Kanye West fans took to eBay to sell plastic bags of air from concerts on the musical legend’s Yeezus tour. On 6 March, a bag had garnered over 90 bids, and was up to $60,000.
Rolling Stone writes
While that auction was ultimately pulled from the auction site, eBay has since been flooded with similar auctions promising air bagged from a Yeezus show, even though the copycats lacked certificates of authenticity proving the air — likely carbon dioxide — was grabbed at a West concert. eBay has apparently stopped trying to swat down the new “bagged air” auctions, so buyer beware at this point.
The bagged air gag has inspired a rash of similar items like “Ziplock bag of air from Garth Brooks concert” and “Kanye West Concert Air-Infused Bay Leaves,” with the latter tagged with a $4,999 opening bid. Another seller is pushing a bag of “Flatulence from Kanye” for the Buy It Now price of $5.
The ruse is obviously comedic in nature, but it is particularly comical for me.
Much to my surprise, “This Sick Beat™”—a satirical parody song I released on 31 January 2015, in protest of Taylor Swift’s application to trademark several common phrases she herself did not invent—went viral. To say I was surprised is frankly quite the understatement, principally because the composition consists of cacophonous 12-tone avant-garde math metal, with constantly changing time signatures and tempos and exclusively screamed and growled vocals.
When I released the song and its concomitant lyric video on YouTube, I, admittedly rather hastily, wrote the following:
Trademarks of common idioms such as this are a direct attack on one of the most fundamental and inalienable rights of all: our freedom of speech.
If you give the bourgeoisie an inch, they will take a mile… and everything else you have in the process. They have already privatized land, water, and words. After language, they will next try to privatize air.
But, although the rich can try, they will never truly own the words we use and the language we speak.
This was picked up by several news outlets and magazines—some of whom playfully satirized my statements (I believe mostly in good humor).
In the official statement I wrote on “This Sick Beat™,” trademarks, and Taylor Swift, in response to the wholly unanticipated affair, I expatiated on my message.
When I said the 1% (or, rather, the 0.001%), the bourgeoisie, “have already privatized land, water, and words. After language, they will next try to privatize air,” I was not trying to be provocative. This is not an abstract, hypothetical, academic discussion. Indigenous peoples around the world continue to struggle against the pollution, robbing, and destruction of their collectively owned lands and natural resources by powerful multinational corporations.
Water privatization is a very real and very serious issue. Apologists claim it leads to a more “efficient” use of water, but what it really does is leave low-income communities without adequate access to this most basic human need. This problem has been prevalent in Latin America, and water privatization is, as we speak, being considered in places like New Jersey and elsewhere.
Even the privatization of air is not hyperbolic. In just one example, since 2012, Chen Guangbiao, one of China’s richest people, has been selling “fresh air in soft drink cans.” Instead of taking collective actions to mitigate and eventually reverse China’s horrific air pollution, Chen’s solution is to privatize clean air.
This idea is popular among economic and political elites. Nestlé Chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck raised controversy in 2013 for insisting that the idea that humans have a right to water is “extreme.” He likened water to a “foodstuff” and insisted that it must be sold on the market.
These are very serious concerns, and the legal, economic, and institutional logic that says that it is okay for rich individuals and corporations to claim ownership of common phrases—the cultural commons—is virtually identical to the legal, economic, and institutional logic that says that it is okay for rich individuals and corporations to claim ownership of the physical commons.
Now, I certainly did not premeditate these strange circumstances, with fans selling air from Kanye West concerts for thousands upon thousands of dollars, but, although I hate to rub it in, I just have to say it:
I told you so.