTube is really
what defines our personalities and our brands — people get to
know us through the videos, and without those there’s no way
we’d have the fan base we do. There’s no doubt in our minds
that YouTube is a big part of the reason our albums have done
as well as they have.
When it comes to driving album sales upon release, or
even driving pre-sales, what are some of the specific things
you do to encourage fans to buy the CD? Do you use
calls-to-action and annotations in your videos? Emails? Social
We do pretty much all of the above except emails. For Starbomb,
our strategy is to put an announcement video on each of the
three YouTube channels, one per week until the release date. On
the release date, we put out a special announcement video, and
then also animated music video for one of the songs. I think
it’s the last thing that really helps out the most — if we make
a fun and catchy music video, that’s something people will want
to share. And at the end of the video we put an annotation with
a link to the album, so that people who get through the video
can immediately buy it if they want. We also do a lot of stuff
on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the same time, so we try
to cover as many different ways to reach fans as we can. We
don’t send emails because somehow they feel a bit more
intrusive, and we don’t want to spam people.
Are y’all comfortable with the direct approach of
simply asking people to buy the album, or do the sales happen
just because your fans love your music? Any tips you can give
artists to help them sell more physical albums?
We’re definitely not shy about asking people to buy the album,
but we also make sure to not just constantly be selling stuff.
The amount of content we put out where we don’t even talk about
what’s buyable dwarfs the relatively small number of “hey, buy
this!” announcements, and I think that’s an important balance
to strike. It’s not cool to just be constantly selling to
people, and people get quickly exhausted if everything they see
is just a sales pitch. So the big tip I’d give to artists who
want to sell more albums is to just keep providing real
content, as much as possible. Make it clear where fans can get
your stuff, but don’t constantly shove it in their faces. And
then if the fans love your content, they’ll want to support you
by buying the albums.
What are some of the strategies Starbomb, NSP, and
Egoraptor used to build your YouTube followings? And what
advice would you give to an artist that’s just about to post
their first video on YouTube?
Let me speak to Starbomb and NSP, since those are the ones I
know best. Basically, our strategy is to only put out content
that we absolutely love, and then to try to promote (or
cross-promote) with channels that have big followings. We’re
very very fortunate to have a large presence on YouTube,
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and also very dedicated fans.
Basically, we trusted that by doing stuff we loved, people
would notice, and that’s what happened.
As far as advice goes, the big one is to just start doing it,
set a production schedule, and adhere to it. We map out our
year month by month in terms of when we’re writing songs,
shooting videos, releasing videos, etc, and although things
sometimes get moved around, we pretty much always stick to it.
Always be creating!
Does Starbomb exist entirely online (as far as
interaction with fans), or do you play shows/tour? Why or why
We’ve only done one live Starbomb song, which was during the
Ninja Sex Party show at San Diego Comic Con in 2014. Arin
joined us on stage for a song, and we had a great time. We’re
definitely thinking about how to expand Starbomb (and NSP) into
a bigger touring presence, but there are a number of logistical
things we need to figure out first. But one of our goals for
2015 is to solve the problem of how to turn Starbomb/NSP into
legit touring acts.
How do you balance all your various projects? Like, do
you focus on one at a time in bursts, or is everything rolling
Pretty much everything is going all at once. As I said above,
we do set a production schedule, but Starbomb, NSP, Game
Grumps, and Egoraptor are always producing content. We
occasionally shift focus as needed, when an album is getting
close to completion, but I can’t remember even a single week
for the past couple of years any one of these projects had seen
How exactly does your creative and collaborative
process work for Starbomb?
The Starbomb creative process starts with a meeting where we
brainstorm song ideas, or topics/games we want to write songs
about, and that drives a lot of the focus for the album. For
specific songs, typically I start things off by writing the
music, and then more often than not Dan takes a first pass at
the lyrics, though Arin writes a lot of lyrics too. Then we all
pass the lyrics around between the three of us to sharpen them
into the final song. After that, it’s just the usual mixing and
The first album was full of all kinds of sexual
innuendos (and out-and-out explicit humor). There’s less of
that on your second record. Why the shift?
It was a conscious decision, since we saw that a number of the
fans seemed to like the less sexual songs (e.g. Crasher-Vania,
Regretroid) the most. It was also a natural way of
distinguishing the second album from the first. I’m a big
believer in laying down “rules” to inspire creativity (like
saying “no dick jokes”), and the second album was a direct
result of that.
It seems like whenever we share stories about artists
who’ve had success making music that appeals to a specific
niche (such as comedic video game-themed electronic pop/rap
songs), lots of other artists say “yeah, but those lessons
don’t apply to me.” Do they? What do you think a talented (but
less thematic) singer-songwriter or rock band or hip hop artist
could learn from your career?
That there really is an audience out there for everyone. If you
had told me a year ago that Starbomb would be the Billboard
number 3 selling comedy artist for all of 2014, I would have
thought you were joking. But that totally happened, and I think
it’s because we found a way of reaching an audience that was
already out there. We also had established channels (YouTube
and social media) that reached the people we were trying to
reach, and anybody can do that with time and effort (though
it’s definitely challenging to build a large audience). Another
thing we learned is that it’s very helpful to have a hook, even
a specific one. “Hey, listen to this song” is a lot more boring
than “hey, listen to this funny song about video games.” Having
a well-defined niche was, at least for us, the way we were able
What has CD Baby enabled you to do with your music?
What aspect of our services has been most helpful and
CDBaby has been amazing for us, and has enabled us to sell our
music through a ridiculously large number of channels,
certainly more than we ever thought possible when we started.
Ninja Sex Party’s been with CDBaby since 2010 or 2011, and it
really has taken a lot of the hassle out of figuring out how to
sell our stuff. It’s still unbelievable to me that we can
upload an album one day and then have it available to everyone
in the world shortly thereafter.
It’s hard to pick just one thing that’s been most helpful about
CDBaby, but I guess I’d say that it just makes what once seemed
like an impossible problem — how to get our music on the
various digital outlets — now seem like the easiest thing in
Got anything exciting in the works?
2015 is going to be a big year. Ninja Sex Party will release
our third album “Attitude City” this Spring, and we have a
bunch of new music videos (and even a short film) planned
around songs on the album. Starbomb’s third album is planned
for December 2015, and in the interim we’ll also do more music
videos for songs from Player Select. Plus, we’re
going to try to start doing some live shows, so we have our
work cut out for us!