It has been a week since my last entry. In that time, we have received our Corporate seal from the State of California, which Aardy used to established our bank account. It’s official. C@taclysmic Group Inc. is open for business.
As of this morning, our “Your Video Here” experiment has been Viewed just over 3,500 times. I shouldn’t have to tell you that’s an abysmal performance. In our defense, we’ve had a bit of trouble getting the word out. And although Aardy and I have visited all sorts of Internet forums that cater to would-be music video Directors, our posts have been treated as nothing more than spam. Sadly, the tolerance for shameless self-promotion is at an all-time low these days.
For all we knew, there could be hundreds of kids out there furiously editing together their version of the Douchebag video. There could also be none. Which was kind of pissing me off.
I just have to say, it’s so fucked up that record Labels will spend as little as they possibly can on the recording only to turn around and spend an obscene sum on a video. I realize videos are often far more expensive to produce than recordings, but I’m not sure I really understand why. It took just as long to create the Douchebag Song as it would take to film and edit a clip. Besides, in most cases it’s the song that sells. Not the video.
It’s the song that will stand the test of time. It’s the song that will be recorded over and over again by new Artists across the decades, perhaps even through the centuries. The video itself has a definitive shelf life. I mean, how many videos of classic ’80s pop songs do we watch at this point and time? None. Yet many of the great songs from that era are Spun all the time.
A song can have a shelf life too, particularly if it’s kitschy or has some kind of reference that will date it. And while railing against Douchebags who purposely prevent the rest of us from progressing is a sentiment as old as mankind, it’s the Prius reference that will one day date our song. We can’t rightly expect that a Prius will even exist a century from now. Not only will we have fully cashed in on the Song by then, we’ll be dead, to boot. So, really, who the fuck cares?
The total production cost of the Douchebag Song itself was zero. This is the advantage of having both the gear and the recording know-how—our only real investment was our time. Still, if I were to put a number on it, I’d have to place the production costs at around $2,500. That would make the proposed video budget a hundred times the total cost of the record itself.
Does that make a whole lot of sense? The song is supposed to be the hero here.
Look, I get why a Major Label would sink money into a video. Between Vevo and YouTube, the “Blurred Lines” video has been Viewed over 500 million times. The clip, which features three exceptionally handsome and relatively young men with three smoking-hot babes is also designed to sell sex appeal. A video is critical for marketing a pop song. But then, so are large buckets of cash. Which makes you wonder, is a clip for everyone?
Between terrestrial radio, satellite radio, clubs, Streaming sites, and local playlists, there is no doubt that a song reaches far more listeners than a clip. When a radio station Spins a Top 40 track all day long, they are often reaching millions of listeners on each and every Spin. Multiply that times the hundreds of radio stations Spinning the “Blurred Lines” record ad nauseam for the better part of three months, and there’s absolutely no way that the Views reach more listeners than the Spins. How, then, does anyone justify spending money on a video?
Oh! You can’t possibly break a song without a video! It’s impossible!
Sadly, at this point that’s probably true. Until it’s not. In the meantime, we all get to make a video to justify the record. How is an Independent Artist supposed to compete with Major Labels in this regard? More importantly, why would one try? Doesn’t producing a clip require a special talent? Do we for one moment believe that every brilliant musician is equally adept at conceptualizing a clip? And if an Artist can’t even afford to hire a Produsah for the record, then how the hell will that Independent Artist afford a Director and his crew? Surely, the thinking is that the clip is far more likely to go viral on the Internet than the track itself. But is there really any evidence of this?
Aardy, who is generally far more patient than I, was no longer willing to wait for clips to come in from strangers. He decided to place an ad on Craigslist titled “Cash for Kitten Videos $100.” Within the hour he had ten full minutes of clips featuring cute furry little Kittens doing cute furry little Kitten things. No wonder Kittens are so popular!
As for Kanish, he went to the Silicon Valley the other day to deal with some “vehdy important business” at the Code Shack. This, of course, left us without a driver or a chef, which I can assure you is nothing short of inconvenient. As a consequence, we’ve been holed up in the garage playing countless games of Beaver and eating takeout.
By the time noon rolled around, Aardy was putting the finishing touches on his Kitten Video masterpiece as I pondered a change to my mix room, now known as C@taclysmic Group Inc. Headquarters.
