How much traffic do you get from a viral YouTube video?

Last month, the team from Realm Pictures built an incredibly clever “interactive real-life first-person shooter” that strangers could play over Chatroulette, Omegle, and Skype. In the behind-the-scenes video, they talk about how they pulled off the feat, and it’s an impressive example of unifying a bunch of different technology to accomplish something novel.

Before the video went live, the head of the studio sent me a really nice email about the project, and he mentioned that they used one of my free, CC-licensed songs for the end game sequence. With the email, he also sent a generous donation, and per the “attribution” part of the CC license, he also linked to my site from the YouTube video description. This is a perfect example of how CC licenses are supposed to work, and I couldn’t be happier about the way they used and attributed my work.

Over the next week, the video’s popularity exploded, garnering eight million views within a week, and being featured everywhere from #1 on Reddit to dedicated segments on traditional news outlets. I couldn’t be happier for the team over at RP, and it was a lot of fun to see my music being shared in exactly the way I always hoped: as a free soundtrack for new, creative projects built on a budget.

Projects like this are a poster child for the Creative Commons movement, and its ability to bring artists together in a far less restrictive way than the traditional copyright movement. But I wondered – with Dave and his studio doing absolutely everything right regarding a CC license, including attribution and a link to my work right there on the YouTube page, how many people did it actually send to my site?

I don’t have a financial stake in my CC-licensed music (it’s all free to download and/or use), so traffic and downloads don’t matter, except to provide warm, fuzzy feelings about my work actually being used instead of rotting away on my hard-drive. So my interest in traffic was purely motivated by curiosity. Out of 8,000,000 views, how many people clicked the “Show More” button and followed the link to this site: 1 in 10? 100? 1000?

After checking my logs (which may not be perfect, obviously), the final referred total was…

85 visitors from the viral video itself…
…and 13 more from the behind-the-scenes video.

I have no idea if these numbers are typical for a “viral” YouTube video. I imagine a ton of the views come from embedded instances, where the descriptive text isn’t shown, or perhaps from dedicated YouTube apps, where descriptions may not work the same way. (And even on the main YouTube page, appearing below the fold makes a huge difference.) Additionally, since my music doesn’t really appear in the video – it was more important for the people actually playing the game – there wouldn’t be much incentive for viewers to follow the link in the first place.

What’s interesting to me is that the traffic totals are actually very close to simpler YouTube videos that use my work, like this cute little guy, which has way less views, but in its first year, sent almost identical visitor counts my way:

Anyway, I thought those visitor counts were interesting. I know there’s been some discussion about the effect of YouTube on the music industry, especially with the explosion of “Let’s Play” and other videos that make extensive use of background music, especially CC-licensed tracks like mine. I hadn’t seen hard numbers on referral traffic discussed elsewhere, so now there’s at least one data point!

(Also, many thanks to the team at Realm Pictures for using my work in such a fun project, and for making perfect use of the associated Creative Commons license. Check out more of their work at their website.)

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: FF7 Boss Battle (Those Who Fight Further) – Two Piano Remix

Listen online:last.fm

Download song: mp3 Ogg FLAC

While Final Fantasy VII is not my favorite game from the series, it does possess some very memorable music. Chief among these is the anxious, driving boss battle theme, known as “Those Who Fight Further” (更に闘う者達). I’d go so far as to call it the most well-known JRPG battle theme, which is why I thought it worthy of a full-scale piano remix.

Several hours into my arranging, it became apparent that there was no way to do the song justice by using a single piano.  So two were required.  This is an arrangement for four hands on two pianos, and frankly, it would probably be easier as six hands on three pianos.  However, because this is a synthesized arrangement (e.g. not recorded live) I got away with mixing it in a manner that is probably impossible for just two people to play.  Exciting!

Credit for the original composition goes to the great Nobuo Uematsu.  I also based this arrangement off a MIDI version of the track downloaded from rpggamer.com.

