Gangnam Style is now the most-viewed video on YouTube in history. Along the way, Psy tolerated dozens and dozens of Gangnam knockoffs, copies that ordinarily would fall afoul of copyright law.
Over at Techdift, Glyn Moody notes that this “relaxed attitude” toward copyright infringement has helped make him very rich. This underscores an important point about the upside of copying. Copies can serve as powerful advertisements, and can help build a brand that can then be monetized in many ways. Copies are particularly potent ads because they are authentic efforts by consumers and, in this case, fans, rather than the work of professionals paid to make us think we want Product A or B.
The many copies of Gangnam Style fit this model perfectly, and helped build the viral juggernaut that made a formerly-unknown Korean singer into a house hold name around the world.
Here’s Techdirt’s take:
Ah yes, the maximalists will retort, this free-and-easy, laid-back approach [to copying] is all very nice, but it doesn’t put food on his table, does it? If you want to make a living from this stuff, you’ve got to enforce copyright to stop all those freeloaders ruining your business. Well, maybe not:
With one song, 34-year-old Park Jae-sang — better known as PSY — is set to become a millionaire from YouTube ads and iTunes downloads, underlining a shift in how money is being made in the music business. An even bigger dollop of cash will come from TV commercials.
From just those sources, PSY and his camp will rake in at least $8.1 million this year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of publicly available information and industry estimates.
The AP story quoted above goes on to give a detailed breakdown of where that money comes from. Interestingly, it’s mostly from things not directly connected with either his music or video:
It is television commercials that are the big money spinner for the most successful of South Korea’s K-pop stars. PSY has been popping up in TV commercials in South Korea for top brands such as Samsung Electronics and mobile carrier LG Uplus.
Chung Yu-seok, an analyst at Kyobo Securities, estimates PSY’s commercial deals would amount to 5 billion won ($4.6 million) this year.
This is yet another great example of how artists can give away copies of their music and videos to build their reputations and then earn significant sums by selling associated scarcities — in this case, appearances in TV commercials. Now, not every musician may want to take that route, but there are plenty of other ways of exploiting global successes like Gangnam Style — none of which requires copyright to be enforced.