“Is there a particular reason we have the Raven in the mix position, when we could be using it as a forty-six-inch viewing screen?” I asked. “Seeing as we’re in video mode now.”
“You think we should turn it around and move it to the back?” Aardy inquired.
“That would certainly be more conducive for viewing videos.”
Aardy and I disconnected the Slate Raven MTX, carefully moved the beast to the back of the room, and placed my two mix chairs in the front, just below the brightly lit dartboard. No sooner had I finished reconnecting everything when the Skype began to ring. It was Paneer.
“Huh, this will be good for Skype calls, too,” I said to myself.
I pointed the webcam toward the front of the room, answered the Skype, and ran to my position under the dartboard.
“Why do you look so far away!” Paneer demanded, his ugly mug filling the large screen like a weather balloon. “And what is this? A dartboard? Is this what you do all day? Play darts?”
At times it was, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. Nor was I going to bother explaining how important downtime is when you’re trying to create. It’s the time that you spend not thinking about your creative work that allows your brain to Manifest its most amazing connections. Which got me wondering, does Paneer ever take time off?
“Paneer, have you ever, like, gone to the beach?”
“Certainly not! Much like this conversation thus far, that would be nothing more than a waste of my time.”
“You should try it. Maybe pick up surfing or something. It’s never too late to learn new things, you know.”
“I do not know! Where is my son right now? I have been unable to reach him.”
“I’m not running a babysitting service here, Paneer. I have no idea where he’s off to,” I lied.
“I am starting to wonder if you know anything at all! A few thousand Views? This is vehdy, vehdy bad!”
Ever since I shared the Song with Paneer, he has been closely monitoring our progress. And while it may seem like I’d made a tactical error in allowing him to hear the track in the first place, that would belie the fact that he would just figure out some other way to make my life miserable. This is what Billionaires do best, don’t you know? That said, I’ve found an exceptionally effective way to chase him away.
“Hey, while I’ve got you on the Skype, Paneer, let’s talk about my next installment. I’m starting to run out of money,” I said.
“You will see money when I see results! Good day!”
I’m not sure how my fee had become results based, but if it got Paneer off the Skype, that alone had great value.
Regardless of how unpleasant the conversation proved to be, the conference did manage to reveal a major flaw in our new communication system. The conference chairs were too far away from the camera. So we rigged a USB extender and attached the webcam to a mic stand such that Aardy and I were perfectly framed. Just in time for another Skype, too. It was the Rev.
“Hey, boys! Where’s Kanish?” the Rev asked.
“He’s out of town taking care of some business,” I replied.
“Huh. So is Mukesh,” the Rev replied pensively.
“Mukesh is out of town? Where did he go?”
“I’m not sure. Listen, just forget about that for a sec. I’m calling you because the newest crop of Billionheirs have landed and I know where.”
“If you’re talking about GQ and the El Capitan, they’ve had their Billionheirs for days now.”
“That’s old news. I’m talking about the other three Billionheirs.”
“Do you mean the Limey, the Kraut, and the Cowboy?” I asked.
“I just call them Five, Six, and Seven, but hey, it all works. The point is, they’ve landed, and I know where.”
“I’m confused. Didn’t they land in LA?”
“Of course they landed in LA! I’m talking about . . . you know . . . where they landed. As in, with whom!”
I looked around to see if there was someone else in the room. There wasn’t. Why the hell was Rev talking in code?
“And with whom did they land?” I asked casually.
“That would be the Empress, the Crusher, and the Saint.”
“The Saint? But he lives in New York.”
“And now he’s camped out at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Wouldn’t you be? Oh shit. I got another Skype coming in. I’ll talk to you guys later.”
All three Produsahs have had fabulously successful careers in this business. Saint has his name on over 300 million records over the course of four decades, including albums that he made with Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston, and U2, just to name a few. The Crusher and the Empress are easily credited on another 300 million records between them. And although their royalties surely weren’t what they once were, I was having a hard time believing any of them really needed a Billionheir.
Silly me. Who doesn’t need a Billionheir?
Aardy prepared his Kitten Video for the big reveal on the Raven screen. Unfortunately, it would have to wait. GQ was now ringing the Skype.
