Parodies aren’t a joke

What does true success mean in music? Awards? Gold records? Platinum? Longevity? Impact? Fame? Relevance?

There are many different interpretations, but the general consensus seems to be popularity and sustained sales over time. So while a one-hit wonder might get rich from their glory days, the true aristocracy are the musicians with decades of success and a star-studded list of collaborators. They are the names everyone knows — Paul McCartney. Mick Jagger. Weird Al.

Weird Al?

That might not be a name that everyone expects, since he’s a comedian and a parodist. Some might say he’s just one step away from a tribute artist[1] , but his track record says otherwise, to say the least. 12 million albums sold. 27 gold, platinum or double platinum albums. 16 Grammy nominations with 5 wins. He’s put many albums on the charts, including a Billboard #1 for Mandatory Fun. But is that enough to put him amongst the legends? Let’s look at what some other successful musicians had to say about him.

The money behind the fun

Now that his standing as a successful musician is established, what about the money? Obviously he has made a successful career as a parodist, but what does this mean for his revenue streams, and those of the artists he parodies? While parody is covered by fair use, this isn’t an ironclad defence when parody is also profitable. Weird Al’s work has become so famous that legal writers use it to explain fair use and parody.