Ten Second Songs started in March 2014 as a side-project: Vincent needed a way to promote his custom songs business. But his videos -- where he performs a song in the style of 20 different singers -- have already earned him 1 million YouTube subscribers and a collaboration with Linkin Park. Vincent works with Collective Digital Studios, who tell Billboard, "Anthony and his team have been a pleasure to work with since day one. There is very little respite as the guys put an enormous amount of effort into each video and are always planning ahead for the next release. Reaching one million subscribers in under eight months has been a huge achievement, as this milestone can generally take years to reach."
Anthony spoke with Billboard about the origins of Ten Second Songs project, how he chooses the different styles for his videos, and how long it takes him to put each project together.
How did you first get into music?
I started off playing the bass at age 11. I was in a metal band in high school. Once that band broke up, I started developing my voice around 2005. So it's been close to ten years that I've been actually singing, developing my voice and songwriting.
So your Ten Second Songs project grew out of your custom songs business, is that right?
It was jingles. Businesses were asking for quick jingles, some people just wanted birthday greetings. Towards the end, I was doing a lot of parodies. "Do this in Twisted Sister style, Bob Marley style," all these styles people were throwing at me that I hadn't tried before. That's why, when I did the 20 styles cover, it was based off of actual artists. People weren't saying, "Hey, do this reggae." They were saying, "Could you do kind of Bob Marley-ish?" Of course it didn't sound exactly like Bob Marley, it was just in his style and they were happy with it. People will say that I'm a very accurate impersonator, but I take that with a grain of salt because I don't consider myself an impersonator. I'm just doing it based on a style.
How do you choose which styles you're going to do for ten seconds? Is it all crowd-sourced?
I've been paying a lot of attention to what people have been requesting. I'm doing it obviously for the people that are subscribing and it's fun for me because people get a rise out of it. A lot of people's suggestions are along the lines of what I would do anyway, so that's a good thing. At first it was easy -- the first video was just taking all of my favorite bands that I actually really, really loved and artists that I've had some influence from throughout the years, so that was simple. It gets harder as you go, and you realize that the popular artists are running out.
Has there ever been a style suggested where you have to go study an artist's work because you're not that familiar with it?
I've had a few where I had to take my time and maybe even save them for another video. If I'm picking someone for a style, I'm studying not just one of their songs, but a bunch of 'em. I'll try to get in the mode of that artist -- I'll even listen to some of their covers and just hear how much they changed that song. I recently heard an Imogen Heap cover of "Thriller," and it's interesting to hear how much she changed it. I keep all those things in mind.
Here's Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' Sung in 20 Different Styles in 5 Minutes
Once you've got your pool of different styles, how do you think about sequencing them?
That's one of my formulas -- I need to have it go from one extreme to the next, that's what gives it its effect. If I do Iron Maiden, I'm not gonna do Nirvana the next style. Even though they're different, it's still in that family of rock. It's gotta be like Iron Maiden to Jamiroquai. That's what makes it fun.
Do you do all the instrumentation as well?
Yes. I produce all the music.
How many instruments can you play?
I can play the bass, guitar -- I'm limited though, I can't do any shredding solos. But I can play those, I program the drums. Everything else, like pianos and the brass, that's all software that I do myself. It's all MIDI. Sometimes I'll just play it on the keyboard.
How long on average does it take to nail one style?
It depends. If I have time to really take my sweet time, it probably takes a month. But this video that you're premiering -- and I did take my time, I didn't rush it -- was two weeks from start to finish.
Do you have someone in particular you bounce your styles off to make sure they meet the requirement, or is it all you?
I usually ask some of my colleagues over here. I showed my brother -- we did a Linkin Park video and I showed him the Queen section. He didn't recognize it as Queen, so I dismantled the whole thing.
You're also in a separate band, Set the Charge. What's that project like?
It's funny, it's been a project of mine for years, but it was never taken seriously. The band was just me and my brother. But when "Dark Horse" hit, the band started to get some subscribers. "We gotta get our shit together!" So we filled out our lineup. We're working on new material, and we're actually going to be filming our first music video -- one of our brand new songs we're going to be doing over at the YouTube studios in December. It's cool for the people who found us because it's like they're watching a baby in an incubator. I love doing the Ten Second Song stuff, it's a lot of fun. But of course, I'm an artist myself, and I want to show my own voice to the masses as well.
Are you making enough money off YouTube to support yourself now?
The song business is still a thing. It's taken a little bit of a back seat because now the money is starting to come in with YouTube and that's what I'm looking to do -- make that transition. With cover songs, you're not able to fully monetize the videos. I'm fortunate enough to be a part of Collective Digital [Studios] where we have access to a list so we can partially monetize these videos. After hitting a million subscribers there's a possibility for sponsorships and stuff like that. I'm not by any means a millionaire, but I'm happy.
Linkin Park reached out to you to do a version of one of their songs. Do you think more artists are going to reach out to try to tap into your YouTube success?
I'd be happy to do that. I think it's a lot of fun.