“What up!” GQ said upon his appearance on the screen, the magnificence of which was sullied by a bit of food caught in his thick red beard.
I began to rub my chin in the hopes that he might mimic the motion and whisk away the particle. It didn’t work.
“You’ve got some schmaltz in your beard,” I said.
GQ put his face closer to the camera to reveal the precise nature of the glistening matter. It was a half-chewed bit of mac and cheese, although it could have just as easily been a wayward maggot. Whatever it was, he plucked it from his beard and put it directly into his mouth. Despite his name, there was nothing GQ about GQ. He looked more like a bearded schlub in surfing attire—but then, most successful Produsahs do.
“I saw your video, you know.” GQ smirked.
He didn’t really need to say anything more than that. That was code for, Do you guys know what the fuck you’re doing?
“It’s all good,” I replied. “We actually just got our first submission before you called.”
“Yeah, mine!” Aardy said as he plopped himself down in the conference chair next to mine.
“Hey Aardy!” GQ boomed. “I didn’t know you were in town!”
Aardy catered a party at my house a number of years back, and as a result, many of my industry friends are also his. To this day, my friend EveAnna Manley talks fondly about the pork loin he served. She’s not the only one.
“Oh wow, man,” GQ moaned, rubbing his beard again. “Just seeing you makes me hungry for pork loin. Anyway, I’m reaching out cuz I want you guys to make an appearance in my video.”
“When are you filming?” Aardy asked.
“Whenever my DJ Produsah gets back from his trip.”
“DJ Produsah!” I exclaimed. “Your Billionheir is a DJ Produsah? How the fuck did you come up with that?”
“I think Marv suggested it.”
“Motherfucker!” I screamed. That’s what I am! I’m DJ Produsah Mixerman!”
“Whoa . . . you’re a DJ Produsah too? How crazy is that? Is that like synchronicity?”
“Hold on a moment,” Aardy interjected. “If your Billionheir is a DJ Produsah, what does that make you?”
“I’m the MC. Which makes no fucking sense. Holy shit, look at me. But my stupid DJ Produsah Billionheir insists that dad bods are, like, hot right now. Can either one of you tell me how the fuck I could have a dad bod if I’ve never even had a kid?”
“That you know about,” Aardy pointed out.
This was all rather shocking news. Not the dad-bod part. The MC part. GQ was most certainly not MC material. And as pissed as I was that Marv Ellis—Willy’s best friend and president of Armageddon Records—was passing around my DJ Produsah title like a Sunday-morning Fatty, there was a more pressing issue at hand. GQ’s Billionheir was on some sort of trip.
“Excuse me, GQ,” I started. “But how long has your Billionheir been out of town?”
“I don’t know. He left as soon as I finished recording my rap. What was that? Like three days ago or something?”
“Do you know where he is?” Aardy asked.
“He said something about Northern Cal, but I don’t know. He doesn’t tell me much. The El Capitan’s Billionheir is up there too.”
“All four of our Billionheirs are in Northern Cal? That’s weird.”
“Yours too? That is weird. Maybe they’re the fucking Illuminati.” GQ chuckled as he held up his buzzing phone. “I need to take this call. We’ll be filming in Culver City. I’ll let you know. Out.”
The fact that the Heirs were all out of town and in the same general area left little doubt—they were all together. As to the Illuminati—don’t even get me started on that bullshit. GQ never met a conspiracy theory that he didn’t like. Still, something was going on.
Rather than play guessing games, I texted Kanish. I swear I hadn’t barely hit send before Kanish was ringing us on the Skype.
“It took you four days to finally miss me?” Kanish said wryly before continuing. “Do we have any video submissions yet?”
“Aardy made a Kitten Video. Other than that, no,” I replied.
“My Kitten Video is all we’re going to need,” Aardy said confidently.
“Ah, this is vehdy good news.” Kanish beamed.
Kanish looked to be sitting in some sort of starkly decorated office, the coldness of which seemed oddly familiar.
“Are you at the Code Shack?” I asked.
“Much to my displeasure, I am. I would like you to please upload this Kitten Video to the C@taclysmic YouTube channel. Skype me when the video is fully Published.”
Before I could even broach the subject of the other Billionheirs, Kanish hung up the Skype.
