Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Dark Side of YouTube Fame: “Tron Guy” Forced Into Fire Sale

tronguyJay Maynard, a.k.a. “The Tron Guy,” is famous for dressing up like, well, one of the guys from the movie “Tron.”

But while that distinction made him one of the early breakout stars on Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, it hasn’t made him rich. Or at least, not wealthy enough to afford the customized airplane he bought last year for $140,000. He’s auctioning it off on eBay (EBAY) at a fire sale price. UPDATE: Maynard  notes, good naturedly,  that his auction has an unmet reserve price. So it’s not fair to call this a fire sale without knowing what that amount is. My apology.

As I type this, the high bid for Maynard’s 2008 AMD Zodiac XLi is $22,6000. Maynard told Wired that he has put about 150 hours on the customized two-seater.

Wired makes reference to Maynard encountering “turbulence” at his day job as a computer programmer and notes that being “Tron Guy” has brought him notoriety but not much money. It seems the only paying gigs the distinction earned him were multiple appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

I’m not sure if this is the original “Tron Guy” video that launched Maynard into YouTube fame. But it is the first one that pops up when you Google “Tron Guy YouTube” (and tellingly, the “related” videos that populate the right side of the screen star a who’s who of YouTube celebrities: The “Numa Numa” guy, “afro ninja,” “Asian Backstreet Boys,” etc.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work