Bonus: if you’re in the mood for some nostalgia, here’s a 10-minute video of every boss battle in the game. :D

Creative Commons License

This arrangement of “Those Who Fight Further” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The original song is ©1997 Square Co., Ltd.

Song: Find You (March Remix)

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Note: The original version of “Find You” can be found here.

Today’s download digs deep into the archives of an old video game project I was involved in (circa 2002). The original version of this song is a simple orchestral theme led by an oboe melody (linked at the top of this article). The game called for an action sequence using the original song, but it didn’t really fit; the original mix is slow and unassuming, which isn’t generally what you want accompanying an action sequence.

As an alternative, I put together this demo of the theme remixed as an orchestral march. It retains the instrument mix of the original, but the oboe is moved to a supporting role while the melody is taken over by a trombone.

Because this was just a demo, it’s only two short movements separated by a key change. Though the video game project dissolved before reaching completion, I enjoyed the opportunity to show off the versatility of the original theme.

Creative Commons License

"Find You (March Remix)" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Thugs

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Hmm… what to say about this piece…

For starters, let me clearly state that “Thugs” didn’t turn out at all how I intended.  I was working on a deathmetal battle theme and instead it turned out like this.

<sigh>

Rather than throw it out and start again, I decided to wrestle with the piece a bit longer and flesh it out as more than just an 8-bar theme.  Maybe someone out there can find a use for the cheesy rock style as the theme song for… something?

“Thugs” is awfully repetitive for my taste, but it did end up being fairly catchy.  Unfortunately.

Creative Commons License

"Thugs" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: The Forest Awakes

Download song: mp3 Ogg MIDI

As background music originally designed as an “entering the forest” theme, this number is distantly reminiscent of classical Irish music.

(VERY distantly!)

The pan flute lead is quick and clever, and the 6/4 time signature keeps the piece moving along.  FWIW, I think this is one of the few pieces that I enjoy better as a MIDI – the mp3/ogg versions sound too dense and mushy, and until I find a way to remedy that I recommend sticking with the MIDI.

Creative Commons License

"The Forest Awakes" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Assault on Mist Castle

Download song: mp3 Ogg FLAC MIDI

“Assault on Mist Castle” is another one of my earliest pieces.  Originally designed as an “ambition theme” – seriously, that’s what I was asked to create – it instead ended up as a two-part anticipation/battle theme.

Anyone who’s worked with MIDI knows that brass instruments are notoriously to work with.  They inevitably sound very synthy, and the attack either sounds mushy and wet or painfully harsh.  I did what I could with the brass instruments in this piece – they’re not stellar, but they work.  I also used a French Horn (the best MIDI brass instrument by a long shot) for sections where a bit more melody was required.

The second half of this piece reminds me a lot of the Mortal Kombat theme.  (I think it’s the orchestra hits.) The guitar/synth instrument mix was pretty much all I used for the majority of my early compositions, so count yourself lucky that this piece also includes a semi-orchestral section!

Creative Commons License

"Assault on Mist Castle" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Honky-Tonk Villain

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After reading through archived comments I had on my last song (“Daybreak“), I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic – so I decided to make today’s song another oldy-but-goody.

Honky-Tonk Villain has a bit of a history behind it. I was originally commissioned to write this piece for a flash animation parody of the silent-film era. (I’ve scoured the web for the original flash file but can’t find it anywhere, sadly.) After finishing that project, I didn’t do much with this song – after all, it’s not exactly fitting for video game composing, which is what I mostly focus on.

However, while working on the same game project associated with the aforementioned “Daybreak,” I needed to come up with a character theme for a particularly bad-ass villain character (appropriately titled “The Dragon”). This bad-ass villain was actually based off one of the writers on the project (and a good friend of mine), so the intent was for me to really put together something befitting an evil mastermind.

