What makes humans amazing is our ability to come up with ideas when in a pickle. Throughout history, ingenuity and taking action have driven civilization advancement at an exponential rate. People have been inventing new ways to make a living, even thrive, and become millionaires and billionaires. This is especially true for the people mentioned below who made money in very crazy ways.
1. Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker managed to reap profits from naysayers and detractors when Parker came up with “I Hate Elvis” badges which he sold to those who wouldn’t otherwise pay for Elvis merchandise.
After Sun Records founder Sam Phillips ran into financial trouble in 1955, he sold Elvis’s contract to RCA Records. There, the ex-carnival promoter Parker became his manager. When Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” became a huge hit despite low expectations and became his first million-selling record, Parker decided to market him like never before.
Next came the fulfillment of Elvis’s long-cherished secret dream – to be an actor – in the form of the film Love Me Tender in 1956. The film was a massive hit and the title song exceeded one million sales, a first for a single. To cash on that, Parker made a merchandise deal for $40,000 with the goal of turning Elvis into a brand. Within a few months, over 50 different products like charm bracelets, scarves, bubble gum cards, and sneakers were released aimed at the teen market. One of Parker’s campaigns also included selling badges that said: “I Hate Elvis.” (source)
2. After being irritated by constant calls from telemarketers, a UK man set up his own personal 0871 line in 2011 so that it costs whoever calls him. When the bank, gas, or electricity suppliers ask his contact details, he gives them that number.
Lee Beaumont’s predicament isn’t new to anyone with a phone number, and almost everyone at some point finds themselves annoyed by calls in which they are not interested. According to a survey by the charity Citizens Advice, over two-thirds of the people they talked to received unwanted calls, emails, texts, or letters. So, in November, Beaumont paid £10 along with VAT to set up his personal line that would charge 10 pence for every call of which he receives seven pence.
Beaumont told the You and Yours program on BBC Radio 4 that he was honest about what he was doing when the companies asked why they were given such a number. Interestingly, almost all the companies he talked to on that number did not object to it, and if they did, he told them to email him. (source)
3. In 2014, the band Vulfpeck released a completely silent album called Sleepify on Spotify encouraging the buyers to play it on a loop while they slept. They made $20,000 in royalties before the album was pulled.
The album released in March contained ten tracks of around 30 seconds long, and each track named the same number of Z’s as the track number. The album was also “well-received,” with Tim Jonze of The Guardian stating that “opening track,’ Z’, certainly sets the tone, a subtle, intriguing work” and “It’s followed by ‘Zz’ and ‘Zzz’ which continue along similar lyrical themes while staying true to Sleepify’s overriding minimalist aesthetic.”
The album made use of a loophole in Spotify‘s royalty calculation model. According to the band’s founder, Jack Stratton, the idea came from a podcast interview of Ron Fair who explained how the listener would have to download the entire soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge! if they wanted to listen to the cover of Lady Marmalade. With the royalties, the band wanted to crowdfund an admission-free concert tour of the same name. Though the Spotify‘s spokesperson called the album a “clever stunt” and jokingly remarked it to be a “derivative of John Cage’s work,” it was soon removed for violating terms of service. (source)
4. After becoming infuriated by the sheer number of spam emails he kept receiving, an American named Daniel Balsam quit his job and got a law degree just to file lawsuits. He has made over $1 million in court judgments.
While working in marketing, Balsam received a large number of spam emails about surgeries for women. Enraged, he filed several lawsuits in 2002 in small claims court. Though he initially considered filing lawsuits a hobby, he decided to make it his vocation. So, he enrolled in the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and graduated in 2008.
Since then, he filed lawsuits against every spam he received at his email address and began earning so much that he was able to support himself full-time and also have an attorney, Timothy Walton. Together, they won an average of $1,000 per email.
The biggest verdict he was awarded was $1.125 million against a company that sent him 1,125 spam emails. However, as most such companies have fictitious business names and are registered to post office boxes, he didn’t receive money for this as well as for several other lawsuits. (source)
5. In 2010, the creator of the Trollface meme registered it after finding out how popular it became in the Internet world. By 2015, he earned $100,000 in licensing fees and settlements.
In 2008, 18-year-old Carlos Ramirez was neglecting his college work and scrolling the 4chan anonymous image board when he decided to post a comic of Trollface he drew on MS Paint like he usually does. The next day, he found 4chan users sharing the doodle and was pleased. After that, he had to go on a long trip and had to stay away from the Internet. When he came back, he found that 4chan users, as well as many Internet users, were using the image to call out on people who posted poor arguments or incorrect information but would say they were just “trolling” when confronted.
Ramirez didn’t make much of it at first, and the only people who knew about his meme’s fame was his sister. One day, she slipped and told their parents about it. To his surprise, Ramirez’s mother was pretty proud of him even going as far as to make a graffiti of the meme on a wall of their house. Upon her suggestion, Ramirez decided to register the doodle.
What followed were many lawsuits against those who used the meme for financial benefit, including Ninja Pig Studios which produced a game called Meme Run based on his doodle. The game was being sold at $4.99 on Nintendo’s eShop. Ramirez didn’t pursue users who used it just for their amusement but not financial gain. (source)