Aardy immediately uploaded the Kitten Video from his computer, I took a moment to watch the clip of cute furry little Kittens doing cute furry little Kitten things on the big screen. As sick as I was of hearing the Douchebag Song, as much as I never wanted to hear the stupid Song again, the Kittens were so damned hysterical in their cuteness, it almost made the track sound—dare I say it—fresh. And although conceptually none of it made any sense—I found myself unable to look away. In fact, I watched the damn thing five times in a row.
The moment the clip finished processing, Kanish was already calling us back on the Skype. How did he do that?
“Okay, I see the clip,” Kanish replied. He then looked up and spoke a one-word command in Hindi, which was repeated verbatim over an intercom.
“Vehdy good. Now, without refreshing, how many Views do you currently show?”
Aardy and I found this question rather confusing. We just loaded the fucking thing, and I had been Viewing it locally. The answer was none.
“Um . . . none,” Aardy confirmed.
“Now refresh,” Kanish commanded.
Aardy refreshed the page.
“Over a thousand! What the fuck?”
“Fantastic! I need you both to fly up here right away. There is a private plane waiting for you at LAX. Sevaka will pick you up when you arrive at the San Jose Airport. I will text you all the details.”
“Still a thousand,” Aardy announced as he refreshed again.
“Yes, yes, yes. Refresh every few minutes. In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Time is vehdy much of the essential.”
Aardy, being a mountaineer, always kept his belongings in one bag, and he was ready to walk out the door the moment we hung up the Skype. I, on the other hand, was not so organized, and went into a mad scramble to collect my things. It took me the better part of half an hour just to find my wallet, and I was absolutely certain we were going to miss our flight. But then, I’ve never had the pilot meet me in the terminal before. Nor have I ever been escorted through expedited security and then out the doors directly to the tarmac. So, this is what it’s like to be a baller.
As you might expect, private jets do indeed come with free Wi-Fi, and Aardy and I certainly got our money’s worth out of that. I swear we refreshed that video page a hundred times for the fifty minutes we were in the air, each refresh registering yet another impressive whack of Views. By the time we were in the Bentley, Aardy’s Kitten Video had reached just under 30,000 Views.
Sevaka drove us through the Silicon Valley as we transitioned from a vibrant sprawling community to a vast wasteland of venture capitalism gone bad. This was Aardy’s first experience through the disturbing Lynch-like scene.
“You’re right. This is more than a little creepy,” Aardy commented.
Sevaka made the turn into the expansive silver, faded parking lot. The Bentley pulsed as we made our way across the crumbling pavement and around to the back. The same five American cars were parked along the rear of the building. There were no other Bentleys to be found. Where were the other Billionheirs?
Kanish bolted out of the door to greet us, happy as the day I met him. I didn’t even have an opportunity to open my own car door.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Kanish prodded as he physically pulled me from the car. “Are you ready to have some fun?”
I took that as a rhetorical question, since he was literally dragging me into the Code Shack with Aardy tagging close behind. Besides, there was nothing fun about the Code Shack.
“Holy fuck,” Aardy muttered in disbelief upon entering the warehouse.
“Is it not just as I described it?” I replied.
Aardy answered in prose:
“Indian Coders in perfect rows
Sit at tiny little desks, where a computer goes
Each of them works like a busy bee
One row then another, as far as the eye can see.”
Aardy and I share Ditties on a nearly daily basis, and as you can tell, this particular one stuck with him. How could it not? There was one thing the poem didn’t account for, however. The Coders were now wearing headphones. But why?
“I am certain you have many questions,” Kanish began. “I might suggest I begin with some answers. I have been vehdy uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving things to chance where our success is concerned.”
I immediately approached the nearest Coder and flipped his screen toward me, which kinda freaked him. There on the screen was Aardy’s adorable Kitten Video. I looked toward the scared little man and pointed at my ears, then to his headphones. The Coder looked at Kanish for approval and then lifted his phones. The moment he did, I could hear it for myself—he was listening to Douchebag Song.
“As you can see,” Kanish began, “I have pulled all of my Coders off of their contracted work so that they can repeatedly stream the Kitten Video. This in turn should give us the boost that we require.”
“That’s pretty brilliant, Kanish,” I said. “But you realize they don’t actually have to listen to the Song, right? And they certainly don’t have to play the whole video for it to count.”
