Parody For Profit

David Hajdu charts the rise of the satirical music video:

Song parodies now generate more revenue than official videos, according to YouTube data provided in the 2014 Annual Report of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), a music-recording trade group. While YouTube once discouraged parody videos on the dubious grounds of copyright infringement – its attorneys must have skipped the readings on Berlin v. E. C. Publications in law school – YouTube now welcomes music parodies, because it has figured out how to make money from them. YouTube is helping record companies and rights administrators to hit up parodists (and others who employ copyrighted music in their content) for licensing fees.

He finds himself ambivalent about the genre. On the one hand, parody amounts to “critique in creative form, and as such it provides a service essential to society”:

These benefits are real and important, particularly at a time when mainstream popular music is subjected to so little serious criticism, and when serious criticism has so little traction in mainstream culture.

On the other:

There is something disconcerting about the dominance of parody in the YouTube musical sphere today. The true purpose of parody is the making of jokes rather than the making of critique. The final test of a parody is its ability to get laughs; it is not the depth, nor even the accuracy, of its insights.