Trap & Bass Brooklyn producer, Baauer has revealed that he hasn’t received any money from Harlem Shake. The track became immensely popular towards the latter half of 2012 and early 2013 after a viral video featuring it became an internet sensation (we all know the details of this, so we won’t bore you with them). He spoke with Pitchfork and unraveled some rather interesting points:
“I haven’t seen any money from it. I’m meeting with my lawyer tomorrow for lunch, so I’m gonna find that out. I think it’s mostly because of all the legal shit.”
“Harlem Shake” contained vocal samples from rapper Jayson Musson and reggaeton artist Hector Delgado, whom Baauer wasn’t even aware of.
“I didn’t clear the samples because I was in my fucking bedroom on Grand Street. I wasn’t going to think to call up [Delgado], I didn’t even know who it was who did [the sample]; I knew the Jayson Musson [sample]. So I found myself in that fucking pickle. Legal letters and shit. Ugh. Lawyers. So exposure-wise it was fantastic, but everything else…”
He presses on by admitting that he didn’t feel pressure to match the track’s success and even went on to emphasize that he ‘doesn’t want’ any of his tracks to match the success of Harlem Shake.
“I genuinely don’t feel pressure at all. I got a little taste of what it’s like to have a song in that stratosphere and I can truthfully tell you that I’m happy with that being the only time it happens. I don’t want that shit. Of course, I want to be able to get work and for people to like my music – the best thing I can do is to keep making music I like and, because of Harlem Shake, maybe people who otherwise would never know about that kinda shit would hear it.”
And that’s just how it works in the music business, the artist makes and the industry takes. YouTube gets the page views, Warner Bros. distributes the recording, and Apple sells it on iTunes. Nobody really makes money off selling music files. This chart shows that a song needs at least a million streams (and probably many more) for artists to make more than $1,000.
Sadly, it simply isn’t about the actual music anymore. As a business, the music industry is about the events and licensing. Artists make most of their money through selling original songs to third parties, like movies and commercials, or performing live. If anything, “Harlem Shake” definitely propelled Baauer towards having the ability to sell tickets and collaborate with huge artists (Just Blaze and Jay-Z, anyone?). In a positive light, it was simply advertising. However, the main point remains: Baauer has technically received $0.00 for a hit song that is being legally distributed.