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Social Status: Parry Gripp crafts catchy pop songs for silly YouTube videos

May 10, 2009 | 10:02 am
Parry Gripp doll from the Nerf Herder collection. Credit: brenbot via Flickr

Plenty of musicians have used online social media to catapult themselves to stardom, including MySpace vixen Tila Tequila and rock group the Arctic Monkeys. But pop songwriter Parry Gripp did it the other way around.

Gripp, a 41-year-old Santa Barbara native, has already played the rock star game. When he was 29, his band, Nerf Herder, was signed to major label Arista Records.

Nerf Herder's songs, including a hit called "Van Halen," could be heard in the late '90s on MTV and radio. They penned the theme song of the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and toured the country.

But Gripp has since settled down in his SoCal home. Between shifts working at a family-owned orchid nursery, he writes music to accompany various YouTube clips.

The songs are mostly pop ballad, kid-friendly narrations of whatever is happening in the video. Some of his most popular ones are the aptly named "Cat Flushing a Toilet," "Chimpanzee Riding on a Segway" and ...

... "Boogie Boogie Hedgehog." Each has more than 1 million views.

Then there's his biggest hit, "Do You Like Waffles," which has been mashed up by numerous fans on YouTube. The song has been selling between 300 to 400 per week for the last year, Gripp said. That adds up to $20,000 before Apple takes its cut. And that's just one song.

Gripp can't participate in YouTube's revenue sharing model, where the company gives some of the ad money to video producers, because he doesn't own the underlying videos that his music accompanies. He instead uses the videos' popularity to drive sales of the songs on iTunes and ringtones.

He's pleased with the money coming from these outlets. All the attention, he said, has spurred deals to write promotional songs for the Wawa chain of convenience stores and for a cartoon called "Super Hero Squad."

It beats the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, he says. "Most of your time is spent either in a van or a bus," he wrote in an instant message. "You get to whatever place you are going to play at, and then you wait around forever. The actual playing is fun, but the rest of it sucks."

Nerf Herder still exists, albeit in a stripped-down form. The band released an album last year and briefly toured Japan.

-- Mark Milian