For a while, the couple was making around $100 a month from the song — and then COVID hit. Kids were stuck at home with little to do, and frazzled parents became more willing than usual to let their kids be entertained by an electronic device. The streams on Amazon for “Poopy Stupid Butt” skyrocketed: It’s now been streamed about 10 million times on Amazon Music and has generated about $10,000 in total income for Helpish and Muir.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment about whether it knows how often children yell “poop” at Alexa. A representative for Spotify said they were unable to determine the play method. Lacking definitive proof that Amazon knows that these songs are primarily played by kids talking to Alexa, I believe there’s sufficient circumstantial evidence. The fact that Amazon Music — which has a much smaller share of the US streaming market than Spotify — is the main driver of revenue for artists like Helpish suggests that Alexa plays are probably behind it. And lived experience tells me that kids love asking Alexa to play poop.
Play counts are visible on Spotify, but not Amazon Music — but the Spotify play counts are useful for some generalizations of what poop songs are “hits” (it’s possible to connect your Spotify account so that it’s the default music service for Alexa, but my strong guess is that many Alexa device owners don’t bother changing their settings, especially if it’s not primarily used for music). One thing revealed in Spotify is that it’s not just English-speaking children asking for “poop” — the French song “La chanson du caca” has over 1 million streams, suggesting children in France yell “caca” at Alexa. Très drôle.
Matt Farley is an extremely prolific songwriter who has mastered the art of the SEO song. He has recorded more than 23,000 songs that are often very short and include phrases and names that someone might search for — lots of celebrity names, common first names. And incredibly, this is a sound business model — Farley is able to generate a modest income from his catalog. (Disclosure: He wrote a 2014 song “Katie Notopoulos Is a Talented Writer, Oh Yeah,” but as a talented writer, I won’t let this compliment cloud my reporting.)
In his vast collection of songs covering a wide variety of topics, his top hits are all scatological in nature. His biggest hit is “Poop Poop Poop Poop Song.”
The songs are surprisingly good; he makes music in a broad range of styles. Farley is in on the joke; he knows this is funny. You could see his SEO-gaming songs as a cynical cash grab, or look at his oeuvre as a decadelong performance art piece that comments on the nature of technology’s warping effect on art under capitalism.
Recording under the artist names the Toilet Bowl Cleaners and the Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke, and Pee, Farley has a wide array of songs devoted to this particular human experience. A 2021 profile of Farley on Debugger notes that when he noticed a trend of the poop songs being popular, he assumed it was because kids were getting into their parents’ Spotify accounts and typing in naughty words.
However, when I spoke with Farley over the phone from his home in Massachusetts, I floated the idea to him that it was in fact preschool-age kids yelling “poop” into Alexa-enabled devices. The theory made sense to him — in fact, it lined up with the data he had seen.