Anthony Vincent, the man behind 10 Second Songs, has made a video to please both Christmas music lovers and the grinches who can’t stand the stuff. In his latest clip, he sings Mariah Carey‘s seasonal classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in 20 different styles.
For those who can’t wait for Thanksgiving to end so they can pull out their Christmas albums, Vincent’s video is like holiday music on steroids. For those who are bored with the usual Christmas fare, here’s something completely different: Vincent gleefully smashing together disparate styles, from Usher to Imagine Dragons to Blink-182 to Nat King Cole. Check out the video below.
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?
About two years ago I started a custom songs business. I was doing this on a website where you can sell stuff for five bucks. I was like, “Ok, well I’m going to do a song ten seconds in length for five bucks.” I was doing songs in mainly rock, metal, hip-hop and R&B for five dollars. In my attempt to promote the business for the first time, I created a Ten Second Songs YouTube account in March. The same day that I created the account, I uploaded Katy Perry‘s “Dark Horse” in 20 styles. What better way to promote this business then to show everything I can do in one shot in a popular song? And then it blew up, and here I am, a million and thirty-thousand subscribers later with 40 million views. I would have never predicted that. My goals for the last year were to get 3,000 subscribers for my band on YouTube. And here I am with that amount of subscribers for Ten Second Songs, which I would never have expected, and I’ve got close to 30,000 for the band.
For your custom songs business, were people asking you for covers? Or was it jingles?
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.
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 could take me as long as a day. I’ll go at it for a full day — I won’t stop until I’m completely happy with it. It doesn’t necessarily have to sound like the artist, but if it doesn’t feel like the artist, I don’t let it slide. I’ve taken up to a day to one style, but there were styles that were done in ten minutes, like Green Day, or Depeche Mode in the new one.
How long does it take to put a video together?
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?
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.