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The economics of the Harlem Shake

Once upon a time, music label executives writhed in terror and fury at the prospect of a world full of people appropriating their copyrighted content and using it for their own purposes.

Now, they're figuring out how to cash in.

Andrew Hampp has a fascinating piece in Friday's Billboard on the "monetization" of the Harlem Shake dance video viral phenomenon.

For those unfamiliar with Harlem Shake mayhem, a quick primer. Thousands and thousands of people are making YouTube videos which employ a boppy electronic vaguely Gangnam Style-sounding ditty, created by the Brooklyn DJ Baauer, as the soundtrack for a deliriously silly template: For the first 15 seconds or so of the video, one person in a group is dancing; then, after a tempo change, suddenly everyone in the group is wildly freestyling. Some of the videos are pretty funny, some are amateurish, the whole thing just looks like a lot of people having fun.

Once upon a time, record labels would be trying to slap the producers of these videos with DMCA takedown notices for copyright violation. But that's not what's happening with the Harlem Shake.

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