You can imagine the response when I submitted this piece for consideration. To quote the writer/inspiration:

“This is so typical of the relationship between Tanner and I. He threw this in there because he knew I’d roll out of my chair laughing, and sure enough, I was bowling over by the second bar! I can picture him giggling like a little schoolgirl as he’s composing this piece with me in mind, and I’m giggling like a little schoolgirl (a huge, demented little schoolgirl, with a menthol burning between his fingers :p ) writing this review. I think this could work as my theme with a little adjustment. ;) This one gets a 9/10 just because of his sense of humor. :D”

(For the record, I did giggle like a schoolgirl upon submitting the piece.)

Anyway, thanks for indulging my momentary nostalgia – and be sure to think of a moustached villain in a cape tying an innocent woman to a set of train tracks while this song plays. Fitting, no?

Creative Commons License

"Honky-Tonk Villain" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Daybreak

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Way back when I first submitted this song to the video game team I was part of when I wrote it, I classified the genre as “Hoe-down…? Jig?! Barnyard dance?!?!”

That about sums it up.

Daybreak is the kind of song I’m glad I wrote, but I’ll never write another song like it. I’ve never been a big country music fan, so writing a fiddle jig was a bit outside my comfort zone.

I think a good summary of this song comes from one of the members of the original game project. After hearing this piece, he commented (slightly edited):

“Hoe down what? I’m not quite sure what square dances in america are like but this reminds me heavily of…well feck knows, but this is something real surprising from Tanner. Damn it’s catchy.

Also, that lead fiddle is real nasty sounding, DAMN. Any way of improving the sound of it would be greatly appreciated.”

Still makes me laugh. :)

On a final note, I got the original idea for this piece – strangely enough – from “Final Answer” by The Calling. I’m fairly certain no one on planet earth could have guessed that connection had I not mentioned it!

Creative Commons License

"Daybreak" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Syntheticity

Download song: mp3 Ogg MIDI

“Syntheticity” has gone through any number of name changes. It started out as “Technojazz”, then later became “Diridian Syndicate Theme” as part of a video game project. When that project went belly-up, the song ended up lost in an obscure folder on an old Windows XP hard drive.

When I finally stumbled across the piece while perusing old musical archives in search of music worth fixing up, I have to admit I was pretty excited to see “Syntheticity” again. The 80’s drum sound combined with a catchy electric piano line and a great slap bass were too vintage to pass up! I also decided against using any of the previous song titles, and instead settled on the excellent noun “syntheticity”. (It’s partially a real word.)

I’ve adjusted all of the soundfonts to more closely match my original idea for the piece (a retro-heavy town theme), so don’t be alarmed if the MIDI sounds quite different from the mp3 and ogg.

Creative Commons License

"Syntheticity" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!

Song: Cyaron’s Gate

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“Cyaron’s Gate” will always hold a special place in my heart, since it was the first composition for which I won an actual award.  (1st Place, Audio Division: 2000 Utah State Multimedia Festival) As you can tell from that date, this piece was completed last century… a.k.a. 1999.

After a brief introduction, the first theme is introduced. Depending on your familiarity with Baroque music, you may notice a strange similarity to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  (Please follow that link and listen to the original piece if you’re not familiar with it – it’s spectacular.)  I did indeed use Bach as inspiration for the first movement of this piece, though I imagine he’d heartily disagree with my use of a cheesy drumbeat alongside an otherwise nice melody.

Meh.  I always envisioned Bach as being kind of a prick, so I’m not too concerned with hurting his feelings.

After the Bach-ish theme, you’ll notice a pleasant middle bridge marked by an electric guitar (not sure why I picked that instrument, but I left it in the remaster since it’s been that way forever).  Once the second movement hits, you may notice its theme as “Remember,” another piece already available on this site.  “Remember” was originally written as the second half of “Cyaron’s Gate,” and it wasn’t until years later that I pulled that theme out and gave it its own piece.

I’ve tried to leave the instruments somewhat synthy so you can get a feel for how this piece sounded 10+ years ago when it was first written.

Creative Commons License

"Cyaron's Gate" by Tanner Helland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be obtained here.

This site - and its many free downloads - are 100% funded by donations. Please consider a small contribution to fund server costs and to help me support my family. Even $1.00 helps. Thank you!