When Brooklyn producer Baauer created "Harlem Shake," he obviously didn't expect it to blow up like it did. The 24-year-old, whose real name is Harry Rodrigues, recently did an interview with Pitchfork in which he detailed the song's creation, explosion in popularity, and ultimately, its lack of profitability.
The song's beginnings are nothing special; Rodrigues simply emailed it to anyone relevant he could find. But once it went mega-viral and hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts (after Billboard started counting YouTube views), things started to shift. Rodrigues said there was one moment when it really hit him, recalling his reaction with the eloquence one would expect from a twentysomething:
"When they did a video on Jimmy Fallon, I was like, "Whoa." That was right at the tipping point. That’s when it changed from “Wow!” to “Uh-oh, what’s going on here?” From there, it became super out of my control."
As the song's ubiquity skyrocketed, Rodrigues' bank account did not. Complicating matters, he never got permission for the samples he used from Hector Delgado and Jayson Musson, who have both demanded compensation in the wake of the song's success. Amid the squalor of Rodrigues' daily life, he apparently couldn't even conceived of the grandiose idea that artists of such caliber would bother acknowledging his peasant's presence. Or, as he put it:
"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 that [sample]; I knew the Jayson Musson [sample]. So I found myself in that fucking pickle. Legal letters and shit. Ugh. Lawyers."
Rodrigues doesn't seem to be suffering financially, though. (And the description of his leopard-carpeted Bushwick apartment at the beginning of the article certainly makes it difficult to have too much pity.) And with an album in the works and a new single featuring Jay Z, it's probably safe to say he'll be just fine.
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