Steve Jobs wasn’t in the habit of dancing at Apple events. But in 2010, prior to a press conference where he addressed concerns about the new iPhone’s antenna, a song lampooning the controversy got Jobs dancing in the wings before he faced off with journalists.
The song in question, which played on a big screen to kick off the event, was the work of YouTube musician and Apple fan Jonathan Mann, who has spent the past five years composing a new song each day and posting it online.
“I heard later on from an Apple PR person that Steve Jobs was bopping along in the wings as the song was playing” at the Antennagate press conference, says Mann, speaking with Cult of Mac. “It was a surreal moment in my life.”
Antennagate went away, but Mann became the go-to guy for jingles about all things Cupertino. To date he has written 38 songs about Apple, touching on everything from Craig Federighi’s WWDC performance to the unveiling of the Apple Watch. His clever ideas and quick turnaround times have turned him into YouTube’s premier Apple songsmith.
Among the more than 2,000 songs he’s written as part of his song-a-day routine, Mann’s Apple songs have racked up hundreds of thousands of plays on YouTube. This week, his “collaboration” with iOS 8’s autocomplete function led to a song with lyrics “written” by Apple’s word-recommendation feature.
“One thing that’s interesting is that autocorrect is going to be different on different people’s iPhones, based on the words they regularly use,” he says. “It would be fascinating to see someone else use the same idea to see what kind of lyrics they came up with.”
His Apple songs have led to exciting opportunities, such as performing a set of Apple-themed tunes at Macworld Expo and being asked by Steve Wozniak’s wife to compose a song for the Apple co-founder’s 60th birthday.
“That was amazing,” Mann says. “I’d read so much about Apple history at that point that it was an absolute honor to create something for Woz.”
He recently tried to cheer up the team behind the fatally flawed iOS 8.0.1 update with a song because, as he says, “I figured they were probably having a really bad day.”
Mann’s ability to write a song a day is impressive enough, but his ability to react to current events is mind-blowing. Within hours of an Apple event, he’ll have a song written, recorded, mixed and uploaded for his growing army of fans.
“I can write songs very, very quickly,” he says. “For me it would never work to write the music ahead of time and then add the lyrics later. It’s just not the way my brain works. I watch the events and I take notes, I download the video stream when it’s available, and then I just sit down and try to write something.”
It’s not just that Apple inspires Mann’s subject matter, either. He uses a 2010 Mac Pro to create his songs, and shoots videos routinely on his iPhone.
Although he grew up with an Apple IIe, it was only when he was in college in 2001 that Mann truly became hooked on Apple as a brand.
“I remember it really vividly,” he says. “A friend in college had an iBook laptop, which I thought was really cool. I was getting more into the idea of recording music, and it just seemed great. I immediately went out and bought one of the white iBooks. From then on I was smitten.”
Apple products have given Mann the tools he needs to produce his creative work. The exposure he’s gotten from writing about Cupertino’s products are a welcome bonus.
“Sometimes I think if I only wrote songs about Apple, my audience might actually be bigger,” he says. “I get a lot of attention for these songs, although they’re actually only a fraction of what it is that I do. Hopefully a lot of people watch my Apple songs and then go on to look at some of the other things I do.”