“Yes, yes. I am well aware of all of this. But we must create an illusion,” Kanish said, as he began walking down the center aisle of the Coders. “We have set up the network such that each terminal is spoofing a unique US Internet address. This way, we disguise our centralized location from Google. I have no doubt that Google believes their proprietary rights are more important than our own, and so we must protect against any sort of SEO retaliation.”
“Or lawsuits,” I countered.
“And in order to prevent such nasty business as lawsuits, we have also implemented a number of measures that will make the Views more random in nature. A small percentage of our Coders listen to part of the Song before relinquishing their IP address. Others listen to the entire track before they renew their IP address. The Coders even approach YouTube from random websites. In fact, Mukesh—”
“Mukesh! So you have been with the other Billionheirs!”
“Indeed I have. And they are on their way back to LA as we speak. If I might continue. Mukesh developed an algorithm at Oxford that allows us to mimic viral behavior. Rather than automate the algorithm, we shall implement it as a script, which our Coders will act out. This way we guarantee Google sees a normal viral reaction.”
“It’s a little late for that at thirty thousand Views in just under three hours, don’t you think?” Aardy interjected.
“We will be generating millions upon millions of Views. My chief tech assures me that we are below the threshold of raising any red flags. And now that we have verified our system is working, we can bring the others into the fold.”
“The others? What others?” I questioned.
“The other Billionheirs, of course.”
“But . . . aren’t the other Billionheirs our competition?
“Producers compete, my friend. Billionheirs Share. Follow me.”
I was thankful he didn’t try to say “Billionaires’ Heirs’ Share,” which is a mouthful even if your first language is English.
Kanish led us down the seemingly endless aisle, past the many corn rows of Coders to a solid metal door with a keypad entry. In the room, there was nothing more than a chair, a desk, and a computer. The walls of the room were equally as barren as the neighborhood outside. Kanish turned the laptop toward us and refreshed the open YouTube page to reveal just over 40,000s Views. He then spoke into his phone.
“Go,” he said before returning his attention to us. “I own two Code Shacks in the US, as do each of the other Indian Heirs. Most people get watches when they graduate university. Billionheirs get highly profitable Code Shacks, wouldn’t you know? You may refresh.”
Over 48,000 Views.
Over 52,000 Views.
“By our calculations, we should be able to generate several million Views per day without Google ever figuring out that the Views are coming from just six main locations. The splatter pattern of Views is modeled to appear like an organic reaction. And since real humans are clicking on the links and listening to the tracks, there is absolutely nothing illegal about it.”
That was debatable.
“Look, Kanish. Views are all well and good, but without Sharing, we got nothing. And I doubt your Coders have many American Facebook friends between them. Ultimately, we need some sort of organic viral spark.”
“Yes,” Kanish said as he shut his MacBook and placed it in his bag. “The Sharing problem shall be rectified. Hopefully by tomorrow. It’s time for us to go now. I hate this fucking place vehdy, vehdy much.”
“Me too,” I concurred.
Sevaka drove the three of us to the airport. We took the same jet back that brought us to San Jose, and Aardy drove us home from the airport. I was silent for most of the trip, as there was quite a bit on my mind. Aardy and Kanish, on the other hand, chattered the entire time as if nothing at all untoward was going on.
“I don’t know, guys,” I said as I unfolded myself out of the BMW and into my driveway. “This kind of feels like collusion to me.”
“Collusion?” Kanish objected. “We are Corporations subcontracting with other Corporations. If that is collusion, then there can be no commerce.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Aardy concurred. “We’ll reach out to our lawyer tomorrow, and we’ll have some contracts drawn up between the Corporations. C@taclysmic can pay the Code Shacks for services rendered; then everything is aboveboard.”
Although my two partners in crime were likely right, at that particular moment, I wasn’t feeling all that great about it.
I opened up the garage to reveal our newly configured communications center.
“Ah, I vehdy much love what you have done to the place!” Kanish beamed. “Now, please! I have greatly missed my Fatties and my lessons, both, these past four days.”
I selected one of the many prerolled Dispensary Fatties I keep on hand, sparked it up, and passed it to Kanish.
“These three have crooked ways,” I said. “Mavens, Mountains, and Moguls.